Susan Lacke writes that laughter, as the saying goes, really is the best medicine.
As a deaf kid in a public school, I was an easy target for bullying. If my classmates weren’t making fun of my accent, they’d stand behind me and yell my name, knowing full well I’d be oblivious to what was taking place. And then there were the really mean ones — the ones who would taunt me in the hallways, calling me “retard.”
In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, my school years taught me that kids can be intensely cruel. But I also learned an important lesson — perhaps my most important lesson — one day in middle school, when group of classmates approached me.
“Why do you talk like that, retard?” They sang. The question was accompanied by unintelligible gibberish and offensive hand gestures. Though they may have been entertained by their own cleverness that day, I had encountered the circumstance enough times that it no longer provoked their desired effect — tears, usually, followed by angry and violent retaliation. This time, I decided, I’d try a different response:
“I’m deaf and I was born in Texas,” I chuckled. “Put them together, and this is what comes out. Pretty funny, huh?”
Silence came over the group. I could see the confusion in their eyes: Wait, she’s laughing? Where is the crying? Where are the punches? This isn’t fun anymore. Thirteen years of being laughed at came to an end when I started laughing, too. Once I removed the target on my back, people got to know me for reasons beyond my disability. Humor, I learned, is a powerful weapon.
Twenty years later, I’ve made a career out of extracting the laughter from everyday situations. Not bad for a so-called “retard,” eh? And to think, it’s all because I chose to acknowledge the absurdity that day.
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And yes, it is a choice. If you take some time to really think about it, most events in life don’t carry an overwhelming sense of gravity or light — that is, until you decide it does. Adversity provides each of us with options: You can choose to take it seriously, until the gravitas of the situation becomes insurmountable; or you can find the tiny sliver of absurdity, which can suddenly shrink a dead-end into nothing more than a speed bump. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh — hell, even just a smile — can go a long way.
But too often, we choose the serious route. We grit our teeth and steel ourselves to bear the weight of the world on our shoulders. A rude stranger at the gym can send a day into tailspin, a bad race is a disaster of epic proportions — even a traffic jam sets off a cacophony of impatient honks because why is the whole world against me? Bullies, every one of them.
Life doesn’t have to be so serious, my friends. Choosing to be a victim is an unproductive, egotistical, and joyless way to live. It also makes you an easy target — when the bullies know they can get a reaction out of you, you can be damn sure they’ll come for it. Why give them that pleasure?
I’d rather laugh instead.
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About The Author:
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke