People no longer talk about getting back to normal but finding a new normal. The coronavirus pandemic has changed our world, perhaps forever. We need to adapt and move on.
In my early twenties, I had a long-term relationship with the son of a famous and well-loved comedian, Spike Milligan. A few months after we got together, he gave me a copy of a biography that had just been published about his father, which gave me a level of insight into the emotional rollercoaster of his childhood that it would have taken me years to glean information about otherwise. Spike Milligan had comic brilliance but he also suffered from manic depression and was very difficult to live with.
My boyfriend inherited his father’s delightful, zany sense of humour but was careful never to use it in such a way that it embarrassed anyone, as his father so often did. It was a rare talk show host who would invite Spike Milligan onto their show. He broke all conventions. Anything could happen and usually did.
I remember the first time I visited his father’s mansion. I wanted to go home first and change into something more presentable. ‘You don’t get it, do you?’ he said. In my family, ANYTHING goes. You can turn up dressed as a pantomime pig and that will be perfectly fine. No-one will bat an eyelid.’
And yet, he told me, the thing he craved as a child, more than anything else, was normal. He longed for a normal father who would do normal, predictable things, like other people’s fathers. His best friend, Mike Sellers, the son of comedian, Peter Sellers, had an equally bizarre childhood and shared the same quest for normal.
But “normal” is often sleep in disguise. It was out of their un-normal childhoods that a very special, awakened form of humour arose. Some of the most joyful moments of my life were spent in their company, for theirs was what I would call today a god’s eye sense of humour. They would make fun of the antics of human situations as a god might view our spirited yet futile attempts to take control of our lives. They would wittily highlight absurdities but never belittle or humiliate anyone in the process. It was a natural, genius form of humour that taught people how to laugh at themselves and see the funny side of things.
The new normal
The reason I’m writing about this now is that I see this is a quality we would all benefit from at this time. We need the ability to see life from a god’s eye perspective and accept with grace what is beyond our power to change. People around the world are longing for their lives to go back to normal but the old normal may never be possible again.
We live in a time of huge uncertainty, where anything can happen. Who would have thought we’d ever see deserted streets in the capital cities of the world and the price of oil briefly dropping to -$38 per barrel? Or celebrities become redundant because entertainment and sports grind to a halt? Or a simple haircut become such a health risk that it has to be temporarily banned?
These are things we never expected to see in our lifetime. And yet they have happened and who knows what will come next? We follow the news, searching for clues about how to stay safe, but each day reveals new concerns. We must quickly learn to adapt and change. That’s the new normal. It’s an opportunity to embrace change and grow, not live in fear.
Humour is a wonderful antidote to stress
This is where humour comes in. It’s the antidote to worrying thoughts. It allows us to see things from a different perspective. Being able to laugh at our predicament may not change the world around us but it can help us to deal with it more easily. It can help us adapt to the new normal instead of trying in vain to cling to the old.
‘A good sense of humour is the sign of a healthy perspective,’ says John Cleese in his autobiography, So, Anyway… ‘Not that laughter can’t be unkind and destructive’, he adds. ‘Like most manifestations of human behaviour, it ranges from the loving to the hateful. The latter produces nasty racial jokes and savage teasing; the former, warm and affectionate banter and the kind of inclusive humour that says, “Isn’t the human condition absurd, but we’re all in the same boat.” ’
Humour of this type lifts our spirits. It boosts our immune system and lowers our stress levels. Treasure the people who can help you to see the divine humour in life and laugh at its ups and downs. It will greatly ease the transition from your old life to the new.
Copyright © Karen Kingston 2020
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