Today’s substitute teacher for Mrs. Elliott-Upton’s class says of herself:
Lissa Merriman is a published writer of humorous greeting cards and horror short stories. Her work has appeared in cards for Dayspring and Oatmeal Studios, in New Romance magazine and in the online ezine “From the Asylum”. She has also written numerous local newspaper columns on various topics and loves a good debate.
So class, be good—or Ms. Merriman will feed you to the flesh-eating zombies, write the heart-rending account of your demise for the local paper, and then send your parents an original sympathy card consoling them for your loss. On the other hand, given that her lesson plan begins with Frank Capra, I could be exaggerating just a little.
by Lissa Merriman
Happiness is a choice, not a consequence. That’s my philosophy, anyway. My husband and I recently watched an old Frank Capra movie called “You Can’t Take It with You” that captured that point of view perfectly. Then again, what Capra movie didn’t? After, all, his greatest talent was making heartwarming films that bring joy to every generation.
This one was about an old man whose entire neighborhood called him “Grandpa” (played charmingly by Lionel Barrymore). Everyone adored this gentleman. His take on life was that it was supposed to be fun and his positive outlook was contagious. Naturally, since the movie was made during the Depression years, the antagonist was the successful banker who thought everything was about wealth. As with all such movies, it was easy to see where it was headed and to anticipate the final outcome. The banker learned there was more to life than work and money, while the old man learned that he was far more loved than even he had realized.
In the final scene, all the characters, including grumpy banker man, danced and laughed and the movie left you feeling like it was true, that life is supposed to be about fun. And, to quote Arthur Bach, the loveable drunken millionaire from the 1980s movie “Arthur”, “Isn’t fun the best thing to have?”
Everyday life may not be one big laugh riot after another, but surely we can all make time to find something humorous in any given situation. I know I can. I have made people laugh at funerals. Okay, maybe that’s not the most appropriate atmosphere for a joke or two, then again maybe it is. I certainly want people laughing at my funeral — not because I’m dead, obviously, but because I want them to see that life goes on and all we can do is make the best of every moment. I’ll consider a good chuckle at my gravesite the best form of celebration of my life. The people who know me best understand and appreciate this about me. The ones who don’t, well they probably don’t laugh much anyway and will most likely never get it.
Laughter is a bond. It pulls our society together in a circle of mutual understanding in ways nothing else ever could. Sharing a giggle spawns respect and friendship. To totally misquote the old song, all I am saying is give jokes a chance.
My love for a laugh — anytime, anywhere — is shared by the greatest humor writers, such as Mark Twain, Will Rogers and Erma Bombeck, just to name a few. These are people who were able to take the truth of the most mundane daily events and turn them into a guffaw.
When I first read Bombeck’s If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, What Am I Doing In The Pits?, I laughed until I cried! Here was a woman taking dirty diapers and the occasional mental lapse and making it comical. Her words resonated with millions of women caught in the grind of life, wife and motherhood. She understood, and being understood equated to being appreciated. Spirits were lifted, merry was made and suddenly the day’s chores didn’t seem so dreary.
The always affable Will Rogers once said, “We are all here for a spell, get all the good laughs you can.” How right he was. Everyone has heard the line “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Well, what if it were the last? Would all the worrying over traffic and the economy and what kid beat out yours in sports this week really matter? Wouldn’t you wish you’d laughed more and moaned less?
I was constantly amused when my children were in school at how seriously the various parents would take every little thing. The dress code, the mandatory tests, the try-outs for this that or the other. Maybe I have weak parenting skills, but I always knew that there were more important things in life than the color of this year’s choir robes. Trust me, I never lost a moment of sleep over it.
I also didn’t form many long lasting friendships in that group. They simply couldn’t relate to what they viewed as my lackadaisical approach to child rearing. I still grin thinking about it.
Mark Twain was another writer who knew how to find the fun. I love his direct and honest approach to any subject, no matter how socially unacceptable it might be deemed. For instance in Letters from the Earth, Twain had this to say about adultery:
“By temperament, which is the real law of God, many men are goats and can’t help committing adultery when they get a chance; whereas there are numbers of men who, by temperament, can keep their purity and let an opportunity go by if the woman lacks in attractiveness.”
Truthful and hilarious in one fell swoop! I love that man’s take on life. He was never one afraid to tell things like they were, and still are today.
In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Twain writes this about worry “… it has never been my way to bother much about things which you can’t cure.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all adapt to how things are, and find the peace to accept it as such instead of constantly gnawing every little detail to bits in hopes of fixing it? And by “fixing it”, don’t we really mean doing it all our own way? Is it worth the stress just to prove we’re the ones in the right?
As I said, I truly believe that happiness is a choice. We can look at the glass as half empty or half full. Or we can look at it as half full of a beverage we really enjoy. What the hell, dream big!
In the middle of that great old Capra movie, one of the characters made a statement that caused me to laugh out loud. He was a Russian immigrant, glad to be in America, loving the odd little family that had adopted him as
one of their own. At one point, he said proudly, “I have life running through me like squirrel.” Too funny!
I like the Russian guy’s take on life. In fact, his sounds like such a great way to be that I think I’ll choose that as my mindset for today. Today, life runs through me like squirrel!