Of all my female friends, I’m probably the very last who finally got around to watching Wonder Woman. I got it on video. Watched it three times in a row. I really, really loved this movie.
What interested me was how much I really loved the older women at the beginning. The perennially lovely, terrific Robin Wright-Penn. I’d only recently watched Princess Bride again for a goof, and was musing about the contrast between “My Wesley will come for me” and this general. This Amazon.
How times change.
Wonder Woman far surpassed all expectations, blasting the records for the most tweeted movie at the time, becoming the most popular DC comics figure and exploding the box office.
Well. It’s about damned time. And the marvelously handsome, often very funny Chris Pine as her backup.
The underlying message of the movie, that one’s own strength and character are more important than a sword or magical talisman to take on an enemy, came up for me a while back. I was posting on an over-sixty website for women about using humor when faced with adversity.
Earlier this year I’d written an article on Linked In on using humor to handle horrible situations. I recalled offensive guard Keith Bishop’s making a joke about the Broncos’ seemingly dire situation during the 1986 infamous Drive against Cleveland, and how that galvanized the Broncos to win the game. It works.
That’s Not Funny!
While my comment pleased some, one woman shot back that she lost her grandson to suicide. She angrily wrote, “I’m NEVER going to find that funny!” Actually, I get that, more directly than I’d like.
Five years ago last October, I received a call from my big brother’s girlfriend to inform me that Peter, my brilliant, talented, athletic brother had taken his life. Armed with a bottle of tequila and painkillers, he drifted off to a silent, permanent sleep in her driveway, leaving her a note that said, horrifically, “I only wanted to make you happy.”
My entire immediate family has dealt with varying levels of bipolar and depression. For a time I stood at the edge of that same precipice and found myself tempted to follow my big brother, the last of my family, into the rabbit hole. On more than one occasion, being a serial rape survivor, I have looked into that pit. The pit stares back in moments like these.
Finding your god killer
In one of the greatest efforts I’ve ever made, I struggled to find the humor in my brother’s suicide. In a situation where there is no humor, I had to find my god killer. Without it, I was going to lose the war. In the eerie silence of the viewing room, I sought Peter’s strange, weird way of looking at life, his mad sense of the absurd.
In that moment I found my funny. How I did it is between my big brother and me. I left the morgue with tears in my eyes, but smiling. Call me mad, but I’m alive. I found my god killer.
What I have learned, whether I am lying on the ground with a broken back in Kazakhstan, when my parachute doesn’t open or I’m hanging upside down in icy waters in my kayak, is that sometimes humor is the ONLY option. It is the final thin line between me and madness, between fighting on or giving up.
Mark Twain famously wrote, humor is tragedy+ time.” It’s how we choose to see. It has gotten me past rape, a lifetime of eating disorders, and many an epic situation in the wild. Humor is one hell of a weapon. One of my favorite Robin Williams lines (co-opted for this story) is that it’s hard for a rapist to complete the dastardly deed if you’re laughing at the Mighty Sword.
To be sure, not all of us can find our funny in the worst of situations. All I know is that is that it’s the one last arrow in my quiver against some of life’s worst vicissitudes. Many people, far worse off than I am, use humor to deal with horrific accidents, loss, constant pain, mental illness, Nature’s wrath. Sometimes, it’s all we’ve got, and it’s one hell of a lot better than rage. If you’ve ever weathered a full-on hurricane (and I’ve weathered my share), lost your house to a tornado or are watching your expensive condo sink into the ocean, you get my meaning.
The trick, and it is most definitely a sleight of mind accomplishment, is to see the absurdity and humor in the moment. Not to wait years for the gift of perspective, but right NOW. The way I have been able to do this is to immediately think “now this is going to make one hell of a funny story!” Not always. But often enough. Got the Sword of Damocles over your head? Laugh at the Mighty Sword. (https://www.history.com/news/ask-history/what-was-the-sword-of-damocles)
Today’s Wonder Women are women and girls far younger than I am fighting some of the same battles of sexism, physical attacks, losses, body dysmorphia and attempts to achieve in a patriarchal world that continues to beat on them simply because they are female. Humor is often the best, if not the only weapon they have beyond their often superior brains, competence and know how. Whether in the world of sports or adventure, where my interests lie, or business, which continues to maneuver to shut them out at the top, being able to laugh at the wounds that are inflicted upon us simply by virtue of being female — and sometimes most especially because we are smart, strong, competent and high achieving females — we need weapons. The kinds of weapons that don’t do damage, but that arm us with the grace to embrace our condition with courage.
We All Need a “God Killer”
For those who live alternative lifestyles- LBTQ and others living off the grid of any gender, this is particularly true. The simple truth is that we all need a “god killer”: whatever weapon we can wield which allows us to navigate a life river which is all too frequently punctuated with hurts, heartbreak, and hell-on-wheels challenges. For me, it’s humor. In the release that is laughter, I can see what hurt and anger blind me to: solutions, ideas, a way out, redemption. As long as I allow myself to be victimized by events, people, situations- even a rainy day for some folks- I am a deer in the headlights. The second I start laughing, I am empowered, emboldened, and energized.
A while back I watched for an hour as a superb group of women online took on the issue of stupid, sexist, a — hole car salesmen and turned it into a laugh fest, then shared ideas, strategies, recommendations, websites, best practices, resources, and I’ve-got-your-backs. The woman who started it all, Bethany, was nearly moved to tears by the show of support. It was the Internet at its absolute finest.
We all need a “god killer.” And one of the best god killers is our ability to laugh, no matter what the gods throw at us.
Long, hard and hearty.