Finding Funny at 47

by Karen Amster-Young

This is a guest post by Linda Orton. Linda is a mommy, an optimist, a storyteller, comedian, and a serial entrepreneur. Currently owner of Intelligent Video Solutions, Intelligent Entertainment, and Vid4Pro, LLC, she works across the US helping major firms and corporations tell their stories. She is completing her first book, “Life is Hysterical. We love Linda’s honesty about her so many “firsts” and we’re happy she wanted to share her story with “52”. The fact that she is doing stand-up for the first time in her 40’s rocks. She lives in Westchester, NY with her two children.

Discovering humor and vibrators around the same time could have made for a challenging situation; I could have been like the caged monkeys in the experiment and never left my bedroom but alas, I had my children to care for and two companies to run.– Linda Orton

I have always been defined by my intelligence. It was what mattered most to my mother; it was what influenced my choices in work, in friends, in a husband and in my parenting. My focus on being smart and seeking smart got in the way of so many other more important things like compassion and fun. But then, life happened and an amazing shift occurred: being smart gave way to being funny and emotional.

The last few years have turned my safe bastion of cerebral focus into one wild ride full of emotions, instinct and creativity. I didn’t realize outside factors – seemingly so disconnected from one another — would have such an impact on me. Perhaps I was simply ready: tragedy and hardship had paved the path for humor and optimism.

My starter marriage of 20 years officially ended on November 28, 2012. It had unofficially ended at least 5 years earlier, but my ex moved out on Memorial Day of 2010. Two weeks later he said he had something important to tell me and I should sit down. I said, “I don’t need to sit down. I know exactly what you are going to tell me. She’s Asian, she’s a black belt and she’s in her twenties.” He looked at me and said, “You think you’re so bloody smart, (long pause) she’s thirty-two.”  I was right about the other two things though and so the very harsh reality that our marriage was not only over, but he had moved on, quickly set in.

The following Memorial Day of 2011, my mother passed away. She and I had shared a tumultuous relationship for most of my life. I met her death with a sense of peace and gratitude and her funeral service was my first attempt at stand-up comedy – as strange as that sounds. She had led a sad and unfulfilled life — driven by alcohol and sarcasm; we rarely shared the mother-daughter bond that many have. She met my children only 4 times before she died. One time a year — starting when they were 3 and 6 — we got together. I carefully recorded and preserved these times for my kids to look back on one day if they choose.

Once my mother died and my ex-husband moved out, I had an epiphany that gave me great joy. I was funny. In fact I was hysterical, not just to myself, but to others as well. It was instantly clear: I simply had the wrong audience most of my life. This small fact, but major realization, was more liberating than anything that had come before.

Once I realized that I could use my brain for humor as well as for deep discussion, an entire world opened up. It’s not that I was dry and boring before…more that I just didn’t allow myself to experience or create humor even though I enjoyed it immensely. It was about finding the funny inside of me and letting it out. Around the same time I also discovered sex toys.

I never had discussed this subject with anyone and was much too dependent on third parties to make myself feel good. For someone so smart in certain ways, I was incredibly limited in others. Discovering humor and vibrators around the same time could have made for a challenging situation; I could have been liked the caged monkeys in the experiment and never left my bedroom but alas, I had my children to care for and two companies to run. Everything in moderation became my mantra.

I also was given a guardian angel in the form of a Verizon sales guy. Totally unlike everything I grew up coveting, he was street smart, cocky and a non-stop talker. He was tough and shy and in a bizarre twist of fate, we became friends, really good friends within the confines of his Verizon store located in my suburb of Westchester, New York. We talked about photography and religion, about my divorce, and my son with special needs; we talked about his failed relationship and about life and death. I fell in love with him and we communicated through email even after the owners closed the store and he moved on to a new job, in a new town.

He was there for it all and supported me through all my creative pursuits, my divorce, my mother’s death, my work and my challenges with my kids. He always seemed to contact me when I needed him the most.  After almost a year, he finally agreed to have dinner with me.  We covered every possible topic in one night at my house. We talked about my taste in art and he was the first one to shed light on why trees were always prominently featured in the art in every room of my home. He said they provided me with the roots I longed for. I listened to him and tried to provide the forgiveness he sought for actions he had taken in his youth. We talked about things I had never spoken about with anyone.

When he left my home, the gates at my complex wouldn’t open for some reason. He texted me and said it was a sign; that I was trying to lock him in. I said I’d come to let him out and I saw his bright blue eyes behind his helmet stare deep into me. Later in the summer, he was killed in an accident. We had never talked again after that night. I believe he came to say hello and goodbye to me in one 6-hour conversation. I served him tomato sauce from a jar and he wrote, “Yea, that really killed me.” Oy, words have such power.

I learned I could love again… I learned I mourned the death of someone I was never physically involved with more deeply than the death of my mother…I learned that you never know what gifts will get dropped into your life and then taken away with no clear reason. I learned that life is so very fragile and I was so very grateful.

I was so angry that my intelligence did not help me identify and fix the problems in my marriage and with my mother. That it did not save my dear friend from dying. I could not think my way out of any of it and so I was left to feel. To feel deeply and profoundly and to move the grey matter so far out of the picture that only nerves were left in my body and my brain.

Once the anger subsided, sometime last year, I realized that the emotions I had were healthy and that my brain was still there; they just were learning to co-exist with the other parts of my being. No longer vying for top seat, intellect and emotion were collaborators, guiding my being to my future funny self. One filled with joy, with happy and sad memories of the past and with incredible hope for the future.



commentLeave a Comment (4)  

categoryPosted: 02/8/13 10:48 AM

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan February 8, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Go Linda! Ain’t no stopping you now!


Carol February 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Thank you SO much for this reading today. I’m finding funny at 50. Amazing.


Allison March 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Great post – filled with emotion and laughter – thanks!!


Karen May 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

Amazing writing/story-telling. Go Linda!!


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