When I was about 6, my mother took me to Radio City Music Hall, which, as you probably know, is an enormous show palace in New York City.
The movie playing that day was Disney’s ‘‘Dumbo.’’ When the movie ended and all the kids started streaming out of the theater, I was miserable that this glorious experience had come to an end.
So I ran to the front of the theater, in front of probably a couple of thousand people, and started yelling at the screen, “Dumbo, Dumbo, take me with you! Take me with you!” And all the people started to laugh, which is just what I hoped would happen.
I felt the need to perform and make people laugh at a very young age. I was and am a “ham.” What truly makes us feel our most authentic self and gives meaning to our lives is not always apparent.
My childhood was often difficult, but I was able to navigate it because of my humor, zaniness and ability to see pain and suffering in others. When I saw people smile at my antics, it would help reduce the anxiety I often felt from living in a volatile environment.
When I look back on my life, it’s clear that much of what I share with others about how to handle stress comes from how I was able to find “the bless in the mess” with humor.
It is not possible to get everyone to engage in this process. We are all wired differently and many situations in life are just not funny!
However, in the everyday of life we can elicit more giggles and guffaws at what are essentially minor irritations. Making yourself crazy over traffic, long lines in a store, spilled milk or a host of other minor aggravations can, over a period of time, make you more susceptible to becoming ill.
Unfortunately, much of how we react is embedded in our brains. The way we respond is similar to Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Groundhog Day.” We wake up and our lives become mirror images of the previous day.
We can opt to continue reacting in the same old ways, but we must realize that we will continue to get the same old outcome. The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi said, “Wake, wake up, you have been asleep a thousand years!’’
I have been fortunate to be able to use my humor to reduce everyday stress. You may opt to use another modality. You may be able to use patience, compassion or the ability to say, “What will it all mean at the end of my life”?
Just keep in mind that changing our reactions takes practice, but the result could be a more peaceful countenance.