Tuesday's Attention #4
Laughter: A Connecter and Healer
It has taken me 23 years to really understand the value of humor.
Ever since my diagnosis, I’ve found that I actually laugh more. It can feel perplexing and paradoxical, but laughter is a mode of survival. We need humor. It sustains us. It can become a center that holds when everything else is falling apart.
A few people, in the wake of wrestling with the challenges with chronic illness, encouraged me to hold onto laughter as much as possible. It’s been the greatest advice I could have received. I received similar advice when I first started teaching. A few teachers told me to bring laughter in the class every day. And it’s the advice my mom has been giving me for a long time. Laughter connects. Laughter heals. Laughter is an extension of our joy. And joy is one of the most powerful forces in the face of hardship.
Last year, in an advisement lesson in my classroom, we were talking about safe spaces. One of the questions we were prompted with was:
“What is your safe space?”
The way we did advisement was through sitting in a circle with a talking piece. Everyone had the chance to speak if they wanted to, but also, you could pass. I was always moved by the students' courage to share. With this particular question, some students shared about music being a safe space or a journal or their room. It was my last student’s answer though that really got me.
This student, in particular, didn’t share much in advisement. The serious tone of advisement wasn’t their favorite, however, to my surprise, they answered this question. They shared that laughter was their safe space.
For some reason, that statement has profoundly moved me since April of 2020. Their answer made me realize that it was this very student who helped carry us through so much of the pandemic due to their willingness to bring about laughter. They connected us through leading us to play games or to dance or to watch old vines or to just be free to be silly. Their freedom within laughter was a constant invitation to others to join in. You were cool when you allowed yourself to be weird, wholly yourself, and fully present. That’s the way “being cool” should be.
I often tear up when I think about it all.
Laughter was their safe space and they helped it become everyone else’s too.
My roommates and I have been joking the past few months that we are getting funnier. In some ways, I genuinely think we are, because we’ve leaned more into humor with a certain intentionality. My family has as well.
My mom and older brother recently got me into Nate Bargatze, the comedian. I knew how much my mom enjoyed him and so I decided to get her and me tickets to see him in Atlanta in March. I was so excited because I felt like I hit the jackpot for a Christmas present. Turns out, Daniel and Alex also had the same great idea and so did my mom. At Christmas, we each opened presents from one another that had Nate Bargatze tickets in them. We ended up with 9 tickets for 4 people… and all we could do was laugh. It was my favorite moment of Christmas. Thanks Nate!
I am not sure what this year will hold. It isn’t a year I have set resolutions for because it is a year I am just going to take day by day. However, I do have the intention to laugh more and often. It is a year that I hope laughter is a great companion to healing. For me and for you.
Words that are sticking with me:
Kate Bowler has quickly become one of my favorite people to listen to speak. Her podcast Everything Happens feels like breath. She’s honest and unafraid to talk about the hard, while simultaneously holding space for the beautiful and for the joyful. This past week I listened to her podcast episode with Anne Lamott. Anne Lamott wrote one of my favorite books, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She’s witty, humorous, brilliant, and beautiful within her mess. As I listened to the podcast, I felt as if I was in conversation with the two of them. I often feel that way with a Kate Bowler or Brené Brown podcast. At one point in the podcast, they were talking about grief and laughter and Anne Lamott said,
“Laughter is carbonated holiness.”
I have been sitting on that this week and it turns out, it is something she has said quite a few times. She links laughter to hope. I don’t know about you, but I need a lot of hope in my days and I need a lot of laughter too.
I was on the phone with one of my dearest friends, Katie, yesterday. We both often swim in the “deep end” of emotions and can easily connect in an honest and serious space. She’s a friend who creates a safe space for people to be within the hard and, like Kate Bowler, the beautiful too. Our conversation led us to this point of discussing the power of laughter. Both of us tend to lean into depth for connection. However, we were talking about how laughter is quite the connector too. I want to pay more attention to that.
Katie also reminded me of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems this week, “Don’t Hesitate” that speaks to joy.
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”
Joy is not made to be a crumb.
The hard will always be there, but so too will the joy. We can continue to hold both in our hands. Cry as much as you need to. Laugh just as much too.
A List of Joy I Have Been Paying Attention to Recently:
Rue’s (my dog) excitement when she sees people and how her whole body moves along with her tail
I met a 2 year old this past week and we exchanged names. I told him my name is Bailey and then he proceeded to smile and say, “You're funny”. We laughed and joy filled the space. Kids have a way of simply doing that.
I am currently sitting in a Barnes N Noble and witnessing the interactions between the barista and customers. It’s beautiful watching ways people connect. It’s also beautiful watching people read books
Singing “I Am Woman” with my roommates in the car
Natural light filling a room. I will never get over how good that is.
Carson and I trying to get our Christmas tree out of what was holding it up in the rain on New Years Day
The game Avalon and how sneaky people can be and how much laughter can be brought in through games
The joy of being back on a soccer field
At the end of every newsletter, I want to leave you all with some questions/prompts to think on. My hope is that these can encourage you in some form or fashion. Whether it is through just taking some time to think through them, to write about that, or to talk through them with a loved one. If you ever want a friend to hear your thoughts, feel free to share them back with me! I always love to read and to listen.
When has laughter been healing for you? Write about a particular moment that comes to your mind. Or tell a friend about it.
When has laughter been a connector for you? How so?
What is the value of humor to you? Share your answers with a friend.
Create a list of at least 10 things that bring joy into your life. Set out to bring about at least two of those things into your week. If you’d like, zoom in on one and write more about why that brings you joy.
Create a playlist of at least 5 songs that bring you joy and make you want to dance. Share your playlist with a friend and ask them to create one too. Play this playlist at least once this week to dance it out too
Reach out to a friend or ask a stranger what brings them life, fills them with joy, or makes them laugh. Have a conversation about that. The focus of this week is connection in conversation and joy.
One Word Prompts:
(You can use these as prompts for writing or for another creative outlet. What comes to your mind when you think of these words? What do they mean to you? How do you experience them?)
Write a letter to someone in your life that makes laughter a safe space for others— someone who invites others into freedom to be themselves. Tell them about how you see them do that.
Write a letter to your own joy. Speak whatever words you’d like to them. Thank them, encourage them, or ask them for what you need right now.
Write a letter to this year centered around laughter, humor, or joy. What do you hope this year holds when it comes to these words?
We have each experienced, at some point in time, the laughter that sustains. My hope is that we each continue to experience more of it. I hope you feel the freedom to feel all that you need to feel—from your sadness, to your anger, to your frustrations, to your joy. There is space for it all. When we suppress one, we suppress the others. There is room for it all. You can be both sad and joyful. You can be both filled with laughter and on the brink of tears. It all makes no sense and so much sense at the same time. Sit in the paradox and allow yourself to be fully human.
As my students taught me, let’s take life seriously, but not too seriously. Always leave room for the laughter. Always hold space for joy.
May your week ahead be filled with words that encourage you, laughter that heals you, and moments of beauty that pull your attention in and bring you to slow down.
May you know that you, yourself, are worth paying attention to.