I’m a romantic optimist. I can’t help myself.
I am compelled to search almost desperately for something to smile about or fall in love with even when everything feels terrifying and bleak.
It’s my father’s fault. Well actually it’s the fault of several generations of Irish ancestors. You don’t survive potato famines, the Troubles and centuries of alcoholism without learning to laugh a little at the absurdity of life.
Jokes in the attic
Humor can be a tricky thing. Last week, I wrote what I thought was a hilarious blog piece about how crabby I can be on my birthday on a normal year and how I was even worse this year smack in the middle of a pandemic.
I worked hours on that piece and wrapped it up with an inspiring ending that stirringly celebrated humanity. I posted it and waited for the accolades.
Finally, the first comment popped up.
“YOU SOUND LIKE A VERY SELFISH, NOT NICE PERSON.” Nancy M
I was flabbergasted.
I ran downstairs to my husband Saul and read her hurtful comment to him but he only burst out laughing. “Nancy’s got you figured out!”
Maybe he’s right. My humor was too dark even as a child at St. Jude Elementary School. Back then, I was obsessed with The Diary of Anne Frank. When I wrote a book report about it, my only critique was that Anne didn’t mine more humor out of being cooped up with all those people. Sister Maura marked me down a grade for being “insensitive” but I still think my diary would have been funnier.
Is that a bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket or are you excited to see me?
Even now, I can’t resist a good love story. And my coworker just told me a good one.
Her daughter hates dating, but she is 27 and feels her biological clock urgently ticking. And this was before time ground to a halt because of a pandemic.
“Why don’t set up a Zoom meeting with one of those guys you meet on Tinder?“ her mom suggested.
It seemed like a dumb “mom” idea, but then her daughter realized it had a lot going for it. You only have to make the top half of your body look decent for the date (I just heard on NPR that shirt sales are currently skyrocketing while absolutely no one is buying pants). If it’s a disaster, you’re already home when it’s over. Plus a guy who’ll meet you on Zoom during the time of Covid19 is probably not looking just to get in your pants (or lack thereof).
So her daughter tried it out and met a really nice guy on her first virtual date. In fact, it went so well that they ended up meeting at a park sitting on separate benches. They got to know each other by yelling small talk from six feet away while snacking on the wine and cheese they each brought for themselves.
I mean they have to get married now so they can tell their children the amazing story of how they got together.
Doing the dog math
Who am I to say look on the bright side when people are facing unemployment, loneliness, fear and depression? Maybe you aren’t finding anything funny or maybe your heart’s just a little broken by all this.
The other day I was sinking into despair, but I still had to walk my dog, Alfie. When you are in a funk, chores feel that much more awful.
And for as smart as my breed of dog is supposed to be, Alife does not know how to read the room.
HEY HUMAN! LET’S GO FOR A WALK! THIS IS GOING TO BE SO MUCH FUN, RIGHT? ARE YOU AS EXCITED AS ME???? THIS IS SO GREAT! OH MY GOD, HUMAN, HOW EXCITED ARE YOU RIGHT NOW ABOUT THIS WALK, AM I RIGHT? AM I RIGHT?”
He wasn’t right. But I got off the couch, put on his leash and hiked…no…trudged through the woods on a trail by the Delaware River.
Alfie LOVES sticks. He is obsessed with him. I swear one time when I was driving with Alfie he turned to me from the passenger seat and calmly said “sticks are my heroin.” I can’t be sure if I just imagined that though.
And he loves when I throw them into the river for him to swim out and retrieve. He is uncanny in his ability to figure out how fast the current is and at what angle he needs to approach the stick at exactly the right time to grab it in his mouth. It’s like he’s doing geometry and physics at the same time.
As I watched him arrive at the stick and chomp down on it in the middle of the river at the exact right time I felt it.
I felt joy.
And because my life has quieted down so much, I could really feel this joyful feeling. I really hope you all know what it feels like to see this living thing you cherish so much experiencing its own joy. Nothing tops it.
But as I wrote that last paragraph, I got an alert on my phone announcing all the trails and parks by the Delaware River have closed for an indefinite period of time to keep crowds from gathering.
All Alfie joy is cancelled.
But not really. He and I are going to use our combined brain power to find something else fun. Maybe we are not as funny or smart as we think we are, but we both feel strongly that now more than ever, it is vital to find those moments where we can laugh or fall a little bit in love or simply savor those tiny moments that bring us that universal feeling we call joy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Keith Hoffman is NOT a very selfish not nice person, Nancy.