When life piles up, take a step back, laugh

Whenever I find myself getting crabby and irritable it’s usually a sign I’m not retaining a sense of humor in the current situation. This may seem odd considering that I frequently inject humor into much of my writing, and I try to be funny in daily life. But making other people laugh is sometimes a different animal than being able to laugh at myself and my circumstances.

I feel like I’ve had several curve balls thrown at me lately. I started to wonder if maybe this would keep happening until I learned to take these occurrences less seriously. It was as if I was in an improvisational comedy scene, trying to buy shoes, and someone handed me a banana instead. And then I got a nectarine, and I’m pretty sure a kumquat was in there as well.

To give a few examples, I recently wound up going to the zoo, in the rain, by myself. Earlier I was selling a household item to a friend and went out to where it was being stored only to find that it had been moved elsewhere. Other times I experienced a couple of incredibly awkward conversations that left me quite discombobulated.

(People often recommend yoga as an antidote if you’re feeling rattled. The only kind I can tolerate is a class in which I’m moving around a lot. If I have to try to sit still, then I might as well be at home trying to get some writing done. Instead, I’ve found that music from the 1920s restores me to a good mood. My neighbors probably think I’m hosting a speakeasy.)

Today I went to the bike store to have a flat tire fixed. The guy asked if I wanted to wait, as it would take 15 minutes. Since I didn’t have enough forethought to bring my debit card, I had to walk home to get it, then go back to the shop. By the time I got home again I decided I didn’t need to go for a bike ride on the trail after all as I had already gotten my exercise by walking across town and back twice.

I picked up my new glasses and immediately knew the prescription wasn’t what I needed. I tried to convince them at the time, but I was encouraged to give it a few days to let my eyes adjust. I did, and later spent several minutes on the phone persuading them that I really did need another appointment. I guess “I can’t see” just wasn’t specific enough.

Then there are periodic bouts with aggressive and unwelcome male attention. This is particularly baffling to me because one of the major themes in conversations with friends of mine is often suggestions of how I might try to get along with people better. I found some old journals of mine and “be nicer” has been a New Year’s resolution of mine for about 30 years.

In my defense, I think I’d rather come across as Grumpy Cat than unintentionally encourage someone I’m not interested in, as that seems insincere and manipulative. It seems to me better to be somewhat unpleasant up front to dissuade them, rather than have to turn into Stefanosaurus Rex to get them to leave me alone once they have become persistent and invasive.

So I thought if I already feel like I’m in a comedy sketch, then maybe I should react like I’m participating in one. I’ve been seeing references lately about how principles of improv can be applied to real-world living. My brother has been taking improv theater classes, and he recommended the book “Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up” (Patricia Ryan Madson).

From the title alone, I know I’m going to enjoy it. I’m anticipating that it will give me some suggestions of how to lighten up and deal with things as they come rather than trying to control every outcome before anything even happens. I’m guessing the book will encourage me to look for possibilities of what could be, rather than getting upset because something isn’t the way I planned, predicted, or prepared.

Maybe I’ll consider taking an improv class in the future, or even getting involved in a performing group. After all, there’s nothing like potentially making a fool of yourself in front of an audience to help put minor mishaps from your day into proper perspective. And maybe it will help me to think on my feet when confronted with the unexpected, and view others as fellow improvisers.