I was recently offered the writing prompt, “I smile when I…?” and (perhaps ironically) just reading it made me smile. Only moments before, I’d been deeply committed to the grumpiest of grumpy states, so I quickly thanked the inquiring minds for the gift of that smile. Admitting I was so easily disarmed, naturally, made me chuckle. This let my grumpiness slip further away, and then, I giggled. The giggle startled the cat who was asleep nearby, which made me laugh out loud. It seems that smiling is something of a gateway drug, a slippery slope of goodness, that can make even my worst days suck way less.
On particularly troubling days, I’ve been known to reclaim my joy by seeing how many points I can get for making other people laugh. I get bonus points for those who spew their morning tea, and a belly laugh from my wife earns me double points, because she is much more of a chuckling-softly-to-my-self kind of person. I keep score on the Belly Tally, and it is serious recreation for me. Even the most off-the-rails day can be made right by a high Belly Tally score.
I love to make other people laugh, most certainly because I love to laugh. Laughter is like meditating, writing, knitting, or taking pictures. It feeds my soul and keeps me sane. Laughter means the world to me.
Laughter is the life jacket that keeps me from drowning as I move through the rivers of grief that occasionally appear in my journey. There were times when my heart was broken. People I’ve loved have died. Some losses ached for a while, while others hurled me into the violent rapids of sadness and longing. As I gathered with family or friends to remember the loved ones, I would wrap myself in the stories about their life. Yes, there are always tears, but the laughter was enough to keep me afloat.
Many moons ago, a baby died in my belly. I was… devastated, to say the least, overcome by the loss of a life that I’d carried for only a few months. I nearly drowned in the grief, falling head first into the loss, too stunned to resist the gravity that pulled me below. I surrendered, completely, preferring to not come up for air, but I just kept living. And strangely, there it was to rescue me again.
Laughter came for me, awkwardly at first, lifting me to the surface, forcing me to take a breath. At first, just one laugh, but then another and another. One day, I noticed land in the distance, and eventually I thought that it might be nice to be on the other side. Finally, one particularly dramatic wave of emotion came for me and when it had passed, I was up on the shore.
Sometimes, I go back to dip my toes in the water. Sometimes, I need to remember. I might even wade around for a while, but the grief no longer consumes me. Laughter held me and healed me. It carried me through that hell.
Laughter is everything.
And it isn’t just for grief. Laughter builds community, solves problems, disarms hostility, cultivates peace, spreads joy, and a million other beautiful things.
Laughter helps people fall and stay in love. I met Kristin, the woman who is now my wife, on one of the hardest, most gut-wrenching days of my entire life. She didn’t just make me laugh. She made me laugh on a day when I hadn’t even had the emotional capacity to shower. She made me laugh, loudly. So loudly, in fact, that her coworkers later marveled about what might have gotten into me. It was over. I was sold. She was for me.
That was five and a half years ago, and I don’t think that a day has passed without my laughter bouncing off the walls of our home. I’ve lost countless hours of sleep and, on occasion, nearly driven my car off the road, because she made me laugh. I’ve often laughed so hard that tears fell down my face and my belly ached. I have laughed so much that I begged her to stop but the truth is, I never, ever want this to stop. Luckily, it doesn’t have to. We vowed about it.