Close friends contribute to our personal growth. They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there… Judith Viorst
I have probably always suffered from at least anxiety if not full on depression. As a child, my doctor put me on a tonic because I was, in his words, “highly strung”. Of course, the fact that I was being sexually abused and my parents didn’t know so couldn’t stop it, may have been the reason why. But regardless, highly strung I was. I really didn’t fit in with people at school, my family or anyone. I got bullied at school constantly. My brothers called me “the waterworks”. I felt different. I had cousins who I was close to but they lived a long way away. I prayed every night for a walking, talking life size doll thinking that might ease my loneliness. The someone to understand me, from my young self’s perspective, was, of course a toy. I knew I was missing out on something but I wasn’t quite sure what.
I must have only been about 6 or 7 when I was playing with one of my nieces and they were sitting on my back as I gave them horsey rides up and down the hallway. They were giggling with that infectious laugh that only a child can do. My mum said something to me about how funny they thought I was and I can clearly remember saying, “it’s a hard job but someone has to do it.” I have no idea where that came from. It seems to be some great comedy line and chances are, I’d probably heard it on the television and knew it got a laugh then so tried it for myself. All the adults in the room burst out laughing and I found my niche.. I found a way to fit in. I found a sense of humour.
I was such a serious and sad child that finding that one thing I might be good at was a watershed moment. I watched the people on tv that made my parents laugh and started to study funny people. I did all of this without realising I was doing it, but looking back, that’s exactly what I was doing. Studying how to make people laugh. I still, to this day, love to make people laugh.. I love the sound of laughter. It makes me laugh in return. I have a very loud laugh myself and I used to feel embarrassed by it. People pointed out to me constantly how loud I laughed and I became self conscious. Then, in my 40’s, a man I was dating commented on how much he loved my laugh… because it was loud, hearty, deep and genuine. From then on, I grew to love my laugh too.
From the day I found my humour, life got better. I made friends at school. I was still bullied but I learned how to turn it round so the bully got laughed at instead of me. After a while, the bullying stopped. I enjoyed life so much more although I still didn’t feel like I fitted in. When I had my own kids, I taught them the same thing.. when you turn the insult around with laughter, there is nowhere a bully can go with it.
As you’ll know by having read Don’t just wear a white ribbon-start the conversation, life became exceptionally hard after my marriage began to break down. I held so much inside, not letting people know what I was really going through as I was being blamed by a lot of people for my divorce. Because I’d always been the more outgoing, the more fiery and the one most likely to speak out, most of my family and friends were convinced I was to blame for it going wrong. They didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes and they had NEVER recognised the inner torment I went through all my life because I had covered it up with humour. They had no idea the hell I was living through. My mum was probably the only one, other than my kids, who saw how bad things had got at home and how untenable the whole situation had become.
I met a new circle of friends and finally, after 33 years, I felt like I fitted in somewhere. It was a weird but wonderful feeling. Don’t get me wrong.. I loved my old friends and I got on great with them, but I never felt secure enough to be completely myself with them and that was my problem, not theirs. It was my insecurities and my blockages that cut me off from really connecting with everyone on a deeper level. I felt that if they knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me, so I hid so much of myself. I still have many of those friends today and am finally comfortable being me around them.
When I met my best friend Anne, it was instant recognition. It was as if our souls recognised each other immediately. Over time, we began to dress alike, talk alike and even look alike. It was never intentional, we just grew into each other and in doing so, found ourselves. I remember picking up a photo at her place one day and saying that I didn’t remember it being taken and didn’t recognise the people in it.. Turns out it was her not me.. and the people I didn’t recognise were cousins of hers I hadn’t met. That’s how much we grew alike. We spent many a night on the phone to each other, talking until one of us fell asleep and started answering total jibberish (usually me lol). We laughed some days until we couldn’t breathe.. that laughter that leaves you exhausted but fulfilled.
She was at my side during the good and the bad times. She was beside me the night my daughter died, never leaving my side. She sat beside me during coroner’s inquests, court cases, nights where I didn’t feel I could go on. She was my rock. She awoke the part of my soul that stopped me from connecting with people. Above all, we laughed… and laughed… and laughed.. and laughed… even through the bad times, we managed to find the stupidity in what was happening around us and laugh at it. It didn’t take anything away from what was happening but if you can see the humour in the crazy stuff, I think it keeps you sane, to some degree. One of the hardest parts of running away from home to find me again, was leaving her and the other friends who had finally helped me to like myself.
I discovered the internet in the year 2000. I got onto a chat room and met thousands of people, both online and in real life as we used to organise meets all over Australia. When I first got online, my insecurities were rampant. I had lost Aimee, I had lost my Mum and I felt unhappy with myself. I still had my fantastic new and old friends but I just felt like I was a failure. A few of my close friends called me Livonne as it is a play on my real name Yvonne and was to do with having to stay strong and live. So I chose a few names similar to that to start with, then changed to Livonne as my chat nickname.
Livonne was a much more confident person than I ever could be. She was witty, self assured, a natural with men, sarcastic to idiots, a born flirt and numerous other things that I wasn’t. It’s amazing what the anonymity of a computer screen can do for you. I like to think i always treated people as I would if I met them on the street but it’s not always easy to judge your own behaviour at times. I hope I did, but I’m sure at times I got caught up in my own hype. If I ever hurt someone by the way I acted, I sincerely apologise. It was never my intention.
