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Three miles of stories

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Why I’m glad I started running

It’s the job of a good writer to find humor in everyday things. The best stories are those that cause us to look at the mundane and common from a fresh perspective or perhaps even a slightly warped angle. By laughing at ordinary occurrences and everyday paradoxes in the world around us, we are really laughing at the ordinary and paradoxical elements of ourselves—an action that is strangely liberating.

I was recently reminded of this when I took up running. Go ahead: liberate yourself with a laugh. Irony is funny too. And, those who have know me for more than a few years know how profoundly ironic it is that this once overweight, uncoordinated girl is now jogging down the side of the street, calling herself a runner. I still don’t claim to be coordinated, and I’m no expert when it comes to running; I’m sure that people passing me wonder what in the world I think I’m doing. But that’s okay. I’ll let them wonder. Hopefully, it’ll remind them of something in themselves, and they’ll be able to laugh.

Though it’s likely that nothing brings more comedy to my morning run than the sight of me jogging down the street, I’ve found many other ironic, unusual, and ordinary sights to chuckle at during the 3-miles I cover each day. Running has made me realize just how rarely I actually stop to observe the world around me, and has shown me just how much I am missing out on. I’m not claiming that all my observations are laugh-out-loud funny; it could be that I’m just desperate for something to think about other than the burn or distance I have left, or it could be that the endorphins released while I run alter my thinking. But the best stories are born from real life and on my runs, I’ve captured some interesting snippets of real life. My observations may not be all that funny on their own, but what draws me to them is the potential they hold. In my imagination, these snippets represent eccentric people, awkward interactions, and stories waiting to be told. Maybe someday I’ll be able to introduce you to some of those people, watch you cringe as you read the details of those interactions, and captivate you with the details of the stories. But I’m no famous writer yet. So for now, just for the fun of it, I’m giving you the snippets. Find an element of yourself in them. Laugh at the paradox or the irony. See where your imagination can take them. And if you just think I’m crazy, then laugh at that. The important thing is that we learn to laugh at ourselves and the world we live in.

A dozen of the things I’ve found to laugh at: (okay, it’s a bakers dozen)

  • The elementary school crossing guard who thought I needed her to help me cross the street. “Really miss, there aren’t any cars, and I think I can make it without an orange flag.”
  • A guy skateboarding with a basketball who, when he got closer, actually turned out to be girl. I’ve found that I’m a very poor judge of gender from a distance. The guys who ‘frighten’ me as I approach them usually end up being friendly, smiling girls. I laugh at myself when this happens and think about the irony of stereotypes and perspective.
  • The mother pulling her son in a wagon, who looked down at her child and then asked me if I wanted something to carry with me. “Did you really just ask me to take your two-year-old and run off with him?”
  • A sign in someone’s driveway the day after St. Patrick’s that read: “Parking for Irish grandma’s only: all others will be towed.”
  • The guy who thought it would be a good idea to hang out in the center turn lane and try to get my number from his rolled down window. “Do you really that’s a great way to pick up a girl, really?” I decided that next time this happens I will yell back that he can have my home number; that I’m sure my “husband” would love to get a call from him. Seriously, guys like this don’t know even know if I’m really single. Do they even think about these things?
  • Seeing a population sign that read 2,240 and picturing and family that is new to town writing the number of people in their family over the zero. I see embarrassed teenagers in the back seat of the car.
  • The guy sitting in the passenger seat of a parked car, talking on his cell phone. I can think of many explanations for this and they all have a humorous angle. I thought my mother was the only one who did things like that.
  • Seeing the same Asian man with the same fluffy white dog three days in a row, at completely different times of day. “Really sir, I promise I’m not stocking you. Or, is it you that’s stocking me?”
  • The guy with dreadlocks who undoubtedly thought I was checking him out. I wasn’t, I promise—I had to take a second look because he looked like someone I used to know… He also had a hippie van, which was awesome.
  • The beat-up, patchy truck I pass every day. Now, that thing has a story.
  • Numerous individuals allowing their cars to sit and idle to defrost, rather than simply scraping the ice off with an ice scraper. This is really not funny at all but definitely ironic.
  • The house that smells like rotten eggs every single morning. “Well kids, guess what’s for breakfast today?”
  • The van parked in someone’s driveway, literally full of phonebooks. Neighborhood gossip is made of things like this…

    My challenge to you today is look at the world through different eyes. Find something paradoxical, ironic, or ordinarily absurd.

