“Laughter is the best medicine” is perhaps one of the most universally agreed-upon pillars of wellbeing. It’s a release of tension; tiny smatterings of blissful joy which can separate ourselves from our heaviest burdens. Yet, we’re able to use that separation not as a distraction, but as an opportunity (even just for a moment) to look at these burdens with a wider perspective, something incredible happens. For me, Humor becomes a tool for both processing internal hardships and expressing thoughts and experiences which might otherwise be quite heavy or hard to talk about.
As a kid, I grew up in an environment where, if my dreaded disability ever came up, the subject was always to be changed. Both at home and at school, The fact I was different was fiercely avoided in conversation, never explored. This was the case even as I grew older and became more conscious of how others were perceiving me. As a kid, the worst thing you can possibly be is different, and the anguish started to set in as I slowly realized I fell into that category ⎯ Hard.
Yet on occasion when I tried to speak these emotions aloud, the sentiment I was met with was very much “Your family loves you, your friends love you, that’s all that matters, so just accept it.” Invalidated, mourning my state of being felt as foolish as mourning the sun going down. It just simply was and had always been. There was nothing to be done, and so hardly a reason to dwell on it.
Acceptance is a pretty advanced life skill to ask of a kid under 10. This ‘status quo’ was what made it so excruciating. There was no ‘before,’ so there was nothing to mourn. There was no ‘trauma’ so there was nothing to heal from. There was no ‘blame’, so there was nothing to forgive. My disability just ‘was’, and I couldn’t find the resolution to be okay with that.
Yet, it was what my professor said one day in our elective memoir-writing class which brought this crisis to a halt. While I can’t quote her exact words, here’s exactly what I heard: “As you think about all the parts of your life you could write about. That thing – You know, that thing. The thing that you’d rather not get into. That pandora’s box in the corner, THAT’s what you write about. Feeling of apprehension is a fairly good sign that it is exactly what you need to run towards.”
So I started talking. A lot. I poured out all these thoughts and emotions which I’d bottled up throughout my life, About my battles, and hardships, and my lowest of moments. I talked to as many people as would hear me, for as long as they would allow me to. And as I did, everyone started laughing – Thankfully.
Standup was never an aspiration of mine, yet finding comedy in disability was like one day asking the monster in my closet if he wanted my other Pop-Tart. I was able to acknowledge my struggles without giving power to them. It allowed me, for a moment, to coexist peacefully with my imperfect circumstances.
Like any story of transformation, this one is not one of finding ultimate peace, or slaying the beast once and for all. Despite having built the beginnings of a career out of discussing the fact I’m disabled with a room full of strangers on almost a nightly basis, I can’t stress enough how wrong it is to think I’m bulletproof, Tomorrow you may find me in a Costco parking lot, crying into my iced caramel macchiato after a 5-year-old in the checkout line loudly asked his hot dad why I ‘talk so weird’.
Humor highlights patterns, formulas, inconsistencies, and ironies within our lives. Almost like breaking your own fourth wall. It lets us lovingly examine ourselves through a microscope without waking the troll of self-criticism or judgement. It celebrates that the way we are IS the way we are. It accepts reality right now not as something to resent, but as something to marvel in and to build from.
Humor is a mechanism through which we can rappel down the darker caverns of our existence, all the while staying anchored to this reality that we are safe. And most importantly, that we are not alone. Now, with a small handful of years as an adult under my belt, I have much more important problems than that.
Keep the discussion going. I’d love to hear how humor has improved the way you get through internal conflict or life struggle. Please share in the comments below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
TINA FRIML (Moonlighting as Phoenix Rising School of Yoga Therapy Production Assistant) is a New York City-Based comedian. Originally from Burlington, Vermont. She appeared in the 2019 Just For Laughs Festival as a selected performer in the acclaimed New Faces series, 2019’s Limestone Comedy Festival, and has appeared in the 2018 NBC Comedy Spotlight Series at Boston’s Women in Comedy Festival. In her home state, she holds a 2019 readers’ choice award in “Seven Days’ for ‘best standup comic’ and was crowned the 2018 winner of ‘Vermont’s Funniest Comedian’ at the Vermont Comedy Club, where she got her start. She has since begun infiltrating stages in Boston, New York, Montreal, and London. Using animated optimism on her own physical disability, yet fearless honesty about the social assumptions that come with it, Tina befriends audiences of all sorts with her eccentric style, off-beat mind, and unexpected philosophy acquired through her unique circumstances.