“The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter, and the spirit heals with joy.” ~Unknown
Today, I want to give thanks for two of the special God-given gifts I feel grateful to possess: my sense of humor and my sense of optimism.
Every time I’ve tripped and fallen or have been kicked down into the dirt during my life—when I’ve landed on my bottom, or my face, covered in muck, with bruises throbbing and scrapes stinging—I’ve always been able to crack a smile and let out a laugh.
In 2018, I found out that my husband of twelve years, with whom I had created four beautiful little lives, had been having an affair with a co-worker. He had left the family abruptly the year before, with no explanation. But on Valentine’s Day, of all days, the truth was revealed.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of it all. It was like something out of a Lifetime movie, except it was my life, and there were no cameras. Rather than succumb to the sorrow I felt, I chose instead to laugh at how ridiculous every Valentine’s Day would seem from that point on.
A few months ago, I was running late leaving an appointment, in the middle of this snowstorm, and was trying to load kids into my minivan. The side door got stuck, and in an attempt to pull it shut, I pulled the entire door off of the van.
There I was, looking at my nine-year-old daughter, who was looking back at me, getting covered in big fluffy snowflakes, wide-eyed at the site of her mom holding the van door, and I just started to laugh.
It was most likely going to be an expensive fix, and I had no idea how I was going to remedy the situation by myself, but I couldn’t help but laugh, again, at how silly it must have all appeared to someone looking in at the situation.
I tried to get the door back on, if even temporarily, so I could move the van across the street and get the side with the broken door to the sidewalk, rather than out in the travel lane.
I pulled across the street, in front of a local bar, and two of the men who were inside came out and mentioned that the door didn’t look quite right. They proceeded to help me zip-tie the door to the van seats, and we slowly tried to make our way up a slick, snow-covered hill.
Thanks to physics, gravity, and nature, it wasn’t going to happen. So I laughed the entire gentle slide back down the hill. (No one was in danger, as we were the only vehicle on the road at that moment.)
I could have broken down in tears and showed my kids how to fold under pressure. And although I know that sometimes tears are warranted, and it’s totally appropriate to show vulnerability and emotion, at that moment, I chose to laugh. And just keep trying. When I’d fail, I’d simply try something else, while I smiled.
Just last week, as I approached one of the busiest weeks, where I had committed to two public speaking engagements and to work a high-end wedding on the weekend, two of my four kids came down with the stomach flu…because that’s how life works. I laughed, shook my head at the timing of it all, pulled up my bootstraps, loaded up on anti-nausea meds, and went on with life.
The laughter usually comes from a ridiculous thought that flashes across my mind.
A lot of times, that thought is simply how ridiculous a fall must have looked. Or even better, how ridiculous the events that led up to the fall were if you line them up sequentially!
Sometimes what makes me chuckle at it all is simply reciting, out loud, what just took place; a verbal account of the disaster, spoken out loud, can be the thing that inspires not only a shake of the head but also a palm to the face and an exasperated giggle.
I think there are people who look around, see the carnage, and cry…because, I mean, why wouldn’t you?!
But then there are the people, like me, who definitely want to cry at it all (and maybe in the still, small moments, we do) but who default to jokes and laughter.
We do this because laughing not only feels better to us than tears of pain and frustration, but it also helps lessen the impact of the hurt ripples that travel out from us, toward those who would empathize or sympathize with our plight.
The second thing I am grateful for is that I still have a sense of optimism, despite the number of times I have fallen or been pushed.
If you have the knowledge that it could always be worse, that lends itself to the jokes as well.
Sometimes you feel like your situation couldn’t possibly get worse, but your brain knows that there’s always lower to go, so that juxtaposition makes you laugh. And in that realization, there is hope—hope that you won’t go lower; hope that you will be able to get back up and rise above it.
Both those qualities, though, serve as perpetual lifelines that keep us from sinking too deeply in the muck—because it’s hard to sink when you’re surrounded by a thousand buoyant laughs.
I say all of this because I think people often mistake the choice to be positive and hopeful and to laugh with a lack of either emotional depth and grasp of a situation, or a lack of care.
To choose laughter and default to the positive takes tremendous concentration, effort, and care. It’s making a conscious decision to get up, smile, grow, and seek joy again. And when one is surrounded by negativity, it would be so easy to choose bitterness and despair instead.
So, I give a high five to those with a good sense of humor and optimism, and those who choose laughter.
Keep moving forward, with a smile. Even if you end up on your a$$.