Lighten Up

IT WAS SATURDAY MORNING. My wife and I were sitting in the living room, involved with our own projects. I was engrossed in a book that I had wanted to read for some time. It was absolutely quite.

Suddenly, my wife started humming softly.


“Shh,” I whispered, not looking up from my book. A pause, and then about three clicks louder, “HUMMMMMmmHUMMMM.”

I squelched my urge to smile. “Honey,” I said in a voice usually reserved for small children and people with left and right sock drawers, “this is our quiet time. It’s time to be quiet now. You know, quiet, as in no noise?”

Another pause. I returned to my book and started the same paragraph for the third time. I was halfway into the first sentence when my wife opened up with a UCLA Marching Band rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“Ba-rum-bum-bum. Blah-dah-dah-dah-dah, blah-dah-dah-dah-dah-KABOOM!”

She had the bass drum, the trombones, the clarinets, and cymbals-152 pieces, all pumping out at triple forte.

After that it was impossible to keep a straight face. I had no choice but to laugh out loud. And that felt good. Laughter is, after all, a kind of natural tranquilizer without the side effects.

That incident was a reminder to me of the importance of playfulness in our lives. In one ten-second musical interlude, my wife put things into perfect perspective: “Hey, life does not have to be all that serious.”

I’ve noticed that including a little levity in the day’s activities diminishes the storehouse of stress felt at the end of the day. So, here are a few playful ideas for your consideration.

The next time you call someone and get a recording, wait for the beep and then pretend that their machine has broken down. Imitate a 78 rpm record played on 33. “Hello, this is Aaaallleeeen Urrrhgummmn. Congratulations! You’ve just won ten thousand dollars! But you must call me IMMEDIATELY at aargherschplout.”

Or how about this one? The next time you’re at a tollbooth, pay the fifty cents for the person directly behind you. It’s great. They race like crazy to catch up with you, absolutely certain that you are the dearest of friends. They pull up to the side of your car and wave wildly. Then at that instant, when they realize that you are a complete stranger, their expression transforms from frenzied jubilation to total bewilderment. That look alone is worth the 50 cents.

Or try this where you work. Ask the people in your group to bring a baby picture of themselves to the job. Mount the pictures on a bulletin board and enjoy the fun of guessing “who’s who.” Even the stuffiest is suddenly humanized when pictured in the buff on a bear rug.

All I’m saying is that life is worth living with a smile. Lighten up. Look for the humor in your day. After all, things could be worse.

You could be married to a brass band.

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About The Author / Credits: Allen Johnson, Ph.D. is the author of THIS SIDE OF CRAZY: 54 LESSONS ON LIVING FROM SOMEONE WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER BUT KEEPS MESSING UP ANYWAY available through

© Copyright 2003 by Allen Johnson and All rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include the author’s copyright and website hyperlinks.

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