The Best Pain Relief

This weekend, I flew on one of those planes with a hilarious Southwest flight attendant making announcements:

“And in the highly unlikely event of a water landing, just think of the incredible story you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren!”

“If you’re traveling with a small child, what were you thinking? Put your mask on first and then help them with theirs. If you are traveling with multiple young children, assist the one with the most potential first and then work your way down.”

Actually, it was the longest hour of my life, because containing my 1 year old on a plane is tricky. She wanted to eat the pretzels she found between the seats, and play on the ground, and rip up the seat pocket safety instructions, and pull on the hair of the passenger in front of us.

Looking forward in life, it’s never about the humor. It’s always about the mission and the ambition. Get me there. Get me home. Get my child to please behave. Get my company to profitability. Get my back better. Get me a lover.

But looking back on life…THANK GOD for the people who made you laugh!

I recently spoke with Ed, a 96 year old retired professor who is possibly the most hilarious and most verbose elder I spoke with in researching my new book.

In the very beginning of our conversation, Ed shared a story of his mother being pregnant with him back in the early 1920’s. His mother was reading an article to his father about the population growth in China and how every fifth child born in the world would be Chinese. Ed was their fifth child, a few months from being born, and his father was then convinced that he would be born Chinese.

I wasn’t sure if Ed was joking, until i realized a few minutes into the conversation that Ed is jokester

During World War 2, he built a latrine which included creating four holes. He decorated each of the holes with the design of a diamond, spade, heart, and club. According to Ed, his Captain sat on the latrine shaped like a heart, and was livid when he scratched his ass on Ed’s artwork.

For 80 minutes, Ed talked and remembered and delighted in his life story.  He spoke nothing of accomplishments and everything about relationships. More recently, he befriended an 11 year old autistic girl who swims with her father at his local YMCA. Her father told Ed that nobody plays with her but Ed was committed to his mission, “to make her.  smile and laugh.”

And naturally, he has led a life filled with smiles and laughter.

When I finished the conversation with Ed, I felt exhausted because he literally did not stop talking for 80 minutes. My questions to him were interruptions. In the moment, I felt impolite to interject. But afterward, I felt uplifted by a man who is here to enjoy the journey.

Just for today, can you, can I, be that person who gives our objectives a break…”just freakin get me there”…and instead focus on making someone smile and laugh?

It may not be natural, but it is contagious. And it is possible in any given day, to reach a critical mass, a tipping point, of smiles and laughter. With that, comes a whole host of benefits, like, well…HAPPINESS!!!

As that Southwest flight landed, it was rough and unpleasant, the wings jerking up and down until just before the wheels touched.

I wasn’t sure if I should ask the person in front of us if they’d like their hair clip and clump of hair that my daughter took from their head.

But then that hilarious Southwest flight attendant chimed in, “Did we land or were we shot down?”

Everyone laughed, the scary landing was quickly forgotten, and the hair clip was returned with an exchange of smiles.

So it is with many of these elders I have interviewed. If there’s enough laughter, love, and light to conjure from their past and enjoy in their present, it’s so much easier to forget the pain.

Not to say the pain isn’t real.

But why focus on the darkness if you can turn toward the Light?

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