This week’s Comedy Around the World goes cold Turkey.
The Turkish Empire in January isn’t a very warm place. Not just the temperature is extreme, so is the language, the food, the geography and the music and art. The volume of newness I encountered the first time I was in Turkey was represented in the Anatolian designs I saw at Cappodocia.
In this ancient city people made homes in the Smurf-like tall caves that stood separately from one another, seemingly randomly dotting the landscape. The strangeness of this Smurf land was compounded by the cold winter air, the snow, and especially the muddy slush I had to walk through to get to one of the structures.
However: Once there, in the warmth of the odd cove, I relaxed amidst the tapestries that were strewn over the couches by the wall, by the window. Scattered rugs, throws, and probably garments all with their own scattered patterns of multi-colored yarns organized in a vivid, dizzying array.
Strangely calming, that’s what it was. That’s what I felt sitting and drinking the complimentary and compulsory Turkish tea served to me. It was as if the confusion of the journey and the complexity of the designs all around me dissipated into the calm.
Just think if we could translate that centered-ness into our own dizzying array of life. What would that mean for our productivity, our sense of play, our happiness? The good news is that we CAN add the centered-ness of humor into our day. We just have to:
1. be brave enough to look at the dizziness
2. realize that we are separate threads that are not sewn into anything unchangeable
If we cultivate this calm even in the midst of the messiness of life, we can create a tapestry that supports, warms, and entertains us.
How funny is THAT?
It IS possible to be too de-stressed. I’ll give you time to re-read that sentence.
I’m talking about de-stressed—to the point of giving up, letting people walk all over us, our dignity and what we thought was our personal freedom and meaning.
Coming home from a conference, I was stopped at the radiation-monitor known as TSA. Apparently I seemed suspicious. I could have been planning to throw a malatov cocktail. (Have they ever seen me throw a ball? Even young children laugh at me).
“Can I get my bags off the conveyor belt?” I asked in a panic, as I watched people rush by my exposed money, clothing and make-up. People who were by then overly-irritated and probably also money-hungry and make-up challenged.
Sure I did have those >3 oz. make-up items in my bag but this punishment was going too far. I surely wasn’t going to combine them into an explosive. (Have they seen my chemistry grades? THAT’s what should constitute an airline screening! Throwing a ball and science abilities. I could run through the detectors!)
But the screener didn’t seem to hear me. As he was closing the see-through door of the plastic square of guilt, he simply added, chuckling, “Just keep an eye on ‘em.” He chuckled! HE was obviously de-stressing in his job. And that was for me very distressing!
There was no way—AND no reason—for me to see this situation in a funny way. How did I know? I just knew. On a visceral level. That something was very wrong with this picture. Especially after the cursory and probably also-meaningless swabbing of my hands after I was released from the guilt chamber.
Did they think that in addition to being a threat that I was also one of those people who doesn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom??? Where would it end?
Where IS the line? And does it depend on our mood of the day? I hope that even on a good hair day I will STILL take offense at being “chosen” for “special” screeing.
Instead of laughing off our stress, let’s instead screen our stress-reduction tendencies and beliefs before implementing them:
1. First, see if the situation is flush with reality. Does it make sense, what’s happening?
2. Second, what does it do to your feeling of personal dignity? Some people are offended at blue humor. Others don’t even notice it. How do YOU feel?
3. Finally, even if there is nothing inherently funny in the situation, we can maintian a humorous outlook INWARDLY. As a meditative state that allows us clarity and the capacity for action.
How did YOU survive today’s screening? How funny is THAT? How funny SHOULD it be?
Check out more humor resources at Dr. Trina Hess’ Humor Academy www.HumorAcademy.com
Maybe that bumper sticker is right (”Mean people suck”). But mean people can offer us useful information that friends are generally too polite to tell us.
“That’s a bad color for you.” ”Are you really wearing that?” ”That haircut doesn’t do it for you.” Mean people don’t care about your feelings. They feel compelled to get something off their chest and onto your mind and emotions. Their reasons are their own, and they are probably inwardly messed-up as people go.
I used to take mean people’s words like water off a duck’s back. Ignore them like the plague. Sticks and stones. Tomato tomato.
Now I know better.
First I put baby oil on the duck’s back. That way the water doesn’t just splash off. You can inspect it to find what the meanness really means: Is there anything truthful in their comments?
The re-framing that is so common in a humorous perspective isn’t an ignoring of the comment or the person saying it. Instead, it’s a clarity-gaining step in the direction of your personal progress.
Get used to that pattern of interaction and next time you see a mean comment coming your way, you may not even need to duck.
Or—in the air. This week’s Comedy Around the World goes home.
Last night late I came back to Pittsburgh International Airport. After leaving from a place like Orlando I generally expect the weather at home to be about 20 degrees colder, give or take 40 degrees.
But surprisingly enough, it was a warm night. The moon was out and there was a nice breeze. So I decided to walk the disjointed maze that is extended parking, and find my car by foot instead of waiting for the shuttle.
When I stopped off the highway to get some caffeine, two clerks were smoking outside the doors. I asked them, “Are you still open now?”
They said, “Yes, we just didn’t want to stay inside, it’s too nice out here!”
I said, “I know!” and told them about my parking lot walk.
That’s the way humor is. It’s like that warm night air. It’s everywhere. It’s in the ether.
We just don’t always see or feel it because of other distractions.
Maybe we wanted to be in the air conditioning.
Maybe we went to bed already.
Maybe we decided to go inside and listen to music or watch tv.
Maybe we were outside but had other thoughts in our minds so that we didn’t even notice the pleasant evening.
People sometimes ask how I can be so quick with my remarks to hecklers or other Q&A participants. My answer: I love hecklers. THEY are out in the warm night air. They feel the ether, and together we’re both merely reaching up and grabbing humor elements out of thin air. LIterally.
But in order to do this, you have to meet certain criteria. You have to be outside (though not necessarily with a cigarette). In the fray. Part of the mix.
And then just let yourself enjoy. Just like you don’t have to force yourself to enjoy a warm breeze, or a glimpse at the moon, you shouldn’t have to force yourself to find, use, or experience humor.
What’s the temperature like where YOU are? How funny is THAT?
Today was one of those “save a stamp” days. I decided to pay a bill in person rather than mailing it.
I bounded to the cash register with the exuberance of someone who has just saved 44 cents. The clerk was waiting on an impatient customer, whose agitation was matched only by the clerk’s own.
When it was my turn, what could I do to “use” my “humor”? Could I have said any of the following:
a. “What a great day it is!”
b. “Did you hear the one about the clerk and the rude customer?”
c. “Some people are idiots.”
I chose “c.” No, the clerk didn’t laugh out loud or even smile. But I could tell that the hood of agitation had lifted. She was understood, her frustrations acknowledged. And that had to be good enough for me, laugh or no laugh.
Humor is less about getting the joke than it is about getting the other person. Their current mood, their traumas, the things they are facing today that prevent them from being happy-go-lucky on this particular day.
Am I saying to not aim so high with your humor? Maybe.
Am I saying humor-as-we-have-defined-it-in-the-past is no longer relevant? Perhaps.
Am I saying we should stop trying to lighten our world with laughter? No; but we should always stay aware of how we are doing humor.
WHO benefits from your attempts at using humor? How funny is that—or ISN’t it?
Dr. Trina Hess’ Humor Academy shows organizations how to LAUGH their way through difficult change. To book Trina for your next event go to
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