This is a picture of my daughter making me laugh like crazy during an absolutely horrible time in my life. In every situation and in every circumstance, laughter is my first and favorite reaction. Whether it’s appropriate or not, even when it makes me seem flippant or maniacal, I always laugh. In good times and in bad, when I’m ecstatic, nervous, excited, shocked, thrilled, anxious, distraught or just about any other emotion, laughing about the situation is what calms and centers me. The wrinkles and fine lines surrounding my eyes are proof positive that my face has spent countless hours scrunched up in hysterical laughter!
When I was a freshman in high school we got the news that I needed spinal fusion surgery or I’d likely end up in a wheelchair because of my scoliosis. We had no health insurance and no possible way to pay for the $100,000+ operation and driving home from receiving that news, my mom and I stopped for breakfast. As we sat somberly picking at our blueberry blintzes, my mom’s face lit up and she all but shouted, “I’VE GOT IT! We’ll dress you up real pathetic looking and take pictures of you, then tape them to the front of some jars and put the jars in every grocery and convenience store in town! We’ll beg for donations! Oooh, then we can get a little red wagon and I can pull you all over town, door to door, and ask for donations that way, too! You’ll have to look really sad and awful though, like Quasimodo. What do you think?” I nearly spit my breakfast across the table. The two of us roared with laughter, causing a minor scene in the middle of the IHOP. Tears streamed down our faces both from the devastating news we’d just received and from the ridiculous solution my mom came up with. Laughter through tears helped relieve the tension and paralyzing fear of what we were facing and allowed us a moment of brevity. It was exactly what we needed.
After the surgery, I had to go back to school wearing a super unflattering back brace and as I walked through the halls the other kids liked to knock on my fiberglass shell as I passed by. I got tons of looks and comments about it and as a chubby, self-conscious 14 year old I wanted to melt into the ground and disappear completely. But since that wasn’t an option I decided to join in on the joke instead. I laughed along and shared the ridiculousness of the situation with them. It’s a whole lot harder to make fun of someone when they’re already doing it themselves! I got really creative when it came to my gigantic scar, too. I made up all kinds of stories about how I’d gotten it: plastic surgery to make me taller, stabbed in a mugging, even once told a girl I was in a gang fight. I cracked myself right up!
When I found out I was pregnant as a senior in high school, my first reaction was to laugh uncontrollably. Totally inappropriate for the situation because it wasn’t funny whatsoever but I couldn’t help it, that’s just my natural instinct. And a couple of years later when my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, after viewing her MRI results showing large masses on her spine and her brain, I did what I always do – I made her laugh. As we laid in her bed that night and talked, freaking out about what laid ahead for her with this disease, I started singing a sweet little ditty I was making up as I went. “Spots in your head, spots in your head! Everybody knows you’ve got those spots in your head!” I can’t remember the rest of the nonsensical lyrics I made up that night, but I do recall the two of us once again laughing and laughing until our sides and faces hurt.
The bottom line is that no matter what the situation, whether it’s rational or appropriate or not, I always default to laughter. In good times it enhances the happiness I’m already feeling and in hard times it reminds me that nothing is as calamitous or insurmountable as it feels. Laughing at yourself makes it almost impossible for others to others to find pleasure in mocking you and it keeps you from taking yourself too seriously. Life can be difficult and we have no control over what obstacles we’ll encounter so when they pop up, I always choose to find the joy and humor anywhere I can. No matter what’s going on in my life, you’ll always find me making jokes and giggling like the dorky little weirdo that I am. And that’s just the way I want it.
Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. Image taken by Kathy Larson.