Written by Melanie Dale of Unexpected.org
A note from Jamie: Sometimes life just isn’t fair, a fact my friend Melanie knows all too well. She’s walked the hard road of infertility as well as dealing with special needs and mental illness in her beautiful family of five (which includes both biological and adoptive kiddos like my own!). If you find yourself in the midst of tough times, you NEED Melanie’s book: It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose. A book on suffering that makes you snort with laughter? Yes, really!
When Alex and I were in the thick of our struggle with infertility, our favorite coping mechanism was humor—a very oddball, totally inappropriate brand of infertility humor. Humor is how we survived and found fun and found ourselves, our us-ness, in the midst of the hopelessness of our situation.
Over time I’ve learned the value in making light of heavy things. They don’t become less important, but Big Scary Monsters lose their power over you when you laugh at them. Laughter makes you stronger.
And sometimes when you’re experiencing Big Feels, it’s hard to let out one without letting out all of them. When you take the top off the crammed-up bottle your emotions are in, everything sprays out. The anger, the pain, and the humor. And it feels so good to let it all out in one frothy stream.
It’s okay to grieve, to feel a loss. And it’s okay to be happy and sing at the top of your lungs. And those two things can happen within five minutes of each other. That’s what I love about feelings. We get to have whichever ones we feel when we feel them and they can make no sense back-to-back and that’s okay.
During our infertility treatments, Alex and I would drive into DC every morning for me to get poked with needles and examined by ultrasound. In the movies, the ultrasound is on the outside, and it’s all very cute, and there’s usually a baby in the big shiny tummy, which is tastefully covered by a cloth.
In my real life, we sat in the dark with doctors and ultrasound technicians making comments about my follicles while my precious husband held my pants, and we tried to act like this was totally normal and the way we always pictured getting pregnant.
And so we laughed. A lot. And cried and had huge hormonal swings. (Well, Alex did. I totes held it together like a boss, duh.)
Sometimes you have to latch on to the hilarious in the face of the devastating. Sometimes it’s your lifeline.
So what are some ways you can cultivate the funny and let yourself laugh again?
1. Notice the ridiculous.
I made jokes about the track marks up my arms from all the needle pokes, and we laughed and I sang eighties tunes at the top of my lungs as Alex gave me butt shots of progesterone every night.
He actually drew a smiley face on my butt with the eyes as the injection points. Every time I’d bend over, he’d say, “Smile!”
2. Surround yourself with funny friends.
You know what you need when you need it. You have friends for the crying and you have friends for the laughing. Sometimes you have a rare and beautiful friend who can do both. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your funny people and invite them over to make you laugh.
And sometimes you need to give the people around you permission to be funny. “Tonight I just want to laugh. No heavy stuff.”
3. Ask funny questions.
When my kids are struggling, we talk about that, but I also try to ask them questions to get them thinking about other things and grab a peek at the bigger picture:
What smelled bad today? Did anything weird happen? Did anyone do something hilarious? What’s the craziest thing you learned today?
4. Look at your life as a casual observer.
Have an out-of-body experience. If you were watching your life on a movie screen, what would make you laugh if it was happening to someone else?
What would you say to Movie Screen You if you were the sidekick giving a pep talk at the schwanky club in the rom-com?
5. Focus on the moment.
Go out to dinner or wherever. Just go. When you’re experiencing whatever you’re doing, focus on each moment and keep your thoughts trained on the details right in front of you. The pain will be waiting for you when you’re done, but for a moment, for an hour, for a night, focus on joy.
Taste the bacon and how it perfectly complements the piece of shrimp it’s wrapped around. Inhale the coffee beans. Watch the candle flicker on the table. Let yourself tell a funny story of another time, or laugh as someone else tells a story.
6. Hang out with people who have no idea.
Exchange silly banter with a waiter. Make small talk with a stranger at a park. Not everyone likes to talk to random people, but sometimes it can feel so good to have a witty conversation with someone who has no idea what you’re going through.
One time during Infertile Inferno, I went to a salon I’d never been to before and had a guy dye my hair Sydney Bristow red. (This was at the height of Alias. You know the red I mean.) I was snarky and we chatted for hours over metal foil things and lots of chemicals that smelled weird. And after it was over, I had red hair and strutted around and felt sure I could take on SD-6 with my bare hands.
We still take the bad stuff seriously. We don’t sweep it away. But we laugh through it and find the warped humor in the situation.
Sometimes this is impossible. Things are just too horrible.
But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s perfect.
Are there ways you’ve found to keep laughing even when life just isn’t fair?