I have decided to share a few of my notes from last year, 2020. It feels like we are under a stress test; our resilience tested to its limit. At the same time, we need the habits and coping mechanisms we have developed over the years to navigate through the pandemic, survive and come out hopeful about the future. For the most part, the themes relate to resilience and antifragility— lessons that have particularly resonated with me during the pandemic. However, I can think of other themes such as meaning, hope, humor, and more.
Today, we’re starting with humor. I think humor has played a significant role in helping me deal with my heart condition. When I was sick, there was humor. After my LVAD operation and today, as I go about my life with an implanted life-support device (no one calls it that, but that’s what it is), humor is still here. A sense of humor from family and friends and good jokes have always been in my life. There are very few friendships or relationships in my life where humor has not played an important role. Whether it was to break the ice or a funny phrase slipped into the middle of conversations or support the dialogue we’re having, humor helps weave together both mundane and complex topics.
Thinking of my grandparents and my parents,
Primarily, my grandmothers always find ways to tease me or make me smile and chuckle, even at funerals. I think they always appreciated a good laugh and a healthy sense of humor.
In the early days of my recovery from the LVAD operation, I’d lay down feeling tired all of the time to pass the time and be out of my head, and to not be sad or depressed, I’d spend a lot of time watching stand-up comedies on the TV. I still do that now. I watched a lot of it, from spoken-word to sketches, comedy, and a few rom-coms here and there. I think it worked.
Now that I’m a dad,
At home with the boys, we get to have even more fun producing family inside jokes. The most popular one is about chickens. Here’s that story: One day, we were at the dining table, ready to have supper as a family. We had a rotisserie chicken. This was likely the first time the twins (two-and-half years old) saw or recognized a whole chicken. I explained to them that back home when I was growing up, my favorite part of the chicken was the chicken butt. My mom would always reserve that part for me. Sembène exclaimed: “Whaaatt!!!! Chicken butt???” and all the three boys immediately cracked up. After a few minutes, they came up with the most popular joke in our house – “Chicken who?? Chicken butt!!” and on and on it went. It works even in the middle of tantrums or meltdowns.
Here is how it goes:
- A: “Knock knock!”
- B: “Who is there?”
- A: “Chicken”
- B: “Chicken who?”
- A: “Chicken butt.”
- All laughs!
And yes, I’m laughing at it as I type these words.
#dadlife #funparenting #parentingjoy
No one else may find it funny, but in our little Pride, this joke is a hit in this kingdom! It indeed is a heck of top-rate humor to the twins and their big brother. It all started from those tiny laughing lunatics, and soon after, we, too, were in stitches. We, the parents, and the rest of the family all caught the bug too.
As I think about it, we like to laugh. Yes, we’re just like that.
Change of topic…Well, sort of,
Over the years, I noticed that I tend to hold my breath for no apparent reason. I tend to hold my breath even when I am exercising. Sometimes I just become aware of it out of nowhere when the thought goes through my head: “Hey dude, there’s no oxygen coming in,” and I then choose to inhale. So, frequently, I have to check and remind myself to breathe!
I don’t know where it comes from or how I developed this habit of hypoventilating myself. Perhaps, it’s a habit born of my days as a swimmer? I love swimming, and I used to swim a lot. I especially enjoyed diving deep in the water and swimming under the water from one end of the pool to the other as many times as I could hold my breath— for several minutes. I was pretty good at it. When I’d come out of the other end, I’d ask folks if they saw the large fish that was swimming a short while before. Eye rolls are what I often got. Well, you already know the part about the fact that I can’t swim anymore since the LVAD.
Fast forward to 2017, during my cardiac rehab, the nursing staff monitored me via the telemetry system. One day, while I exercised on the treadmill or the recumbent, one of the nurses rushed to me and asked me why I was holding my breath. I never noticed. Ever since then, I have been striving to be more mindful of my breathing and the pauses. My meditation practice has been beneficial.
Now and then, I take a big breath, like a reset, and remember where I am (above ground) and remember that I am alive. Another thing that resets my breathing and my mind so well is laughter. Wildly, those big belly laughs, where both the tummy and the chest loosen up, the pipes open and voilà, we are breathing again, even better than before! So, laughing gets me breathing and living again. My mind then notices that we’re all breathing— it’s a party. That’s it, guys. Laughter is not only joyful, but it’s so good for your breathing and your health ← a revolutionary concept, ain’t-it? I know, you can thank me later ;-).
Now, although this blog post may be coming to a close, it’s not quite finished yet.
Step 1: If you have enjoyed this article, Star this post in honor of the “chicken butt” joke;
Step 2: Make sure you follow Step 1 :-);
Step 3: Share your favorite joke below in the comments, please!
Bottom line, I hope that you get to laugh today. If you get to laugh more than once, consider yourself plum crazy, extremely lucky, or both. Maybe you’ll get to cry too, and if you do, do some thinking, like Coach Jimmy V said, ‘that is a full day.’ May your tears be tears of joy, and may your crying bring you solace.
So, here is to antifragility in 2021. I am sending love to you all, and all the best!