When was the last time you had a really good, hard, deep, long, belly laugh? Seriously, is there anything better than humor? Laughter can lift your spirits so quickly, and make the darkest night seem brighter. Just recently, Sarah and I made a video for The Torch. We were having some fun with a song that was stuck in our heads, and decided to throw that into the video, which we found hilariously funny. After a pretty difficult autumn, it was a relief to laugh so hard and boisterously. It had been a long time since I found much humor in anything.
I was thinking about that video today, and realized just how far I have come. There was a time in my life when I could not, would not laugh at myself. Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed humor and love a good comedy, but laughing at myself was nearly impossible. I carefully articulated and planned everything I did, to try to avoid any embarrassing mistakes or unintended humorous slip-ups. I certainly would not sing a silly song for no reason other than I just felt like it. That was when my life was guided more by what other people thought of me than by my ability to allow myself to be a human being. I had an image in my head I wanted to uphold, and silliness would ruin my credibility. Or so I thought.
I really was keeping myself in a kind of bondage, and I am thankful to Sarah for helping me break out of it. She and I have been friends for about six years now. It’s kindof a funny odd-couple friendship, but it has worked out well. We both share a passion for helping others, and a certain fearlessness when it comes to leaping into the unknown. Since I have known her, she has been the kind of person who sings on a video if she wants to sing, or dances if she wants to dance, or speaks passionately if she feels passionate. Basically, she is who she is no matter what we are trying to do. She has commented to me, more than once, that she thinks people have only a partial image of me - that they see me as being serious and thinking all the time, when, in reality, I do have a well-developed sense of humor and enjoy having fun. She has wanted me to lighten up - and has helped me see that it really is okay to relax and be me. Hence, the Christmas video. But that Christmas video is about so much more to me - because it is another step of freedom, which brings me great joy.
And, it makes me laugh. Laughter is healthy and good for you! Did you know there is even a therapy called “laughter therapy”? In the 1970s, a man named Norman Cousins became the modern father of laughter therapy. What did he do? After receiving news he was suffering from a terminal illness for which there was no cure, he checked himself into a hotel and overdosed on - laughter. In his book, Anatomy of an Illness as Described by the Patient, he notes that after a time of deep belly laughs, his pain was eased enough so that he could sleep. Eventually, as he chronicles in his book, laughter healed him of the illness!
Once, as a girl, I read an old book of true-life funny stories my mom had. One particular chapter sticks out in my mind. It was about a wealthy, elderly man who was on his death bed. He called his family around, and, as they stood at his bedside, he made the announcement that he had decided not to leave his inheritance to any of them - instead, it would go to a charity. The way the expressions on their faces changed at his proclamation brought forth a burst of laughter from him - and it actually brought him back to good health.
Life is funny. It can be hard, but it is funny, as well, and we need to laugh. Over this past year, Sarah and I have faced some crazy, impossible problems and near-disasters as we learned how to work a food truck. Often, the situations we dealt with were frustrating enough to make us cry - and we quickly learned to find the humor in whatever happened. Sometimes, the best thing to do is laugh and start over. Laughing at those situations has provided a great relief of tension, and they have seemed so much less tragic when we looked for the humor in them.
Every day, take time to laugh! And don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.