Serenity Now!

Written on by Kathryn Lerro

When times are hard, laughter is—as the old saying goes—the best medicine.

I can always count on the Seinfeld show to make me laugh. If I come across an episode while I’m channel surfing, I can’t help but watch it to the end.

Some of the Seinfeld episodes I find the funniest are the ones that feature the late Jerry Stiller as Frank Costanza. Frank is loud, often obnoxious, and is always coming up with off-the-wall schemes: including ideas for new businesses, new holidays, bizarre inventions, clothing designs, etc. He’s a hot-head, given to unexpected outbursts—which are always hilarious.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a storyline in which Frank’s doctor gives him a relaxation cassette to help him get his high blood pressure under control. When he’s feeling stressed, instead of losing his temper, he’s supposed to calmly say the words, “Serenity now.” But, because Frank never just calmly says anything, instead he dramatically throws his hands in the air and angrily yells, “Serenity Now!”

As the story plays out, Frank again-and-again throws his hands up and yells this phrase. It makes me laugh every time. Frank also gets other characters to try this calming technique, with very funny results. In the end, it becomes clear this strategy hasn’t really worked for anyone. It has just delayed their inevitable emotional melt-downs.

Oddly enough, it’s been working better for me.

The stresses of the past year have been testing my limits. Trying to remain peaceful in the face of viruses and masks and elections and riots and so many other difficulties has taken everything I’ve got. But lately, when frustrating things have happened, Jerry Stiller’s comical face has popped into my brain and I’ve heard his loud, shrill voice yelling, “Serenity Now!”

When this happens, I find myself smiling ever so slightly. I find myself coping just a little bit better.

Like on Election Day when Bill and I were directed to a particular line at our polling place. We got in that line at 6:45 AM, waited for 40 minutes—only to learn that was actually not the line we needed to be in. The line we had to switch to now reached the end of the block. . . .

Serenity Now!

Or the day I patiently waited for a neighbor to unload her groceries and move her car so I could proceed up our one-way street and get to the empty parking spot right in front of my house. I was looking forward to taking my time unloading my own groceries. Then, just before my neighbor moved, someone drove in reverse from the other end of the street and took my perfect parking spot. . . .

Serenity Now!

Or a few weeks ago, when a loud POP was heard coming from the back of my car. This was followed by the sound of small pieces of glass falling. Much to my surprise, the spring-loaded cargo cover had broken free of its supports and launched itself against one of the windows, shattering it. . . .  

Serenity Now! 

Or a few days before Christmas, when noxious fumes* filled our house, coming from the rowhome next door which shares a wall with ours. The construction crew that is rehabbing the house had already left and we had no way to reach them, and no way of knowing exactly what we were breathing. The fire department came out to investigate and said we should vacate until the air cleared (which ended up being 24 hours later!).

Serenity Now! 

Why is it that Jerry Stiller’s face and voice are visiting my brain when I most need them to?

I think it’s because I asked God to help me cope with the mountain of stress 2020 has delivered. I think these little comedy breaks are a gift from Him . . . the answer to my prayer.

Or maybe it’s just my subconscious coming to the rescue.

Either way, I’m enjoying a little more serenity in my here and now. And I’m very thankful, because in a period of intense challenges that seems to be unending, every little bit of serenity (and laughter) helps.

I wish you a very Happy New Year: May 2021 bring you only the best kind of surprises.

Photo via Pikist

*The fumes were from oil-based primer, applied generously onto porous, old, basement beams.

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