It's Friday night and it's past my bedtime, but I just got off the phone with my friend Tamara and have a second wind. For the second time this week we talked (what a treat!) and we belly laughed. What a gift.
For me a good laugh usually starts with a big wind up, an extended wheezy exhale. Then--just as I never sneeze the same way twice and have a humorous repertoire of ah-choos (ask my students; I give them permission to laugh at my sneezes)--sincere laughter is similarly unpredictable. After the initial gut punch, I either continue with a series of short wheezes while unable to speak (think Deputy Dawg, or was it Mumbly?) or a succession of progressively louder honks. Much to my mother's chagrin, I have never been much of a giggle girl. There is nothing "ladylike" about my laugh but it feels good. It feels even better when it makes someone else laugh, when someone else feels better too.
I laugh the same way with my friends Deanna (whose eyes always tear), and Jill, and Amy (ditto on the tears, especially when she's holding it in, say... at a faculty meeting). Every time I see Jodi (who turns purple when she gets going) and Mandy, we belly laugh. And nearly every day, as we eat our 20 minute lunch, my friends and I in the science department have a good laugh. I know that's not unique. I'm sure you all laugh with your friends, too. In fact, I believe laughter is the universal language of friendship. It is also a main ingredient in my family get-togethers. Served right alongside plates of meat and bowls of potatoes, but requires no prep or cooking, is a big platter of laughs.
It's one thing to keep one's sense of humor, and another to be able to laugh at oneself, if only on the inside. But when you can laugh out loud--at yourself or something else entirely--in the company of others is truly a gift, especially when the circumstances are difficult and there's something hanging in the air that is the furthest thing from funny.
86 the kapusta. Bring on the laughs.
Several months ago my cousin Donna was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. As she battled this monster of a disease with strength and grace, I cried. The first months I cried every day, at least once a day. I couldn't mention her name without welling up. Yet every time I spoke to her, I laughed. Because she laughed. Before or after reports and medical updates, sometimes about them, we laughed. I laughed with Donna, and with my cousin Debbie (her sister). I laughed with Liz, my sister. And this summer Donna, Liz, and their daughters and I laughed together on vacation. As Donna responded remarkably well-- miraculously even--to chemotherapy, we all sighed relief and we all kept laughing, as we have since we were kids. Laughing is how we know, how best we know, to love each other...
I heard somewhere that laughter is a sign of being close to God. Makes perfect sense to me--letting go, feeling joy even when there's grief. Feeling joy period.
So next week when I get together with Donna for dinner, I think I'll ask for a table for three.