Laughter is the Best Medicine

It’s true what they say that laughter is the best medicine. Today I had the distinct privilege of spending my Sunday morning in an after-hours clinic because of a stabbing headache that has lasted 3 days (and counting). I thought it might be due to an ear infection, otherwise I might have toughed it out. But I was fully prepared, upon leaving the clinic with no helpful news, to embark upon my terrible day full of head pain and crabbiness and exhaustion. Thankfully my boys had other plans. Jonathan took a sick day so he could take care of Aiden while I went to the doctor and he managed to wash, fold, and put away all the laundry and do the dishes while I played with Aiden, took a nap and read my book. Yes, I am a lucky woman. And we both discovered (again) that there is nothing quite like the laughter of a child to make you forget your woes. Aiden was in a remarkable mood and was constantly finding something to giggle about. Like pretending that dozens of kitties were coming out of the tiny box in his hand and tickling us with their tongues. Or spinning in circles till he collapsed on the floor and watched the room spin out of the corner of his eye. Later, because we were all getting cabin fever, and I wasn’t about to cook, we picked up some supper and went to the park.  There was a storm brewing and it was gloriously breezy for such a hot afternoon.  Aiden tromped around the park barefoot, in true boy fashion, and laughed at everything he saw. And not just little laughs. These were full-faced, throw your head back kind of laughs that were absolutely infectious. 

As we drove home, Aiden requested his favorite music, an album of high quality children’s bluegrass by David Holt. And, as always, he requested his favorite track, “I Got A Bullfrog,” which is a musical blooper of epic proportion consisting of at least 30 seconds of laughter that the singer is trying desperately and unsuccessfully to get under control. I LOVE that they left this “mistake” in the recording. Every time it comes on Aiden grins from ear to ear in the back seat and laughs along.  I can’t help but join him no matter how many times I have heard it. 

At home, after supper, I let him have a piece of cake and after every bite, he wriggled with glee, doing an excited little cake dance while he . . . you guessed it . . . laughed.  By the end of the day as I felt the piercing pains in my head again, I realized that although the pain had persisted all day, I had not thought about it in hours.  It had not dominated my day as I had feared it would.  And I had laughter to thank. I wonder how much healthier, and of course happier, we would all be if we learned to be a bit more light-hearted and laugh a lot more readily.

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Dance with more than just your toes!

I admire the lack of inhibition in children.  Of course it has it down side, but for the most part, I think it is a trait to be nurtured and emulated.  Children have not yet learned to be afraid of what other people think of them.  They simply experience the world around them and engage it with undaunted enthusiasm and vigor.  A rather potent example of this is dance.  We are all hardwired to dance.  It is part of our nature as human beings to physically respond to music.  I have never met a young child who did not dance.  It begins almost as soon as they are able to make voluntary movements and continues till the time they learn to be afraid.  A baby who cannot even sit up by himself will bob his head to music and older children will jump and bounce and swing around the dance floor with an excitement that cannot be held back – as though they can’t help it.  And why should they?  It’s natural, joyous, active, FUN.

Children dancing at the "Delta Mountain Boys" concert at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

I recently attended a bluegrass concert where the music was as lively and dance-inducing as it ever gets.  And, as I looked around the room, I noticed that every single adult, without fail, sat straight and calm in their seat while their feet bounced in rhythm under their tables.   Try as they might (in order to maintain “dignity” and “self-respect”), they could not keep the dance inside.  Not completely.  It was wiggling out their toes, trying to escape.  But the children . . . they didn’t even try to keep it in.  They danced wildly around the floor as though no one was watching.  Or perhaps as though everyone was watching but they loved it.  When do we lose this sence of freedom?  What are we so afraid of?  Is it because we are so quick to judge others, that we assume everyone else is judging us?  Well, as my sister’s teacher told her in high school, “You’ll become much less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.”   Children believe themselves to be the center of their own little world.  And with that understanding, they make the rules.  It doesn’t matter what other people think because it’s their world, after all.  As adults, we come to understand, rather brutally sometimes, that the world does not, in fact, revolve around us.  But some residual part of that belief holds on and we still believe that people are analyzing every little thing we do, because, I mean, why wouldn’t they?  But despite our immense worry, people are far less preoccupied with the things we do than we give them credit for.  And most people are much less judgemental than we often assume.  When you see someone dancing spiritedly at a concert, unconcerned about how professional they look or whether or not they’re messing up their hair . . . just dancing, do you think, “Look at that stupid person!  Why don’t they just sit down?”  Or do you smile and wish you had the nerve to live in the moment as they did?  If your answer is the former, than you deserve to be self conscious and fearful, because you will probably receive the same judgement you give out.  But if it is the latter, know that MANY people have that same thought.  And most likely they admire you for taking chances and living outside of a box.  Perhaps if we all lost a bit of our inhibitions, and let our kids teach us as much as we teach them, we might inspire one another to live a bit more vividly, with open eyes, open arms, open hearts, and more than just our toes dancing!