I was recently listening to the Beatles song Eleanor Rigby on a road trip with my daughter. Mostly because we only had two musical options in the car at that time, bad talk radio or the Beatles #1 hits CD that has been in the car for three years. I always think I can't bare to hear the songs one more time and then I get into it and before I know it we're listening to Long and Winding Road one more bloody time and I'm singing along.
When Eleanor Rigby came on I was surprised my daughter didn't ask me to flip to the next song. She is hyper-sensitive to songs or movies that are too sad. Yesterday, I caught her singing the song to herself. Clearly, she'd taken the whole song in, the entire picture of loneliness. Father McKenzie, Eleanor, the dirt from the grave. All the lonely people.
There are so many lonely people that if you even have one kindred spirit in your life, one soul to talk with, count yourself blessed. This is my preamble to talking about marriage, which Leonard Cohen described as (I'm paraphrasing, but only slightly) 'the hardest thing ever'. I don't want to sound ungrateful for my marriage or any of my relationships. I am thankful for all of them. But, what I will say is Leonard Cohen is a wise and respected human being and he makes a point.
My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. This is a milestone that few couples make these days. (Though there must be quite a few couples making it to 60 because that is the milestone you have to make to get a letter from the Queen, or this may be more a reflection on the Queen's staff keeping her workload to a minimum.) I know my parents could not have survived 50 years together without a sense of humour and of course a few tactical maneovres to get through the rough spots. Like chicken.
A lesbian friend of mine was talking to her mom about a complicated relationship she was in. After listening, her mother replied that being with a man was easier. "Men are easy because you can just put them in front of the TV with a plate of chicken and they're happy." That is a marriage tactic that likely served her well.
My husband's aunt and uncle are in their 90s and happily married. They recently returned from a cruise where two of the best features of vacation were the 'lovely beds'. The Auntie described to me how fluffy the pillows and duvet were. How clean the sheets, how comfortable the mattress. But they were single beds, so they slept separately.
When the Aunt and Uncle returned home to their double bed in Wales, the first night back there was a silence. As they adjusted to their own bed (presumably not as cosy and comfortable), the Uncle quietly, dryly said into the darkness "Well, this is not going to work."
"He still makes me laugh Elizabeth," is how she ended that story.
See, flex that funny bone people, it will save your relationships. Also, (and I'm not saying this is part of my regular repertoire) I have to go make sure the cable bill is paid and thaw some chicken for dinner.
One misty grey morning, many years ago, I was leading a kindergarten class through a forest looking for Banana Slugs. We were practicing being silent. If someone found a slug, they were to stop and silently "point with their slug tentacles" (holding their fingers above their heads to look like tentacles) at the slug until everyone else in the group was doing the same thing.
We hadn't gone very far when the alpha boy at the front of the line spotted a slug. He immediately abandoned the silent bit (who can blame him?), but obediently raised his fingers above his head in a stellar slug impression and yelled back to his classmates "C'mon everybody put up your testicles!"
Being four and five years of age no one corrected him on his improper appendage naming. The children all dutifully raised their fingers above their heads and peered at the slug. Though I did annunciate tentacles a bit more the next time I used it, I pretty much carried on as though nothing unusual had just happened.
But it had, hadn't it? It was an excellent moment in time that I have never forgotten. There is much talk in environmental education of instilling a sense of wonder in children. There are many books about it. Being out in nature, being quiet, using our senses and just observing things around us helps us to be in the moment and notice things. It instills a connection to nature. It can also help one notice the funny. *I think it was Shakespeare who said "The sacred and the funny doth share the same sword" (*He did not, I just made that up.)
Any job, especially those laced with earnest intentions, can unexpectedly lurch into unintended hilarity. As is often the case when we install things with extra meaning, we tend to whisper, we encourage quiet, making the hilarious that much funnier. I refer you to giggling in quiet places of worship when one is not supposed to be laughing.
Over the years, as an educator, it has been the children and sometimes the animals, who have unwittingly pointed out the funny to me. (I am purposely here forcing out of my mind the kids who went to the dark side in the forest, threatened squirrels, cursed at teachers, pushed friends into blackberry bushes and so on). What I remember are the little darlings who unknowingly and in their pure earnestness put a smile in my heart if not my face when I had to pretend what they said was not funny.
There was the inner city student at the urban park who replied "Safeway" when I asked if anyone could give another example of a food chain. (We had been talking about predators, prey, herbivores and carnivores.)
A woman I was working with, asked the Christian school class she was teaching if they knew that people are also animals and a soft-spoken little boy replied "Yes, aren't we all lambs of God?"
And on that note Dear Reader I send you off into the wilderness of your day to pause here and there, be quiet and look for the funny. It could be just around the corner. And if all else fails stick up your testicles.