Move Over Aspirin, Laughter Is The Real Wonder Drug

I slept like a rock last night. Laughter is the best sleeping pill.

Bridget was still laughing when I kissed her goodnight, she grabbed my hands, trying to get me to stay just a little longer and continue to be silly. The mother in me, wriggled away, it was nearing 10:30 and this child was overtired. The momma in me reveled in the silliness, which was so fun, while it lasted.

Just moments before, “Momma, I can’t find a bra?” I screamed, pretending to be my daughter.

“Momma, can you cut me an apple?” I said slowly and deliberately,  whining a bit more this time.

“Momma, do you know where my shoes are?” this time I yelled and imagined I was her as she screamed from the dining room and hoped that her plea would reach me, and I’d  magically make those shoes appear.

She cried, holding her belly, “Stop, Momma, stop, I don’t sound like that.” She knew full well she sounded like that.

She screamed out, “If you didn’t put my shoes away I would be able to find them.”

I laughed hard at that one.

I tickled her some more. She cried “stop” which meant to keep going. I did stop and the both of us laughed in unison.

“Why are you going to yoga tomorrow if you can’t practice yoga?” she asked. “Why not just call your friends?”

“It’s not the same,” I said. “I like their company. I like to bring the coffee, and I like to laugh with them. It’s just not the same on the phone.”

She had asked this question a dozen times over the last month. She was never satisfied with the answer. But last night, as our breath returned to its normal pace, and the dopamine kept our smiles upright, she understood how laughter made the early morning visit important to me.

As I went to bed, I thought of our bedtime routine from the time she was two until four or five. We played “Stop and Go” on the CD player, and danced all around the room, jumping on and off the bed as we stopped and went. I would intermittently hit the pause button to make it even more intense. Then I would tickle her until she said stop and finally meant it, with both of us so close to peeing in our pants. Laughter was the best tether to my daughter. It still is.

This morning as I prepared the carafe of coffee for my usual Friday suspects, I stopped in front of this picture on the refrigerator. If I put this piece of paper under a microscope, I am sure to find hundreds of my fingerprints. It has been tacked to the refrigerator or bulletin board in my kitchen since February 2009. The day I read it, I knew it to be true. Three or four times a week, I stop and read it, sometimes touching the yellowed and faded paper, acknowledging its truth.

Real Simple thoughts February 2009
Real Simple thoughts February 2009

This morning was the first time I looked at the author’s name W.H. Auden. I didn’t know of him. I felt I should. His words have been part of my life for nearly nine years. I just ordered a book of his poetry, and I have another on hold at the library. I want to read more from this man whose words have become a mantra of sorts, definitely an affirmation.

I’ll learn more about Auden, but in the meantime, if there is one emotion that can predict a lasting memory it’s joy. One of my favorites is the memory of my sister Annmarie and I when we pretended that we were blind. I think we were heading home from the five and dime, Turek’s, on Kedzie. Annmarie suggested that we continue to ride our bikes home and pretend that were blind.  We successfully guided each other, through the alley on Richmond, with nary a scratch. When we turned east on 81st toward Francisco I opened my eyes and kept pedaling my bike. Suddenly, I heard a car’s tires screech, immediately followed by Annmarie’s screams. “Karen, Karen,” she yelled. I was scared. Terrified, in fact. I turned around to see Annmarie in the middle of street, inches away from being struck by a car, whose occupants jaws had fallen.

“Karen, Karen, I thought you were still guiding me!” Annmarie yelled.

I just started laughing as I am now. Thinking of her, irate, as she stood in the middle of the street, she appeared to be a two-legged triangle above her bicycle, unscathed but equally furious and hysterical at me. I’m sure I dropped my bike, apologized, and ran over to help. Why I ran over, I don’t know, she could see perfectly? She could easily walk her bike, or ride it for that matter, over to the sidewalk.  The truth is other than shocking the people in the car at the thought they almost struck a blind person on a bicycle, I don’t remember much, other than the laughter. There are times today, nearly four decades later,  when I am with my sister and we start to tell that story and lose it every time.

A few years ago I was listening to This American Life when an act featured a man who was blind and could ride a bicycle. How cool is that, I thought? To really be blind and ride a bicycle. I loved the story. I immediately sent it to Annmarie.

Laughter is so powerful. All our worries disappear when we are absorbed by joy. Forget the aspirin, laughter is the wonder drug.

You can listen to the podcast here: Batman Begins | ByLulu Miller, Alix Spiegel

Here’s the snippet: Lulu tells the story of Daniel Kish, who’s blind, but can navigate the world by clicking with his tongue. This gives him so much information about what’s around him, he does all sorts of things most blind people don’t. Most famously, he rides a bike. We learn why he was raised so differently from the way most blind kids are brought up, and how the book The Making of Blind Men by Robert Scott changes everything for him. (25 minutes)

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