I need to laugh. But I don’t have the energy because I’m still sick. Although they do say that laughter is the best medicine. If it were in a box or container beside my bed like the Paracetamol, the Vicks, the Brochco-Stop pastilles and the Echinacea drink, then I might take some, but I can’t find a bottle of laughter. Each time I get sick I forget just how terrible I am at being sick. Would that I was able to take all of my own medicine in the form of words of wisdom I dole out: relax into it; surrender; don’t fight it; this too will pass. Meh! I just want to roll into a ball like a hedgehog wintering under a compost heap, have bowls of vanilla ice-cream brought to me, and wallow in my crumpled sheets of self-pity. If only I could care a bit less and lighten up. Even to just smile a little – that tiny crescent moon of a smile that four year olds draw onto stick people – maybe that would help me. I’m just sick, after all.
During the night when I couldn’t sleep, woken by a bout of coughing, I listened to an audio book in the darkness. Someone with a soft, sleepy voice called Jack Kornfield was talking about simple Buddhist techniques for overcoming adversity. His main message was not to identify with it: the sickness is not you, it’s just a passing phase. I groaned with frustration. I’m not good at this. Then he advised to smile, an imperceptible lift of the lips, not a Cheshire Cat grin, but just to turn your mouth up gently at the corners and see what happens. Next thing I know it’s morning; I had smiled myself back to sleep! (Or possibility exhausted myself with coughing.)
It is healthy and life affirming to be able to smile – or even to laugh at adversity. To see the chink of light when things are difficult, see the funny side. Just so long as I am the one doing the laughing at myself. I’m not yet in a place where I’m willing to let anyone laugh with me in my predicament. Maybe in a few days. Tonight is the last episode of Channel 4’s ‘Derry Girls’. That should make me smile. One of the best lines that has stuck with me is when they are last minute swotting for their GCSE history (19th Century Ireland) and bemoaning the fact that they have done too little too late. Feisty Michelle says, “Sure we all know the basics: They ran out of spuds, everyone was ragin’.” There was nothing funny about the famine, but in the context of it being 200 years ago and it being the Irish laughing at their own historical misfortune, it’s a great one-liner. So I am going to try to lighten up today, drop this ‘sick’ narrative and let my mouth turn up at the edges, and not get overly ragin’ with myself.