…. through uncommon wisdom, a sharp wit and a sense of humor.
Sometimes when I stop to think, I forget to start again. This has caused, as you can imagine, many an embarrassing moment. I have left countless people speechless, emptied dozens of rooms at parties, insulted innocent victims, gotten lost in
Wisconsin while trying to get through
Chicago and once, I even ended up doing business with gangster-type money launderers carrying guns in
on my way to the bank. And, unfortunately for the world, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
I’ve tried, over the years, to use thousands of face-saving techniques that have always, despite my valiant efforts, succeeded in making me look even more foolish. I’ve attempted the popular yet futile method of trying to talk my way out of messes that I had behaved my way into. (Note to self: when you’re already in too deep, stop digging.) I’ve played the justification game, which is surprisingly similar to the American Olympic sport of mental gymnastics, forever proving the point that the harder you work at your reasoning, and the more complex it becomes, the more pathetic you seem to others. I’ve even tried the old ‘deny everything’ approach to no avail. The common theme in all of these tactics was a vain attempt on my part to make myself appear to be less foolish than my actions and words had already proven me to be. To try to fool all of the people all of the time. To persuade others, and myself, to take me more seriously. The irony is, I would have been taken much more seriously had I just been able to laugh at myself and let it go. At least then, I would have proven that I had actually understood what had really happened, and had a better grasp on reality. Nothing shakes the confidence one feels towards someone else like listening to them try to justify the unjustifiable. Where’s that life alert system when you need it. Help I’m talking and I can’t shut up!
As a confirmed geek from an early age, I learned to laugh at myself as a defense mechanism to ward off potential wedgies, swirlies and other Neanderthal bullying techniques. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized just how powerful and freeing this can be, not as a tactical defense, but as an affirming and natural way of relating to, and creating, a positive reality. There’s an old saying that says “he who laughs last, didn’t get the joke”, and when we can’t lighten up and laugh at ourselves, the world around us is left wondering why we didn’t get it. The person who can’t stop taking themselves so seriously, even for just a moment is operating under a sorely misguided understanding of themselves. It’s as if they actually believe that the fate of their entire world and all of their relationships, hinges on their being right, in every way and at all times. Someone ought to tell them that only Mary Poppins is “practically perfect in every way” and that she isn’t real. The person who is inclined to take themselves so seriously is the same person whose daily life is ridden with anxieties, can’t get beyond past hurts and disappointments, can never let go of grudges and has no sense of forgiveness or compassion for themselves or others. In short, these people are missing some of the most beautiful aspects of what it is to be human simply by not allowing it.
I realize that there are times when our words and actions are very important and crucial to our success and we feel we must ‘pull it off’. And, I am in no way suggesting that we should make light of our pain or disregard the seriousness of our past hurts and disappointments. But I am saying that by not learning to let go, we are compounding and adding to the hurt daily. We become “double losers”. We lost once when the situation occurred, and by our own nursing of the grudge, we continue and compound the hurt. We lose again everyday by allowing its influence to impede our lives in so many unnecessary ways, often without even noticing. Things are what they are. What is done is done. It may have hurt. It may have been embarrassing or even humiliating. So, why let it hurt and embarrass you again and again everyday? Why allow something so painful and unworthy to interfere with what can be so much new and potential good in your life?
In year three at Hogwarts, Harry Potter learned a spell that we could all add to our emotional and relational arsenal. It was used to fight off bogarts, whose power was to use a person’s worst fears against them by taking on the form of their deepest anxiety. In order to vanquish the bogart of its power over them, they had to mentally focus on the silliest picture they could imagine, flick their wand and say “Ridikulus!” Magically, this placed
their deepest fear within the framework of that silly image, and the ensuing laughter caused the bogart to retreat. The bogart’s magic is the same magic that can cause us to overlook one thousand compliments and accomplishments, and yet remain focused on one negative remark or experience. The “ridikulus” spell is the mental magic that puts things back into a positive and proactive perspective, where the past is in the past, and the future is for us to create and is yet unwritten, and unhindered by our past fears and failures. And the laughter? Well, when all that negativity can’t stick to you and it rolls off your back, it kind of tickles.