Stretching Yourself and Creating Smiles

Clowning Around

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~Neale Walsh

Have you ever thought about doing something way out there—and then done it?

I became intrigued with Patch Adams and his philosophy of medicine and healing after seeing the movie about him, starring Robin Williams.

This came on the heels of my daughter Nava’s miraculous survival and full recovery from a medical crisis that involved a year-long hospitalization. As her mother, I felt a renewed sense of life. Or, as I like to refer to it: I truly felt I had received a second lease on life.

I was clearly looking to do something meaningful in gratitude for my family’s miracle.

I found out that Patch Adams led clowning trips to different countries, visiting hospitals, orphanages, and hospices. This certainly sounded like something exciting and unique, and it connected with my recent experience with hospitals and illness.

It was a real way to give back. Thankfully, it didn’t take much to get my husband on board.

There were two criteria: pay your own way and be silly. No professional clowning experience needed. We were in.

I must admit I was a bit nervous about the silly part. I can be very silly but not in an extroverted way. I’m more of a shy silly.

We started getting revved up by looking at costumes online. I wanted something colorful, as I love colors, and a bright orange M&M struck Alan’s fancy. We were ready.

Clowns have always intrigued me. You can be one person inside and another outside. It’s transformation.

In the airport in Rome, we transformed. We went into the bathroom as ourselves and came out as bright-colored clowns. Suddenly, there was a stream of little followers tagging along as we walked over to the waiting area. And thus it began.

It continued to the squares of Sicily, where we’d pull people in to dance, walk into hospital rooms and greet patients, shoot water guns and bubble guns at doctors and nurses, and quietly tiptoe through hospice units, poking our heads in to see if we were welcome.

All this tested my inhibitions, but I did it all (except balloon making). I must say I was most comfortable sitting and talking to patients. Just walking in wearing a costume put smiles on everyone’s faces. It was truly an awesome experience.

This hasn’t become my new profession, but I have taken some of who I become in costume and incorporated it into my daily life.

For me, being more silly is a plus. I am proud of myself for attempting a completely different role and for doing it. It has given me the courage to try my hand at other new adventures and endeavors.

We now don our costumes and go to my dad’s assisted living facility where we clown for the residents. It takes so little to make the elderly smile. I step out of my comfort zone each time I do this, and boy, is it worth it.

What would you like to do that would be a stretch?

It might be a little less intimidating if you just take one simple step toward it. Don’t think about it as something big and overwhelming. Just start by being a little silly. You might surprise yourself with how easy it is to slip into a new role when you take yourself a little less seriously.

Photo by Jesslee Cuizon

About Harriet Cabelly

Harriet Cabelly, LCSW is a therapist specializing in grief, loss. and critical life situations. She's also a speaker, author, and group leader. Harriet works from the lens of positive psychology and existentialism. She has a private practice seeing clients both in-person and virtually. She is passionate about helping people cope and grow through critical life-changing circumstances. Harriet is the author of Living Well Despite Adversity: Inspiration for Finding Renewed Meaning and Joy in Your Life. Visit her at rebuildlifenow.com.

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