This is a guest post by Brook Bridge
At some point, and probably for everybody, we all have that sense that we aren’t doing anything worthwhile. We might get a promotion at work, spend time with our friends, make dinner, see a movie, have hobbies, and yet? It still feels as if something is missing.
My own epiphany that I’d been gliding through life without really experiencing came after I lost someone I really cared about. Suddenly, when the idea of my own mortality was impossible to ignore, I realized I needed to make my life better. I need to figure out how to live it fully, how to make it memorable, and how to spend my time doing things that enriched my life rather than just passing the time.
And then something kind of wonderful happened. I chanced on a quote by the late, great comedian, Lenny Bruce. He claimed, “The only honest art form is laughter, comedy. You can’t fake it… try to fake three laughs in an hour—ha ha ha ha ha—they’ll take you away man. You can’t.” And I knew that in some ways, he was right. So I thought who better to go to for advice on making my life meaningful than comedians themselves? Following are the lessons they taught me that changed my life.
Actually Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone (at Least for a While)
Chris Rock claims that “comedians tend to find a comfort zone and stay there and do lamer versions of themselves for the rest of their career.” In many ways, that’s what we all do. We find the friends we feel comfortable around, the job we like, and we just hunker down there and play it safe. Well, no more! Go out and see the world.
I don’t mean take a cruise or a comfy all-inclusive beach vacation; I mean see the REAL world. Don’t just see it, live in it. I was surprised to find, when I looked around, that there were all kinds of opportunities to go live somewhere for a stretch of time. One day I was perusing the Alaska job openings, and the next moment I was packing a bag and taking off. Not to run from my problems, but instead, to put them into perspective. Try it. When you get outside of the things that make you feel comfortable, you’ll be able to see the world with a whole new set of eyes.
Remember that it Ain’t All about You
So, Ralph Waldo Emerson isn’t exactly the type of guy one would usually label as a “comic,” but it turns out that he actually did some pretty deep thinking on the topic. He said, “The perception of the comic is a tie of sympathy with other men… If that sense is lost, his fellow-men can do little for him.” And that observation doesn’t just relate to comedy. It also relates to how you live your own life.
Think about it. Look back on your life and you’ll probably realize something pretty quickly. The most memorable events tend to be the ones that involve others AND new experiences. For me, dedicating just a bit of my free time to charitable work—I volunteer at a shelter—made a huge difference in my way of thinking. Suddenly, it became easier for me to understand other people, to empathize with them and feel compassionate. I wasn’t just thinking about myself anymore.
Let Yourself Feel ALL of Your Emotions
When the amazing French filmmaker Francois Truffaut was asked about why he inserted so much comedy into his otherwise rather tragic films, he replied that “when humor can be made to alternate with melancholy, one has a success, but when the same things are funny and melancholic at the same time, it’s just wonderful.” For anything to feel complete and perfect, he’s saying, there must be a balance of emotions.
So often in our own lives, we tend to push back against unpleasant emotions. We think we just need to be “happy” and that we’re failing if we aren’t sunshine and roses all of the time. That’s wrong. You’re going to feel sad sometimes, and depressed and anxious and heartbroken. It’s impossible to be alive and not feel those things. Instead, recognize what you’re feeling. If you’re sad, say to yourself, “I’m sad.” And then find a way to enjoy the act of it. After all, the depth and variety of emotions are exactly what makes us human. Revel in it.
Learn How to KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid)
The final bit of advice about living a full life comes via the Little Tramp, aka Charlie Chaplin, who many consider to have been the best comedic actor to have ever lived. He claimed that all he’d need “to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.” In fact, he believed that when you added more to a film, it actually served to detract from the humor itself, which is also an important idea to keep in mind in our own lives.
When you surround yourself with a lot of anything, be it possessions or acquaintances or time commitments, something strange starts to happen. Instead of feeling like you have more, you actually begin to feel like you have less. That’s because when there’s too much chaos, it makes it hard for us to separate out the good from the bad. Well, no more! Choose your important friendships, items you own, commitments to keep, and then get rid of the rest. The more you can trim the fat in your life, and concentrate on the good, the more depth you’ll find in it.
This is a guest post by Brook Bridge. Brook is a writer, poet, and painter who lives in Seattle, WA. She loves travel, films, and helping her dog maintain his blog, www.onedogoneblog.com.
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