Laughter can sometimes seem like flashes of sunlight off a river, a pane of glass, a crystal in a stone – all around me, but uncatchable, not for me. When my days are too full and my mind is taut and my spirit weary, laughter can seem like a luxury that I do not have time for. When I am sad or grieving, laughter can seem to be mocking me.
Women are so often the victims of others’ laughter from the youngest age that laughter can seem like a weapon, something whose sightline we eventually escape when we are old enough to fend off the ridicule and shame with hard work and our self respect. Our sense of responsibility for taking care of those in our family and friend circles, whether that means daily caregiving or preserving the Earth for all future generations, can make our days so heavy that the light of laughter cannot penetrate. As recently as ten years ago, I used to be known for my infectious laughter, but each day it has become rarer and rarer.
But, in my memories of how I used to laugh, I remember that laughter is not a glimmer, but the sun’s fire itself. It illuminates, warms, brings life. Real laughter does not make fun of others or ourselves or present a picture of life that is gloomier than what we see. Real laughter is silly and comes from what happens to us everyday and shows us ourselves and others with love. Laughing at ourselves takes away the burden to be more than human. Real laughter is a sacred gift that is as important to our spiritual journey as meditation or prayer or celebrations.
I remember that:
Real laughter is revolutionary. Laughter breaks apart our illusions about the world and ourselves, the attitudes, assumptions, and fears. When we laugh, our minds open to the world as if it were new and we can see what we did not before.
Real laughter heals. No matter what is wrong, it can be put in its place by laughter. Laughter reminds us that we have laughed before and we will laugh again, even in our saddest moments. Laughter takes us out of our moment of despair into an expanded world.
Real laughter binds us to one another by creating a moment that belongs to only you and the person with whom you are laughing; it creates an entire way of looking at the world that only you and the other person share. Laughter signals that you understand one another and that the world is a good place to be. Women’s laughter is intimate.
It is time that we reclaimed that kind of laughter, that we invite it into our lives, our speeches, our articles, our poetry, our stories, our celebrations, and our homes. When we laugh together, we are invincible as we face either for our own challenges or help others.
Today I pledge to:
At least consider taking myself less seriously next time I am faced with a tough situation.
Try to quote Monty Python at least twice a day.
When I think about the sacred in my home and life, always remember laughter.
Laugh really hard when my son tells me something funny that happened to him, even if I don’t get it.
Make at least one close friend in emotional pain laugh this week.
Go to the library and take out a funny book to read (has Fannie Flagg written anything new this year?)
What about you?
~ Carolyn Lee Boyd