why so serious?Read Now
I had Lasik done eight years ago. To this day I joke it was my third best decision I have ever made next to getting married and becoming a mother. I will never take my eyes for granted nor forget the moment I sat up directly after having them lasered and I knew, even through the muck, I could see clearer. Prior to that if I was sleeping in a place I was unfamiliar and it went up in flames, if I didn’t have my glasses I was likely going to burn. Also during my tragic high school soccer stint I got beamed by the ball directly in my right eye and lost sight for three days, so it is pretty safe to say I am rather damn dramatic when it comes to my eyeballs and fighting/martial arts. I mean I like my teeth and all, and I am fairly happy with how my nose looks, but my eyes are a whole other bag of beans.
So suffice to say that when I got drilled point blank in my eye socket by a guy’s knee tonight during jiu jitsu I can assure you I did not think of anything else outside of whether or not I had vision. Unfortunately, I speak fluent Trucker/Sailor so I am sure the expletives spat out while I rolled around emphatically on the floor were theatrical, but know that pain will take a rear station wagon back seat when it comes to sight for me. I sat hunched over not wanting to look up because fear had me terrified to check, I didn’t want to know how badly I had just messed up my eye.
The family and I are currently training for the month at The Foundry MMA and Fitness in Beaufort, SC. I had brought Lili in with me to attend their Tuesday night Jiu jitsu class which is usually about 20 or so men and one other gal; at least that’s what I have seen from the last three weeks. Abe Stem is an instructor and the owner and obviously well versed in dealing with injuries/hysterics like mine (I like to think I wasn’t that bad….) Either way once he convinced me to look up and I realized I could see, I was fine; the relief was intense, the rest of how I looked apparently was another matter. Though I didn’t feel it and my nose was fine, I apparently hemorrhaged (this could be a more dramatic word than needed) out of my sinus cavity and my hands that cupped my face during my episode collected and splashed blood all over the floor smearing across my face. Abe checked thankfully to make sure my nose was straight, it clotted right on up, I apologized for bleeding all over his mats, and then turned to the guy I had been rolling with and said, “Dude, I am going to be super pissed if you made me not pretty.” No one laughed. To be fair I am sure I looked like a horror film victim because Lili came over and said, “oh my, mom….” here I am with a streaked bloody smile cracking a joke to this poor guy who was apologizing.
So where am I going with this? Humor is a coping mechanism and dark humor helps dramatically. I cannot think of one heartbreaking, nervous, awkward situation I have been in where I did not use some form of a joke to lessen the load on my psyche. I honestly don’t know how other people deal with things that come up in life because it is an amazing valve release that lets the steam off a bit to make it though.
Both of my grandfathers died within three days of each other. I was living in England with my new husband, had a brother over in Iraq for his first tour, another brother deployed on a ship somewhere, I had come home for one funeral and stayed for two. My mother, her sisters, and my grandma were trying to navigate arrangements when my aunt’s basement flooded; I am talking two feet of nasty, gray water. We were all trying to get our emotions gathered to get through the services the following day and now we had to wade through just grossness to haul belongings out of her extremely large and finished basement. So we joked. We made constant funny comments about swimming in sewer water. The poop humor was aplenty. Were we numb? Yes, absolutely. It sucked, but it took some tension off.
My husband could not comprehend this when we first got married. He didn’t understand how we could tease at the hurt persons expense when someone was in the ER. He was appalled that we all sat eating big mac meals casually in the waiting room while we razzed my brother Jacob over his bad three-wheeler decisions (this is par for our family) and made sarcastic comments on how horrible the Veterans Hospital situation was going to be with his snapped collarbone. And someday when its not still fresh (15 years is apparently still fresh) we can speak of my spouses knitting needle through the foot incident and the humor he did NOT find with my mother and I when I called to ask what we should do. I practically had to shoe him like a horse to remove it, he didn’t find it funny. My how he has grown….
I have been training in and out of different places and facilities with constant strangers for a while now. The array of people who never laugh when drilling astounds me. It could be that my jokes just suck, maybe I am not that funny, or my Chronic B Face leads them to believe that I am actually serious. I am not saying goof off the whole time, but a one-off punch line and a smile definitely help. We are smashing faces and playing with weapons meant to kill, you have to lighten up or it will consume you. Jorge Torres-Marin, a researcher for The University of Granada’s Mind, Brain, and Behavior Research Centre stated this about a recent study, “We have observed that a greater tendency to employ self-defeating humor is indicative of high scores in psychological well-being such as happiness and, to a lesser extent, sociability.”
The pendulum cannot be one extreme or you will drown in its weight, that’s why the humor is there, to bring a bit of light to such a heavy topic. I remember running a sim round drill with a girl who was overwhelmed by the reality that she was aiming a gun at a person while having to pull the trigger. She was upset and rightly so, it is a heavy thing deploying a tool meant for death. Her feelings were completely correct and I would be concerned more if she wasn’t. However a joke cracked popped through the tears a bit and eased things. It gave a break in the thought process to rein in the waterworks and focus on what was learned.
I have had dark conversations about foster care that overwhelm. The jokes made were sometimes crass and very direct, but so needed. A weird side effect of one of our sweet babies when he was detoxing from drugs right after birth was that he smelled like feet for several weeks. No matter how many times you bathed and rubbed Johnsons Baby Lotion into his skin, he still smelled like a sweaty fifteen-year-olds sock. The other side effects were obviously less humorous, but focusing on the rather funny one made the situation monumentally better.
I found my last ECQC to be a great group that understood comic relief. This allowed for the evolutions/drills to be much more fun and honestly, I felt, much more realistic. Every debrief after was hilarious, but had an effective understanding about mistakes and decisions made that in real life could have gotten a person killed. Psychology Today wrote about a study that was done on anxiety and stated that, “People who used humor a lot were more likely to find new ways to think about the stressful situation, which was related to decreases in stress.” Psychology Today June 21, 2017.
“After surviving a close call, it’s natural for troops to crack a dark joke or two in order to mentally settle themselves after a serious situation. Laughter is the best medicine, it may not look healthy at first, but it works,” said Tim Kirkpatrick, a writer for infantry veterans website, We Are The Mighty. Congressman and Former Navy Seal, Dan Crenshaw, devoted an entire chapter of his book Fortitude on dark humor and how it helped him overcome, process, and get through injury, harrowing moments while deployed, and months spent recovering laying only on his stomach due to the health of his only remaining eye.
As much as some may want to say it is taboo in grim instances, humor works. It soothes, it relieves the mind and just smiling a bit to someone can make that person’s entire day. There are so many problems out there that have no answers and things can be so messed up you realize you may not be able to fix them, but a well witted joke can go far in survival.
I follow a few personal trainers on Instagram. One of them posted last week an after workout picture of him looking all glowy, ripped, tattoos bulging, sporting a bright amazing smile. I immediately thought, man that is totally not what I look like when I get out of class. I had made plans on Tuesday to take a funny selfie right after jiu jitsu. I wanted a realistic photo of when I get done with training; my face red, eyebrows rubbed halfway off, weird forehead veins bulging (totally not the veins a person is shooting for), hair matted with sweat in some places, floofed out of my ponytail in others, sweaty because trust me, I am not glowing, mascara running (tattoo looks cool though), and smiling only because I survived and can breathe again. I apparently get to one up my original plan by adding a shiner and a few snapped off eyelashes to the mix. I wish I would have got one when I looked up grisly with blood smeared all over my face, but that might have been more taboo than my joke. Please laugh at me, at the very least it will make me feel better.
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Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal