FIRE AND ICE – ROBERT FROST

By Heart

You’re asked to recite a poem (or song lyrics) from memory — what’s the first one that comes to mind? Does it have a special meaning, or is there another reason it has stayed, intact, in your mind?


From the first time I heard it, this stuck in my memory and has never left. That’s probably more than 40 years. I think the reasons why it stuck should be obvious. If they aren’t, let me suggest you read (among others) Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.” If that doesn’t do it, let me know and I’ll give you a reading list.

75-FireAndIcePoem

YOU MIGHT AS WELL LAUGH

Oh, The Irony

For some of us, irony is just the way it goes. Life is one ironic incident after another. Just when you think you’ve finally got it together, it falls apart. The job that looked like a career maker comes with the boss from Hell and some vital organ fails. Oh well. You might as well laugh. There’s no percentage in tears.


Life in shreds? Out of work? Evicted? Hiding from the repo guy? Other half dump you? Meds not working? Bank threatening to foreclose? Don’t take it personally. It’s just  a little ironic humor by Life, Inc.

Disaster is life’s cute and funny way of pointing out how little control you have over your fate. Don’t cry. No one likes a cry-baby. Smile! That’s it! Go on. No suffering allowed. No one wants to hear your sad story … unless you turn it into a funny story! Then everyone wants to listen.

The first time my world went to pieces, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me. I promptly married a guy so much worse I get dizzy thinking about it 30 years later. When that fell apart (though it lasted longer than it ought because I wouldn’t admit what a horrible mistake I’d made), I staggered — bloody, dazed, and penniless — back to the USA. When I stopped feeling as if I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry which I should done in the first place, except he hadn’t asked. Minor detail.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Misery, mistakes, and disasters are high comedy. Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins.

There’s a fine line between comedy and a tragedy. Mostly, it’s all about the ending. Tragedies end with piles of corpses. Comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s mostly timing.

Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Later, with perspective, they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in both breasts (they were having a two-for-one-special at Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.

And about those fake tits: I own tee shirts that say “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” It’s a killer at parties, the high point of my cancer experience.

Fake breasts

Ironically — there’s that word again — a mere two years later, my heart needed a complete overhaul. The ultimate irony (but luckily, not the final one) because I’d been telling everyone my heart was the only organ that worked properly. Famous last words.

When life goes to Hell in the proverbial hand basket, a lot of people who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion. Is bad luck contagious? But they also look at you with a subtle whiff of satisfaction. They wouldn’t be so rude as to say it aloud, but they are overjoyed it happened to you, not them.

If you are a writer, out of the wreckage may emerge a book — or at least a Freshly Pressed badge from WordPress. It wasn’t for nothing after all.

Personal traumas are collateral damage in our Darwinian battle for survival. No one gets through life unscathed. Just, for some of us, it’s rather more scathing.

Mindful of future tragedy lurking down the road, prepare some clever repartee. You can give it a test drive at the next get-together with your successful pals. Something to look forward to.

As a bonus, you’ll truly appreciate the irony when your friends’ lives go to pieces.

No matter how awful things are, you will stop bleeding and screaming. Eventually. Depression will ebb. The crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic which you will call “normal.”

It’s all in good fun, right?