Monday, August 8, 2011

Humor as Survival Tactic, a response to In Stitches by Dr. Anthony Youn

This book was given to me as part of my membership in From Left to Write, an online book club. This is not a review of the book but rather a response to the experience of reading it.

It has been years since I have laughed out loud while reading a book. In Stitches, Dr. Anthony Youn’s memoir of getting through medical school and residency garnered giggles, snickers, guffaws and belly laughs. Such laughter at bedtime, when I normally do my reading, makes for good sleep.
There is no question in my mind that Dr.Youn’s sense of humor got him through the uphill task of finishing medical school. I long ago identified humor as one of the values that contributes to my surviving and thriving. Below is the section on humor from my soon-to-be published memoir:
Claiming earned Frequent Flier miles becomes a skill equaled only to astrophysics or neurosurgery. Not being one to give up on hard earned freebies---there’s that persistence value again---I determined I would fight to the bitter end so as not to be robbed of my miles. I couldn’t get resolution on the phone or internet, so I concluded this merited a trip out to the airport. I walked up to the counter with no one else in sight except the ticket agent and me. The first words out of my mouth were, “I have had no sex---” The honest-to-god fact that I intended to say, “I have had no success---” meant nothing after the faux pax has escaped my lips. We were both laughing so hard, I barely get out my next words, “That’s true also, but that doesn’t happen to be your problem.”
I can’t help but feel my mispronunciation set the tone for this ticket agent being exceptionally willing to help me get to the bottom of my problem with Frequent Flier miles.
Dr. Norman Cousins' now legendary work on healing began by discovering that ten minutes of hearty belly laughs could provide him with two hours of pain free rest. In Head First, he states "scientific evidence is accumulating to support the biblical axiom that 'a merry heart doeth good like a medicine'".
My son Denny again comes to mind. As a child, he knew how to laugh, even at himself, better than most. At age thirteen, he asked to be dropped off at a girl's house after dinner---new behavior for my budding teenager. Now the word cool was invented for this boy. In his new, much longed for leather jacket, he strutted with the essence of junior high chic.  As he tells the story, everything went fine with the visit in spite of the fact that the girl's parents were much too present.  At the agreed upon time, I returned to pick him up and honked the horn. (God forbid that I should go to the door and let this young girl discover he had a mother.)  He quickly said his good bye. With one swift and graceful movement he picked up his new leather jacket from the floor and headed toward the door. As he placed his foot in the pocket, he impeded his forward progress and ripped a big tear in the most valued garment. Yes, he wanted to die and never have to face the young girl again. Instead, he told the rest of the family so we could all have a good laugh courtesy of our most cool family member.  He also made peace with having a beautifully repaired leather jacket.   
In contrast, folks who are not able to laugh at themselves make good targets for those of us who do. As noted earlier, Husband Number Three possessed unfortunate characteristics that made him a sitting duck for my junior high age sons to make fun of. We actually had to bring the subject up in family therapy. The therapist informed Dan forthrightly that when persons are not able to find humor in jokes about themselves, they make the perfect target for everyone else’s humor. The therapist actually complimented my sons on their ability to laugh at themselves.
Humor even boosts your immune system!


  1. As someone who feels the best way of handling things is to laugh and then get others to laugh with me, I totally agree! Your therapist is 100% correct. Of my sisters, the one without the ability to laugh at herself is the one who is often the topic of our jokes. It's always been that way.

    Congrats on the book!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. I wish for you a big belly laugh today!

  3. Yes!! Laughing always makes me feel better! I love that moment, in the midst of personal tragedy, that something strikes a chord and we just start cracking up. Definitely a thin line between tragedy and comedy!

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Mama Brandi. Keep laughing!

  5. Laughter is the best medicine, what a fabulous cliche' I laugh at myself daily, and try not to take myself too seriously. At my fathers funeral I tripped in the restroom and flew into the toilet. My sisters and I cracked up! I think my Dad would've enjoyed seeing us laugh instead of cry anyway.

  6. A colleague recently told me that children laugh over 100 times a day, whereas adults laugh less than 10. So sad! I'm working on bringing it back up to childhood levels, thanks to the child in my life who makes me smile more times than I can count every day.

  7. Love this take on the book. Even in the toughest of times, there's nothing like a good laugh to save the day.

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Melissa and JennieB. I love the story of falling into the toilet at your Dad's funeral, Melissa. I'm quite sure he was laughing with you.

    Keep laughing!

  9. Great post and I love your frequent flier miles story! Dr. Youn's book was extremely funny and reading everyone's post makes me want to read it again this time with every one elses slant on what they got from the book. Thanks for sharing and best of luck with your book.

  10. Thanks for stopping by, Alicia. It was a funny funny book. I rarely laugh out loud when reading but I did on that one. I'll check out your post!