Guy Giard with the real Dr ‘Patch’ Adams in Moscow, Russia
There were many tools that led me from the darkness of despair towards the light of love. Humor was the one to make the difference!
There were the visual arts as I became a recognized professional with solo exhibitions of my installations. There was music as I composed, improvised and performed on multiple stages. And then there was the intimate journal as I burnt the midnight oil writing in smoked filled cafes. Whatever was stuck inside me was looking for a way out. It finally took humor to breach my walls.
Humor had always been present in my life, mostly in the shape of a rectangular box sitting in our living room. Mom might have had a sense of humor, but with my two brothers always at each others throats she didn’t have any respite. There was no support also from my absent father who’s life was devoted to work. The peacemaker in our home became the humorous TV shows she would put on during meal time. My favorites were ‘I love Lucy’, ‘My favorite martian’, ‘My mother the car’, ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ and so on. Fonzie on ‘Happy Days’ was my rebellious protective Big Brother.
I needed a Big Brother for protection as I had been sexually molested in my youth. Sadly it was at the hands of a sixteen year old cousin living with us. I was only three at the time. My mother had welcome her into our household to help out with the chores. She abused of her authority and became a destructive force. Three months after her arrival she was caught fondling me and was immediately kicked out. The damage was done. My barely nascent sense of self had been violated.
“I concluded that it was my fault. I was bad, dirty, shameful and I was to blame.”
I concluded that it was my fault. I was bad, dirty, shameful and I was to blame. These feelings became so unbearable that I had to build unbreachable walls to safeguard my most inner self, what I came to call my ‘pilot flame’. The second thing I learned was that I had no outer walls to defend myself. Over the following years I became an easy target as pedophiles preyed down on me in parks, at church and at summer camp.
Back home we needed to escape evermore reality and live in a world of fantasy. My brothers and I became avid comic book collectors. Super heroes were off saving the world and they didn’t have any family to contend with. Our basement walls started shaking to the screams of Black Sabbath and the blasting soul searching songs of Pink Floyd and King Crimson. Drugs and alcohol were introduced as each of us were searching for ways to numb our pains. My brothers chose revolt, and I chose to become assimilated. I would try to second guess the needs of others and be what they needed of me. I was forever the nice quiet guy.
I was forever the nice quiet guy
As life went on we graduated to more mature comedies such as ‘Mary Tyler Moore’, ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘All in the family’. Fonzie transformed into Archie Bunker, the rebel gained weight and exchanged his motorcycle for an old abused armchair. His revolution was now beer in hand throwing invectives at an uncaring world. Even Spiderman had family problems with teenage angst and guilt. Humor had spoiled into sour cynicism. As any drug addicts we needed to up our dose and found salvation in the absurd British antics of Monty Python. Their deadpan surrealist humor, combined with Heavy Metal and Punk music gave me the resilience to fight back suicidal thoughts.
For more than thirty years humor, music and writing kept me alive. They helped me face countless failed relationships, divorce, living penniless, homelessness and sleep apnea as I became overweight. And then in 2012 my father passed away. The successful resilient life I had built for myself started to fall apart. The foundations of my inner walls were shaking as my “pilot flame” wavered but I wasn’t heeding the call. I was so unaware of my imprisonment that life had to knock me over. Unexpected problems arose resulting in ever increasing stress at home and work. The nice quiet guy couldn’t assimilate any longer. I left my job and faced an uncertain future. An overwhelming sense of doom slowly creeped in as I barely slept at night. This went on for months, until, I remembered having read of people getting together for a laugh. I had never looked into it, and felt this was now the right time to try. What happened next was a total turn around.
I was so overtaken by my first laughter session that I decided right there and then to become a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader. A few months later, certificate in hand, I joined the first Laughter Yoga Conference in Canada. Suddenly I was surrounded by dozens of happy people who’s only desire was to bring joy. I had never known such a positive environment and felt for the first time a desire of belonging to a family. My outlook at life opened up.
Ever wanting to add even more humor in my life I enrolled for a week long clowning workshop. On the final day I decided to take my guard down. I let go of my fears. People laughed as I truly played with my feelings. It was a first taste of freedom. My pilot light was finally shinning through. I felt a tear of release at the corner of my eye.
Months later I joined Dr «Patch» Adams on a first humanitarian trip in Guatemala. I was so far out of my comfort zone I broke down crying as we went out to our first orphanage. There was no turning back. I opened up to the clown sitting beside me and she compassionately listened to my fears. I was finally connecting with another human. As we arrived and stepped out of the bus, my eyes locked with one of the children. All my fears vanished as I became a servant to him. I felt the pure pleasure of bringing joy and happiness, and I would soon discover something unexpected. Something that had eluded me all my life: LOVE. Clowning is about love and connection.
Clowning is about love and connection
Monty Python’s absurd humor gave me the resilience to overcome adversities in daily life, but it took the open childlike innocence of clowning to finally breach my wall. A clown can face the most horrific situations, victims of war torn countries, refugees or diseases and bring solace and connection. As I continued my humanitarian trips in India and Russia my heart opened more and more. I found room in my heart to forgive all that was done to me. I found faith in humanity.
This is how humor saved my life. It brought me the safety to finally let my inner walls down.
Since I was a child I pained at all the suffering injustices of this world. I couldn’t cope with all the inhumanity I witnessed and I even felt ashamed of dreaming of a better world. I am far from perfect or healed, but today I have chosen to set ablaze my inner light and devote the rest of my life to one thing: Becoming a messenger of love and peace.
If telling my story can offer a beacon of hope to those who are locked away behind dark walls of protection, then I feel I have started to accomplish my task.
Peace be with you.
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