Laughing at the Monster in the Room

Posted on : 19-07-2009 | By : Lynn | In : Uncategorized


Like every Sunday a.m. I anticipated listening to Ira Glass’, “This American Life” and was not dissapointed this morning.  His show was about the “Fear of Sleep’.  The first act was a comedy routine by Mike Birbligia ( about his particular dealings with sleep disorder. It is hilarious.

My dogs began sniffing my face out to see if something was the matter with me as I sat at the kitchen table, drinking my coffee and listening to Mike while bursting out laughing often.  

I thought about the times in my life when things were so bad or dark that you’d either have to kill yourself (or someone else) or laugh and the many, many comedy routines that I made up in my head to laugh off the monster in the room.  There were many times during my tenure as a high school boarding student at a military (mandatory for the guys) Baptist (not that there is anything the matter with that) that comedy routines were the best outlet for diminishing the horror that befell us.  We laughed often and loudly with each other.

But even before then, there were incidents in my childhood that still stick out in my mind.  Such as right after my parents divorce in the late sixties.  My brother was about 9 then and all skin and bones with a big head of blonde hair and big brown eyes.  We went from living in an upper middle class neighborhood that was teetering very close to Ozzie and Harriet land to living in a rustic farm house on forty acres (which today, by the way, I would love!).  Our mom changed over night from a woman with a plastered beehive hairdo and Lacoste clothes to free hair (though she always worried with her bangs), blue jeans and t-shirts. She also took up smoking, which for her was an anomoly since she was always a health nut. We teased her constantly about not holding the cigarette correctly in her mouth. 

During this time, my brother and I, along with my mom and her roommate, also a jeans wearing free spirit–would pile into our station wagon with one or two dogs and take off to explore the great outdoors.  Why, with all the good music out at that time, Mom and her roommate loved Helen Reddy we will never know but it may have had something to do with Helen’s anthem “I am woman”.  Mom hadn’t quite gotten the courage to burn her bra but she would play Helen often and loudly in the 8 track tape player in our car.

Returning from one of these particular outings, my skinny blonde headed brother and I were sitting in the way back seat of the station wagon feeling pretty out of sorts as we watched mom and her friend smoking cigarettes incorrectly and trying to look cool with their free hair and blue jean jackets while, of course, listening to Helen Reddy.  It was then at the exact moment when Helen was to belt out “I am Woman” that my brother belted out “I am MAN” as loudly as he could albeit crackly and popping from his straining nine year old vocal chords. 

There was about a 1/2 minute of pure silence and then mom cracked up laughing.  My brother had done it again, he had created the opportunity to laugh at the unspoken monster in the room and helped everyone else to laugh at it as well.

That is such a small example but I write this now because it was decades ago and it still is fresh in my mind (as well as my brother and mom’s) as if it happened yesterday because of the way my brother gave us all a chance to ease the tension of our lives through laughter.  I’m grateful that one of the gifts I picked up in my family was to create laughter out of chaos in the chaos.  It’s so much easier for me to hear the truth when I can ease the tension through laughter.

How have you laughed at the monster in your room?

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