Laugh Restrictions


I hate doing my breathing treatments. I know. I know. I should be happy to have access to albuterol and a nebulizer and my damn acapella valve. But I hate stopping my life to do the treatments. It’s not even like I had big plans this afternoon. I always get the post-albuterol shakes and feel like my thoughts are going ape shit in my head. I can’t lasso them. They’re jumping off the fence posts, beds, running up the walls, jumping on the trampoline that I must have bought in a dream one night. That kind of crazy.

But, lungs are important. For breathing and stuff.

Usually, the way I know I need to start doing treatments is when I start laughing and can’t stop coughing. And coughing. It really puts a damper on a funny moment. I’m ok. I just need to not laugh anymore. Or do a breathing treatment. I’ve tried offering myself incentives. Like last week, I started a new book that I told myself I could only read during my breathing treatments. Well, that sucked. Once the albuterol starts pumping, I can’t read about raising the emotional lives of boys. A little too deep for a breathing treatment book.

So, today, I decided I would just fold a basket of laundry. Why not do two sucky things at the same time? Kill two birds with one stone, though I would never kill two birds. Unless they were trying to attack my kids or something. I folded that basket of laundry in record breaking speed. Then, I sat staring at the wall thinking about a hundred or so things. All at once.

A few albuterol thoughts….I need to remove that last chunk of wall paper. Why is the dishwasher making that sound? I like Josh Ritter’s music. Those were cool pictures my husband took while in Israel. And so on.

I got to thinking how I do like laughing. My mom said I used to do it as a baby when she put me in my crib. I still laugh sometimes when I go to bed. My mom said that I’ve got a good sense of humor because she was watching “I Love Lucy” when I was born. Makes sense to me. The worst times in my life have been when I had laugh restrictions. That’s right. Laugh restrictions.

Like in church or somewhere that you’re just not supposed to laugh or be funny. Somewhere very serious. After abdominal surgery, it physically hurts like hell to laugh. My mom had to kick my sisters out of my hospital room one time because they kept making me laugh. And it hurt so bad. I would put a pillow over my stomach and modify my laugh, but it didn’t help. They had to leave. The moment they came back in, we all started laughing at the absurdity of my mom kicking them out into the hall for making me laugh. I had been stuck in that bed for five weeks….not laughing. I think that’s what my family misses the most when I’m not me. When I’m so sick that I can’t laugh. When I’ve got those laugh restrictions in place.

That’s why I did my breathing treatment today. I want to be able to laugh loudly. Unabashedly. With my mouth open. Without having a coughing attack. I don’t want my cough to steal the show.

There are not always the right moments for laughing. There are the places where laughter has been banned or placed on the “uninvited” list. It sometimes sneaks in the back door anyways. Meetings, funerals, doctor’s office waiting rooms….I want people to laugh at my funeral though. How awful to come to the funeral of someone who loved to laugh and sit there just so sad and crying. If you remember me, I want you to remember my laugh. I want people to say “she loved laughing. She had a great laugh. And she loved helping others find their laughs.” Then, tell a funny story, like a really funny story about me or anybody so everyone will laugh. Then, leave the boring funeral home and go have some beers, or espresso shots or albuterol and laugh some more. That’s the way I want to be remembered. The world can be so serious and painful and boring too. A good laugh can give you just the perfect amount of hope to help you tackle the next hard thing with a different perspective. Or a little more hope and joy. Find something or someone to make you laugh today. You can always go watch youtube. There’s a lot of funny stuff on there if you don’t have a person around.


Finding My Laugh


I prayed a short prayer on my drive into work today.

“Please. Let nobody die today.”

I knew it wasn’t a good sign that I was already crying. On my way in. Sun shining, morning crying as opposed to dark sky, moon glowing crying. On my drive home. Ackk. I had already put my eye make-up on. It’s too early. I haven’t started my shift. I need to walk into work strong, ready, happy. Not fragile and sad.

I am supposed to arrive secretly clad in some form of protective armor hidden beneath my clothes. The kind of armor that is hard to get on. It’s tight, it grips my chest. I should feel it somehow and know it’s there even if nobody else does. Right up close to my heart. Always ready, or waiting. On guard, to help protect and defend me from the unpredictable and seemingly inescapable sadness that may seep in.

I keep driving. Hoping that maybe a happy song will come on my favorite radio station. Surely that will help. They usually seem to know when I’m in my car driving to or home from work.

Maybe if I could give a dollar and a Quiktrip gift card to the homeless man that stands and sings off of my exit on Hiway 71, that may be a good sign. A sign that it will be a day where there’s more smiling. And less dying.

Yesterday, I sat in a room playing with a child who laughed easily. Literally, on the ground, genuinely laughing at the silliest things. Like me popping bubbles with a plastic frying pan. He said, “I like laughing.” And I replied, “Me too.” He had no idea how tightly I would hold onto his innocent and spontaneous words.

Spoken freely, out loud.

Later, he didn’t want to go back with his parent because he wanted to hang out and walk around the halls with me. He told his mom, “I want to go back to that room with her. Because we both like laughing.” I wish I could have hung out with him and his sweet giggling self all day long.

But I couldn’t.

The day got hard. Really hard.

And I lost my laugh.

I kept reminding myself throughout my shift, in my head, “I like laughing.” Remember. If a little boy notices, it must be true. Because I do.

Hard. Belly hurting. Silly, big teeth, open-mouthed loud, almost obnoxious laughing. Near snorting, breath catching. That kind of laughing. It feels good. So good. It feels like the world still has a lot of happy left in it.

That boy reminded me that I’ve got to step outside from underneath the dark cloud of sadness some days. I’ve got to make a conscious effort. To find the light. I can’t let the small sliver of gloom consume me. Even though it’s impossibly hard sometimes.

I like laughing. I really love laughing. I told myself this. Over and over again. All day long.

But somehow I still managed to be in my car crying on the way home. Again. Sadness can be sneaky, yet strong and overpowering at times. Overwhelming. And tricky too. You can’t suppress it for too long or it will explode or change you. It will affect how you treat those who matter the most. It might make you forgetful or short-fused. Or unmotivated to get out of bed.

I laugh when something is funny. Even sometimes, when it may not be appropriate. Nervous coping mechanism. In church or meetings or all-too-serious of not-so-serious times. And I think I function best when I give myself the freedom to cry when something is sad. I have to find the right time and the right place. And just cry. Let. It. ALL. Out. It’s damn near impossible to hold back a dam of tears for long. I tell kids all the time, “it’s okay to cry.” I believe it. And it’s okay for adults to cry, too.

I didn’t need to cry today. And that made me so happy. So happy actually that I almost cried. The happy tear kind of crying. The grateful, humbled, overwhelmed smiling kind of short-lived crying. I got to leave work talking with a coworker about how I couldn’t remember where I parked. I got to notice gorgeous Christmas lights. I even noticed Pope Francis was trying to give me a high five from the catholic radio billboard. Or it may have been knuckles. I left work on time after talking and laughing with some of my favorite green zone girls. I feel honored, privileged and just giddy to leave work happy.

I love that place tonight. I really do. Somehow.

I drove up our driveway and saw our sweet little tree barely strong enough to hold its brightly colored lights. And I just could have cried. Again. But I didn’t need to. Not tonight. That tree looked so little, yet so beautiful and happy.

I will always remember that boy saying, “we both like laughing.” He reminds me of a tiny brightly lit tree that can barely hold the weight of the lights, yet somehow unknowingly offers perfectly timed hope and joy.

I like laughing. I really do.