I guess it had been more than a year that I had been thinking I wasn’t as funny as I used to be. When you make your living with witty observations and entertaining stories, this isn’t an asset you want to lose.
I fretted a bit, thinking that stress and problems were slowing the quick draw of my wit.
"You find something funny about everything," my sister complained one day. "I can tell you the most serious problem and you’ll start grinning then come up with something funny."
She’s right. I specialize in death and serious illness. Normally, I can find a comical upside amid tears and worries.
For instance when Daddy lay dying in a hospital room, the family gathered somber and heavy laden. Daddy got tired of watching us watch him with such sorrowful pity so he stirred the conversation by asking how a friend of mine was doing.
"Well," I said, rolling my eyes. "He’s doing just as he doggone pleases, like he usually does."
Daddy nodded and smiled slightly. "I don’t blame him. If I were worth $20 million, I’d do what I wanted, too."
I swear to you the words came out before I could stop them. "Daddy," I said with a straight face. "If you were worth $20 million, we wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep you alive right now."
There was horrified silence, then Daddy burst forth in laughter. "There you go, kid. You’re exactly right."
So, see, reverence to dire situations has never been one of my strong suits. Still, it seemed that I was getting a bit too maudlin and sentimental over such. I was losing my comic edge. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until Claudette called one day.
I had forwarded her a story about a nonprofit that pairs abandoned, abused children with neglected, abused horses.
"I can’t read this right now," she said. "I’ve been out of my anti-depression medicine for a week and I’m overly emotional. My refills have run out and I haven’t had time to go to the doctor."
Claudette, like others with an exceptional intellect like Churchill and Einstein, suffers a severe chemical imbalance that brings on horrendous, dark depressions. The prescription keeps those dark moods away.
I was seriously concerned. "You can’t quit that stuff cold turkey," I lectured her. "It’s dangerous."
I carried on about how she had to call the doctor first thing the next morning and get the medicine.
"OK, I promise," she said, and moved on to other items of conversation. As we talked, I found myself laughing out loud, uproariously. She was so darn funny. I responded to her humor with an escalated level of wit myself. The funnier she was, the funnier I became.
"Wow, you are so entertaining when you’re not on that medicine," I said.
The next morning, I called to make certain she had called the doctor. She had and was waiting for the refill. Another hilarious conversation ensued. I came alive. I matched her wit for wit. We were comically brilliant, all modesty aside.
Then I realized that my funny bone had been cracked by the medicine she was on.
Claudette, I now know, is my muse. Every creative person has a muse who inspires their work. My muse had been muted.
"You’ve got to go off that medicine," I said suddenly.
"What! You just lectured me differently yesterday."
"Yeah, but the funnier you are, the funnier I am. I need you to be funny."
"Well, thanks for caring so much about the state of my well-being," she shot back.
Alas, she has returned to the medication. But before it kicks in fully and while she’s still funny, I’m writing as fast as I can.
Then, I’ll be auditioning for a new muse. One who is drug-free.