Welcome to Myself
Hello. I hope you’re having a great day. I sure am. Just this morning I was on my front lawn, sitting cross-legged in my beautiful dress, playing with my adorable children. Scott, my handsome husband, came outside and motioned subtly for me to close my legs.
Me: Oops, was my underwear showing?
Scott: Yes, your underwear, hair, and a pee stain, actually.
Welcome, reader. Welcome to a typical day for me.
I’m a writer, mom, wife, actor, and comedian. I’m also a perpetual student of life. My learning curve seems to be steeper than most people’s, and even though I’m all grown up, I still learn lessons through embarrassing situations on a daily basis. I never thought about putting it all down in a book until a year ago, when my inner muse, the creative voice that inspires my work, went on strike.
Me: Okay, muse, please, please, please help me get started on this sitcom idea!
Inner muse: Uh-uh. I have a surprise for you!
Me: Wow – are we writing a movie?
Me: A play?
IM: Nope. A book. You’re going to write about your life.
Me: A book about my life? But I’ve never slept with an A-list celebrity! Besides, doesn’t writing a book in Canada work out to, like, six cents an hour?
IM: Only if you’re veeeeerrrrry lucky.
Me: Yeah. I think I’ll pass. Time is money, and I need to earn a fast buck so I can hire someone to fix our pipes so our tap water stops smelling like cauliflower.
IM: Book, or nothing.
Me: Argh! Fine. What do I write about?
IM: Your most embarrassing moments.
IM: And your lows.
Me: Why would I ever do that?
IM: So you can share how you learned that laughter got you through those things.
Me: But I don’t laugh through everything. Like, if I lost a foot in a tiger fight, I couldn’t laugh about that. Not for, like, at least a week, probably.
IM: So write about how eventually, with a bit of elbow grease, you overcame obstacles and regained your joie de vivre.
Me: Okay. I guess that’s pretty cool. But I’m going to change the names of people so no one is embarrassed.
IM: Fine, what do I care?
Me: And it’s not an autobiography. I’m not ninety!
IM: No. And you’re no Tori Spelling, either.
Me: Yeah. How did she lose that baby weight so fast?
IM: Tom Cruise said a prayer for her.
IM: No. Are you sure you’re a university graduate?
So here’s the gist of it: I had a Camelot-like upbringing, then adulthood hit. It hit really hard. And I felt unprepared for the blows life dealt me. As a sensitive and self-conscious person, my problems became too big for me. So I changed to suit the times. I became harder. Stronger. Defensive. And at the cost of only one thing: my laugh.
I only noticed it a few years ago. Scott, my husband, and I were kidding around about something, and I was laughing. Scott said, “I love your laugh.” The words hit me like a truck because I couldn’t remember the last time I’d really laughed. My optimism had disappeared somewhere along the way, and I was living protectively, hanging on to anything I could, afraid of what life would take from me next.
I wasn’t poor, starving, or injured. I hadn’t lost a loved one. I didn’t have one big problem, just the regular, day-to-day events that we all encounter. But my hypersensitivity to those events wore me down, and I found myself feeling resentful and wary most of the time. It’s no way to live, and I’d have given anything to get back my youthful naïveté.
I’ve since crawled out of my self-imposed hole. I laugh at life’s oddities instead of waiting for the other roller skate to drop. Sharing my experience was important enough for me to veer away from celebrity-crotch jokes for a year and instead jump into the isolated world of book-writing.
My inner muse and I have had a lot of arguments while trying to get it right. Even agreeing on a title for the book was a struggle:
Me: I Love Your Gas.
Me: Peroxide and Methane: The Jessica Holmes Story.
Me: Katie Holmes: The Jessica Holmes Story.
IM: That doesn’t even make sense.
Me: How to Improve Your Laugh Life.
IM: Puns are so ’80s.
Me: My Auto-Laughography.
IM: Do you have an inner lavatory I can throw up in?
Me: I Love Your Laugh: Finding the Light in My Screwball Life.
IM: Your ideas are all terrible. I’m embarrassed for you.
Me: Um . . . Would you mind forwarding me the resumés of a few other muses?
If I’ve done my job, this book will make you feel validated, happy, and inspired, and only slightly offended. So now, in fifty-five to seventy thousand contractually agreed-upon words, I’ll share my most relevant and ridiculous moments. Here goes everything . . .
Everything’s funny, as long as it’s happening to someone else.– Will Rogers
Change, personal and political, does not come about in a day, nor a year. But it is our day-today decisions, the way in which we testify with our lives to those things in which we say we believe, that empower us. Your power is relative, but it is real.– Audre LordeFrom the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from I Love Your Laugh by Jessica Holmes. Copyright © 2010 by Jessica Holmes. Excerpted by permission of McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.