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The holiday of Purim celebrates the overcoming of Haman’s plot to exterminate the Jews - a pretty serious and scary scenario. And yet, there is an inherent silliness in the celebration of Purim. We dress up in costumes, we intentionally shout out and interrupt the reader of the megillah, and we overindulge in candy, sweets, and wine. We invert the frightful reality of the Jews as the target of an evil plot and find our humor.
The definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter haven’t been done yet. However, there is a tremendous amount of research that suggests that humor and a good attitude do impact the healing process. Some studies have shown that laughter affects the way our bodies function and we do change physiologically when we laugh. There is also some research that suggests that laughter improves mental functions such as alertness, memory, and creativity. It can also ease anxiety and fear, relieve stress, improve our moods, and enhance resilience and acceptance.
I feel encouraged and inspired that many women calling Sharsheret have found humor as a coping strategy when navigating the very frightening world of cancer. One woman shared the following humorous anecdote:
“Someone told me that the best way to achieve inner peace was to finish things I had started. Today I finished two bags of potato chips, a lemon pie, a fifth of Jack Daniels, and a small box of chocolate candy. I feel better already.”
Laughter is a natural intervention that can be accessed any time. It doesn’t cost anything. There is no need to haggle with insurance companies for coverage. Laughter relies on the natural physiological process to help you manage the emotional side effects of living with cancer. My wish for all of you is that you find humor, and that in turn, that humor will help you tolerate the difficulties, overcome the unexpected, and free your spirit. Happy Purim!
There is proper decorum when entering the sanctuary of a synagogue or temple. We are expected to sit quietly and the Rabbi may even suspend the service until all congregants remain silent.
This is definitely not the case on Purim. On this day, we enter the sanctuary dressed in costume and we are permitted - actually, expected - to raise our voices and drown out the reader of the Megillah (Story of Esther). We bring noise makers, drums, and stamp our feet to drown out the name of Haman, a man who sought to destroy the Jewish people. The commotion of this service culminates in joy and celebration.
Often, women calling Sharsheret feel very emotional. It is sometimes difficult to speak through the fear, anxiety, or the crying. Inevitably, women apologize for their display of emotion. Is there a proper decorum when facing cancer? Is there an expectation that women should always remain calm when discussing their situation?
We learn from the holiday of Purim that displaying emotion when our well-being or survivorship is threatened is part of the journey. It’s healthy to let loose once in a while. When overwhelmed with emotion, your instinct may be to stop yourself from feeling. Instead, embrace the emotions. You may find yourself in a place stronger than that from which you started. So ladies, bring out your noise makers, stamp your feet, cry out loud, and when you have finished, find the joy.
© 2014 Sharsheret: Your Jewish Community Facing Breast Cancer
Sharsheret is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization ID# 13-4198529
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