My world looked gray. My bank balance hovered near empty. My refrigerator was bare. My various aches and pains would, no doubt, be revealed as a fatal disease. Winter had dug in its claws and was hanging on tenaciously. Flood waters were rising. News was grim. All over the world, the nation, the state, our town and in my house, things were falling apart. I was in a blue funk. I realized my sense of humor was missing. I felt bereft, like I had misplaced my best friend, locked it in a closet and forgotten where I put it.
To my surprise, I felt as though I had contracted a contagious malady, akin to an actual disease, more drastic than losing one’s mind, which in my opinion, is not generally a great loss. This was serious. What if I could not locate my humor? When I lose my sense of humor, people avoid me. I avoid me. Horrors! I knew I must find my humor and find it fast.
Where did I last use my humor? That’s probably where I left it. When I cannot find my car keys, after searching my bag, my pockets, my desk and the kitchen counter, eventually I open the front door and there they hang, in the lock. I did wonder if someone had sneaked in when I wasn’t looking and stolen my humor. But that’s highly unlikely.
I searched my memory. I had last seen my humor on the day I began thinking. Thinking is a dangerous act. Thinking leads me to questions. Here’s what I was thinking: Why did I ever move back to this Ice Encased Country? Why did I leave the lovely green waters of Puget Sound where the winter temperatures are mild and summer days are balmy? I missed the mossy green outdoors. I missed my distant friends and family. I felt imprisoned by winter. I no longer wanted to be where I am. Yes, I had slid into a Deadly Thinking Site. That’s where my humor had vanished. How could I find my way out?
I needed help. I called friends. We met for lunch at Deb’s Diner, right here in town. Delightful company, good food, friendly laughter. Winter, while not departed, began to loosen its grip. Back home, I opened the door to my fridge. I checked my bank balance. There was sufficiency for the needs of the day. My aches and pains retreated.
The next day at a meeting at City Hall I learned that our swimming pool had emptied over the winter. There was evidence the water might be pooled beneath our building. The surrounding sidewalks were buckling and crumbling. Not only that, we learned the state had removed vital funding for a new sewage treatment facility, which the state had required us to build. Furthermore bids for much-needed energy efficiency updates at City Hall and the city shop came in way over the amount of grant money we had been awarded. The Milk River is expected to crest in two to three weeks. Homes and property are in peril. None of this is good news. I looked at my colleagues and realized we would pull together for our city. These problems were not mine alone. We would come up with the best solutions possible. Together we would muddle through. I felt good. It made me smile. This is my people. This is my home.
Later, at the Montana Seed Show I met more friends, old and new. I ate breakfast with three men from my high school days. It was as if no years had intervened, with the difference that our conversation today could be honest and intimate. Throughout the weekend I bounced from acquaintance to acquaintance. I had lunch with my cousins. By the end of the seed show, after the Saturday night banquet, my feet hurt, I was stuffed, and I was tired but felt fully revitalized. I now know I am where I want to be. My world is beautiful. My sense of humor is back.
At the art show, I bought an abstract painting. If laughter and joy can be painted, the artist captured it in this picture. I placed it above my computer where it will remind me, winter or summer, that my sense of humor is my most valuable possession. I will hang on tight to my humor, no matter what my day brings. You know how to hang on tight to humor? You have to let it go.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High in 1963 and left for good. She finds, after recently returning, things now look a bit different. Join her in a discussion of her column at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)