“I’m curious,” Craig, the facilitator on the course said, “why do you feel like you need to use humour here? Is it a diversion?”[For those of you who are not coaches let me decode: “I’m curious”, is coach-speak for: "I am not-even-secretly judging you. Because I am a coach and I believe myself to be spiritually aware, I wouldn’t never, ever, admit to being judgemental. I will merely be “curious” but we all know what I’m saying."]
We, and about twenty others, were in an under lit, under heated meeting room in Cape Town. Two other coaches witnessed the conversation. They nodded with a wisdom I hoped, one day, to achieve. I nodded too but inside? Inside I was seething. I am still, nearly ten years later, seething. He was wrong, so very wrong. At the time I didn’t have the words to articulate either the scale or the magnitude of his folly.
But I do now.
Yesterday Joshua had a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop. A call to our tame oncology nurse for tips on stopping nosebleeds was met with, “Go to casualty please. Go right now.” Within a few minutes I was hovering, tight cheeked, beside Joshua’s gurney: dancing the waltz of a mother caught between the need to be out of the way and close to her child. A trainee nurse held ice packs to his neck and forehead. A registered nurse took down a potted medical history. The casualty doctor chatted easily to Josh whilst dousing a bandage with adrenaline. He bristled with the kind of energy I expect from men who play good-natured but competitive games of squash. I wondered if his trendy jeans and iPhone-stuffed back pocket was a deliberate act of making the situation seem less stressful.
“Sorry Josh.” He muttered and stuffed the bandage, more of it than I thought possible, up my son’s nose. A nurse taped it in position. “We’ll leave that in place for ten minutes and see if we can stop the bleeding.” He turned to me, “When did he last have bloods done?”
“Monday.” I replied.
“Let me take a look at his results from Monday before we take more blood.” With a squeeze of Joshua’s arm he was gone.
I took a picture of Joshua’s taped up nose and showed it to him.
“Shcheck shout shmy shdrinkers shnose,” he snorted, “send it to Ms Kaplan.” Ms Kaplan is his friend and favourite teacher.
“Bit of a cheap shot to get out of my poetry lesson.” She replied.
Let’s stop the movie for a moment, right here.
Can you see how the florescent light in the procedure room seems a little less gloomy? Do you notice how the funk of sluiced but not forgotten bodily fluids lifted a smidge? Do you see how the skin on my face has relaxed? Do you see my too-thin, bruised-eyed, sunken-cheeked son guffaw despite his rag stuffed nose?
Funny isn’t a diversion. It’s a tump card.
Funny is the magic-potion that allows us up to stomp straight into the dragon’s den and look it boldly, unflinchingly right in the eye.
Funny lets us say the things that good manners wont. It was funny that allowed Josh to celebrate his “not dead yet” birthday. An important milestone for a kid who is now five months past his “sell-by” date.
Funny lets us look at fear straight on and throw ice-cubes down its vest. It allows us to be direct and honest and courageous in the face of unreasonable odds.
It doesn’t change the prognosis. It doesn’t mean that we forget the dangers of what happens next. But it does give us a moment of respite. A millisecond to catch out breathes. An instant in which to pick up our swords and fight the good fight again.
Funny beats fear.
Xerelto - the little pink pill on the top right, was the culprit for yesterday's nosebleed. It's a blood thinner that reduces the risk of DVT's recurring. Apparently nosebleeds are less risky than DVT's so the Xerelto stays on the menu - with just a soupçon of Xeloda, diuretics, pain meds and vitamins...