Don't laugh at me ('cause I'm a fool)

For as long as I’ve been aware, my reaction to any and all bad news or uncomfortable emotion has been to make a joke of it. No matter how inappropriate or solemn, nothing is safe, nothing sacred. Of course I can, and do, cry:  I wear a sombre face and feel the depths of pain, but I can’t resist the urge to wear the red nose,  bend the moment and shape a joke as though life were sometimes made of little more than long thin balloons, wrangled into the shapes of dogs or hats or swords. Quite often the joke is a darkly bitter one, but it is a joke all the same.

Recently, when asked if I was a good child, my sister looked thoughtful and gave the considered answer, “Well, she was eccentric. Not malicious, but not always good.” She paused and looked puzzled for a moment. “She has always been a bit funny.”  The sense of funny that she used was almost certainly not the one pertaining to humour. And yet, my earliest memories are of people laughing at me. With me, I suppose, but around me, certainly. In a house that was filled with unspoken tensions and minefields of fear (which at the time seemed puzzling and unfathomable) the relief felt from people laughing was as warming as gulping hot chocolate in winter and as thin as the skin of a balloon.

I suppose it isn’t surprising that to gain approval, to keep the peace, to break the tension that I could feel but not place, I learnt to make jokes of all the things that scared me. In doing so, I never fully learnt the art of being still. The stillness of listening and just absorbing. The stillness of sympathy. The stillness of compassion. No, instead I ramble and burble. I dodge and weave and take circumlocutions around the simple things that need to be said and heard because I can make people laugh - and because it is easier for me. And I tie myself up in twists and knots, shapes of things that I am not, and try to amuse.

It is usual for a child to want the world to be simple and easy for them, for the world to be a place of entertainment, of crudely formed animals made of latex and breath, but as an adult I should be more prepared to embrace the complex, the difficult and the solid. I am angry at myself for always cracking jokes - often to try to make others forget their pain for a moment, but also so I don’t have to look too closely at all that pain in its rawness and vulnerability - when I should just be still. I don’t know that I can change, although I know I need to grow up, but maybe, just in case anyone mistakes my joking for callousness or a lack of empathy,  I should put my balloons aside for a while and take off the red nose. I am listening and I do care and I am still.

2 comments:

creepylesbo said...

oh you too, eh?

Anne said...

Ditto, here. Must be a trend...