It’s late July and I’m getting ready in the morning when a memory of a friend makes me burst out with a laugh, out loud; it rings on the mirror and I am not surprised— the best friends are like that, leaving you with a laugh-feeling so even the memories bring the sound back. It’s my favorite feeling.
If I think about it, it’s the friends who’ve taught me to laugh who’ve meant the most. I once wrote a letter to a friend thanking her for showing me what it’s like to laugh, really laugh. Sometimes, we have to be taught, to remember.
With my friend Morgan on Spring Break, we laugh ourselves to sleep every night, reading comedic memoirs and doubling over, tears and all. I can’t breathe laughter, that’s what that feels like.
At my practicum, every day there is laughter bubbling out of different corners of the office. There is teasing and joking and downright mirth.
I appreciate joy the most, maybe because we manage to find it even on the flip side of a sad day, in the aftermath of a difficult case with a client or bad news, a death, a cancer diagnosis. I often hear from people who travel to poorer countries or to areas of poverty or who meet resilient survivors that they are so shocked and humbled by the joy that it’s possible to find in dire circumstances. I used to be boggled by it too in places like orphanages and crisis centers. But I think I’m starting to understand it.
If you laugh hard enough, you find a part of your soul you didn’t know you had. It’s the part that helps you understand all the other pieces of the puzzle better, heal better from the little tragedies, dream bigger, and rest easier. There’s a part of my soul I can’t reach without laughing. Sometimes, it takes someone else to show you how to get there, remind you what it feels like, but you also have to let it in. Be scared. Open yourself up to the vulnerability of laughter. Is laughter vulnerable? Is genuine joy a journey? To find it, there is an element of rawness, risk, bubbling up, understanding comfort and how it feels to let another person get to you, to let them in. The friendships where I have the most joy are those where we’ve dealt with hardship and sadness, made sacrifices and offered trust and devotion, but at the end of the day, we’ve taught each other something deeper about what it means to laugh. To feel filled up with happiness amidst a tragic world.
This realization came to me on July 9. That morning, I woke up before 5am to get in my car in the warm dark and drive away from Kansas City where my friend Cassidy lives. The city lights were softened by the heat so it felt like a cradle in the Midwest, rocking me out—eastward. One, two, three tears fell, maybe more and soon, I was with the dawn that made me think of the word crepuscule and how there should be a light-filled dusky word for sunrise too, only as promising. I couldn’t cry for very long. Instead, the few tears led me into a chuckle. I laughed out loud in my car as I drove. I was thinking about the weekend: raucous joy along with nature hikes, mason jars, candles, farmers, herb plants, chicken stories, naps, eggs, open windows, balconies, summer heat, newspapers, and wrought iron fences… The best friends are like that, leaving you with a laugh-feeling so even the memories bring the sound back.
When we laugh, we fill holes together. A weekend of good laughing brings me back to each week renewed. It wakes up the part of the soul I need to survive. And it’s not an easy part of the soul to get to. I would say it takes as much risk–as much potential for pain– to open yourself up for a laugh as it does to cry.