Monday, April 30, 2012

Trolling for Laughter

When my friend, Jackie, and I set out to write our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within we knew we were not experts in psychiatry or philosophy. We were simply two women who had seen the devastating effect of men and women suffering from self-inflicted negativity and we vowed to do something about it. However, sometimes the teacher becomes the student. Thus was the case at a mini workshop I coordinated in Port Angeles, WA at InSpired Gift Shop. Our group was small, but lively. The ages of the attendees varied from a middle school student to an octogenarian. I warned the group early on that I had no intention of pontificating for the duration of the workshop. I expected their input. Since we kicked off the workshop with an ice breaker to help me learn everyone’s name I could call upon them directly by name. After that everyone knew anonymity was impossible, so rather than shrinking into a corner (an (impossible feat based on how I configured the seating arrangement) everyone dove right in and offered insights and obstacles one faces regarding negativity. Elizabeth was the first to respond with an example of diverting negative responses from others. She told us that she was 80 years old (she looked two decades younger) and many of her friends suffered from a wide range of pain and illness. None of us can escape either of these maladies, but another participant, Rebecca offered hope. She shared her experience with an elderly man that she visited when she was working for hospice. She listened attentively to his depressing situation. Clearly she was not in a position to do anything about his very real illness and pain. However, she asked him what he enjoyed doing when he had been in better health. He mentioned his love of playing cards. The next visit she brought a deck of cards and they played gin rummy. Both had a wonderful time. We cannot “fix” every problem but that does not mean we can’t do something to improve the situation. I did my typical spiel about the importance of smiling. Later, I put on a little finger puppet that looked like a horned troll. Three of the participants (two midwives and one OB/GYN) imagined the look on their patient’s faces if they approached a typical gynecological exam with this puppet on their finger. Of course everyone laughed. Whether that finger puppet ever makes it to the women’s clinic remains to be seen. However the image of that mini, orange troll will probably live on in the memory of both the medical staff who were present for the workshop, as well as in the minds of the remaining participants (all female) at their next well woman exam. Even the Buddha could not fix the four sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. However, we all have the ability to learn from our situations and become wiser from the experience. The trick is to use our creativity to find a way to handle things in an optimistic way. When all else fails imagine the doctor donning a thorny finger puppet on his or her finger before your next gynecological or prostate exam. If that doesn’t produce a chuckle I don’t know what will.

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