Have you ever laughed so hard that you actually felt healthier afterwards?
Like you’ve had a workout and your whole self is stretched and fresh and better?
I have. In fact, more often than most, I imagine. I am sort of addicted to it.
Some of my favorite moments are just after I’ve laughed so hard I could barely breathe, and just before I completely regain my composure.
Total body involvement. Pain. Tears. Breathlessness. Stomach cramps. Face cramps. Ugliness…like scrunched nose, gaping mouth, quadruple chins. It’s fantastic.
The danger, of course, is that your inability to explain yourself in the moment excludes others. So they patiently wait, mildly amused by your contorted face, until you can finally regain enough traction to spit out a bad summary of what made you laugh so hard. And it’s almost never as amusing in the re-telling. It’s a big “had to be there”. A good friend will help you by cheerily introducing a new, loosely related topic while you recover – alone – from your spasms.
Still. It’s worth it.
I was telling my sister about being stung terribly by a jellyfish while swimming in the Bahamas. She’s both a doctor and scuba diver, so I knew she’d be interested. She asked me if I pee’d on it. I replied that I couldn’t: it swam away.
There was a pause. Then my sister burst out laughing. Uncontrollably. I didn’t get it and she couldn’t talk because she was laughing too hard. Finally she managed to get out, “Not the jellyfish. The STING!”
Of course, I wasn’t thinking of treating the sting, I was thinking of repelling the jellyfish. Now we were both imagining me chasing the jellyfish and trying to pee on it. Hilarious image. To us, anyway. We laughed so hard that it was silent, in between hard gasps for air. We laughed so hard and so long that I think eventually we forgot why we were laughing.
Nawwww. We’ll never forget that one. I’ve shared the story since, and it gets the same reaction. I told my niece at her Rehearsal Dinner and our hysteria made such a scene that people became concerned that someone might be choking and they ran over to help. That story has become like an old friend to me. One of several stories that makes me lose myself in delicious, doubled over laughter every time. A workout. The best kind.
And the way it feels when it’s all over. A tingly feeling and an aching gut. A sense that you could lose it again in a second if you let yourself conjure up that image. Soft chuckles remembering it.
This is a skill we should teach our children. The ability to lose it. To let the laughter rip. And when we see a giggle fit in action, we must resist our urge to scold. Maybe some shhhushing….because in fact it sometimes makes the fit even better when the gigglers try to suppress it. Impossible.
We must smile in recognition of that most-great feeling and let it last.
After all: a good giggle is a gift from God.