I can only laugh

Oh, how the body disappoints. Again, and again, and again.

My mother in her later years often bewailed words similar to these spoken by Betty White, the iconic actress and comedian who recently died just shy of her 100th birthday:

I’m a teenager trapped in an old body.

Most (if not all) of my friends who are well beyond the half mark of their lives agree that inside their heads they feel no different than they did in their much younger years. Me, too, of course. Our mental acuity got—is getting—stronger; our insights wiser. Ahem…, or so we at least like to think.

Every age has its challenges… and unquestionably we, each of us, carry our own unique cross.

But let me say a few words about how I feel about growing older at this moment, as my body feels every minute of its (ordinarily youthful) 66 years. It’s no walk in the park, even as that’s exactly what we (I!) need to do more often, walk in the park, walk anywhere. No, it’s no walk in the park, especially not, most especially not, when the body disappoints.

And I am feeling disappointed.

Today I was scheduled to have my last paclitaxel chemo infusion. I was so looking forward to getting it DONE and OVER with, as it was to be my last session. I’m feeling tired, worn, depleted, and I want to move on, get to the feeling better, stronger, part of this preventive treatment program.

My body disappointed. Again. The session was postponed to Friday because my blood test results indicated a further dip in both white and red blood cell counts. While that dip is expected with this chemotherapy, I guess the numbers were not safe enough to proceed today.

So, what to do?

Follow Betty White’s advice:

It’s your outlook on life that counts. If you take yourself lightly and don’t take yourself too seriously, pretty soon you can find the humor in our everyday lives. And sometimes it can be a lifesaver.

Couple that with the sage words of Mark Twain: 

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations, and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.

Yes, both are absolutely right. I normally find it easy to see things to laugh about. The everyday silly things we humans get up to are endless fodder for laughter. And everyday laughter together is definitely one of the key glues in my life with my honey.

A range of studies indicate that humor may benefit our bodies, such as improve our physical immune system, reduce our blood pressure, or increase our creativity and productivity.

Maxine: Laughter is always the best medicine….

But being funny and laughing at funniness are not the same thing. I’ve never been a joke-teller; I can’t remember the punchlines long enough to get them right. Nor do I have a talent for telling funny stories, yet I sure appreciate those who do. I wish I could now think of some funny examples to share with you, but as another Maxine cartoon says, “my mind is giving me the silent treatment today.

The funny thing is, laughter can’t be forced. There is a lot of what’s called humor that doesn’t tickle my funny bone at all. Slapstick and practical pranks don’t. Neither does humor that puts people down.

It’s harder to explain what does appeal to me and makes me laugh. Humor that tends to reflect upon the wider societal issues, like satire or spoof, can be good. Witty use of language, wordplay, or puns, can land well with me.

I remember splitting a gut when I first heard Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch on an album in the mid-70s (I may have been a bit high, though). But mostly it’s just everyday life humor, like this stand-up comedian’s story on sending her husband to the grocery store, that, when in the right mood, will have me in stitches.

Just by writing this post I’m already feeling lighter. I’ve had a few laughs over the past hours. I’ll be over my disappointment soon enough. Life goes on.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is to smash my own spiders and get on with my day. There will be another!

Hoda Kotb

What is your relationship to your aging or ailing body? About aging in general? And how does humor play a role in your life?

PS. If you followed my New Year’s BALANCE experience (past posts), know that there is one final post to be drafted to pull it all together to determine where I’m at in the present and perhaps where I’m intending to go in the months ahead. I just need my body to allow me to feel a bit more energy and focus. Stay tuned.


  • Dear, dear friend, I applaud your inviting your disappointment in for a cup of tea, and I applaud even more your using humor to invite it to depart through the back door. Humor is truly the great tonic. I remember my mother and her aunt lying in side by side beds as both were going through the terminal phases of their respective diseases. They were discussing many weighty and deep topics – such as whether there would be pastrami in heaven because if not they weren’t going. Each body wracked with pain, soothed by a shared hearty laugh.

  • And then again, maybe a delay is exactly what you need. It’s what’s best for you.
    I’ve learned to not knock my head against the wall, and just think instead, it’s okay. It will happen when it happens. Like you said in a previous blog post, “que sera, sera.”

    Meanwhile, thank you for finding a smile in your heart. Courage, and onwards, my friend. 💗

    • I readily agree that the delay is what my body needs, dear friend. It was still important for me to admit and work through the emotional frustration the delay caused. Denying my disappointment would not serve me well. But having vented in this post, I am now ready to laugh and stoically accept what is. 🌸💜🌸

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