How often do I throw my head back like this to laugh in delight?
More since having kids.
Emily’s laugh is intoxicating, her whole body taken over by bliss. She doesn’t decide to laugh, but merely embodies it.
If she were an adult, this could almost be one of those advertising photos with a woman having an impossibly good time on a cruise ship or at an Italian villa surrounded by other grown-ups with headshot-caliber perfectly plastic smiles. Almost. Real joy is hard to fake, it turns out.
Spending time with her dredges up that oft-repeated statistic about kids laughing hundreds of times per day and adults laughing somewhere between zero and a couple dozen. The exact data isn’t so important. I know kids and I know adults. It feels about right. Too many adults fall near that zero end of the scale.
Victor Hugo said, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”
Happiness is all around us if we look and ripples of laughter have the capacity to ripple across our lives. There are short- and long-term health benefits of laughing and one article I read even recommends increasing your laughter with something called laugh yoga. Another suggests we implement a laugh quota. I measure a lot of things in my life. Should laughter now become one of them?
More than simply a tool for personal health, people credit humor with the potential to essentially save the world:
“Laughter is, after speech, the chief thing that holds society together.”—Max Easton
No small feat for mirth there.
Just the same, we can take a bleak turn with the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: “Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”
That’s dark Friedrich.
Sometimes when I laugh hysterically—at my kids, at a great movie, at an artful and poignant internet meme—I am startled by how good and also foreign that sensation can feel. I think I laugh quite a bit. Certainly more often now that I have kids. It still feels good to let loose. I have this overwhelming sense of goodness and the desire to create more of it. Why don’t I laugh like this every day?
Before kids, (should I call this time B.K.?) most of the hands-on-my-knees laughter was because of my wife or in the presence of my swimmers. How unsurprising, given the clichés about kids laughing most, that students of various ages brought some of the most laughter, the most humor to my days? Often as not, I double over with laughter at something one of our college swimmers says or does to a teammate. It’s simply my privilege to join them in this sometimes fraught yet hysterical time in their lives.
We can seek more joy, more laughter in the presence of others.
In our life B.K., Heather and I laughed a lot in conversation and far more than now in front of the television. Don’t get me wrong, some straight-up vegging in front of the TV sounds pretty good these days, if not more for fulfilling.
Now we laugh most with or in talking about our children. This feels right and good.
What do I do to make the most of this time? Try to lean into the laughter, for lack of a better term. I breathe it in and hold onto it and roll it over with my soul like savoring a great wine. Eye contact, phone somewhere else. In a perfect world…
At the least, noticing. What’s more, appreciating. It will go fast.