Lighten Up?

dark humorMy friend Hugh Hollowell (yes, I am a shameless name-dropper) recently posted a blog entry titled Why So Serious? In it, he tells us that some people think he’s a bit too…, well, serious. That’s a myth easily dispelled with just a few minutes at Love Wins. It’s one I attribute it to the imperfect medium that is the internet; a person’s sense of humor and light-heartedness don’t always come through.  But, what he said got me to thinking about the times people have misunderstood me, mostly because my brand of humor might be is considered inappropriate by some. I suspect that same misunderstanding may be at work in the mistaken belief that Hugh needs to “lighten up”.

In last week’s post, Glitz and GlamI told you there were several parallels between the fire department and working at Love Wins. The use of dark humor to stave off depression falls into the same category. Both places deal with some very stressful situationns and finding humor in inappropriate places is an excellent way to deal with that stress. More times than I could count in my 23 years as a firefighter, my crew and I laughed at terribly inappropriate jokes after bad calls. When you’ve washed someone’s blood off the street, picked up the pieces of their literally broken body or witnessed for umpteenth time how addiction can destroy a life, you have to find an outlet for all the sorrow that comes along with those actions and a few irreverent wise cracks can provide just enough of a safety valve to allow you to keep your sanity.  Many people don’t understand this because they have no real idea just how protected they are from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.

The stress at Love Wins is of a different flavor than what I dealt with in my years as a firefighter, so the humor is a little different also. For instance, I’ve never heard anyone singing something like “Dead m*****r-f****r with a bullet in his head” (this is a true story) around the office. But some of the stuff that is laughed about would stun those more sheltered folks. A lot of what I do hear has a cynical cast to it. Which is a bit weird, considering that the staff and visitors at Love Wins are some of the most hopeful people I’ve ever met. I don’t know if the term “hopeful cynicism” is a thing, but it should be since it characterizes a lot of people I know.

If this rambling missive has a point, it’s this: like everything else in life, we all see humor differently. What’s funny to me may seem inappropriate to you and what is acceptable to you may seem boring and silly to me. That doesn’t change the fact that both serve a needed function for both of us: provoking laughter. While most people associate laughter with joy and good times, for some of us, laughing at the dark is the only way to keep from crying. You might want to remember that the next time you think about telling someone to “lighten up”.