Resilience Says Find the Humor

Resilience Says Find the Humor

This is part fifth of the guest blog series on Resilience by Nancy McCranie. This series looks at resilience and explores self-care practices you can use.

It was still dark when we checked out of our hotel. Packs on our backs, we trekked the two miles to the bus station on the outskirts of Manali, a picturesque mountain town in India dotted with bountiful apple orchards. We were bound for Dharamsala, a 10-hour journey, and wanted to get an early start. Our bus, old and worn, the padding in the seats long gone, sat silent and empty in the station. I found us a seat near the front and waited for the sun to rise while my husband, Bill milled around outside, making conversation with fellow travelers. A grizzled older man of indeterminate origin took the seat just across the aisle from ours. He had several days of stubble on his face, dark circles beneath his eyes. I could feel him staring at me as the bus filled with passengers. I studiously avoided his gaze. Finally, he leaned towards me and said, “You are going to Dharamsala.” It was more of a statement than a question. “Yes,” I said, nodding my head and glancing at him briefly. “Dharamsala is the home of the Dalai Lama. Are you planning to see him while you are there?” “No,” I murmured, recalling that I’d just read that the Dalai Lama was in Europe at the moment. “I have a private audience with the Dalai Lama,” he continued. “That’s nice,” I responded, while trying my best to send Bill a telepathic message to please come and save me from this conversation. “You see,” he said, leaning toward me conspiratorially, his eyes wide and intense. ” I am God.” Oh boy, I thought, here we go. “And not just any god,” he insisted emphatically, “I am the God above all Gods!”

At that exact moment the bus engine came roaring to life, our driver revving the gas and blasting the horn so that further conversation was impossible. Bill jumped on and took his seat, blessedly buffering me from my new best friend. A few minutes later I whispered in Bill’s ear, “You see that guy?  He says he’s God. ” “Great!” Bill said smiling at me, “I guess we don’t have to worry about arriving safely then.”

An hour or so into the ride I began to feel light-headed and queasy. Maybe it was the change in altitude; or the bumpy, winding road; or the relentless smell of diesel fuel. Or maybe it was those day-old potato curry samosas I had scarfed for breakfast.  Whatever it was, it was definitely not good. I tried everything I could think of: deep breathing, mopping my clammy forehead with a handkerchief, hanging my head out of the window to get some fresh air.  Finally, I leaned against Bill’s shoulder and prayed for relief. From across the aisle I heard a deep voice say in our direction, You know, if you are feeling ill, 7Up can help. 

Apparently, seeing my distress my new best friend had leaned across Bill to offer me this timeless wisdom. At the next stop Bill got off, returning with a Sprite. Think of it as a gift from God, he said playfully. 

When we finally arrived at our destination it was dark and I was feeling wobbly so Bill hailed a taxi to take us up the steep hill to the city center. “Mind if I share the ride with you?”our new friend asked as he plunked down next to us in the backseat. A few minutes later as we stepped out of the cab and I was putting my back pack on Bill turned and said, “Well, what do you know? God just stiffed us for his share of the cab fare.”

We had to laugh as we watched him walk away into the night, thankful for a healthy sense of humor that had helped transform a really weird and exhausting day into something slightly amusing. Now, it’s among our favorite memories. 

Did you know that a good sense of humor has been linked to a heightened immune system, improved circulation, lower blood sugar levels, and more restful sleep?  People who are able to laugh at themselves and see the lighter side of things respond better under stress and are more resilient in the face of adversity, disappointment, and grief. And if that weren’t enough, a good sense of humor makes you makes you even more adorable than you no doubt already are. 

To Practice:  Think of a situation that is upsetting to you. 

  • See if you can find something funny about it. It may not come right away, but with practice you will begin noticing humorous things happening all around. 
  • Try looking at this situation from the perspective of your favorite comedian.  What would they exaggerate or make fun of about this? 
  • Imagine yourself at 95 telling your grandchildren about this situation as a funny story. What could you say that would make them laugh? 

Visit our grief resources page for additional tools that may provide comfort through your grief journey.

Nancy McCranie is the author of our guest blog series on Resilience. She began working for Hospice Austin as a chaplain in 1996. Since 2009 she has served as the Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services. Nancy is an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and holds an M.Div. Degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is Chair of the Clinical Pastoral Education Committee at The Seton Family of Hospitals, a member of Mission Presbytery, and Parish Associate for the First Presbyterian Church, Elgin, Texas. Nancy is married to Bill, an organic/bio-dynamic farmer & rancher who raises blueberries and beef. They have two sons, three dogs, two cats & a donkey.