This morning, I pulled up next to the curb in our “swagger wagon” and opened the sliding door while holding back the puppies from escaping and my two mini-Masseys jumped out with their backpacks on and took off running full speed for the front door of the school. Caleb, true to form, was looking around to see if he had any friends around that he should greet (Possibly why he was apparently elected Mayor of his classroom this week?) Michaela, also true to form, was just yelling the entire way to the door while running: “Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!” My immediate thought was “Oh your poor teachers…I hope they aren’t seeing this…it may intimidate them about the day that lays ahead of them. At least it is Friday and they will get a break after today.”
A few minutes later, when I got home, I received a funny text from a girlfriend that had a link to a video with Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell. I watched it and a huge giggle escaped me. Then it occurred to me, why am I trying to suppress that giggle and I sat down and had a laugh. You know the kind I mean…the really deep kind that gives you a stitch in your side and makes your eyes water up. When it started to go away, it bubbled back up again and…yep…here it comes…*snort.* Then more laughter…and eventually, it dies down and you feel like you just had a good cardio work out and the only thing you can do is exhale and go “whew!” That is one of my absolute favorite things in the world! Seriously, very few things feel better than a deep, uncontrolled belly-laugh.
And, of course, that got me thinking…why don’t we laugh more? It’s very therapeutic. I feel tension leave my body and my blood pressure drop after a good laugh…why don’t I do that more? And I could come up with a hundred little reasons as to why that is: too busy, don’t prioritize it, too tense, not thinking about it, etc…but I think that that all goes under one simple category: We simply take things way too seriously…we take ourselves way too seriously.
My little girl was running into the school screaming and having a great time this morning and I was worrying when I should have been chuckling. She is releasing that stress BEFORE walking into her classroom and she is comfortable enough with herself to just let it all hang out. I was witnessing “Michaela” the uncensored version. And it was perfectly okay! She is a 9-year-old running into her school excited about the day that is before her and I am the uptight 37-year-old cringing and trying to disappear because I am a bit embarrassed that my little girl may make things difficult at times to keep things under control in the classroom. Why? Why was I robbing myself of the opportunity to smile and chuckle and enjoy what I was seeing? Why did this display of fun make me tense instead of making an uncontrolled giggle bubble up inside me? Because I take life (and myself) way too seriously.
This is going to be another one of those posts where I brag on Stan so if that bugs you…well, tough…lighten up! This past Christmas Eve, my side of the family was getting together to exchange gifts and hang out…which sounds simple enough…but we have had some palpable tension for a while so I think we all came into it a little nervous. One thing to know about my side of the family is that we are a somber and serious bunch. We do laugh at times, but it is usually only on cue…after a joke or a story that does not keep us from remaining poised and proper (originally from the Deep South y’all…manners and being “proper” are quite important to our culture…possibly the reason why I am so overtly breaking the rules of polite society on a regular basis now…it’s my form of rebellion.) So, anyway, we were all feeling our way through this family gathering…trying not to step on toes and everyone doing that “overly-polite” thing that happens when you are trying to see if you can get a relationship back on track. And then, the most awesome thing happened: my husband…my Stanton Billy…the newest member to my side of the family that wasn’t born into it, sacrificed himself for the benefit of the group. (And he has done it before…it’s one of the things that I love about him!) One of my brothers had drawn Stan’s name for buying a Christmas present and he gave Stan a legitimate present…but then gave him an additional one. Stan opened the beautifully-wrapped gift to find…a man-kini. Anyone else in the room would have laughed, held it up for everyone to see, and then put it away. But not Stan! He knew that laughter would be healing to everyone in the room and he stood up, and put it on top of his clothes and proceeded to model it for the entire group as we all burst into hysterics. And we all needed that laugh…so badly. It was such a gift!
After that, the gathering had a different feel to it. We were all more relaxed…more open to each other…more real and less “polite.” It was the best time I have had with my side of the family in years and it renewed our relationships. As a scientist, my instinct is to now research the physiology of laughter and what chemicals it causes to be released into the body…but I have decided that it would take away from the magic of laughter. So, instead, I have decided to just pursue experiencing it more and let the mystery and magic remain. I have a good friend who quoted some author about experience: if you are a scientist, you can learn the science behind a kiss…the physiology…the chemical process…the psychology…but unless you’ve been kissed, you don’t really get it…you don’t have the whole picture. So, I am going to study laughter less and do laughter more. (This could be a problem since I’m a nervous giggler…I’m so inappropriate with my giggling…I have been known to giggle at funerals and during prayers.) But I think this is a natural medicine that God has provided for us to not only help us to live longer but to also live better.
So, how are you doing with this? Do you take yourself too seriously? Do you over-analyze your conversations and interactions with others? When was the last time you laughed? When was the last time you did one of those belly-cramping-beginning-to-cry-can’t-stop-laughing laughs? What was going on when you last experienced it? How did you feel afterward? How did you feel about those around you afterward? How could you pursue it more right now?
My prayer for us all today is that we would remember to experience life…that we would remember to let our guard down and just enjoy the moment we are in…that we would worry less about what others think and just kidnap them and bring them with us into our enjoyment. I am praying that we would all find a way to giggle today and that we would thank God for that moment of happiness. Much love friends,