And then I started thinking about the bad things that have happened to me.
I am a writer. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done, the one straight thread that has run all the way through the twists and turns of the rest, intersecting with every other thing I’ve wanted to do: jobs, activities, people I wanted to meet, places I wanted to go, things I was rabid to learn.
(To give you a taste, as a child, I would say things like “I want to be a cowgirl… and a writer” or “I want to be a tightrope walker… and a writer.” Nowadays, it’s “I’m a writer… and an administrative assistant” or “I’d really like to go to school in England and write some characters north of Hadrian's Wall.")
I am incredibly grateful for the fact that in the overall scheme of things, I haven’t had a whole lot of horrible things happen in my life. But everybody, including me, has something, and maybe it’s an event another person wouldn’t consider all that bad, but to that one individual, it might be the worst thing he or she has experienced.
And that deposits a lot of baggage.
I have discovered it can be very hard to think about a bad experience in comedic form. I thought I would have more than a few things to pick through, and some that would spring to mind immediately as funny, given the time that has passed since they occurred. The truth is that, in trying to turn a bad experience into an amusing anecdote, you find out you might not be as over that event as you thought you were. My mind’s first reaction was to shy away from the bad memories, put them back into their labeled drawers where I have been safely keeping them. In a weird fit of hypocrisy, my mind also kept circling back to those ugly items from those once-locked drawers, unable to tangent away toward other possibilities. It took more effort than I expected to keep from continuing that unending cycle, from tucking things away again, instead making myself take them out and examine why they refused to be funny. And the things that did crop up as immediately amusing no longer feel serious enough for what I want to convey.
Maybe being able to turn a tragedy into a comedy is a crucial step toward actually getting past the event in question. The adage “Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh” is more than just a cliché or a phrase meant to provide (albeit lackluster) comfort at the time; it might be the one stepping stone people actively push back under the surface of turbulent waters. I’m starting to wonder if turning a tragedy into a comedy is something everyone should practice, as far as that’s within their ability to do. I realize that some things just are not funny.
I now have a story to contribute to this collab, but it’s taken the better part of two pondery weeks just to find an event I feel I can write about, while still doing the original situation justice. I want to thank the collab’s creator for presenting the idea, for giving me so much food for thought, and so much to examine. The HitRecord website is all about looking at things from another angle, and this collab has certainly prompted that in me.
Not-so-random writing exercise: Obviously, your task is to take a downer moment in your life and convey it in comedic form. This may end up being a more thinky exercise than a writey one. Whatever works. I think the real exploration here centers in what you find yourself <i>doing</i> with the story in order to spin a funny tone. How much of it changes? How much doesn’t? Are you okay with those alterations? Does it change your memory of the event?