P / P Essay: The Blessing of a Sense of Humor

Coates with his son, Samori, in the summer of 2001. Photograph: Ta-Nehisi Coates via The Guardian


It’s been a tough few months and there’s nothing funny about being a woman of color who struggles with the external pressures and intimidation of life.

Nonetheless, I had my first funny dream in a long time this morning.

The last time I saw my best friend, she told me, “You used to be so funny, light-hearted and goofy,” (I don’t take being called “goofy” as an insult. I like to make my friends laugh.) She continued, “you used to have a light in your eyes and it’s not there anymore.”  At that moment, I heard her and I knew what she meant, but I figured back then, life has good days and bad ones – not to belittle anyone who has experienced any sort of loss or tragedy.

Trauma will do that but this morning, I had a sweet, funny dream. I don’t remember what the dream was about but I woke up remembering who I was, who I am, and the pain others have caused me, the intrusion, the insults seemed to roll off my back at 5 in the morning while I had to deal with people outside my window, taunting and enjoying the peril of my discomfort…before my first cup of coffee. Because of that dream, my heart was light as I changed out my filter, filled my coffee maker with espresso, and then fixed the curtain that keeps falling down in my office. My day to day felt a little nicer, and it came from me – not a compliment, not a phone call or a cool opportunity.

Get over yourself, Jordannah.

All I have is myself. If I get over that, me, what is the point of life? What would I do? The outside world, the world around me, Between the World and Me (shout out to Mr. Ta-Nehisi, another Baltimore born author who grew up understanding what I understand, and probably lives as an adult author knowing much more).

My very simple point is that my subconscious, without being direct, without giving me some deep message and booming male voice relaying some heavy prophesy or decree telling me about my future, simply made me laugh.

And I needed that.

I am a privileged woman because I was born in a country that offers more freedoms than most but I send my love and respect to people in other countries, who do not have clean water, who have to sew and repair their one pair of shoes, who have to walk three hours to get to school. I don’t forget them. 

I’ll also never forget where I come from I and give thanks.

We are not guaranteed health. We are not guaranteed another day. None of us are born with a pen in our tiny palms and fingers to sign a contract saying, “You’re going to be ok everything single day of your life,” and if we sign a piece of paper, we will be guaranteed the promise of 50,000 beautiful days.” No one is born with that. No one with with any shade of skin, level of intelligence, talent, gender/non-gender, sexual orientation or lack thereof is guaranteed a thing. You have to make your life for yourself and accept help when it is offered. This is my personal advice and opinion, not gospel.

You’ve got to learn to laugh.

And if you can’t make yourself laugh, be thankful for a dream or a friend who makes it happen.

I got a wave and a hello from a man early this morning, a brother traveling down the sidewalk. Whether he knew me, liked me, cared or didn’t, I was grateful for the greeting.

It’s about the small things. I think, it is my responsibility to create and perceive what life offers. We also have the choice  to ignore a wave, an early morning cup of coffee before dawn, patient and supportive friends, solitude or a Big Fat Greek Family (tongue and cheek), who may drive you nuts, but makes sure a big meal is ready to be offered at any moment and 50 phone calls a week.

If you can obtain unconditional trust and the benefit of the doubt of your goodness, you’ve got gold, and if not it is comforting to attract and be thankful for:

The Blessing of a Sense of Humor.


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