Humor has always been a coping mechanism for me. I have been able to take a serious situation and find the humor in it to make light of it. I don’t know if this is my consciences way of denial of reality in a sense of purely a way for me to make the situation less serious to handle it more delicately. I’ve done this since a child. I was already the odd man out. The weird one. The odd duck if you will. I was the 7 year old playing her Celine Dion CD on her walk-man when all the other kids were listening to Disney Soundtracks and A-Teens. I thrived from music, specifically vocal music. Strong vocal music. I drowned myself in every note, engrained the tone and dynamic into my soul to hear the subtext in every phrase. What kid does this? I was always emotionally driven as a kid. Wore my heart of my sleeve. But on the outside I learned that if I was laughing at myself too it didn’t hurt as much as being the only one being laughed at. If I laughed with them we were all in it together. It was safer this way.
It’s also a dangerous test to dabble in because where do the lines get crossed? As children we know the difference between good and bad. Or at least we are taught these fundamentals of growing up and developing maturity. When we get older yes we still know these boundaries that were set in our brains from diapers through grade school. Yet do we still color within the lines? Not always.
I’m the first person to admit that if I fell on my face in the middle of a grocery store I would end up laughing my buns off on the floor knowing that half the store saw it happen. What else am I going to do? Get up and scurry off like a scared rabbit like nobody saw? I’m not invisible. It happened. It has happened. And that’s ok. People saw. Asked if I was ok helped me up and we laughed it off. We are all human beings and we get clumsy at times. There’s no shame in this.
When I found out I had Multiple Sclerosis I had to make the decision to act the same way. To find the humor in it and handle it much of the same way my Father does who also is battling MS. He laughs it off and says “hey it’s just weird. Like I can’t feel my leg. I can see it but it ain’t there”. He has a very positive outlook on the whole thing saying “Why would I wallow in this? It’s kind of fascinating really. The neurological system is a crazy thing.” I knew that I too would have this same outlook on my recent diagnosis and new life changes.
When I started using a cane to assist with my walking of course people asked, and you could see they felt sorry for me. I’ve never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me. As soon as I see pity in their eyes I simply say “Hey I can really rock this cane though huh?” “I make it look dang sexy don’t i?” I never want to be targeted as the person that needs help. Even if I have my purse in my hands and I’m carrying something else and then I have my cane in the other hand I will still figure out a way to open the door myself, because the reality is what am I going to do on the day where there is not someone there to help me? Standout like a kid waiting to be let in? No. You become a balancing act and learn how to maneuver things to open the door yourself. But I’m never one to turn down a gentleman being a gentleman with holding doors open. Chivalry ain’t dead you know.
I openly test my abilities around friends and family. Such as balance, lifting my “junk leg” as I call it, or practicing walking with my cane. People are curious. They go from seeing you “normal” to walking weird and using a cane. Of course they are going to be curious. So what do you do when you can see wonder on everyone’s face? You talk. You talk about it. You explain to them. You walk them through everything. You show them examples. You let them ask you questions. You make light of it because you have to. You have no other choice, or you will drown in judgement and disappointment. I’ve always been an open book. Never ashamed to talk about anything, nothing to hide kind of woman. What’s the point? If I’m going through something there’s a huge chance than out of a room of 10 people 2-3 of them are going through similar emotions. So if we verbalize and are open we know we are not alone. Learn to express to others that are curious. Learn to laugh about something you can’t control. But that’s the dangerous part. When the laughing stops what is left over?
I remember being little and going to to Great Grandmothers home (Nina Tony) because her husband was Papa Tony so naturally, she was Nina Tony. Papa Tony had a cane and I loved to play with it. Kids do those sorts of things because it’s something unfamiliar to them. My Nina (my Grandmother) was on oxygen most of her life and I as a child was fascinated with her oxygen hose. How it traveled all over their house. Up and down the hallways, into different rooms, through a grate in the living room floor that led downstairs into the basement/rec. room where the oxygen tanks were kept. I thought these little tubes were keeping her breathing. What if someone stepped on it? Or punctured it. I was almost protective of them so not to touch them and keep my distance.
Kids are always interested in new things. Things they’ve never seen before. Adults who are unfamiliar with certain things often act in the same manner. They stare, want to touch things that don’t below to them. It’s the same being heavily tattooed. People are often interested in my body art. They look, they stare they ask questions, they compliment but then you get that one person who takes it a step further and grabs your arm to check out a piece of artwork or turns you around so they can get the whole view. When did it become ok to touch a perfect stranger? Boundaries were things that have been set in our brains since grade school. Don’t touch Sally’s hair. Keep your hands to yourself Mark. Now does that ball belong to you Billy? We’ve gone over all of this. Yet there are still people out there that haven’t quite carried these boundaries into adulthood. If I wanted my cane to be carried around by others I would have signed people up for my show and tell presentation and I could have passed it around the class for everyone to admire and touch.
It’s such a sensitive subject because all the while you don’t want to come off like this MS beast you do have to set boundaries in place for yourself and communicate when those lines are being crossed. It’s an un written rule than I can make fun of my MS and you may laugh along but when you make fun of my MS it’s a different situation. In the same respect I have to understand that also people are so used to me making fun of myself that they naturally feel the want to chime in. Make’s me wonder if my ability to laugh at myself is really coming from a self loving place or a place of shame. Yes finding humor in yourself if healthy but when does it become self-disrespect? We have to respect ourselves also.
We are in uncharted waters here and the tides are constantly changing and sea levels rise and then fall. We have to adapt with the changes and go with the flow but also know when to throw out a life preserver. Instead of tossing pebbles at the bobbing sea gulls. They aren’t targets. Everyday I learn something more and that’s a good thing. It’s not going to happen all at once but my goal is to handle life and my journey with poise and grace. It ain’t always gonna be pretty and that’s ok. I’m only human. But nevertheless I am a warrior…day by day, fight by fight, battle by battle and I’ll conquer.