Manage episode 305252849 series 2502434
Emily and husband/producer Mike Morgan have a dinner-table-style discussion about the last episode ,which dealt with with Gray Divorce. Plus, Emily's essay series "The Stretch It Takes" resumes with a search for something she'd left behind.
THE STRETCH IT TAKES: I Must Find It
I left it behind, and now I’ve lost it. It was once a defining part of who I was, and now, I’m just not sure where it went. I’m talking about my sense of humor. When I was a child - the youngest of three - I took on the role of making people laugh. I have a distinct memory of declining to play a game with my cousins just so I could sit around the kitchen table with my parents and aunts and uncles in order to entertain them. My mom often said I should write a newspaper column like Erma Bombeck. Remember her? I wasn’t a joke teller, but I definitely saw the funny side of things...until. Until….I don’t know when.
When or where did I lose my sense of humor? I wonder if it was when I graduated from high school a year early and left for college right as I turned 17. Or maybe it happened because I was going to college 1,200 miles from home, or majoring in English literature and taking lots of philosophy classes. (It’s hard to stay jovial when you’re reading Kierkegaard and Sartre.)
I have no idea what happened, but I started taking myself so seriously. And by the time I was in graduate school, I think I was a bit of a bore. There were glimmers of my sense of humor after I got married and started having children. The kids remember me happily miming my way up and down pretend stairs behind the kitchen counter like Marcel Marceau. For them, I dressed up in costumes and took on foreign accents when I read stories aloud. When they would relay to my husband something that I had done, I would keep a straight face and say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” to their gales of laughter.
But that was then and this is now. My audience, our children, are grown and gone, and when they come home with their own children, I am often so wrapped up in entertaining the masses with great hospitality that I can’t be entertaining in any other way.
I have decided lately that our marriage has also suffered because I can’t find the humor in things. I think we both find that difficult. So many discussions end in frustration. A ride in the car can turn into a debate stage. I could blame the previous election, or COVID, or a number of things, but honestly, I have not been practicing the art of looking on the sunny side of life for a long time now. And I do think it takes practice.
I was just at The Container Store the other day when I saw a poster that said “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo.” If you don’t know her philosophy, it involves decluttering your life by ridding yourself of anything that doesn’t give you joy. Surely I’m not the only one tempted to relegate my husband to the Goodwill pile because he doesn’t light me up all the time. I mean 40 years is a long time to be married! It’s easy to blame your partner for much of what goes wrong in a marriage. But realistically, I don’t believe a divorce would ultimately bring my sense of humor back.
I think I have to stop believing that my sense of humor will be returned to me by somebody else… or by the absence of someone else. I also need to stop visiting the lost and found to see where I left it. Instead, I think I need to create a new kind of joy, one that finds humor in the day to day. Where I learn to forgive and forget more easily. To brush off the hurts and not take things too personally.
Instead, I need to hold on tightly to the joy that comes from knowing that life is short (and getting shorter). Maybe I just need to take a chill pill. Take a walk. Meditate. Enjoy a delicious meal. Go on a trip. Goodbye existential and hello experiential. After all, life is grand, right? Isn’t there a podcast about that? Oh, yeah...maybe I need to listen to that.
© 2021 Emily Morgan
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