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Stuck In The Middle With You…

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I’m trying to laugh.

There’s snow and ice on the ground suddenly, just 3 days post Hallowe’en … and the ghouls of early November have laid havoc and challenge across the streets and life paths.

Cosmic jokes.

This morning, I studied a homeless woman crossing at a corner in downtown Penticton, doggedly pushing a shopping cart filled to the gunnels with who knows what.

Like a heavy lawnmower in thick grass, it was a difficult push for the poor lady dressed in an old Salvation Army coat, scarf and gloves. The small wheels on the cart were chattering like frigid teeth over crusted ice.

In a surreal juxtaposition, pea green leaves still clung to the large maple tree overhanging the street.

She may have been young, maybe older. With her head bowed, and layered up against the chill as if attired in a niqab, who knows?

Do I know this woman? – maybe she’s visited the soup kitchen on one of my volunteer days – but with her face totally covered, it’s impossible to say.

I try to envision how she finds respite and comfort somewhere in the gloomy rawness of the grey cloudy day ahead but I’m drawing blanks.

I’m trying to find some humour in her situation.

Isn’t there humour somewhere… somehow… to be found in every situation?

If she dressed like that in mid-summer, I could have a belly laugh at her comfortable eccentricity. Or… if she had a Canada Goose perched on top of her cart watching out as her navigator I could laugh.

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Bill, a man I’ve worked for, and with, for close to 30 years died suddenly this week.

He was a man who could find humour.

He’s dead and I hurt.

I hurt like when I see a wounded animal in agony. It makes my gut knot up and cry out. I hope he felt that his life was worthy… that he had done the best he could.

A rapid, candle-snuffing heart attack stung like an angry wasp as he hung Christmas decorations at home.

The irony (but not humour) I suppose is that he spent his career skillfully slicing into thousands of cold corpses, detecting and probing for clots and other sources of cursed invaders that initiate a final breath.

The thief that stole his last breath was a tenacious clot similar to innumerable ones he’d seen over the decades.

Bill and I weren’t fast, bosom buddies, but we were friends.

When together, we talked easily about our kids’ exploits, our travels, and frustrations with medical bureaucracy.

We laughed a lot and enjoyed each other’s company. Bill’s amiable smile unearthed nuggets of humour in most situations even when he was acting his curmudgeonly best.

Bill was like raconteur Stuart McLean in real life. Bill gifted me smiles.

I’ve attempted to locate some humour in his situation.

But Bill is gone from this world.

Bill is gone from his family’s world.

Bill is gone from my world.

Bill is a ghost now in the minds of those that cared.

So where’s the humour?

If he’d had a heart attack and survived, I could have sighed in relief, then found some laughs in the dietary and lifestyle changes that might have magically transformed this big teddy bear curmudgeon into a vegetarian fitness guru.

I can burst out in laughter at the mere thought of seeing Bill dressed in tight yoga wear.

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The shopping cart lady and Bill remind me of the “polar opposites” in life.

I don’t like this life deal where some of us live in warm, luxurious comfort while others exist in stiff and frosty discomfort.

I don’t like this life deal where the delight and joy of new birth is mirrored by the shock and pain of unanticipated death.

None of us has the choice of where we begin or…  where we end.

Life is about opposites.

Life is warm and cold.

Life is joyous and tragic.

Life is hello and goodbye.

Or perhaps as Susan Sontag said, “Life is a movie; death is a photograph.

Life is…

… a movie with your beginning, your middle, then your end.

The middle? The sweet middle is all about understanding and choice.

Let’s face it, your beginning is sheer luck and random chance.

Two unrelated amorous people make a carnal choice to build a person that is you. You don’t get a vote! Nope, none…

But there’s a nugget of beauty in this story.

The diamond gem is that you and I have the opportunity to write our own middle, and how the middle shapes the ending.

The “note to self” in the street lady pushing her cart and in Bill’s departure is the reminder to constantly remember that we make the middle, the funny and messy middle, we make the proactive choices every day that shape our world, for better and worse.

Every person’s “middle” is different, but a satisfying ending is written in that middle.

