A co-worker and I were discussing our shared HMO's habit of prescribing medicine without examining us, and she had just relayed a story in which she had a VERY unexpected reaction to the prescribed medication. She told the story in such a way that I burst into startled laughter. I told my own story of the medication side effect merry-go-round, including one that left me staring into space for 10 minutes at a time because my mind would suddenly go blank; she chuckled at our shared experience. We figured we better move on before we disturbed anyone, but it was a nice break from the non-stop busyness of the workday.
It's a proven scientific fact that laughter has healing powers. We need to see the upside to situations in order to get through them. If we can laugh at it, even better. Had I not discovered the writings of Erma Bombeck, I don't know how I would have gotten through my son's childhood. With all of the drop dead serious parenting articles and advice, I never realized that I could laugh at some of the crazier stuff that was either going on around me, and/or happening to me directly. Dilbert is a staple in offices for the same reason. Those of us spending the best years of our lives in Cubicle-Land need to feel like someone understands the craziness, and can relate to it. Take the endless rounds of meetings we all have to deal with. If you can't find the humor in that, you probably conduct a few.
I remember talking to a friend about what I call Death by Meeting. It came out of the fact that studies have shown that the average life expectancy of office workers is lower than that of manual laborers. Spending 8-10 hours a day behind a desk can contribute to hardening of the arteries, eye strain from staring at a computer screen, and a host of other ailments related to long periods of being sedentary. I said that the real reason for the decline in office workers health is due to being slowly bored to death in endless meetings. If you've ever been in a long, tedious meeting, where you felt your brain cells dying while the Executive Supreme Leader used trendy jargon to say nothing in particular, you understand. I have come to loathe meetings over the last few years. Rarely have so few, gathered so many, so often, to say so little. A friend of mine once told me that we couldn't have lunch because she was in back to back meetings all day, from the time she walked in the office at 9:00, until sometime after 6:00pm that evening. I could relate. That same day, I had three meetings. My old supervisor used to have one day per week that was filled with nothing but non-stop, sometimes overlapping meetings. I once told her that someone needed to have a meeting about all the meetings. She shot back that the Executive staff were already planning a meeting about meetings. That made perfect sense to me. Everything in most offices revolves around staff meetings. “Staff” being the key word here. There is department staff, Executive staff, division staff, section staff, field staff, staff for special projects and staff to keep track of staff. All of them, except the Department level, have weekly meetings. At these meetings, everyone is made to stop what they are doing for a length of time that ranges from one hour to infinity (and occasionally beyond) in order for the leader/supervisor/underboss to tell you something you likely already know from the rumor mill, then ask you the status of whatever you are working on. The smart leaders know there will be very little to report either way, and the only way they can get you in the door and paying attention is to ply you with caffeine and sugar to keep you awake. I tend not to despise these meetings as much, if only because the person leading the meeting generally understands that nobody wants to be there, so they try to keep the meeting short and lively. These meetings are rare and precious, so you have to enjoy them when you can.
If seeing the absurdity of certain workplace rituals gets me through the workday with my sanity in tact, only taking seriously the things that I absolutely HAVE to take seriously where the kids are concerned keeps me together the rest of the time.
I have found that I cannot take everything my kids do seriously. If I did, the threat to my sanity would be real. Take housecleaning and chores. The last time the house was actually clean was right before my daughter's birthday sleepover in January, and only then because that's the only way we could fit six little girls on the living room floor. Other than that my kids have what I call Object Blindness. Whatever object they left on the floor/counter top/bed/washing machine is completely unseen until they discover it's in the way of whatever activity they were trying to do. Then it will get removed to another surface for the duration of the activity, at which point it will be placed right back where it was. When asked why the object wasn't just put away, thrown away, or otherwise dealt with, they then develop another condition called Mommy Deafness. If it involves anything having to do with cleaning, they can't hear me.
Life is absurd. With the exception of a VERY short list of situations and circumstances, the less seriously you take it, the better. After all, to quote Jim Morrison, no one here gets out alive. You might as well find something to enjoy about it, even if it is just laughing at your own foibles. Serious people don't live as long as those who can see the lighter side of life, even occasionally, and are subject to a host of injuries, illnesses and stress-induced maladies. Since I deal with a few stress-induced issues of my own, I had to learn some years ago to prioritize which issues needed my serious, focused attention, and what could only be shrugged off because there was very little if anything I could do about it.
A side note about snark, the current popular form of humor: Although I don't mind taking cracks at myself, my shortcomings, or particular situations, I don't condone the belittling of people for someone else's amusement. I have always detected strong notes of condescension in snark, and as I don't like feeling talked down to, or about, I won't do it to anybody else. But whatever blows your hair back. This is just a "me" thing.
But I digress...
We do need to get through this life in the best mental and emotional shape possible. Since laughter reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure and releases endorphins, I think that while watching a good comedy, or just having a great conversation with a co-worker might not have the same physical health benefits of jogging, it might be just as good, if not better, for your emotional well-being. And you don't have to go outside, or get all sweaty to do it. Besides, I want to be around for as long as possible, laughing all the way.