Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”
And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
– Kahil Gibran, ‘The Prophet‘
Sometimes (actually often) both mental and physical illnesses have a habit of robbing us of fun, and laughter. There is not much funny about ongoing pain, regardless of the type of pain it is – mental, physical or emotional. For me, being silly has been a way to relieve that pain, to distract my mind onto something else, and to manage the despair. Sometimes like the sheep above I have to say ‘I’m going to have fun, and you can’t stop me’. To do this sometimes it helps to know who you can be silly with, and when I think about my life there are certain people I know I can be silly with without losing the perspective on my pain.
My Dad, who died nearly a year ago was one of those people. As he grew older and perhaps because he had more time, we could just have fun together sometimes. A good imagination helps in the pursuit of silliness, and Dad and I shared this. My ex-husband was also one I could be silly with. Our marriage was filled with a lot of pain for us both but, we managed to find a way to relieve that pain sometimes. He even called me Silly Billy (which I honestly didn’t much appreciate at the time, but it was a sign of how silly we could be with each other). There are also specific friends I can also be this way with. I am very blessed to have these people in my life. They put sunshine in an otherwise rainy day.For each one of us, we need to find what being silly means. For as many people who read this, there will be many more ways to create silly. Maybe you can’t be as silly as me, but be silly in your own way. One of the ways for me (and you’re probably about to think I’m totally bonkers!) is combining silly with imagination. I rescue abandoned and orphaned vintage teddy bears. There… I’ve said it. Think I’m crazy if you like but hey, I’m happy.
Why do I rescue vintage teddy bears? Well someone has to. The world seems to be full of uncaring people who just toss their teddy bears in a box in the garage, if not worse. bears that have no doubt put years into serving their owners faithfully. And what do they get? Tossed aside. If you read my book ‘Infinite Sadness’ (2009) you will read in chapter 15 that I have a very special teddy bear called Ted, who while too shy to show his face on my blog, has definitely encouraged me into this rescue service.
This bear to the right is Gray (short for Graham). His rescue mission was completed two days before my father died last year and so it seemed appropriate to name him after my Dad. He is between 40 and 50 years old and was about to be taken on a one way trip to the dump (refuse centre). That’s an appalling way to treat a bear so I bought him. Now he lives happily on my couch.
Don’t think I have a house full of vintage teddies, because I don’t. Unfortunately people who don’t want their teddies anymore still expect to be paid a handsome price for the rescue. Personally I think this is appalling and people should pay me to take their bear into retirement care, but alas I seem to be alone in this thinking. Being on a rather limited (to say the least) budget, I can only afford to step in occasionally. Thankfully I know there are others keen to rescue bears and so I can live with knowing they go elsewhere sometimes.
While I’m on the subject I have to introduce ‘Stuffed’. He’s worth a special mention because he really seems stuffed (in more ways than one). He arrived with practically no fur and what looked like a gunshot hole in his side. I suspect it was a child’s finger that went in there repeatedly. Before I saw him I was warned that he was on his last legs, but even I didn’t expect that someone would let a bear get into this state. I even considered euthanasia in his case, but he tells me that he’s quite ok and would like to live. Who am I to argue? And personally, just as I could never sell a bear (why do people in their right mind’s do this?), I could also never put one to sleep when he says he’s fine. I always go with what the bear wants most.
By now you’re probably thinking I’m stark, raving bonkers. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you should read Paddington Bear and see I’m not the only crazy one. But seriously, a little silliness is what helps me get through, whether it is this rescue mission or something else, it works for me.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not ignoring my pain (or trying to bury it) but sometimes a distraction from it is necessary to be able to bear it (excuse the pun). The thing is people forget that depressed and sick people can laugh and smile. We can. Only thing is it doesn’t remove the pain, but for the moment the focus is on something else… and that is quite a relief. Look at the clown doctors that are being used in hospitals today to bring a little sunshine particularly to children in pain. This is a great idea. It’s a shame that they don’t have enough resources to stretch to psych hospitals or even adult wards.
So what do you do to be silly? And have you used it to distract you from your pain?
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”
- Teddy Bear donations for children at Bartell Drugs (myballard.com)
- Infinite Sadness (scribd.com/doc/76872108/Infinite-Sadness)
- Panda Beanie (dianespuppetsproducts.wordpress.com)
- Students send love to homeless children through teddy bears