5.8 I Lost My Sense of Humour and Found it Buried in the Sand
In the movie Dallas Buyers Club, Mathew McConaughey's character Ron Woodroof takes Jennifer Garner's character Eve out to dinner. She asks him, "Why are we here?" To which he replies, "A nice restaurant, a beautiful woman - I swear, I feel like a human again." Don't ask me why this simple scene stuck with me for months after seeing the movie, although, if you've read any previous entries, you know that I'll awkwardly try to explain, maybe a bit too honestly, perhaps stumbling along the way. Ron contracted AIDS, which prompted him to do something out of character: help people. The scene in the restaurant and that simple line spoke of his feelings of frustration and isolation and a need to feel like a person again, one that can be intimate and vulnerable with another.
I don't have the same medical problem as Ron, but I realized recently that I had not been myself, not for a while. Not felt human. Of course, how it works is that you don't know this until after shit hits the fan, which sucks for obvious reasons.
I realized that somewhere around the fall of the year 2013, I lost my sense of humour. I became very serious and boring, and let me tell you, when you have my prominent nose and below average height, your sense of humour is all you got in comparison against chisel-chinned, six-packed, six foot three guys. Without my sense of humour, without my ability to tell a story, I was going into battle wearing nothing but my boxers with happy faces on them and brandishing a sword-sized candy cane.
If you lose your sense of humour, how do you go about finding it? It's not like a pair of lost keys where you simply retrace your steps to realize they're just in your pocket. So, my choice was not the most brilliant - I turned inside, and holy crap, there was a serious lack of humour going on there. I mean, there was lots to laugh about - my loneliness, anxiety, fear - but not laugh out loud funny. Funny sad funny, the kind where you fake laugh but really want to cry. So I cried. A lot. Maybe if I cried enough, a river of tears would take me back to a place where I could laugh again.
I was also seeing someone and I really want to blame her, but at some point one must become mature enough to take responsibility for their actions. I can't say the relationship was fun, but I also must admit that losing my sense of humour wasn't her fault. Oh, it would be so easy to blame someone else, to blame the people I was working with, my neighbours, hell, the yappy dog down the street that always seemed to find me and piss on my shoe. Yeah, I couldn't even find humour in that. I kept seeing everything from a sad man's perspective. Instead of seeing the potential comedic material in that little shitty dog, I just saw an old pathetic man who was going to grow old and die humourless.
I wanted to laugh so hard that I cried. I wanted those tears that weren't just goddamn sad tears. A friend of mine suggested a book called Recovery of Your Inner Child. The basic idea of the book is that as we grow into adults, we forget how to be like a kid, to play like a kid, think like a kid. The activities in the book were designed to bring you back to this place in order to unlock creativity, joy and playfulness. A big part of it is drawing with your non-dominate hand - try it, it's not easy, especially if, like me, you can't draw with your dominate hand. I had no success with this book, it just made me feel stupid and the activities felt forced. As I said, I can't draw worth shit with my dominate hand. Yeah, I know, that's the idea, to let go of this self-monitoring and self-judgment, but at the time, I was heavy into both of those recreational activities. They were a big part of my day.
So, the winter largely sucked, my sense of humour frozen under all the snow. An opportunity appeared to travel down to Costa Rica with seventeen people from my co-working office space. After many months of working very hard, I felt I deserved a break. Plus, I knew a few people going and wanted to get to know them better. We flew down south, took a bus out to the jungle.
The first day we headed to the beach. I'm not really a beach kind of guy, or so I thought. As soon as I saw those waves, I wanted nothing more than to run into the water and try to wrangle them. It was goddamn amazing because if there's one thing you can't beat, it's the ocean. The ocean is democratic, tackles you with its waves, spitting you out, knocking you over - the waves don't give a shit about you. There was something about giving myself over to those waves, always failing, always getting knocked over, but getting back up goddamn it, getting up and running at them again, like some kind of fool. Like some kind of child that doesn't know any better.
A few days later, on the beach again - I'm not a beach person, remember? - I decided to build a sandcastle. No activity in a book told me to do it, there was no concept behind this such as: I am going to act like a kid and build a sandcastle in order to help unlock my creativity and therefore have my sense of humour return to me. I just started digging. A friend of mine came along and started helping. We built a very untraditional sandcastle. I then turned to her and said, "Would you bury me in sand?" To which she replied without hesitation, "Yes!"
When laying on the beach getting buried in sand, I started giggling. Although this was not helping the burying part, I couldn't stop thinking about this particular predicament. I could've judged what I was participating in, could've felt immature and childish. Well, this was exactly how I felt, and it felt damn good. And then my friend said, "I'm going to give you some breasts." And she did. Laying there under the weight of my sand breasts, I realized that I had laughed more in the past few days than the past few months. With another friend, we told elaborate stories, riffing off each other, laughing our asses off. She helped me regain something I thought was gone forever. After looking for that sense of humour everywhere, looking for it in relationships, in the snow, under rocks, in the eyes of other people, I discovered that the ability to act like a child again, to laugh like a child, play like a child, find some type of innocence in the complexity of adult life, it was all there inside myself, it just needed the right mix of incredible people, the right environment, the desire to let go of my ridiculous ego, an ego that had become so judgmental that it ceased to find humour in the cosmic joke that is being alive and risking laughing at yourself, the cosmic joke that we are all somehow alive, really truly alive and not living in some alternate dream universe, we are here and goddamnit we got to laugh at it all, laugh at how this came to pass, that through a series of seemingly random events, I had the privilege to be there with people wanting to laugh, wanting to bury me in the sand and recognizing at that moment that something important was happening, but not detaching like I usually do, not disassociating, just being completely in that moment and laughing and giggling.
I felt like a human again.
So, the next time I feel my sense of humour leaving me, I'm hopping on a plane to Costa Rica, bringing some friends and asking them to bury me in the sand.