Friday, July 07, 2006

When you're smiling...

TWO YEARS ago when I was dealing with the 'joys' of sleepless nights and other new parenting gems I took to yamming down the phone on a regular basis to my VBF friend Vicki.

As a mother of three (well, she had two then- but she breeds fast) she was well versed in the stresses of dealing with family upheaval and she calmly told me that a good laugh beats a good cry any day of the week.
I thought about what she had said and realised she just may have been on to something. You see, when I phoned Vicki to off-load my woes, or vice versa, we inevitably managed to bring the conversation round to something light-hearted in an attempt to cheer up whichever one of us was standing on the proverbial window ledge.
At the end of each conversation we would have laughed until our sides hurt and gone away much less stressed and ready to take whatever renewed 'joys' the next 24 hours would throw at us.
I started to realise that when I needed a release of emotion, it was often more productive to stick on a Billy Connolly video and laugh until my pelvic floor muscles begged for mercy than to lie in a darkened room listening to Sarah McLachlan CDs and weeping like a Banshee.
I'll admit however that being a typical Derry woman my immediate reaction to almost every situation is to automatically think the worst, get myself into a state of blind panic about it and come to the conclusion that the world as we know it is set to fall in around my ears in a spectacular style.
I have always believed, you see, that if you prepare for the worst and expect it to happen you will be pleasantly surprised when things go right. I have always seen huge danger signs when it comes to anticipating that everything will run smoothly. It is in just these situations that someone on high will delight in switching on that great big celestial candid camera in the sky and then watch with glee as your life implodes around you.
I'm not sure where I got my extreme pessimism from. My parents are fairly normal, and my sister is positively Mary Poppins-like in her outlook. She lives life one day at a time, having developed a rather impressive"cross that bridge when she comes to it" attitude. I, on the other hand, have been building imaginary bridges to cross most of my adult life.
My husband is equally optimistic in his approach to life. The phrase "so laid back he is horizontal" was designed specifically with him in mind. So there I am, the lone merchant of doom in my family.
Unsurprisingly I have discovered that walking around under a black cloud of my own making does not make me happy so - with the help of Vicki and her wicked sense of humour - I've set about trying to make myself laugh when I'm more tempted to cry.
Billy Connolly is a good start. I have yet to watch a video of his without howling with laughter throughout. The jokes don't get tired. I find his impression of drunk man, be it walking or singing, hilarious.
Also guaranteed to raise a giggle is an evening spent with friends, be it the real ones who I know in person or the TV show of the same name. It is a great treat to lock the doors on the world and curl up on the sofa with a kingsize Galaxy and an hour of two of Ross, Rachel et al.
Vicki and I share many in jokes. All I need to do is call her Mabel and she returns the favour by calling me Betty and the laughter starts. Likewise, and back to the Billy Connolly theme here, there is one friend I only have to mention the phrase "A Roman and only one" to and we both convulse with laughter. (For those now looking at this page with a look of confusion on their face, I highly recommend the 'Billy and Albert' DVD)
I'm sure onlookers would think we are cracked, or as the lovely Rosie McCann who used to sit beside me in work would say, that we were on the glue, but nonetheless such simple expressions and jokes can lift you from the sourest of moods and make the rest of the day that little bit more bearable.
Of course there are situations when a good cry is necessary. It would be wholly inappropriate to hoot with laughter at a funeral, but in the majority of cases a smile can and does help.
So, I'm asking the people of Derry to cast aside our reputation as grumpy so and sos and to start smiling more. It won't be easy- old habits die hard- but go one give it a go, it can't do any harm!

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