I’ve written about politics, anger, fear, loathing, and other topics of great concern. But for my own sanity, I thought I’d write about something other than the great divide of wealth and poverty, suffering, ailments, wildfires and assorted seasonal mish-mosh.
I’m wondering how to have the most meaningful and fun life.
An old friend suddenly died this month and I found myself thinking about how exuberant he had been in life. He was just one of those very alive people. It didn’t matter whether he was sad, honest, talking politics or telling a story, he was vibrant. The twinkle in his eyes was constant and infectious. He died quickly at 74.
I feel more committed to glee and gladness since his passing. Maybe it’s cockeyed, but given all the threats surrounding us – smoke, losses and Trump consumed with discombobulated tweeting – we need humor and fulfillment more than ever. Speaking of that, did you know that Republicans were more likely to fantasize about larger penises than Democrats? Guess they see the penis as a power symbol. Who would have guessed? (Kinsey Institute researcher Justin Lehmiller surveyed 4,000 Americans.) What’s up with that?
With all that’s going on both personally and politically, self-care and nourishment (in safe ways) is essential to our wellbeing. But, the great art of living requires some attention and intention. As Norman Cousins proved while healing his own “terminal” illness, laughter provides a workout for the diaphragm and increases the body’s ability to use oxygen.
For another example, I often see happiness in my office: couples wanting to keep the ball rolling and work through their difficulties. Did you know there’s a new book out called, “How to Keep Your Marriage from Sucking?” (Behrendt and Ruotola). The authors tell us to love each other even when we are frustrated. After all, if 56 percent of American marriages end in divorce, it’s time we learned a bit about love and bringing kindness to difficult situations. So, spend time with neighbors, dogs and other living beings.
It’s the holidays, so, don’t have too many balls in the air but do have a ball! And while you’re having more gratitude or wit, remember that if you have an emotional hairball, don’t play hardball, but have the balls to talk it through — eyeball to eyeball. Or just drop your judgements about others and chuckle while hanging balls on trees. Even Freud wrote extensively about the healing power of humor. It provides a cognitive shift in perspective.
The other night I went to a local hangout and brought a big cardboard box of delicious donuts. I thought this was the perfect place to unload them – to a bunch of hearty guys watching football at a bar. There were powdered sugar donuts, chocolate covered ones with sprinkles and small round balls of fluff that just bounce down the throat, never to appear again in the same form.
They devoured the donuts with goofy groans. Those balls of dough disappeared faster than you could say “gee whiz.” Then the men fell into side-splitting laughter. I still don’t know what was so funny… Maybe there’s something wild about donuts, or maybe they lubricate a dry conversation. Or it could just have been a bad boy kind of thing.
Luckily, it was one of those debaucherously uproarious moments. Then one guy asked me why I didn’t eat one, so I blurted out – “they make me constipated!” Well, that set them into another uproar of hysteria, until we were all bent over in tears. (Don’t men get constipated?)
So, to sum up: research shows that connection in community helps quality of life. Enjoy each other, even the imperfect relationships. As researcher Provine proved, we need each other: “Solitary chimps, like solitary people, seldom laugh, a result consistent with laughter’s role as a social signal. But chimps and humans differ in social situations in which they laugh – we humans have added something new to our still present chimplike tendencies. Adult humans laugh most during conversation.”
As always, we’ll get by with a little help from our friends.