I can remember the times in my life when I thought I never was going to laugh again. I can name various passages in my life when this suspicion has haunted me. The days were wearying; the nights were restless. Everything felt grim. The days were grey.
But guess what?—laughter always does come again. In time, on its own volition, it catches us unawares and despite the pain, despite the anguish, despite the feeling that life will never be the same, never again be normal, suddenly, unplanned, without our doing anything, a belly roll of laughter bubbles up from some archived spot in our soul. We throw back our head, we howl with delight, and we think, “Oh, my goodness, where did that come from?”
If you are having a hard time getting through the days, if you are suspecting that you will never laugh again, let me make a promise to you: Yes, you will. Yes, you will.
Laughter is where you least expect to find it.
After one of those niggling days where you come home concentrating on everything that’s gone wrong, I looked out into the yard. It was September and I had filled the birdfeeders. The garden seemed to be a flitter with wings, and birdsong, and chickadees rushing at the sunflower seeds. I’d broadcasted mixed birdseed so ground feeders, the doves and the flocking grackles were feeding on the earth—suddenly my heart lifted and I laughed. Comfort just erased the worries I’d been gnawing at, little worries, not the major heartaches, but ones that can ruin beautiful days and lovely moments. My heart just healed suddenly from that day’s aggravations, and I took a coffee cup out to a garden bench and watched the riot of feathered things racing through the trees and swooping to the feeders and calling across the acres to one another—Food here! Fresh birdseed! Last one out is a pokey birdling!
After a long season of sorrow, the major kind, I decided to fill my life with the kind of people I liked, people who knew how to play. And I was happy again, and we laughed together doing unimportant but life-giving things—cooking meals, canning peaches, going to movies.
After that same long season of unending stress and loss, a son said to me, “Oh, it’s just good to see you happy again!” I had forgotten that other people watch us, and gauge our happiness aptitude, and our sorrow or our joy rubs off on them.
Yesterday, I sat with a granddaughter who is reluctantly practicing her lessons. “Here,” I said. “Let me play with you. I’ve wanted to take up piano again. Let me see what I remember.” So we fingered the chords and figured the time—one, two, three; one, two, three … and the onerous piano lesson became a laughing place. And we raced through our scales—together—When the Saints Coming In and What the World Needs Now Is Love … and a couple upper-clef trials for some piece from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Definitely, I was laughing again. And my granddaughter was laughing so much she didn’t want to leave the piano when I was done.
So, if laughter seems far away, find the people for whom laughter is easy. Shamelessly ride on the coattails of those who delight in the ridiculous. Let the people who love you report to you on your happiness aptitude. Immerse yourself, completely and forgetfully, in some childlike activity—with a child. Laugh with them all—practice laughing again if you have to. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha (it works). Get down on the floor with a child (or on a piano bench). You won’t have to look for laughter. It will find you.
This is one of the things that will get you through the days.
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
Karen and a group of volunteers are putting together a 24-Hour Advent Retreat of Silence and planning the template as well as the retreat-leader training for 3-Day Retreats of Silence. Visit the Hungry Souls Web site for more information on the Silent Retreats.
Karen is also part of an international team of men and women heading the Global Bag Project, a micro-finance enterprise for women who live in developing areas of the world. The idea is to sell reusable shopping bags, made by Third World bag-makers, to provide sustainable income for them. Visit www.GlobalBagProject.com if you are interested in learning more.
She is also continuing to developing both her Christian blog, Gettin’ Thru the Day, as well as her Web site,www.KarenBurtonMains.com. She is creating a teleconference curriculum on “Personal Memoir Writing,” which will be posted on her site.