I have many examples, but one example in particular is the best.
Nearly 40 years ago, I was on vacation with my cousins in Cape Cod. I had fixed up an old bicycle, and bought a fairly expensive new bike seat for it. Within minutes of installing it, my 14 year old cousin got on the bike and immediately ran into a parked car. She broke the brand new bike seat.
Although I was somewhat slightly ticked about the bike seat, for the most part I was incredibly amused.
Thanks to my wonderfully wacky aunt, this girl’s mother, the bike seat story has lived on and on and on. To this day, I still get a yearly Christmas card from my aunt that includes a mention of the bike seat. Because my aunt is so insanely creative, every yearly card takes a different spin on this ridiculously idiotic story. I love the hell out of it.
So, within the last several months, I have entered the perilous world of Facebook. And on Facebook, I find the bike seat cousin. I sent her the following message-
“Bike seat-smoldering rage!”
Do I actually feel smoldering rage? Of course not! It’s just a statement that I hope will make her laugh.
My God, I start thinking, does she really think I am consumed with ‘smoldering rage’?
When looked at in combination with other similar circumstances, I firmly believe that other people respond or don’t respond to my attempts at humor based on my history of mental illness. This happens a lot.
When I am in an environment where no one knows my history, responses to a joke or a story are much more normal.
In my particular world, I could not begin to tell you how much this bothers me. I have taken the issue up with my therapist, and he is teaching me how to deal with it, and he’s doing a good job.
I was a joker before entering the world of mental illness, and for several years while in the world of darkness, laughter played no part in my life.
Today however, I enjoy laughter, telling or hearing a joke, busting your chops or having you bust mine, and all else that is a part of humor.
But I think others are hesitant to know how to interact with me in the world of humor. Because it was gone, they think it’s gone forever. So when I say something ‘funny’, they are not sure how to react.
So, in an effort to remove the awkwardness, I can remove humor from the equation. No more terrible silences from relatives and friends. No more wondering what they are thinking about me.
But f___k that- humor defined me in the first 45 years of my life, and I fully plan on having it define me as I reach my golden years.
Bike seat cousin, you are just going to have to come around.