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41. laugh.

41. Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh.  Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

– Bruce Mau, An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

This picture makes me smile.  It captured a very candid moment of laughter.  I love it.  I’m grateful that my eldest daughter took this photo.

laughter_me_beb

The more freely and more deeply I can laugh determines how vulnerable I can be around people.

Until I read the above Bruce Mau prompt, I didn’t recognize this about myself.  Laughing so hard that my sides hurt and until my eyes are full of those good type of tears is an act of connection.  You normally aren’t alone when you are laughing in that manner.  You tend to be surrounded by company that can’t hold it together for too long while you are losing your mind.

Have you ever had that moment when you thought something was funny but weren’t sure if the person next to you thought so too?  But then one glance at each other led to snickers which led to giggles which led to crying and belly laughing?

A good belly laugh is infectious especially when there is that spark of common ground.  I remember riding in a car with another mama and her daughter.  My dad was driving.  The radio was on and our two little girls began belting out the words to a song that maybe wasn’t appropriate for the girls.  To be honest, they were probably around 5 and 6 years old at the time and didn’t know any better.  My dad looked at me out of the corner of his eye as if to say, “For real?”  I looked at the other mom wondering what to do: should we change the radio station? Perhaps tell the girls this isn’t the best karaoke song for the younger set?  Instead, we tried to hide the smiles and the smirks but ended up busting a gut at the hilarity of our daughters singing about carrying each other home if they feel like falling down.  (Yes, you know what song I’m talking about.)

Finding humour and expressing it through laughter is a form of letting go.  Letting go of propriety and expectation.  Letting go of what other people may think.  Letting go of the heavy and the serious.  Letting go of what is offensive and what is inappropriate and seeing the absurdities of life and the humour in it ALL.  We can step outside for just a little and laugh at ourselves and each other.

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

At this point in my life, I am very grateful that I laugh more.  That wasn’t always the case.  There were periods of time when I never laughed, when I was afraid and anxious.  I’m not sure when this shift was made – this heavy to light – but I feel very blessed that it happened.  Life has become more of a blessing than a burden.  But I don’t think I would appreciate a life of laughter without first experiencing a life without much of it.

I understand the importance of tears and the path of self-discovery that a person can experience through deep introspection and profound sadness. I’ve been there.  In fact, this past year I was an emotional train wreck, bursting into tears thinking about my growing children and the time that is left with them. Today I can find humour in the pain and in the sadness.  I can crack a joke or laugh at my own expense to break free from what’s making me sink so that I can find some buoyancy. I agree with Mr. Vonnegut — laughter provides the springs to bounce back and makes less of a mess.

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.”
― Anne Lamott

I notice a correlation between faith and laughter.  The more faith I have – in God, in the world, in others, in goodness, in life’s natural tendency to work its way out – the more I laugh.  The acceptance that I can’t control everything and that, perhaps for once in my life, I should give optimism a try, has led to a massive increase in days of uncontrollable laughter.  It seems that faith has opened me up to the silly and the ludicrous.

Recently the kids helped plan an event at the art gallery called Makeover Mom and Dad.

Here is the event description:

makeover mom and dad

The kids facilitated the event and began the festivities with my “makeover.”

makeup for mama

They finished their masterpiece with some mardi gras beads and a cowboy hat. And voila!  A Salvador Dali-inspired cowboy. (Or that character from V is for Vendetta) :

A-126492

Photo credit: Steve Jacobs

The fun factor was pretty high that day.  Fancy-dressed grandmas and grandpas let their grandkids turn them into goths and scary clowns.  Parents lay there, relinquishing control, and the kids ran the show.  The laughter was heard throughout the room and then throughout the gallery as the kids paraded us around.  The best part was forgetting you had your face looking like that when you were wandering around appreciating art.  You’d notice the patrons do a double take out of the corner of your eye.  The staring would always turn into a smile and then a chuckle as we passed by.

The kids re-painted my face and gave me a superhero look before we left:

mama superhero

We walked around downtown and eventually went out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant.  At one point, I was walking alone with my new superhero look.  I had no problem making eye contact and smiling with strangers passing by.  More often than not, faces brightened and there was always a smile that was returned.  Or a mutual laugh exchanged.  Faith led me to go out on a limb and it was the undeniable positive power of laughter that strengthened this faith.

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.”
― W.H. Auden

My children and my husband make me laugh. (Sometimes at their own expense, but still.)

When they were little, their giggles were infectious.  We all know that there is nothing like a baby’s belly laugh to brighten up the room.  Now it’s their witty sense of humour.  It’s very us.  We laugh at the strangest things.  There is a sarcastic, dead-pan tone that when delivered with  perfect timing, can bring our house down in roll-on-the floor laughter.  We laugh at our eccentricities while celebrating them.  We laugh at practical jokes. (By the way, did you know that you can change the autocorrect setting to correct any word to something else? I learned that one the hard way.)  We make amends through humour.  We cry until we end up laughing again.  We remember the silly moments just as much as we remember the difficult ones.

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh.  It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” – Audrey Hepburn

Last week I posted this Audrey Hepburn quote on my Facebook feed a few times in the span of a couple of days.  I had laughed until my jaw hurt and was reminded of how important it is to surround yourself with people that make you laugh.  I am fortunate to have family and friends who do this consistently.  Now I choose to find comfort and solace by laughing with people that love me instead of sequestering myself and listening to Air Supply.

People with whom I can feel safe and vulnerable are the people that make me laugh most.  My female friends are some of these people. Women with whom I can sing the worst karaoke ever.  Women with whom I can test Tempur-pedic mattresses at the geriatric department store. Women with whom I can be self-deprecating.  Women who laugh at my angry outbursts.  Women who can laugh with me as we fall down together and as we try to pick ourselves up.

Women who don’t judge my crass mouth and sometimes offensive sense of humour…

Additionally, the little belly Goddess Baubo raises the interesting idea that a little obscenity can help to break a depression. And it is true that certain kinds of laughter, which come from all those stories women tell each other, those women stories that are off-color to the point of being completely tasteless…those stories stir libido.  They rekindle the fire of a woman’s interest in life again. The belly Goddess and the belly laugh are what we are after. – Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves

The effects of laughter on one’s mind, body and soul are underrated. As Estés describes the anatomy of laughing in the quote below, I am reminded of how many times I have caught myself holding my breath, even forgetting to breathe.  Laughing remedies that.

To laugh you have to be able to exhale and take another breath in quick succession.  We know from kinesiology and various other body therapies such as Hakomi, that to take a breath causes one to feel one’s emotions, that when we wish not to feel, we hold our breath instead. – Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves

Laughter has given me more gifts this year than any other year.  It has given me permission to feel alive and to feel like a woman.  It has opened up my borders, those previously closed frontiers, and made me vulnerable.  It has connected me to the world and reminded me that we are all more alike than different. It has lifted my spirits when all the coffee and the chocolate was consumed.  It has healed old wounds and forced me to confront irrational fears.  It has strengthened bonds and created new relationships. It has reignited my new optimistic self by spreading a little more light in this world.

It has also reminded me that I have a very, very, very weak bladder.

***

P.S. Dear friends and family who make me laugh every time we see each other, thank you. I am grateful for the laughs, the giggles, the suppressed snickers at inappropriate times, and the big hearty laughs that make me cry with the snot dripping from my nose. So worth the ugly laugh.

P.P.S. Need a good laugh? Watch this.

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