As virus numbers soar, I work at finding humor everyday. It’s all around me; I just have to be aware of it. It’s easy, as a friend says, to be a Debbie Downer. That’s not my choice.
For instance, just now I took an OLLI class on donating my body to science. I signed up for this months ago. Little did I know that I’d watch it on Zoom at the height of a pandemic. Seems apropos, though, seeing that I’m in the vulnerable aged category and live in a state that promotes individual freedom and houses some folks that don’t understand that with freedom comes responsibility. So if I go out at all I have no choice but to mingle with non-mask wearers. And to wear a smile visible only through my eyes.
Another fun thing. I’m in the final stages of writing the book on our cancer experience, the one my husband asked me to write during living out his terminal diagnosis. An editor has just given me feedback. When another friend asked me about that feedback, I said, “It seems I have a problem with my commas.” “Oh my,” she said. “In today’s world that is really serious. Tell me more.” I said, “I’ve learned that I use commas where I should be using dashes.”
A few weeks before, I had lamented to this same friend, that I now have a hole in the wall due to a plugged pipe problem, and I had no idea how I was going to get that fixed. I augmented that story with another poor me widow story. I’m having to manage so much house stuff that I’m not joyous about.
So now this friend said to me, “You know what? I don’t care about your commas.” I was appalled! How could she not care about the gravest situation in my life just then?
But she made it worse. “Just so you know, I don’t care about your hole in the wall either.”
Oh my! All this not caring just when we need our friends to care. But the giggles we got out of our jokes produced a few days of PMA (positive mental attitude).
And then there’s my book itself. Most writers know that choosing a title can be a problem. If you’re lucky and a big name, your publisher will hoist a title on you that will sell books. I’m not lucky or a big name, so the task is on me. Everyday, when I save the document, I save it under a new title. My simply great title one day disappears by the time I open the document the next day. I’m on about my 20th title.
Now I know death is a serious thing, and I don’t want to belittle the seriousness of losing my husband. But I know he would enjoy the humor I’ve been having troubleshooting titles with friends and family. For example, Marv chose to refuse treatment for his cancer and wanted to die at home, so his difficult care during his final days was up to me and my daughter who lives nearby. So one title I came up with was Helping My Husband Die.
Think about that a few minutes, and you might think I performed a bit of euthanasia.
Since Marv knew exactly what he wanted to do during his final days, my daughter-in-law suggested Marv in Charge. The assonance of the A sound produced another giggle fit. And since he often talked about owning a barge and meandering about our waterways, I added, Marv in Charge on the Barge.
Google death and you come up with all kinds of jazzy phrases: bite the dust, bought the farm, bucket list, concrete overcoat, dropping like flies, give up the ghost, kick the bucket, laid out in lavender, living on borrowed time, peg out, shuffle this mortal coil, swan song, three score and ten.
So I came up with the most irreverent title of them all. You need backstory to understand. For most of his career, Marv was involved in some way in special education. As a social worker, he adamently believed that teens should have sex education. So he became their teacher. One day he invited a bus load of students for a picnic in our back yard. He greeted the yellow school bus wearing the top of my bikini and my long blonde wig. He was the hit of the party and was nicknamed Sexy Ed.
And the title that came out of that was Sexy Ed Kicks the Bucket.
Ireverent? Of course. But you have to agree that the Sexy Ed title would probably sell more copies than Living with Untreated Small Cell Lung Cancer.
I just took a break to listen to a Webinar with Lee Gutkind, the father of Creative Nonfiction. And, lo and behold, when talking about his new book, My Last 8,000 Days: An American Male in His Seventies, he said this about finding his title: “I can’t tell you how many people I asked and how long it took me.” He went on to say it took many months and he got 200 suggestions from others. But it wasn’t till the book was in its final stages of copywriting that he finally figured out what the book was about, and thus found his title. He said you want to have your title “resonate with a large group of readers.” And in the real world of publishing, should you be so lucky to have a publisher, the sales people will decide your title, because they are the ones who have to sell it.
So I have lots of title suggestions, but not 200 yet. Please chime in if you’re so inclined. I’ll add your suggestion to my lists.
Meanwhile, find some humor in your day!