Little by little, I’m still learning. Little by little I’m still growing.

Little by little I’m paying attention and keeping my eyes and ears attuned to the small stuff that all adds up to the the BIG stuff that is life.

I’m trying to laugh today, but honestly, there are small tears tickling the corner of my mouth.

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Humour’s a funny thing, don’t you think?

Does today’s blog title make you smile, or think, WHAT? … who knows, maybe it annoys you because it sounds sexist.

It doesn’t really matter to me because it drew you in by its provocative, sexual overtone… I’m sorry if you feel manipulated. Stay with me for a minute here and see if I can make you smile.

I was reading another blogger’s post the other day when I spotted this visual about Panty Prose and PadVertising. I couldn’t help but chortle.

PADvertisement

We all know that funny stuff is very individual and subjective, but who can’t see the teehee in a photo that takes our Mad Men advertising world to a whole new level? Between the legs humour…

Sometimes it takes such a small thing to bring a smile, a grin, a twinkle, inward or outward. My smiles don’t always show on the outside, but they’re lurking in the cheek muscles.

I’ve always loved The Sound of Music… and the quaint, lyrical essence within the ditty My Favourite Things.

So today, I give you… a tasty few of my Favourite Funny-Smiley Things:

  • DAILY: I stopped regularly reading the comics’ section of the paper years ago when I left behind my Hamilton Spectator newspaper delivery route. Yet today, most mornings I have a tiny chuckle as I take my first glance at the back of the local Penticton Herald newspaper and catch the BIZARRO cartoon of the day.

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  • ONGOING: Monty Python – a childish, absurdist, but occultly intelligent humour that strikes a huge funny bone or… misses totally. I’ve met people that either align themselves in the LOVE or the HATE camp… I place myself firmly in the “Pro-Python” LOVE group.

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  • MOVIEAirplane (or Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Once again, as absurd and juvenile as a silly walk but I can’t help but titter over inanity like:

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it? 

Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious. 

Rumack:  I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.

Airplane movie

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  • SONG: Carrot Juice is Murder by Canada’s Arrogant Worms (even the group’s name is silly!). I love it when mainstream conventional thought goes topsy-turvy – the notion that vegetables have sense and feeling is simultaneously cute AND terrifying. Dystopia! Where will ill-fated vegans go when consciousness is discovered in the celery-set?

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  • STAND-UP COMEDY: I wiggle with the laughter that comes with talking about “nothing” the way Jerry Seinfeld can do it. I snicker at my fellow-Hamiltonian Martin Short’s character Jiminy Glick. And one of my all-time favs has got to be Rita Rudner… the low-key Sweetheart who soft-peddles a clean and gentle that tickles my giggle gene.

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  • SEASONAL: The sun warmed his elfin fuzzy nose as he stretched into a yoga Cobra pose- it was a friendly little gesture to the sky and the water of the lake behind. I search the shoreline for him each day that I drive into Penticton.

I know if it’s cloudy, there will be no sighting. But if the sun switch is turned on, so is my petite rodent friend. The marmot is my morning sun-smile.

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  • WORK-LIFE: In my professional prime, when I worked in the lab, I saw and touched and smelled a lot of stool… feces… waste matter…  dung… ah hell, let’s call it what it is… SHIT!

I took the work of diagnosing problems in your shit seriously, so I hope it won’t disturb you that I always tried to brighten my moments by finding something funny in your droppings… corn kernels and other vegetative anomalies that resembled rorschach inkblots in the clouds.

SHIT

It’s all a part of the way we cope with life’s shit, you know.

In your day-to-day life, you encounter similar muck and filth. I know you do.

Life is filled with real and metaphoric shit.

So I hope you manage to unearth a small hoot or belly laugh in unexpected ways.

Yes Virginia, we need humour in the world: the amusement, the irony, the absurdity, the gosh-darn plain fun to pull and push us forward in our daily lives.

And maybe… maybe next time you slip your drawers down, cast a glance southwards and think of an advertisement that would fit the “smile” bill for you…. “The Quicker Picker Upper”… or….“Tastes So Good, Cats Ask for It by Name”… or… “Imagination at Work”.