The Healing Power of Laughter
"Laughter is an instant vacation." - Milton Berle
Life sure is a crazy ride, isn’t it? One day you’re soaring so high, heart wide open, with the tips of your fingers touching the sky and the next you feel like your butt is stuck smack dab in the sticky mud of the proverbial bottom. So much of life is so beyond good. It is joyful and wild and fun and absolutely lovely. But, there are also the times that are, to be frank, quite sucky.
There are times that are painful beyond imagination and even comprehension. Sometimes it can feel like the air has quite literally been sucked out of the room you sit in, requiring Herculean strength just to get to the next moment. But, somehow and someway we manage to get to the next moment. Somehow and someway we move, we carry on, we persevere - even though, in times such as these, it feels like we are swimming through tar, barely able to keep our heads above the blackness.
And, one of the ways that continues to help me to trudge through these dark and sticky moments is, believe it or not, to laugh.
Maybe during these acute moments we don’t laugh as much as we used to, and perhaps tears are way more accessible, but I have learned that even in the darkest moments, one of the most healing things that we can give to ourselves and to others is the gift of laughter. Even in the heaviest of times, laughter can bring comfort and communion.
We find reasons to laugh. We find humor even in all of this bullshit that is this present state of suffering. Maybe it’s because if we didn’t laugh we would cry, but that doesn’t really matter to me. Because, while there are plenty of times when the tears trump the giggles, laughing sure does feel a whole lot better.
We find humor in the most unlikely places. We find the laughter that is just sitting there waiting for us to turn to it, just waiting to be noticed. We find laughter that is seemingly inappropriate and perhaps even off-color, but that doesn’t matter either because when you are in the thick of the suckiness, a little dose of laughter from wherever possible can be a wildly necessary moment of reprieve from the suffering.
We laugh and we feel lighter. We laugh and we feel a little more normal. We laugh and we feel less tension, more relief. We laugh and we feel like maybe, just maybe, things really are OK. We laugh because we get to celebrate every single moment that we get to spend together. We laugh because this life is short and unpredictable and it could all disappear tomorrow. We figure that we might as well. We sure as hell have nothing to lose.
We laugh even though we are in the trenches. We laugh even though we are very aware of the reality within which we reside. It doesn’t change the fact that we might be in the middle of an enormous battle or struggle, but it allows us to have moments when we feel like we are more powerful than whatever the battle is that we are fighting. It helps us to know that we are not defined by this struggle or this pain. In many ways, it is our opportunity to let the pain and the suffering know, that no matter how much they try, they will never take our spirit from us.
When I was a little girl, I loved the “I love to laugh” scene from Mary Poppins. Along with wanting to float on the clouds like the Care Bears did, I also wanted to be able to laugh as hard as they did in this scene so that I, too, could float to the ceiling and spin around and just be totally free. As a child, the deeper significance of the scene was lost to me. I just wanted to be able to float, to fly.
But, now I understand. While, our feet may stay planted on the ground, laughter is lightness. Laughter is freedom. Laughter is a way to float above the suffering. Laughter is a way to disconnect from the trauma and stress that we know so well and instead reconnect with each other and the joy that is around us and within us. Laughter is a way to remind ourselves that we are very much alive.