Trying something different, my friend steered away from Wednesday evening meatloaf and broke out with a never-tried-before tuna casserole for three hungry mouths. Ages 3, 6, and 8, these food critics held nothing back.
3 year-old: “Mommy, how many bites do I have to take before I can have ice cream?”
6 year-old: ”Mommy, this is really bad.”
8 year-old (and sympathizer): “Hey, it’s not that bad. Just put a bunch of guacamole on it and you can barely taste anything.”
When my friend told me this story I erupted …couldn’t stop laughing, and not one of those, half-hearted, smirky laughs. I had myself an honest-to-goodness barreled over, gasping for air laugh that left me in tears.
I don’t react the same way just writing or reading the story. Not so funny after hearing it for the first time. Perhaps when my friend told me this story I was desperate for a light-hearted moment. At the time I was in the midst of a painful loss….the death of my father. In that moment I was desperate for uninhibited laughter.
Laughter in this experience was like a good friend who showed up unannounced, but I didn’t mind because I was happy for the company. It felt good, and it should since laughter has proven to have multiple benefits: relieves stress and physical tension, protects against heart attack, boosts the immune system, and improves our current mood state, even lessens the pain of chronic conditions.
That’s why I’m serious about laughter! We often trivialize laughter as something fun or light-hearted and that’s it. Laughter is a legitimate, effective , humorous “intervention” proven to alleviate and illuminate difficult situations, conflict, arguments, or stagnate conversations.
The wonderful aspect of laughter is its sincerity! We can tell when someone is laughing for real, and if someone is being real, there is a better chance of them being honest.
Laughter can be the launching pad for discussing difficult topics and conversations. Ever seen a movie or television show where someone’s laughter turns into tears? There’s a reason for that. Like trying to laugh while you frown, laughter is incongruent with feeling constrained or ambivalent. Laughter can be a window to healing other emotions and concerns that lurk underneath. Laughter can be the beginning of a more thoughtful, meaningful conversation. If we can just pause and allow for the humor, join in the fun, and let the laughter linger without judgment or criticism…well, you may be surprised by what comes next.