After a while, Livonne’s confidence rubbed off on me and I became a lot more self assured. The lines between Yvonne and Livonne started to blur until it was quite difficult to tell them apart, except when it came to men. In my real life I still have very little self confidence when it comes to being romantically linked with men. If only that side of Livonne rubbed off on me lol. Oh well. I suppose you can’t have everything.
My internet friends (the dotcoms as they became known) and I would travel anywhere for a get together. It was great to meet people with similar stories. Most of us were on line because we had an emptiness in our lives and wanted to fill it. We didn’t always know what we were looking for or even that we WERE looking for something but we found it in each other. Of course there were clashes of personality and lots of arguments. People would take sides and fights would sometimes break out (online that is, usually not in real life) but that is life in general. For the most, it was a time of fun, love and laughter.
There were a few of us who thought nothing of getting in a car on Friday night, driving over 1000km through the night, have a brief sleep when we got to our destination, get up, do some sightseeing, head out to a get together that night, then go home on Sunday, another 1000km after some sleep.. I don’t know where we found the energy but we did it often. Someone had organised one get together in Brisbane and on the Wednesday night, 4 of us decided we would go. So Thursday saw us drive up to Sydney from Geelong, stay Thursday night with a dotcom and then head off Friday to Brisbane. All up it was about 24 hours of driving. We got to Brisbane Friday night, stayed at another dotcom’s place, went out Saturday night to the get together, had a BBQ breakfast Sunday morning before heading home at lunchtime. We were so eager to get home we drove right through, 24 hours straight, and we were home again by Monday lunchtime. We were crazy. It was such a huge trip but we had a ball. We met some great people (and some tossers) but all in all, it was a great experience.
These friends have made me laugh when all was going wrong. They have kept me sane (well almost). The nights spent alone at home suddenly became party night every night, as I sat and chatted to friends without having to get out of my pyjamas and put make up on. Web cams were my greatest enemy… so I never owned one. We met a need in each other that we didn’t even know we had. The night MSN closed their chat rooms down was heartbreaking. The people in this room had helped me through some really bad times without always knowing it. They were my constant companions. If I woke up in the middle of the night, with an anxiety attack and couldn’t sleep again, I knew I could switch my computer on and someone I knew would be on there to make me laugh. Thank God for different time zones around the world.
I remember complaining one day online that I really felt like some Kentucky Fried Chicken but didn’t have a car to drive and get it as it had broken down. About half an hour later, there was a knock on my door. My friend Annie was standing there, with a feed of KFC in her hand, dressed in her pyjamas and dressing gown (she went through the drive through thank goodness). We laughed so hard we could barely eat. Well okay, we managed to eat just fine but we laughed at the same time. We’re good at multitasking lol. Another day I was whinging about being hungry and not wanting to go to the shops. 20 minutes later, a knock on the door turned out to be Jon, another internet friend, who handed me a quarter chicken and chips, said, “now shut up” and left again. I laughed so hard I couldn’t even say thank you to him.
I love people who can make me laugh. I think I studied laughter so much when I was a kid, I see through a lot of planned humour. It’s the spontaneous I find the funniest. I very rarely laugh genuinely at a stand up comedian. It’s forced, it’s planned, the silences are timed to allow for the laughter. However someone like Billy Connolly who starts with a script then runs amok, I find hilarious. Even he doesn’t know where he’ll end up.. Off the cuff humour is funny.. the mistakes some people make when they are typing on their phone which changes the whole meaning of a conversation (and you know who you are) make me laugh out loud. A witty comeback when one wasn’t expecting it is hysterical.
I have been so blessed with people in my life who can make me laugh till it hurts. These people can find the laughter in any situation. We can laugh together about absolutely nothing. I had friends over the other day and we laughed until we cried at my friend’s dating misadventures. Laughter really is the best medicine. How can you be miserable when you are laughing. Even when you fake a laugh, eventually it can turn into real laughter. It releases endorphins which are the bodies own “feel good” chemicals. It beats Prozac anyday. It relaxes your body more effectively than valium ever could. It increases antibodies faster than a course of multi vitamins. It creates an instant bond between people. And it is more contagious and powerful than man flu and we all know how contagious that is. It really is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
Too often when we are feeling miserable, we feed the misery instead of starving it. There is a story that goes something like this.. An old Cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, misery, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, & ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, laughter, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, & truth.” The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”…. How true is that? It’s what we keep feeding that becomes the stronger emotion.
Try to start each day with a laugh. When you are stuck in traffic, look around you and make up funny stories about the people sitting in cars next to you. When life is really getting you down, seek out the friend who you know will see the light side of the situation. Feed the laughter wolf. You will definitely feel better for it. So break our your guffaws, chuckles, giggles, laughs, chortles, titters, snickers, snorts and cackles. Celebrate the way you laugh. If you’re a snorter, snort loud and proud. I’m sure, like me, you’ll feel better for it.
To the friends who make me laugh… thank you. You are the reason I’ve survived. Even if at times I thought I’d die from lack of breath, I know you would have given me CPR then made me laugh again at how you couldn’t find my chest bones because of my boobs. Don’t underestimate how much I appreciate you all. You’ve brought the sunshine back into my life that I thought was gone for good. Thank you!
Happy chuckles… Livvy 🙂