Laughter has always been the most important tool in my life-navigating utility belt. Laughter began mostly as a defense mechanism. As a child, I was a pocket-protector away from being a character straight out of Revenge of the Nerds. Suffice it to say, I was an easy target for even the least creative teasing. My response was to beat them to the punch through self-deprecation that was much more creative than anyone else could come up with. Eventually, I would no longer be an easy target simply because, at least externally, people weren’t able to get the rise out of me they wanted.
As I matured, so did my sense of humor. Laughter became my coping mechanism, my way of processing stress or uncomfortable situations. Admittedly, my humor hasn’t always come at the most appropriate of times and occasionally something that sounds funny in my head is anything but when it hits the air. Ultimately, though, laughter has served me well – it keeps me from taking life or myself too seriously, grounds me, and provides me with perspective.
It was my sense of humor that led me to my #OneWord2012 – Shipoopi. For fans of showtunes (or Family Guy fans who remember the episode where Peter Griffin plays for the Patriots) Shipoopi is a nonsense word that makes up a musical number that opens up Act 2 in The Music Man. As person after person was picking profound and deep words to frame how each of them would tackle the year ahead, I decided to go the silly route and pick a word you can’t even say without snickering. Yet, I think my subconscious was being a bit more intentional than I had originally intended.
A man who some friends once compared to Peter Pan was hurtling into true adulthood at a hurtling pace. Already a parent, 2012 would also bring about, among other milestones, home ownership and the fact that I would now be closer to 40 than 30. Like Peter Pan in the movie Hook, Neverland was becoming out of sight in my rear view mirror and I needed to find my childish humor again. While “Shipoopi” might have been me not taking the idea of the OneWord seriously, it was actually the perfect selection to remind me rediscover my childish joy.
Of course, “Shipoopi” held a special place in my own memories. As a high school freshman (that’s what we called them back then) I had a very difficult time acclimating and adjusting. It wasn’t until I was the only freshman cast in a lead role in our school musical, The Music Man, that I finally found my niche and, with that, my voice. As I sang my solo and showed off my dancing prowess with a wicked jazz-square, I gained a confidence that had been severely lacking. It wasn’t until that moment that I enjoyed high school and it was the first time I was able to let go of the self-deprecation that had been my hallmark.
I believe I did a fairly decent job at reminding myself to laugh this past year. Fortunately, I had help – whether it was the ridiculousness that came out of an aging actor’s conversation or the overall silliness of getting lost in my daughter’s imaginary worlds, I realized I would never be at a loss for sources of laughter as long as I remembered to look for them. And if I reach a moment where laughter is a little harder to find, I need only remember a nonsense word that makes me chuckle. Try it. Say it with me just once. Ready? 1-2-3 ….. Shipoopi!