From Painful Depression to Playful Expression
Ever done something a bit outrageous to get you out of a depressed or funky mood? And the behavior is not just shocking, weird or defiant, but its "on the edge" quality comes from choosing to reveal aspects of yourself or your past that often has others exclaiming, "Gee, I didn't know you had that in you." Or, people were truly surprised by your openness despite possible social disapproval. I believe we are most truly outrageous when we live from the inside out. Let me illustrate.
After an extended creative exile in New Orleans, I moved to Washington, DC in August '90 for a one year Visiting Faculty Position at Catholic University. With my busy workload, summer and fall quickly turned into the long, dark days of winter. I was missing my "Big Easy" buddies, while struggling to adjust to life in the new city. Wasn't sure what would happen once the year position was up. And then I really got into a funk. Mardi Gras was rapidly approaching. My heavy teaching schedule meant I would miss my first Carnival in fifteen years.
In hindsight, I clearly was struggling with a major life transition crisis. I probably could have put myself on automatic pilot, just focused on my work and pretty much blocked out New Orleans. But I chose not to; I allowed myself to wallow for awhile in the pain of Mardi Gras deprivation. I finally asked myself, what was I truly going to miss? That I could answer: walking in the Quarter in the sunlit yet slightly cool, Fat Tuesday morning hours, before it became a total menagerie. Folks offering Mardi Gras greetings, in their costumes, from the playful to the surreal, not to mention the various states of dress and undress. And all of us just wandering about as if in a dream state or a Fellini movie. Outrageous. And then I was struck with "the pass in the impasse." Tuesday morning arrived. I put on my white "NO STRESS" tee shirt (with red lettering and the universal negation sign), wrapped a white sheet around my head, pinned a red, plastic milk container cap to the sheet. I now had a bejeweled turban.
After checking in with a surprised administration, (guess I was fortunate it was a Catholic school; hey, some of those nuns can be hip) I entered the classroom in my stress guru persona, greeting one and all with an enthusiastic "Happy Mardi Gras," while throwing plastic trinkets to the students. The startled looks, and then broad grins, upon seeing their professor so out of normal costume, not to mention character, did wonders for my heart and soul. (Of course, one student momentarily deflated my fashion designer ego by asking if I was going as a milk carton!) You may take the boy out of New Orleans, but the Mardi Gras spirit can live forever.
So, break up a global, seemingly overwhelming problem into a concrete issue. And then transform that heaviness by creatively drawing upon your hurt, honesty and humor. As I once wrote: the password for Mardi Gras is "making the strange familiar, making the familiar strange." Why limit ourselves to one or two days a year of inspired madness? Let's really live, more often, from the inside to the outrageous!
Just remember...Practice Safe Stress!
Feedback Segment: How about sharing your thoughts on how you use humor in dealing with stress or moods, yours or others, in your personal life, at home or at work? HFTE will run the best stories and, of course, credit you. Also, email me to learn more about "The Stress Doc's" serious and humorous on-line support/chat group -- "The Frequent Sighers Club.
Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a nationally recognized speaker, workshop leader, author and psychohumorist on stress, reorganizational change, anger, team building, creativity and humor. His motto: Have Stress? Will Travel! Reach "The Doc" at (202) 232-8662, email: Stress Doc@aol.com