by Sharon Olds
By the time I was six months old, she knew something
was wrong with me. I got looks on my face
she had not seen on any child
in the family, or the extended family,
or the neighborhood. My mother took me in
to the pediatrician with the kind hands,
a doctor with a name like a suit size for a wheel:
Hub Long. My mom did not tell him
what she thought in truth, that I was Possessed.
It was just these strange looks on my face—
he held me, and conversed with me
chatting as one does with a baby, and my mother
said, She’s doing it now! Look!
She’s doing it now! and the doctor said,
What your daughter has
is called a sense
of humor. Ohhh, she said, and took me
back to the house where that sense would be tested
and found to be incurable.
"Diagnosis" by Sharon Olds from One Secret Thing. © Knopf, 2009.
There is no question that the God of our understanding has a sense of humor. Our spiritual life or relationship with God also should reflect that humor. Some of the things that happen can only be explained knowing that our God does indeed have sense of humor. This is the God who keeps putting people in my life that annoy me until I realize that what bothers me about them is something in myself that I have not recognized. I have come to see this as one of God’s little “jokes”.
Sometimes there are situations that occur in our life that only can be tolerated with our sense of humor as well. There was a boy in our medical school class, Mike Levinson, whose frequent quote was, “you got to laugh or you will cry!” At times situations were so difficult then, that we had to find humor in them. When we can see the humor in difficult situations, I do believe that that is the Spirit working in us to comfort us. My experience is that the humor is not from God if it is at someone else’s expense, if the humor makes fun of another. I see God in situations when I can see humor in some of my character defects, my sins. “Goodness gracious, God, I just did it again!”
I learned about humor and character defects from 12 step groups. It is not “gallows humor” where something deadly serious is made fun of in a silly or disrespectful way. There is a fine line. My mother did the best she could in her lifetime, but I did not appreciate her. I can now remember that every time I would call her, I would expect her to be different instead of thinking about how I might change my way of relating to her. I now look back on this, and instead of beating myself up, see how humorous it is to “do the same thing over and over the same way and expect a different result.” It is so true it is humorous. It is also insanity! Ann Lamott is also a great writer who has helped me look for the humor in the truth.
When I find myself getting too serious or am visited by a friend becoming too serious, my experience is that the antidote for both of us is play, playing with our children or grandchildren, being with friends who know better than we know how to play.