It’s my party

imageGrey clouds, wet sky, drizzle; me, soaking it up – Uggs beyond saving, coat part-drowned, hair flat. On any other day… not so bad; but today: tragic.

I should have known there would be a rapid deterioration from here: therapist hiding behind an opaque veneer; eyes slip-sliding – mentally absent, disinterested in me; subsequent drawing consequently traumatic, submerged beneath layers of ink: shop assistants attacking, pedestrians snapping, the tube packed… Only the ‘should’ I ought to have been aware of was in hiding and I wasn’t aware of anything until afternoon turned up.

Black and blue from too much walking, talking to myself, I wander and search, visiting every known bolt-hole for a place to write. Gradually conceding, giving up; admitting defeat…

Hours later – slipping limply into a dark interior, bedraggled and worn out – I borrow a chair and invest in two cups; one’s cold and disastrous, the other’s delightful and hot.

A failed attempt at writing, and I reach into my bag, realising there is nothing for it but to bring the ‘thing’ out. Twisted and tangled, it’s grumpy and upset, anxious to be loved and lonesome without it.

Ballpoint braced, I revisit the page: pen dancing and glancing, mind whirring and incurring, repeating the lines I earlier, under intimidation, made.

A girl appears: unhappy, young; hair streaming, eyes leaking, mouth a crooked O.

Then words appear: ‘chaos’ incorrectly spelt; ‘cry’ back-to-front; ‘help’ upended. And, finally, I laugh, the irony catching up.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Laughter

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It’s not easy to make me laugh; I’m more the reserved type. However, there are some surefire ways, the majority of which are clichés. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t find most of the normal avenues people my age generally take pleasure from remotely funny, but that I do fall for the obvious ones. Like me, my humour never quite managed to grow up.

So what does make me laugh? Tickling my feet always seems to work. As does watching cheesy comedies, stuff designed for kids. Or easily-accessible sitcoms, like Friends, Frasier, A Modern Family, Silicon Valley and, being a bit more adventurous, Curb your Enthusiasm. But I’m not really into comedy as a rule, so tend to avoid it, preferring, instead, psychological thrillers and gritty dramas that challenge my mind and exercise the remains of those little grey cells. If I want popcorn, which is what ‘in my model of the world’ comedy is, I will rent a laugh-out-loud rom-com; that way, I get some romance thrown in with the smiles and a guaranteed happy ending to boot: much better for the soul and the heart.

I’m also helpless inside the walls of a church, especially if I’m attending a service. A silly line, for instance, in a serious hymn (like “the purple-headed mountain” in All Things Bright and Beautiful) and I’m doubled up and choking. The fact that it is impolite to laugh, only increases my need. Jokes don’t do it but funny stories do. People walking into glass doors or tripping up steps also has me in fits, although the guilt that follows finding humour in another’s humiliation or harm is painful to me and these days I try to look away or, if in the vicinity, run in to help.

Off the top of my head, that would be it. But more may surface later. I haven’t had cause to laugh for a while, so I have forgotten what makes me tick. I can’t even remember what uncontrollable laughter feels like and only get close when witnessing it in other people. Then, I watch closely and take notes, gaining quiet pleasure from my voyeurism.

I do, however, smile: at thoughts, at memories, at ideas, etc. As a task, it is easier to accomplish. To make oneself laugh, on the other hand, is a whole lot more challenging, requiring tools I don’t have. I’m also far too serious. If you could climb inside my head and listen for an hour, you would get it. The incessant ranting never lets up: my inner voice is relentless. Last night,I kept myself awake for hours just thinking and worrying about things I have no control over or power to predict. Accepting that would have been far wiser: I could have rested, woken refreshed, been happier.

But this is about laughter in its purest form: laughter that erupts; the kind of laughter that explodes, whether you like it or not. This kind of laughter doesn’t need permission to take: it does as it chooses. Or maybe I should say gives? After all, it is a gift, precious and vital. Laughter heals. Laughter helps. Laughter inspires and motivates. Laughter joins us, befriends us, diffuses negativity in both ourselves and in others. I love laughter more deeply than I love anything. Sadly, at least for now, laughter is yet to love me.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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