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Written by liferenewed

March 29, 2009 at 12:15 am

Posted in Humor, Life lessons, Running

Learning from Lars

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I want to give a shout out for Lars and the Real Girl, an unusual but very sweet and endearing movie about the need for community, physical touch, and true, compassionate love. It’s also peppered with a bit of Napoleon Dynamite-style humor, though not to the extreme. Don’t be scared away by the basic description: Lars orders a life-size doll and is convinced that she is his real, live girlfriend. Strange? Yes. Raunchy? Absolutely not. For a plot that has potential to go south fast, Lars and the Real Girl keeps it clean and honest. It’s all part of the movie’s commentary on true, authentic love. I think we can all relate to Lars on some levels, and we can all learn from him and his rather unusual ‘girlfriend,’ Bianca.

Lars loves people.
He just has a funny way of showing it. We see this from the very opening scene when he gives his sister-in-law, Karen, his blanket to keep her warm on the short walk home. He’s afraid of interaction with people, but that does not mean he doesn’t love them. Karen doesn’t understand him and thinks she has something against her, but over the course of the movie, she learns that love does not look the same to everyone.

Physical touch hurts Lars. He equates it to the burning sensation you feel when you’ve been outside in the cold and come back in where it’s warm. He wears layers to help protect him from the pain of physical touch. Lars’ strange ‘condition’ is a commentary on the pain involved in love. By locking himself in his own world he has indeed become ‘cold,’ and as he begins to interact with others, he is stripping off some of his layers and beginning to expose himself. If we are to love authentically, we will have to do the same, and chances are, it just might hurt.

Bianca used to be a missionary. Lars says she is on sabbatical to experience the world, but what he does not realize is that she is still a missionary, actually helping him to experience the world. Bianca brings a message of love both to Lars and to his entire community. She gives Lars the confidence he lacks to begin to interact with his family and his friends from work. And she helps the community — especially Karen and Gus — understand that loving someone means accepting them as they are, and not trying to change them. At the end, the pastor calls her a ‘teacher,’ and a ‘lesson in courage,’ and he is right, because true love, the kind that Lars, Gus, and Karen all learn about, takes an incredible amount of courage.

Lars love for Bianca is genuine. He does not use her, as one might expect a man would use an attractive, life-size doll. In fact, Lars never touches Bianca romantically, save a sweet and simple kiss near the end. To Lars, commitment supersedes anything physical in a relationship. He knows that Bianca is committed to him, and that’s enough. Even when Bianca is unsure about his marriage proposal, he stands by the belief that “a man doesn’t cheat on his woman.” Some of the most endearing scenes are when Lars waits nervously at Bianca’s weekly doctor appointments, when he sings to her at the lake, and when he reads aloud to her. Lars gives of his time and affection out of genuine love, not a desire to get something in return.

Sometimes it’s just about having the presence of another person. In the words of the women from the community, “that’s what people do in times of crisis. They come over and sit.”

Gus tells Lars that you know you are grown up when you decide to do what’s right for everyone else, even if it is not what you want. Ironically, I think that Gus learns this more than anyone. He has to overcome his embarrassment to do what’s right and love his brother unconditionally. And we know that Lars has learned this at the end of the movie when he finally lets Bianca go. He has discovered the hardest thing about love: sometimes it means that we sacrifice that which is most dear to us. I think that Lars sacrifices Bianca because he has grown up, in Gus’ definition of the term. Lars realizes that, while love involves sacrifice, it also does not demand it of others. He cannot show genuine love to those who love him as long as Bianca is in the way and so, he gives her up.

Written by liferenewed

February 5, 2009 at 12:32 am