It’s been a long winter, has it not? The older I get, the more I realize that balancing the challenges of life with laughter and humor is the way to go. And, in that spirit, I present to you a wee little challenge: Can you tell the difference between the $100 million dollar home of Donald Trump in New York City from interior rooms at the Palace of Versailles, home of France’s King Louis XIV, or modern homes of Russian oligarchs around the globe? It’s harder than you think, what with all that dripping gold . . .
A couple of weeks ago my husband surprised me with tickets to see Louis CK. It was a birthday gift and a rare night out for the two of us. Just two middle aged folks out on the town hoping for a few laughs. What could possibly go wrong?
HA HA HA HA HA! Have you ever heard Louis CK’s humor? It is heavy as hell. The man somehow manages to make suicide, depression, anxiety, divorce, isolation, and certain doom funny. I spent the evening cackling and saying, “OH MY GOD!” to no one in particular, the exclamation to the good Lord above being non-voluntary, as I simply couldn’t believe I was laughing at what I was laughing at.
Was it shame? Was it discomfort? Was it fear? Seriously — I left that theater wondering what it was about me that allowed me to laugh at a little old lady named Rose, recently widowed after 50+ years of marriage, all alone in the world after the death of her beloved — Rose being one of the characters Louis used to poke fun at all of humanity.
A day later it hit me. I laughed because I have a little Louis CK who lives on my shoulder. His voice is there, telling me life sucks and that love is an illusion. Sometimes the voice is loud, sometimes it is a whisper, but it is there, always.
When I am honest with myself, as Louis CK challenges all of us to do, I can admit that, yes, I wonder what exactly the point is of any of it. I’m not religious, so the whole God thing is lost on me. I married an atheist who pretty much believes that when we’re done, we’re done. There is no promise of happy reunions for either of us. The concept of a happy heaven where all my dearly departed beloveds sit down to a celestial family dinner, all together now!, isn’t really something I believe in, despite hoping for it.
What a bummer. Trust me, I know.
Topping all of this Louis CK angst off was that bright and early the next morning, I had committed to talking to a group of social work grad students for a seminar on finding meaning in loss. Pffft. Seriously, Louis CK could not have written a better joke than me organizing my thoughts on surviving the loss of my four year old daughter to cancer after listening to his set.
But, and here’s the kicker, I did survive. I am surviving. Survival is a verb, yo, something I have to commit to each and every day. And, I would venture a guess, that Louis CK would say that surviving is what all of us are trying our best to do. Regardless of what our burdens are, mine happens to be the death of a lot of people I love dearly with a sprinkling of mental illness for flavor, we are working hard to show up and not disappoint those who need us.
Louis CK uses humor to cope. It works for him. Sometimes, it works for me, too. Truth be told, I am grateful for that little hilarious CK that sits there, whispering in my ear. For all of his jokes about human depravity, and the pointlessness of it all, the man is quite perceptive to the beauty that surrounds us.
If you watch his FX show, Louis, you will see that for every joke about sagging balls and being fat, there is some gorgeous shot that makes a New York subway and all its weary inhabitants look like the most profoundly moving symphony you have ever seen.
Life is beautiful. It’s cruel and meaningless, sure, but damn, it is so very beautiful, too. Louis CK and I know this, which is how and why we can laugh.
This is a cross post blog experiment with dear friend and fellow blogger Katy from I Got a Dumpster Family. You can read Katy’s post HERE.
I love my friend, Katy. She is awesome and amazing and so dear to me. She wears high heels and red lipstick and is smart as a whip and as compassionate as anyone you will ever meet. Trophy friend! Occasionally, we get our kiddos together and somehow manage to get a few minutes of adult talk in, in between the “Be carefuls!” and “Pick up your hat!” reminders that we cheerfully call out to our kiddos.
This week we made plans to have a Camp Mom date. Specifically, a nature walk. Camp Mom is something I devised the first summer my boy was out of school and I hadn’t really ironed out a lot of plans for him. Most of his friends would be in camp for those weeks, so, out of optimism and desperation, I started calling our time together that summer “Camp Mom.” Simply put, Camp Mom is anything we do together over the summer months that is not as lame as going to the grocery store, but not as cool as the museum camp weeks I can never quite seem to get my act together to register for. Possibly because you’re supposed to do that stuff in February. I am definitely not thinking of summer in February.
Now that Camp Mom is in its fourth year, lots of my friends have signed on with their own versions, Katy being one of them. We decided to combine our Camp Moms at the Linne Woods this morning for the aforementioned nature walk. Blue skies, fresh air, green trees . . . what more could our kiddos need? The weather forecast was a perfect 83 degrees with bright sun. Lovely.
