Life: A Guaranteed Hassle


We have all heard the phrase "the only guarantees in life are death and taxes" and we all can probably add to that phrase. I guess one of the best ways of making that addition is to just simply say that "hassles" are a guarantee. The dictionary definition of a "hassle" is "an irritating inconvenience."

Hassles come in many forms and we all have run into them. The appliance that breaks down at the worst possible time. The tire that has gone flat. The check that didn't cash. Having to wait. The IRS being, well...the IRS being the IRS. Bad hair days. Traffic. Weather. Work. That person we all know who just can't not be a pain in the ass. There is no end to the list because there is no end to the hassles. Life IS a hassle.

Years ago I saw a comic strip called "Life is Hell" by a then not very well known cartoonist by the name of Matt Groening, who later went on to create "The Simpsons" cartoon. Matt (who said the best way to remember how to pronounce his last name was that it rhymed with "complaining") had a wonderfully dark and humorous take on those day to day things that make us all a little crazy. His comic strip spawned a series of wonderful comic books: "Work is Hell", "Love is Hell", "School is Hell", "Childhood is Hell", " The Big Book of Hell", and his magnum opus, "The Huge Book of Hell." All of these chronicled the many ways that we are confronted with a seemingly endless supply of hassles. I guess Matt was saying that our hassles can be our own little, personal piece of hell.

Humor is an incredibly powerful survival mechanism. If we can laugh about it, we will make our way through it--whatever it may be. I will always remember the moment, sitting in the oncologist's office with my brother, when the oncologist looked at him and very solemnly said "you have six months to live, maybe less." After the moment of ominous silence that felt like an eternity, my brother turned to me and said, with a wry smile, "at least I won't die of old age." That moment galvanized those next six months, a time that he dedicated to simply enjoying each day, right up to his last day. When the hassles of life confront us, we can turn to humor as our lifeline.

Matt Groening gets it, so do most stand up comics. Why is stand up comedy so popular? Because the comic stands up in front of us and talks about the hassles of life that we all can relate to and uses humor as the tool for not only surviving the hassles, but finding a way to keep things in some sort of perspective that helps us keep our sanity. A Hungarian psychiatrist by the name of Thomas Szaz opined "it is hard to be sane in insane places." Life can feel pretty insane, even on a good day. Laughter can be the best medicine. Always keep a supply of laughter handy and use it whenever needed. And this we know: it will be needed.

Jim Harger, M.Ed., LPC

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay