Finding Laughter…

Over the past few months, I haven’t laughed much. Sure, I have had moments of smiling. I have had moments of joy. I have even had moments of forced laughter. However, for the most part, most of my responses in public setting has been more of act. I have continued to play my part and pretend that everything is fine. Even when asked, I sugar coated how I felt because I have learned that people prefer artificial sugar over the real kind.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t have times of hope. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have times of joy. This doesn’t mean I haven’t laughed. I just felt pressure to pretend. Most of laughing responses were because I knew, or felt, that most people didn’t really care to hear the truth. People didn’t want to see the pain. People just wanted to see Joshua acting okay. So, I did.

Sure, some asked for the truth. For them, I tended to lie. I know I am not supposed to. I know that may discredit me to some people. I just became numb to the rote responses and proverbial antedotes. I got tired of superficial answers. I would also become angry when it was apparent people only asked because they assumed it was their moral, social, or spiritual duty. Recently, I have gotten better. Last week, I laughed, “Greatly.”

Last week I spent a few days with men who do the same thing I do. We are actually a part of a network of connected guys who agree in philosophy and praxis of the church. We meet twice a year and take that time to discuss current issues and encourage one another. I honestly wasn’t excited to go. I haven’t seen these men since my bride was diagnosed, and I feared I would have to relive and retell our whole journey. I expected to talk about my bride. I didn’t expect to sing karaoke.

As we were unpacking our bags in this plush rental home, I suddenly heard blaring music. I came running upstairs to see one of the men holding a mic and singing at the top of his lungs. Instead of joining, I turned to go back downstairs. I made an excuse in my head and just slipped away. A few years ago I would have fought to use the microphone, that day, I just wasn’t in the mood.

Over the next few minutes, there were loud songs being played and bad vocals being projected into the air. In between each song, there was a bellowing call for Broughton to get upstairs. Apparently, everyone was supposed to participate and it was my turn. I resisted as long as I could. Finally, I gave up and sang. I half-heartedly belted out a Nickleback song. By the end, I couldn’t decide if I was more ashamed of how I sang, or the fact that I knew all the words to Rockstar. The answer is still up for debate.

Soon, it was time to leave and I was thankful. I appreciated the guys trying to have a good time and including me, but I just didn’t know how long I could keep up the act. The evening went on in typical fashion. We met up with other guys who were in the area. We ate dinner. We shared stories from the past year. Then we headed back to the house.

As we were driving back I began to get worried. I feared that they would get that dreadful machine out and I would be forced to sing again. A large part of me wanted to just go to bed and call it a night. However, I resisted and stay up with the guys. Then the machine appeared again in the room. This time there was an iPad for people to see the words. I sat by the fireplace and listened. Then they asked me to sing again.

As I walked up to the microphone the guys began to cheer. I smiled as I took the mic and prepared to sing another song. As I began to do my best to imitate the iconic vocals of Matchbox Twenty, I could hear the guys around me begin to sing with me. Before too long we were all belting the song out at the top of our lungs and laughing during instrumental breaks.

We stayed up late singing. We stayed up late laughing. I found myself for the first time in months laughing so hard I doubled over on the floor. I laughed so hard tears ran down my face. I laughed so hard all the pain, anger, frustration, and fear dissipated for a moment between the cool beats of L.L. Cool J and the humorous nonsense of Wierd Al.

By the end of the night, I was dubbed Karaoke King. I am not sure how this happened. To be honest, my competition wasn’t really fierce, but it was a whole lot of fun. It was nice to sincerely laugh again. It was nice to feel pure joy again. It was nice to let down the wall I have built around my heart.

On the last morning as we all packed up the leave and the machine showed up again. This time the soft melody of My Heart Will Go On was echoing throughout the house. I walked into the living room to see two grown men leaning over rails and singing their hearts out. I honestly may like their version better than the original. As I stood there, I smiled and then joined them. In that time and that space, my soul was able to heal a little. Those men gave me a gift. They gave me laughter. Laughter won’t take away the pain of radiation to come. Laughter won’t pay our medical bills. But laughter did give me a moment to feel real joy again. It’s these moments that have gotten us through the battle with Ole Scruffy, and it’s these moments we will share for years to come.

To those men who made me laugh again, Thank You.

 

 

Word Vomit

I wrote this post last week but didn’t post it. Honestly, I chickened out. For all the honesty I have brought to my blog, this is one of many posts I decided to discard. However, I decided to suck it up and post it. So here it is in all of its glory…..

