Laughing is one of my favorite things to do. More than eating good food, buying a sweet new outfit, making lists (yes, I like that), laughing til your face hurts is medicine to the soul. And a good ab workout. The best sounds in the morning are my children’s giggles, even if I am in a sour mood. Or hearing my two-year-old say hello to her belly-button as she sits in her crib. Wiping the sleep away with a chuckle is a cure for the worst wrong-side-of-the-bed attitude. All day long, finding the humor in the mundane or unpleasant makes it less so. It can even make it fun.
Singing in opera voices while you make breakfast, poking little buns while they climb the stairs, speaking in a ridiculous French accent as you drive home from preschool – these add levity to the usual doings of the day, and make you smile, which is good exercise. A study done recently by some fellow Kansans showed that smiling, even faking it, helps boost your mood and those of the people around you. (See article about the study here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerdooley/2013/02/26/fake-smile/). And frowns do the opposite. Bad moods promote more bad moods, like a disease easily spread. It’s amazing how simple it is to fix the problem, though. I always feel silly when my yoga instructor tells us to smile in the middle of Pigeon or Warrior One, but it does make me feel better, no matter how dumb I look in the mirror. I bet the endorphins would really kick in if I let loose and laughed.
I totaled our blue Oldsmobile when I was sixteen – a hefty bump into the car ahead of me – and when I rattled home with the front smushed and one headlight illuminating the trees above, my sweet dad said “Well…I guess if you’re going to wreck a car, you did a good job!” He has always been a master of seeing the humor in the mishaps of life. I had to drive that embarrassing wreck around for a while, which was punishment enough, but his joke about it made the trauma bearable. I knew he still loved me. And it taught me that even really bad things are funny sometimes. Dad put our pizza on the top of the car while we piled in the Olds to drive home. And as we pulled away, as if putting an exclamation point on the evening, we watched the leftovers from our large pepperoni fly off into the night. We all laughed at that one.
When my own family was vacationing in exotic Missouri, we had spent an entire day at Silver Dollar City and were returning to our hotel late at night. We’d been driving through Branson traffic for an hour (this would be a good form of torture for members of the Taliban), we were all exhausted and sweaty, and Lily (4) was wearing a Mae (6 months)-sized diaper because that’s all we had left, and nothing else. Let’s just say that the Havener family fit in well in the Ozark mountains that night. I thought our room was on the fourth floor, Marc thought the eighth, and as we wandered the halls with our bedraggled-looking kids pulling their own suitcases, wondering aloud where the heck our room was, an elderly couple walked by. You could see the horror on their faces at the fact that we were allowed to be parents. I cannot be certain the police weren’t notified. Humiliating, yes. And absolutely hilarious, even at the time. It will remain a favorite family story for years.
Because laughter is so important to me I love stand-up comedy. I think it’s an art and a gift to the world when done well. We saw Jim Gaffigan live for my birthday a few years back, before my husband knew who he was. Marc wasn’t sure he would like it, but we laughed from the moment he spoke a word til the last hot pocket joke – until it hurt more than I knew my face muscles could. I love that kind of pain. For Valentine’s Day one year Marc downloaded a stand-up show as a present to me. We sat there watching Mike Berbiglia on the laptop, eating chocolate mousse cake, lowering our stress levels and boosting our immune systems at the same time. It was the best Valentine’s gift ever.
Marc’s sense of humor was high on my list of reasons for marrying him. I knew I needed to laugh every day of my life, and that man is funny. I grew up with levity as an essential part of existence – provided by my dad – and I couldn’t imagine leaving that behind. Marc cracks up his kids, and will eventually embarrass them as my dad did me, because he is silly. I need silly. I need to feel a little less “grown-up” sometimes. A little bit more like a ten-year-old. When a poopy diaper smell takes over the whole house, I need a guy who raps about it. When all three kids are crying on a road-trip at the same time, I need a friend to laugh with because that’s all that can be done. I need comic relief when the drama of the day has me down. He is my comic relief. I smile a lot more with him in my life, so I guess he’s good for my health. So is Jim Gaffigan, and Mike Berbiglia, and grinning in yoga, and being around my dad when something bad happens, and hearing my kids giggle. Thank goodness for funny things. I don’t think I’d survive without them.