I’ve lived through my fair share of embarrassing moments. I was recently eating dinner with a friend and her family and, upon noticing her mother struggling to break ice cubes out of the tray, I quickly stepped in to help. I firmly grasped both ends of the tray,
twisted it across my knee as I had done countless times before, and became suddenly aware of the instability of frozen plastic. The tray snapped in half, sending a barrage of ice cubes shooting off to the four corners of the earth and leaving me alone in a room full
of hysterical laughter. I stood there dumbly for a moment, half of a shattered ice cube
tray in each hand, watching my friend’s young niece scurry around on her hands and knees, plucking the pieces of ice off the floor and stuffing them one after another into her
cheeks like a starving chipmunk.
This is not to say that embarrassing moments are only a recent addition to my life – oh, no. Picture a sweet, shy, 8-year-old girl at her first piano recital – essentially a nervous wreck in a flowery dress. She walks out onto the stage, sits down before the keys, and realizes the bench is too far back for her to reach the pedals. Jumping to her feet, she grabs the bench and leans over to pull it forward (hoping no one will notice that her legs were too short in the first place) then promptly smashes her forehead onto the keyboard somewhere in the vicinity of middle C. The magnificent chord that results is not at all how she had intended to start the piece, and fortunately the audience understands this, murmuring softly with a mixture of stifled snickers and gasps of concern. Shaking off the sudden urge to burst into tears, the girl (who, as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, is none other than the speaker of this piece) sits down once
again and begins to play.
Needless to say, I’ve learned to laugh at these moments. If I hadn’t, you wouldn’t be hearing about them now. But looking back, I wish I had started laughing sooner. Life is hard enough already, and while I can’t always prevent situations like these from happening, I can decide how to respond to them. This I believe: much of the suffering in life can be prevented by learning a simple lesson: how to laugh at yourself. Granted, it’s sometimes easier to learn than to actually put into practice: the last thing I wanted to do at that piano recital was break into a fit of giggles, but I think both the audience and I would have been more comfortable if I had. After all, once you’ve learned to laugh at yourself, no one will ever be able to laugh at you again – because they’ll all be laughing with you.
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