Tuesday, 11 February 2014


After I posted about the benefits of laughter the other day, I thought about it some more.

As a girl, I laughed a lot.  My beautiful mama is always laughing, easily seeing the funny side of things and never taking life too seriously.   In our home as I was growing up, every day there was laughter; I can still now see in my mind’s eye, my sister rolling on the floor clutching her tummy because she was laughing so hard; and that would be a regular thing with us.  My father had a sharp, clever sense of humour, and his conversation was shot through with wit.

As a young woman, I found many things amusing.  And now, I just don’t.  There’s a song by Paul Simon (Call Me Al, I think) with the line “I don’t find that stuff amusing any more”; it often comes to mind as something that resonates.

I’ve read of people who were badly ill and shut themselves away to watch funny films, laughing themselves back to health; but I watch comedies sometimes and turn them off halfway through, bored.  Occasionally a film or a book raises a smile, but hardly ever makes me laugh.   And I'm not even ill. 

On Facebook friends post things tagged with remarks like “ROFL”, “ROFLMAO” and “I laughed until I cried”.  But (guess what) I look at them, and don’t find them funny.  A recent one was a YouTube video of dogs who feel guilty.  It was supposed to be HILARIOUS.  I found it heartbreaking.  Why is it even meant to be funny to see animal after animal so ashamed?

These days, I feel worried – about the weather, about climate change, about people who suffer, about our appalling government, about my failure to be the person I could/should be, about finance sometimes.  I feel tired.  And I feel sad – that my involvement in the church no longer excites or even interests me (though my faith still sparks and flares), that I haven’t the stamina for social occasions, that I cannot be the person others wanted me to be.   I start reading books and weary of them – not all; there are some writers (Ursula le Guin comes to mind) whose work still wows me.

How does a person laugh who doesn’t find things funny any more? 


Daffs Deliberations said...

A good question. I rarely laugh at things labelled 'funny', but I often laugh when I am with people, often at the things they say... Don't mistake me for an extrovert, but I do love good conversation, when so much is said or not said, by facial expression.

I hope you rediscover the things that bring you joy.

God bless :)

Julie Faraway said...

I know what you mean, Ember. Things seem so much more serious and worry-worthy in our world than they've ever been. But thankfully I laugh once in a while, mostly I think because I have a friend who prays for me to do so. Perhaps you need a friend who will do the same for you...that the Lord will bring laughter to your life once again. :)

I think I laugh mostly because children give me cause. I find things to chuckle at with my grandchildren, and I'm so thankful for that. Michael makes me laugh once in a while by saying some off the wall thing, and I love that too. I just read a book that made me laugh so hard in one place, I had to exert great effort to keep myself from shaking the bed while Michael slept beside me, and I realized what an unusual thing that was, considering our circumstances. It felt good.

So this minute I pray that the Lord will give you reason to laugh, and that you will feel worn out in the best way possible, from laughing so heartily.

Let me know when it happens. It will. :) xoxo

C.F.Dunn said...

You are not alone. Anxiety has a deadening effect and kills a sense of joy. We are fed a constant stream of it, especially through the media. It is something we have discussed at home and with friends and most of us find it invasive and corrosive. Have we always been a careworn society or is this something new?

Unknown said...

I have found very little now holds my attention. My humour has always been rather black so there are still things I find funny for all sorts of reasons but it is more along the lines of wit rather than straight humour. It is not necessarily kind either, so held back so as not to offend.

Pen Wilcock said...

As ever, your comments here are illuminating, inspiring, make me think.

Yes, Rose - the things people say. Our Grace was at our place with her children in the usual way one Sunday recently, and the Badger was in and out, in and out, wanting to be sociably but with many small chores to attend to. Eventually, after he had just been briefly into the room where we sat chatting, only to vanish again almost immediately, Grace remarked casually, "It's like bird-watching, isn't it." Made me laugh so much. Made me laugh for days, every time I thought about it. Yes, that's where the funny things are.

Julie - THANK YOU!

cfd - I think it's gradually increased. When I think back to life in the 1970s I am shocked by the gradual accumulation of restrictions, prohibitions, responsibilities, anxieties and stressful information we have accumulated.

Ganeida - yes, that sounds familiar. I too have a sense of humour that can be sly/waspish etc; not all jokes that pass through my head can be released into the wild!

Thanks for your good thoughts, friends! xxx

Rebecca said...

