Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those I love, I can: all of them make me laugh. ~ W.H. Auden, 1907
On a sliding scale of difficulty, my past few weeks have been up there. I say “sliding scale” because, of course, that’s what it is. Our life-struggles are relative – none easier or harder necessarily; they are personal, unique, and connected to our stories, our realities, our awareness, our capacity. All that considered, were the scale from 1 to 10, I’d be at about a 7 or 8. And I’ve also been acutely conscious of how often I laugh.
This is not because I’m so funny (though I’d hope such is true), but because there are people in my life who have fabulous, vibrant, and wicked senses of humor. I love that. I love them.
One of my dearest and oldest friends could have been a stand-up comic. Tears roll down my cheeks when we are together for big enough blocks of time to reminisce about the old days: our happy-hour hopping to avoid paying for dinner, our common haute cuisine of California Coolers (in the 2-liter plastic jug) alongside Sour Cream and Cheddar potato chips, the day I added a red pepper to our grocery cart for fajitas and nearly sent her into apoplexy because the thing cost $3 – which
seemed was a small fortune at the time, the day our apartment was broken into and the thief actually took the time to eat food from our refrigerator – with utensils; stories of our lives separate and together. I love her.
My daughters are brilliant. They do well in school. They are loved by their friends. And they are adolescents – struggling with all the things so excruciating and expected during these days. I hear them talking to their friends. And I hear them laugh. Sometimes they even talk to me and we laugh together. Other times, though rarely, I am actually able to make them laugh – usually at me. They have developed a sense of humor that is quick, a bit dark, sassy, and more-than-tinged with sarcasm. And they’re not afraid to use it! ‘Wonder how that happened? I love them.
My boyfriend is undoubtedly the funniest person I know. We spend more time apart than together; more conversation on the phone than face-to-face. But rarely do we go through a day without laughing. Not just snickering or politely giggling. Deep, belly laughs; the kind we almost can’t stop without inhaling/exhaling breaths that bring us back to some semblance of sanity and resumed dialogue. He is the master of metaphors (macaroons and malt liquor come to mind) – coming up with comparisons and descriptions that leap-in-a-single-bound over any creative ability I might possess. He is a master story-teller (and doesn’t even know it) adding to scenes and characters in subtle and sly ways you’d miss if you weren’t paying attention. But I do. Hysterical. And he makes fun of me – endlessly, mercilessly, and always (though hidden under the surface) kindly. I love him.
The person who knows how to laugh at [her]self will never cease to be amused. ~ Shirley MacLaine
Laughter is a sign for me. A marker. A navigational tool. It (re)connects me to the present and reminds me that appearances and circumstances can be deceiving; that despite how things seem, I am in a healthy, rich, and healing place.When I laugh, no matter how tough things feel, I know I am OK; that I can persevere, survive, and even thrive. I may not know how, when, or at what cost, but it is unquestionable.
Laughter reminds me of the beauty of ambivalence; its incessant presence and, when welcomed, its power.
- It is not funny that my best friend and I did not have enough money to buy a red pepper or that our apartment was robbed, but still we laugh.
- It is hard for my daughters to be adolescents, to have divorced parents, to struggle over the loss of a house, but still we laugh.
- It is not always the easiest and lightest of things my boyfriend and I discuss: business, parenting, entrepreneurship, distance, decisions; but still we laugh.
In the midst. Both/and. Not black and white. Laughter reminds me that such is the stuff of life.
These middle spaces show up again and again, don’t they? We clamor and grasp for answers, absolutes, resolution, clarity, and even the smallest glimpse of security and stability. Such “realities” elude us. What if we stopped our endless quest for a perfect life? What if we quelled our insatiable demand for things to make sense? What if, instead, we laughed?
You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it. ~ Bill Cosby
I can’t cover it in this post (and dare to hope you’ll keep reading), but part of my in-process book tells of sacred stories that are filled with painful, arduous, and downright excruciating circumstances. Our tendency throughout time has been to allegorize them or at least find “helpful” lessons and applications. My tendency (and growing belief) is that we’ve made a pretty huge mistake in thinking of them as any more – or less – than representative of what life just is.
Life is hard. It is also beautiful. That paradox alone should be enough to invite us to faith, keep us clinging to hope, and every-once-in-a-while make us laugh.
God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. ~ Voltaire, 17th century French philosopher
I don’t want to be afraid.
I want to live and love the life I have right now, not waiting for someday.
I want to – and do – laugh a lot in the midst – with those I love and who love me back.
Is there reason to want for more?