I learned a valuable lesson last night on accident. If you have been following my blog you may have assumed that I am only filled with sweet sentiments towards my bride and I always say the right thing at the right time. I thank you for your perception,  but it is wrong. Sadly, I have a greater habit of voracious word vomit with her.

Andrea is the only person in my life where I have no filter. I am not worried about Andrea leaving me. I am not worried about her not liking me. I am not worried about her belittling me because I have a poor or misguided view on a subject. On most occasions, it is very nice to have that kind of freedom. The problem is, this has allowed me the opportunity to work out my thoughts and feelings in an uncontrolled environment.

Case in point, last night during dinner I was rambling on and on about all the social commentary of the day. I refuse to get into discussions on social media because I personally think they are fruitless. So, I tend to say to my bride the things I would normally add to someone else’s feed. My wife, being intelligent, tends to banter back with me. Sometimes we raise tone with each other, other times we agree to disagree, but most of the time we are in complete agreement. Or rather, she proves she is right and I am wrong.

My chosen flavor of the evening was all the hullabaloo over the Golden Globes. I have seen all over Facebook and other social media platforms the outrage or admiration over Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech. More specifically her commentary on our future POTUS’s words, actions & poor character. I personally found her comments to be well spoken and poetic. While I personally would not choose to accept such a prestigious award in that manner, I admire her for her willingness to take a stand for what she believes. Most importantly, I was impressed with her ability to do it in an intellectually stimulating and well thought out manner.

My issue was with the seemingly double standard being blatantly carried out in the commentary on social media. It seems that we find it okay to questions one man’s cruelty by responding with cruelty. In one breathe we hate the language and gestures he uses to mock a man with a physical disability, but express our anger by mocking him instead. That concept doesn’t make sense to me. If we return evil for evil are we not any better ourselves?

In trying to work out how I feel about this whole situation I stated that it seems like if you are in the public eye, whether through visual media or the written word, and you make brash statements about an individual such as our illustrious POTUS, you kind of welcome his brash and arrogant responses. I don’t know how one can be sheltered from the mocking tone of someone like Trump. I completely disagree with his language and presentation. He could learn a lot from Meryl. However, doesn’t he have the right to respond?

I said this in a very poor way to my bride. She very strongly disagreed. She reminded me that he is the President-Elect. The way he holds himself should be above that of the common citizen. I heard her. I agreed with her. But for fun, I wanted to debate her. So, I inserted some very mucky, irritating and veracious word vomit. I didn’t believe the vomit, but I wanted to sharpen our minds. Instead, I hurt my wife’s heart.

As I rambled on I saw what I thought was anger. It wasn’t anger. It was pain.  As I raised my hands and elevated my voice to make a point about something I didn’t believe in, I saw deep red penetrating from her pupils. Suddenly I saw wet streams begin to fall from her face as she stood in front on me. Then, like and idiot I asked, “Why are you so mad at me?”

Her response was razor wire. She said, “That man (POTUS) only finds beautiful what he deems to be so and will cut down anyone else. If he saw me. If saw the scars across my chest and my lack of breast he would find me ugly. How can you defend a man like that!” Then she slammed the door as she left to take Eli to Taekwondo.

I was left in a silent house. I never meant to make the conversation personal. I never stopped for a moment and considered how much his words, actions, and deeds over the past few months have affected my wife. I was simply trying to have fun being snarky, and instead, I made her believe for a moment that I approved of his misogyny.

For the record, I don’t. However, I learned last night how deep the pain my wife feels about her body. My words of affirmation and continual praise of her beauty can sometimes fall short when a man in power waves his hands in the air. To her, she is one who could be mocked. There should be anger and outrage towards someone with such great authority who would use his power to belittle someone for something they can’t change. POTUS can work on his misogyny, Andrea can’t remove the scars.

I never realized how personal it was to her as a female and as a person battling breast cancer to see and hear his actions. Last night I learned how truly personal Politics can be. As I stood in the house by myself I was reminded of what Meryl Streep said in her acceptance speech, “And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

In truth, I lost last night. I tried to pick her brain and went too far. In doing so I picked the side of the bully. I didn’t mean to, but I did. For that, I am sorry. I spent the evening reminding my wife I was just bantering for fun. However, she taught me that some things are not defendable. As always, she gave me grace and forgiveness. Maybe next time I spar with her mentally I can pick the right side of the argument, or at least take the time to think before I word vomit all over her heart.