Gene Cohen & Roz Trieber – I don’t know if the two knew each other (it is possible, since both lived in the Metro D.C. area), but the world was certainly a much sadder place after they died, within two months of each other. They surely seem kindred spirits.
Gene left us with his legacy of humor & creativity on November 12, Roz – who just entered my life – left it on December 31. How different our lives would be if both were still with us, pioneering the use of the arts & especially laughter in working with patients, the dependent, the elderly.
Gene’s classic, The Creative Age, was my awakening to the importance of the arts & nurturing creativity in helping people remain vital purposeful connected as we age upward. Roz’s Live Live Laughing, which I read & reread for the first time this past weekend, is a blessing on all I’ve seen first hand about the power of laughter in alleviating confusion distress unhappiness depression despondency isolation helplesness… In my experience, a dose of laughter immediately helps reduce those spirit killers in most people.
Laughter – silly, burst-out-loud, unrestrained – turned my 89-year old mother from self-denigrating to self-loving. Where reading failed, reasoning failed, counseling failed, laughter succeeded. For my part, it was discovered by sheer desperation, on an unthinking whim. Roz would have understood, would have been able to explain the WHY behind the WOW that we experienced from simple silliness.
Live Life Laughing – An innovative & imaginative approach to living a healthier, happier & more prosperous life. Roz was a Naturally Funny Lady who helped connect me to a deeper level of silly. Her book is way more than how to get more chortles out of life. It’s practical, grounded, full of simple ways to get to happy. Like sharing Maggie Bedrosian’s terrific exercise – write down the first ten words that come to mind hearing “How do you feel when you’re feeling really well?” Great question to use with any age, as intriguing for a 30-something to ponder as a 65 year old. Roz considers it a good treatment for emotional constipation & I see what she means – it might first be met with glib answers, but once asked it drills down into the mind & hangs around, resurfacing & reconnecting to thoughts focused on feeling gooood.
It would be fun to put together a workshop based on Roz’s work – a first aid kit of comedy to have on hand when we need a life-restoring laugh. As Roz says, “No benefit plan provides a greater vale than a daily dose of compassionate humor. It provides hope, reduces tension, includes all people & creates bonds.”
As Roz points out, you don’t need to go to clown school to master laughter. And it doesn’t matter if you are laughing on cue instead of after hearing a joke – the body feels the mechanics & kicks in on its own.
The book is easily read over an evening, perhaps sitting gingerly on a whoopie cushion (or at least with a whoopie pie in hand), noise maker at hand, Patch Adams nose securely in place. It has a smattering of ways to tuck humor into the various parts of your life; even more, it nudges the READER into spotting ways to spike their day with laughter.
When I think about the power of a hearty guffaw, I think about a visit Mom had about three weeks before she was reunited with her O Best Beloved. She was at a local hospital, with her doctors still anticipating a successful round of rehab followed by a return home & a fairly full recovery. A younger friend – around my age – made the 30 minute jaunt for a visit. Esther’s energy is impossible to convey – she loves life & embodies verve. She & Mom talked about her trips to Florence, about her husband, about teaching & house mothering at a local boarding school (Mom’s alma mater!). It was a joy for me, experiencing how much Mom was loving the visit – all smiles & laughter. Then, Esther gave me a golden moment – she made a crack about something or other & Mom just put her head back & LAUGHED. A big bold-faced no-holds-barred LAUGH. That one moment did more to make her feel whole than all the meds she was taking. How do we get more of those moments into medicine?
I can tell you from my experience this summer at an international conference of gerontologists & geriatricians, the interest is there, the willingness to consider “if not meds & traditional treatment, what?”
The moment is open to Roz’s message in large part because of her work. Would she were here – praise be her book is!