We met at the woods. We were both running a few minutes late, Katy because she picked up chocolate donuts for all the kiddos (I told you she was a trophy friend!) and me because, well, me. After brief hellos and kisses, I mentioned that despite the boots I had encouraged her to wear when we finalized plans yesterday, I had opted out of them for any of us, despite my husband’s encouragement. Pffft, I thought, it hasn’t rained in two days, we’ll be fine. Katy agreed, noting it was hot and none of the kids would be comfortable in heavy boots. You can think of this conversation as foreshadowing, my friends. Also, because we both adore shoes and are dorks, we had texted one another photos of the boots we would be wearing. The yellow ones are Katy’s, while mine are the polka dotted wonders.
So, yeah, no boots were worn. We started out on the paved path easily enough. Aside from the angry cyclists screaming out, “TO YOUR LEFT!” to the toddlers and moms who kept clumsily crossing the yellow line on the path, we were doing just great. Soon, though, the kiddos were hungry and knew there were chocolate donuts to be eaten.
After seeing some horses and riders emerging from one of the wooded trails, we decided to find some logs and let the kids enjoy their sugar fix. They did. It was time to walk again. “Watch out for horse poop!” I called ahead to the little ones happily skipping ahead of us. Yes, this was a trail frequented by both horses and humans. Toddlers love horses, so it added to our excitement. Katy and I hung back a bit, me lazily pushing the stroller that held Mary Tyler Toddler and the pile of things that accumulate when you go for a walk in the woods with kiddos — diaper bag, extra snacks, mini-backpacks, water cans, empty donut bag, etc. We chatted a bit and caught up.
Soon enough, we ran into another group of horses and their riders. Three or four older ladies who paused as we collected kids and clung to the edge of the path. I love seeing the horses up close, but as the riders passed, a group of older women, they called out with a smirk, “BE CAREFUL OF THE POISON IVY!” What? Oh damn. Yep. Katy’s two little ones, in an effort to get out of the path of the horses had sure enough sat on clumps of poison ivy. “If leaves of three, let it be” was not really something any of us were thinking about in that moment.
Katy quickly pulled out the wet wipes and gave those twins the wipe of a lifetime. I encouraged her to bathe them as soon as they got home to get any residual oil off. But this was Camp Mom, yo. We are mothers, hear us ROAR! Onward we went, dodging what seemed to be increasingly big pools of mud. As we walked, we commented, too, on those horse riding gals who seemed to wait for our kiddos to sit in the poison ivy before gleefully shouting out to us as they passed, “You know that’s poison ivy! Watch out!” Clearly they never got the memo about it taking a village.
Soon enough, my oldest boy was leading the troops and was occasionally out of eyesight. Before we knew it, Katy’s twins were out of eyesight, too. Whoops. We sped up our pace a bit, as best we could, because those puddles of mud and standing water were quickly morphing into pools of vast mud and muck and horse shit (poop that has become water logged and smeared with dirt now qualifies as shit, yo) as far as the eye could see. This was not good.
Two walking toddlers, one toddler in a stroller, a bigger kid, and two moms. We all convened while the moms hashed it out. Move forward into the muck, certain to ruin my super cute purple Nikes and Katy’s fresh pedicure? Retrace our steps back, hoping against hope that the increasingly tired and hungry toddlers would make it back to the cars? This was serious business, my friends. I made a case for separating, but Katy would have none of it. We were in this together. This was Camp Mom, dammit — no moms would be left behind on Katy’s watch. Onward, we agreed! Into the muck it would be!
So, you know, that’s what we did. Katy went ahead to keep eyes and ears on the three bigger kids while I lagged behind with the stroller. I tried to push, but with mud several inches thick on the wheels, that stroller needed to be pulled, not pushed. So pull I did. Those purple Nikes are trashed my friends. The ooze of the mud and shit is all up in every single crevice that exists on those shoes.
As I huffed and puffed and swore once or twice (funny how muck rhymes with another choice word, isn’t it?), my sweet boy happily sat back and rang the bicycle bell that had landed in his hands that morning. Brrrrring! Bbbrrrriiinnnnggg! is what I heard while I inched our way through the mud. Such an awesome metaphor for motherhood, isn’t it? Muck and shit and sweetness all intertwined.
Two-thirds through the worst of it, I saw Katy come to check on our progress. And there was a man in blue. I stood up to catch my breath and Katy, God bless her, confirmed that we were through the worst of it, clear sailing ahead. And, before I knew it, after a few pleasantries, that man bent down to help me pull that massive stroller to sweet, sweet freedom! Thank you, kind stranger, for making my day. Thank you, dear Katy, for snapping a photo of us.
Camp Mom, yo. It’s not for the faint of heart. But we did it. Katy and I got through it, keeping our heads on straight, allowing our kids to find the fun in a situation rather than moan and pout and whine. Nope, we moms set the tone. With a little help from our friends. It’s such a good reminder of what’s truly important in motherhood and friendship and life.