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What doesn’t kill you makes you funnier

Abby L.Recently, I realized a major occurrence: I’m still alive, which in a sense is quite a miracle.

Since I survived many emotional breakdowns, physical crash-downs, natural disasters as well as personal (and family-related) major health problems, I consider myself a lucky person (I thought of another word in this place, but changed my mind due to the fact that coarse language might not be the best choice for a G-rated article).

What prompted me to write the following story has its origins in my recent re-evaluation process that started on the day I turned 40. That number didn’t seem frightening a few digits before, yet, in reality, it turned out to be the scariest thing since Scary movie No 5. It literally terrified the socks off me when I discovered that life could be an ultra tricky thing, putting you through tests that you never even thought possible (and surely didn’t think yourself capable of surviving, at least in your mind).

There was the Berlin Wall falling when I was residing as a foreign student in former West Germany (well, it didn’t fall on my head, so that’s alright). There was the flooding when I was studying for my master’s degree. I helped after hours by putting sand bags around the endangered areas to prevent gushing (as a result we started to drink bottled water instead of tap, so that’s not all too bad). There was certainly the hailstorm in Sydney, Australia, with droplets the size of golf balls while I was writing my Ph.D. thesis as the roof crashed down (ok, I admit it, that’s quite major, but I managed to escape the storm with only minor injuries, so I guess that’s ok).

Yet, none of those fateful incidences came close to the ultimate test I was to face. The most challenging life lesson came rather unexpectedly in the form of my not-as-fresh-as-a-daisy health issues and my mom’s brain tumor.

I don’t think that anybody is prepared to experience the most challenging time of their lives by watching their loved ones brush with never-ever land. Witnessing the people you love with one foot on the other side (I’ve already lost my father at a very young age, which was quite an unsettling experience) can make the strongest person weep and freak out. While I don’t want to go into details of how I almost lost my mom, I’d like to indicate at this point that it traumatized me for life. Plus, it’s doubly tough when you’re in the middle of menopause at the age of 38, while taking care of young children at the same time.

Funny enough, what I thought would have made me a bitter, disheartened and downright hostile person (again, I will refrain from using a bad word here although I’m quite tempted to do so) made me rediscover laughter. I have to confess it’s a rather curious thing that a dramatic situation can make us catch up on lost-along-the-way humor and make us roll in the aisles again in an unexpected manner.

As Erma Bombeck once said, “Laughter arises from tragedy when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.”

There is no better quote that would sum up my life’s journey at this point.

Owing to tragedy, I began to laugh at myself, the way I view the world and the whole emotional misery thing. And while it didn’t help me fix my heartbreak, it surely helped me see the world differently and make fun of it. It even let me add another language to my resume: I’m fluent in sarcasm now, so that makes it the sixth language I can speak.

And while I can’t say I’m grateful to life for putting me through all of this, I’m definitely thankful for one thing: It made me funny as hell, and it didn’t kill me!

— Abby L.

Abby L. is a former Ph.D. student and lecturer of European studies at the University of McGill, globetrotter and mom of 7, who is blogging at about (you’ve guessed it) midlife crisis, turning 40 and living as an expat in France. She’s contributed to Midlife,, and

Reflections of Erma