Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously, Learn to Laugh Instead ;)
There only person who can take himself very seriously without becoming a jerk is Captain America. Still, I don’t think he does that too often. One time in a project meeting, I met a guy who took himself very seriously, and I’m dead sure he wasn’t Captain America.
He sat cross-legged on the chair, perfectly poised, in his flawlessly ironed shirt, suit pan, shiny black shoes. His hair was combed, waxed and glued together so tight, you can’t find no baby hair poking out of his scalp. He studied the one pager program – which didn’t contain many letters – as if it was his life insurance contract, and he needed to sign it before leaving his wife and five crying kids to go off for crocodiles hunting. All of these didn’t bother me much, until he started speaking. He complained, brought up issues, elaborated on scenarios where problems might arise; he brushed off others’ suggestions before they finished their sentences; he had small laughs and he smirked. Alas, I told myself to…acknowledge his unique being; but Buddha knows I don’t have much patience with people like that. So as he was being almighty and smart, I – sitting across him in a pink short and colorful sandal sipping my glass of grapefruit juice – imagined his perfectly organized hair being on fire.
I had learnt to be wary whenever I realized that I was taking myself or my work too seriously. Because that will ultimately lead to rigid self-expectations and an overdose of perfectionism. These two combined makes the fertile breeding center for pressure, stress, fear and shame. And soon I would become a quivering cautious creature, tip-toeing instead of running, afraid of screwing things up. It is not about being like a clown, if people want clown they go to circus. The key is to take a step back from the situation, especially difficult ones, twist it, see it with lightness and good humor and find joy in it, even make fun of it.
I am reading Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”, which is widely recognized for its influence on the craft of writing, one of the first advice she gave to writers was: “When you write, don’t say, ‘I’m going to write a poem.’ That attitude will freeze you right away. Sit down with the least expectation of yourself; say, ‘I am free to write the worst junk in the world’. You have to give yourself the space to write a lot without destination. I’ve had students who said they decided they were going to write the great American novel and haven’t written a line since.” She used notebooks with funny covers like Garfield, the Muppets, Mickey Mouse. “I can’t take myself too seriously when I open up a Peanuts notebook,” she said. I have come to believe that writing is much similar to life. If I can find joy and lightness in the situation, I will be more relax and calm, I will deal better to the situation at hand and will have resilience to keep walking.
In my review for “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott, I wrote that what was so distinct about this book is Lamott’s hilarious self-portrait. She looks at her struggles and imperfections with so much humor that you can laugh out loud during the read. At least, that what happened to me. But we don’t laugh at her, neither does she at herself. We laugh with her as she pulls joy and fun out of agony instead of being daunted by it. That, I guess, is a different kind of tenacity.
I think it’s important to learn to watch ourselves strolling around this world the same way we watch a puppy, a kitten or a toddler – or better, all three of them together – playing in our backyard. A sense of tenderness, of amused tolerance, and anticipation for what’s next. The toddler is having tummy time on the cushion of deep green grass under the sun. He explores his surroundings, he runs after butterflies, he laughs. Then he strips on the stuffed bunny, bangs his head on the tree trunk, and stumbles upon the puppy’s poop, landing face-flat on the kitten’s sandbox – because the puppy and the kitten are also there. Now we need to soothe him, clean up the mess, but we don’t hate him or humiliate him. We do so in adoration and laughter. We even recorded the whole thing! We may even upload it on Youtube and show it to our friends. How funny it was!
Life should be a playground. Life is a playground; we need to learn to be children again and have the courage to adore, to forgive and laugh with our toddling self stumble and fall while we are exploring our backyard world.
What about you?
Want to try taking a step back and laugh with this damn situation?