Laughing in the Dark

There’s nothing so worth laughing at than our own misfortunes and misadventures. And let me tell you, that being the case: I. Am. Hilarious.

And although I am nothing even near to a cruel or callous person, I have found that it is sometimes necessary to laugh the darkness in the misfortunes around me.

As a slightly slacking enrollee of WordPress’s Blogging 101, I’ve been exploring the wide world of wordsmiths and was assigned to write a piece that expands on comment I left on a fellow blogger’s post. (I was assigned this challenge last week, hence the slightly slacking…)

In my comment I let the author of the very cleverly titled Ornamental Illnesses know that I connected with his sort of dark sense of humor. He quite skillfully addresses his own experiences with bipolar disorder (something he likens to a mental ‘electric boogaloo’) in a way in which I connect – with the utmost of intellectual morbid humor.

I jokingly tell people, by way of ‘easing’ them into my personality, that they don’t ever have to worry about being offensive so long as I’m in the room.

Now, I never intentionally shock or offend those around me. It seems to be a bi-product of my sparkling personality. A personality honed through years of living with an alcoholic, serving in the military following 9/11, and subsequently working in social/emergency services for the last decade-ish.

Add to that more or less being raised by pop culture, and I along with so many of my counterparts have two choices: cope by laughing at the darkness or you let it destroy you.

What does this look like, you ask?

Well, in my experience it looks like a guy who loses a limb and is henceforth and forevermore lovingly known as Stumpy; puns abounding in the face of disaster; someone dies and we put fake ashes in salt-and-pepper shakers at the memorial service; your significant other cheats and you throw an Independence Day Party…that kind of thing.

I remember a colleague of mine was once caught smiling and joking with a co-worker on film while on the scene of a particularly nasty incident where there was a loss of life. Everyone was concerned that this person was going to get smashed in the media – “Public Servant Makes Light of Dark Murder” or “Will Emergency Responders Take Your Bad Day Seriously?”

Some of you are probably nodding vigorously along with the upstanding citizens in the field of sensationalist investigative journalism. How could anyone blame you? These are serious matters to be taken seriously, after all!

People die. Animals are trained to tear each other apart for money. Earthquakes level communities. Fires destroy high rises or thousands of acres of land. Dub Step experienced a period of popularity, and Kristen Stewart continues to make movies!

So ask yourself what you think the “normal” human response to death, destruction, and suffering should be.

Now, what if your job was to deal with that? What if you went to work to train or react to the very worst the world has to offer? Every. Single. Day.

Now think about the endless amount of proof of the power of humor, like this blog from World of Psychology, or this from Firefighter Nation, or even consider that one of the best campaigns for emergency preparedness is based on the Zombie Apocalypse (It’s real people! Prepare yourselves!). The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, and the Center for Disease Control all use this strategy to engage Americans in talking about and becoming more prepared.

Would you advise against self preservation?

I’ll admit – I’m a loudmouthed, opinionated, crude, sarcastic, young woman who cusses like a sailor and whose only saving grace is my undeniable fashion savvy and incredible sense of humor. But, like so many of my colleagues, along with the crassness and cussing (in appropriate company only) comes caring, compassion, and absolute dedication for the people in my care and in the care of my organization.

(The fashion thing is what I call this the Nerd-Girl Coefficient – it’s my own theory based on a certain style that decreases the perceived threat level of the stereo-typed no-nonsense ((AKA no fun)) intellectual brunette thereby making them more approachable to other women while simultaneously giving them the advantage of being taken slightly more seriously yet still underestimated by male peers thus allowing them to use it as a strategy for catching said males off guard and ultimately winning important professional battles. More on this some other time.)

But the price to caring, is that you often times suffer right along with the people you’re trying to help. Without something to balance the hurt, not only do you not laugh at the darkness, but you stop laughing at anything.

So to cope, I find the tiniest sliver of light in the darkness – inappropriate or otherwise – and use it so I can keep helping, so I can keep facing the challenges. I use it to lead me on to the next person, and the next, and the next who might need someone to be there on their worst day.

So, maybe I’m an asshole. But maybe I’m good with that.