Funny is in the “ear” of the beholder.
- After years of heavy drinking, and driving, Peter decided it was OK to drink and drive when he was alone with Abby and Emily. Even with a year or so in Al-Anon, confronting him was an act of courage. I had carefully considered and practiced my approach. So I picked a sober time, in the front yard, to say, “Your drinking is your choice and your business. But when you drink and drive with the girls, that makes it my business. You cannot drink and drive with the girls in the car. If you are anywhere, anytime, and have been drinking, call me and I will come to get them.” Deep breath. “And, if you are ever jailed for driving drunk, I will not bail you out.”
His answer? “Gee, I guess I’d better carry the checkbook.”
- Urinating by night on the dresser, the kid’s closet, the garage door, (almost) the computer keyboard, and finally (by day), the refrigerator. He didn’t stop, he found a rationalization. “Simple, yet brilliant. I paid for it, I can pee on it!” HE thought this one was hilarious!
- The loving smile. The affectionate arm around my shoulders. The look of charmed humor, as he looked deeply into my eyes and said, “You poor wacked-out thing, you don’t know what you’re doing.” He thought this was pretty funny, too!
Humor can be a form of denial. “It was just a joke….don’t take yourself so seriously!” NOT. If humor isn’t funny for both parties, it isn’t good humor. It CAN be abusive, and can be an excuse to abuse further. If humor is used to evade serious issues that need to be addressed, it CAN be abusive. Most of us have “crap detectors,” if we just use them. Notice the reaction of the person being kidded: does she make eye contact and share a relaxed laugh…or, does she stiffen, redden, or withdraw? Or does she laugh a little too hard or long, or look a little strained? If that is the case, just be aware of other interactions between the individuals in other contexts. You might be training yourself to see symptoms of abuse.
- I was reading a book on Anger Management. He badgered. I blew. I threw the book at his head. I missed. Which REALLY ticked me off!
- The last night of visits from his parents was always a drink-a-thon. As the evening progressed, all went to bed except Peter and his dad, who fell asleep in lawn chairs in the sprinkler zone. Sometime during the night, his dad went to bed also. Ffftttttt! Ffffftttt! Ffffftttt! Fffftttt! Sprinklers. Four A.M. Awesome!
- Al Anon was a salvation! Peter often went to sleep on the sofa with lights on and television blaring, then come to bed later; I slept lightly or not at all because the lights/TV were brash and aggravating, and I wondered if he would do something weird to scare the girls as I slept. And the whole situation was so IRRITATING! At a meeting, I shared this problem in the tone of “how horrible….poor me….” One by one 10 other people told the same story, which became funnier with each telling. Until we got to beautiful, strong, bold “Tanisha,” who said, “Yeah…my old man did that, too. I went over to that sleeping man and turned the sofa right over on top of him!” We laughed together loud and hearty, and I slept better after that.
This is an example of how helpful a support system can be when experience, strength, and hope are shared among people who are walking the walk. And how humor (not used as denial) can lighten the load and re-establish perspective.
Regarding the book-throwing incident: I was embarrassed, and a little frightened – that I had shown MY anger management problem! This wasn’t OK….but, oh please, you HAVE to see the humor here!
My wish for you today….good, healthy humor. The joy of being able to support someone else, and the blessing of being the recipient of such support. It may be better to give than to receive, but either is really, really good.