I seldom am a ROTF laughing-sort myself. Nor am I a laugh-on-command-sort. I laugh at things others may not see humor in and have ceased laughing to try to fit in....

Laughter that catches me unexpectedly is the best kind for me. Clears out some of the cobwebs of worry and anxiety that accumulate sort of the way a sneeze clears out whatever-it-is-that-it-clears-out.

Try less to laugh, I say. I dare say it will overtake you when you least expect it.

Pen Wilcock said...

Now, that sounds like good advice, Rebecca! x

Pilgrim said...

February is a hard month to laugh in, if you live in the Midwest. It is hard to remember Christmas. March has many more possibilities, with Spring showing up at the windows.

Pen Wilcock said...

Shrewd, Pilgrim. Yes, me too. I usually find this time of year a bit of a trudge, and the more so this year with its incessant rain storms here in the UK, all the damage and care they are bringing to so many lives and futures. May March indeed bring brighter days.

Anonymous said...

Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh Luke 6:21

Anonymous said...

I find it a bit more of a problem to LOL because God is poking me about the comedy programmes I watch on the internet (QI, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You) so I've had to give them up. There is an American preacher, Jesse Duplantis, who tells (as far as I'm concerned) the funniest stories. One story he tells about working on the oil rigs when he was about 17 made me nearly throw up I was laughing so hard. I don't agree with all of his theology but his funny stories make me laugh :-D I'm not sure you'd like him though.

Sometimes happiness is a choice we make. I know from when I was being treated for depression I began to recognise the fork in the road where I had a choice...to be happy or to spiral into the dark place with no discernable way out. It took a while to make consistant right choices but it's better now.

I've also made a choice not to spend too much time reading the news. Negativity brings people down and there is lots of it out there. I'd rather concentrate on Jesus' awesomeness than read about death and distruction.

It doesn't mean that I have my head in the sand but the Bible said there'd be wars and rumours of wars and more natural disasters the closer we get to the end times so we can pray for those affected and share the gospel but look for the joy in the little things :-D

Jenna said...

Inspired by your post, Pen, and just for fun, I looked up "laughter" in the King Jimmy and was, quite frankly, astonished. I had heard "a merry heart doeth good like medicine" but "laughter" (in Hebrew sĕchowq; the usually less descriptive Greek is gelos--"laughter") is most often connected to mocking, contempt, or derision. The "merry heart" (Heb-samach)is merely glad or rejoicing. Hmm.....

Bean said...

I find things amuse me much more than make me laugh out loud.
I have always struggled with laughing, as I have a tendency to laugh at very inappropriate times, it is a nervous reaction and it is embarrassing. When I was around ten I remember sitting class as our teacher told us that our beloved drama teacher, Miss Eubanks, was killed over the weekend in a car crash. We were shocked, most students cried, I started laughing, it was mortifying I found no amusement whatsoever in the news I was devastated by it but my body betrayed me and laughter rather than tears came out. This has happened to me as an adult too, although I can generally control it now.
I like to be amused, and most of the time I am amused, but LOL not so often. My grandsons, 5 and 3, amused on Sunday, they were playing newscaster and I had to sit and watch their news show, the lead story was about a knitting competition for grandmas! This amused me to know end as I am their knitting grandma.

Anyway, praying for you that you are able to enjoy the moment and are able to put down the anxiety and worry.


Sandra Ann said...

How does one laugh when one doesn't feel like laughing? You asked God to help if help is needed and whilst waiting for an answer remain true to where you are at this moment in time!

Hope this doesn't sound glib as it isn't meant too, sending you a hug dear friend.

San xx

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thanks for your good thoughts, friends! xx

Alice Y. said...

Dear Pen, I wonder if you have come across a little book called 'Laughter in Quaker Grey'? It's collection by William Sessions of York. He introduces it with a wonderful little essay about humour, and it's a collection of anecdotes from Quaker history. I love it for a background on Quaker faith in action as well as a source of genuine humour. Thought you might like, if you can get hold of a copy. A Meeting House library might have one.

Pen Wilcock said...

Just about anything with the word "Quaker" in it makes me happy. It can be got here and there secondhand, but the cheap ones are in the US making the postage prohibitive and the UK ones are up over £10 which is an amount I think twice over, for a book. I've added it to my Amazon wish list in the hope it's still there one day when I'm feeling rich and powerful! Thanks for the tip! xx