Laugh If You Wanna Laugh…
I remember the night we learned that one of our twins, Daisy, had unexpectedly died and we knew we’d be saying goodbye to her sister, Sunshine, the next day.
That night, and my husband and I sat on the couch. We’d talked and talked and talked and then decided to just shut up, eat dinner and watch TV. There was nothing left to say and I had no tears left. I thought I’d cried an ocean that day, I had yet to learn what that might even begin to really look like. Eventually, I learned.
Anyhooo, it was 2009 and that horrible show Heroes was on… that show with the cheerleader that could heal herself and that cast of characters that I remember nothing else about, except that the guy who played Sylar was creepily hot and had a great upper torso. Beyond that, I’ve somehow blocked the show from my memory and only associate it with that horrible night, on what we’ve just concluded was the absolute worst day of my life.
We sat on the couch and my husband said something funny.
Funny enough to make me laugh.
And it felt kind of disgusting.
And at the same time I loved him for making me laugh.
And if you ask me what he said I’ll tell you I have no idea. It was probably dark and subversive, something that if I did remember and told you, you wouldn’t think was all that funny. In fact, it would probably shock and offend you.
Maybe it was a joke about our bad luck. Or death. Or something obnoxious about twins that was so out of place and insane to say that you are left with no choice but to laugh at its absurdity.
Unless of course you choose not to laugh at it.
Because it’s really hard to laugh when all you can do to breathe is cry.
But laughter is a choice. Finding it, allowing it – even inviting it in, is a powerful choice. And it can speak volumes, both in your head and heart and in your world at large.
And somehow, that tiny little moment of laughter stayed with me. The conflict that erupted in me in that darkest of moments. and through the years that followed, through the oceans of tears and rebirth of joy in my life. All this time. Even having no idea what he said that was funny- even though it probably wasn’t very funny at all.
Last week I went to the local swim club with my two living daughters and a friend of my oldest. The friend is not a good swimmer and it was hard to keep all three girls in our sights at the same time, especially considering the heightened sense of freak-outishness that now lives in me -and my husband- when it comes to kids and safety. I’m the mom that lives on high alert and tells my kids (and any others in my vicinity) 15 times a day to chew really really well and hold onto the banister and not climb the rickety stairs alone and throw that balloon out the SECOND it pops and make sure you get every last hot pink piece of it because balloons are the number one choking hazard for kids and…. you get the point.
So there we were at the swim club, stressed beyond normal trying to keep these three girls in arms reach and in our sights. I turned to my husband and without much forethought exclaimed in exasperation “Geez- watching three kids at the pool is impossible! We really dodged a bullet on that one.”
And he looked at me, and my sister in law who was there looked at me. My husband, who had definitely heard me said “What did you just say?” and I replied “Oh, nothing- it was a really dark joke that wasn’t funny.”
And for a moment I felt bad- like saying something so heartless was an indicator that I was “over” it. And I could have chosen to beat myself up over it, but when I stopped the self-judgement for a moment I realized it was the exact opposite. Watching those three girls in the pool was a trigger- a reminder of what I’m missing. What I’ll always miss. Making the joke was a coping mechanism, and that would just have to be OK.
I’m not sure what the ultimate point of this article is.
It started off being about the importance of laughter as a healing tool, but seems to have morphed into a reminder that there is no room for self-judgement when it comes to grief and the journey we take to survive it.
And I guess in the end, those two ideas do well walking together hand-in-hand.