By Hannah Alexander
We’ve all had some dark times recently. It seems that on the heels of every catastrophe or tragedy we see on the news, something even worse happens to trump it. Since there has been science that suggests that unhappiness and complaining all the time can actually rewire our brains in a bad way, I’ll have to share an experience we had last week–not because it’s specifically funny, but because it might make a point. If it makes you smile just a little, maybe it will help fix the wiring. I need laughter. I think all of us do.
So…Mel had just completed a 24-hour shift as ER/Hospitalist and got four hours of broken sleep. We had to travel 14 hours in one day, and I was driving so he could sleep. However, he had a phone interview in the middle of the day. Before we even hit interstate, the “check tires” light came on. In the middle of nowhere, we stopped, and wouldn’t you know it, a guy came out, aired up all our tires, and sent us on our way without a penny being exchanged. I love Nebraskans. There is good in the world in unlikely places–though truth be told, it’s always expected here in Nebraska.
We had just hit Lincoln traffic when Mel got the Very Important Call on his cell. I focused on my driving so as not to disturb him in any way. I even slowed down a little, eavesdropping on every word. This interview could affect our future.
When I found my special exit–a secret way to avoid Lincoln traffic on our way to Missouri–I came to the end of the ramp and saw a road-closed sign. Yep, my shortcut was totally gone. Blocked. Time crunch.
I drove across the road, pulled into a convenience store, quietly closed the door and ran in to ask directions while Mel continued with his interview. I got directions–which involved dirt roads–and got back into the car, drove to a gravel road and followed directions. Mel’s eyes widened but he continued to focus on his call. He’s an impressive man.
I turned and drove down a washboard road for a mile, turned down another washboard road for another mile–on a 14-hour drive to Missouri–wondering if Mel would interrupt his call to ask if I was thinking clearly. Bless his heart, he trusted me completely. Or seemed to.
I discovered I’d turned too soon, drove to the middle of a cornfield and did a u-turn. By this time it was getting ridiculous. I wanted so badly for Mel to be able to focus, and his eyes kept getting wider.
Then I got this nasty urge to giggle. I suppressed it and did a soft snort instead. It was Keystone Cops silly to me by that time because I was nervous and lost and wanting so badly for this interview to be recalled in every detail so Mel could relay it to me when he finished.
The call continued as I continued down another dirt road, turned again, and the washboard got still rougher. Wow. We’re in the Sandhills, so we don’t have washboard roads where we live, and I couldn’t help worrying if the interviewer could hear the bumping of our tires.
Finally, I was relieved to discover that I’d done it right this time. My shortcut was back. But then when I turned back onto blacktop, the coverage started breaking up. I had to pull to the side of the road so we wouldn’t lose the call–there was no shoulder, only a steep drop. We sat there for the next fifteen minutes with the flashers going so no one on this lonely highway would hit us.
The call ended and we were on our way. And I laughed until I…well, cried.
Have you ever laughed out loud in a crowd that is silent? Like in church during the sermon? I did that once as a child. My sense of humor kicks in at the most inconvenient times. I don’t know why. It’s almost as if my rebel personality has to show itself despite my self-discipline. And yet it’s during the times of seriousness and even pain that we most need to laugh. I’ve had family funerals where my cousins and aunts and uncles laughed harder than I’d ever heard them laugh before while visiting with each other. They needed the relief of laughter. I think we all do.
Next time you’re hurting physically or emotionally, give yourself a break from it for a while. Find something funny to read, or watch something funny on a video or television. Or you know what? You can even force laughter. It has some of the same health benefits as real laughter, because it becomes contagious, like yawning. Find a friend who always makes you laugh, and have lunch together. Do whatever you can to heal some wounds and ease your pain.
We all suffer from pain. We can find some healing in laughter. So ahead. Give yourself a break.