Dancing in the Rain – Part 2: The Joy of Living and Laughing

It’s no joke.  Laughter is good for you.  A good laugh feels good, but it actually has many positive physical benefits.

It’s a great form of stress relief, stimulates internal organs as you breathe in oxygen-rich air, and it spurs the brain to release endorphins.  And endorphins are a good thing.  The list goes on and on.

Children are a great source of laughter.  My four-year-old granddaughter told me recently I had to take off my glasses because she “wanted to see my regular face.” 

Regardless of the source of the laughter, it is a key ingredient to what the French call “Joie de vivre,” the joy of living.  So why allow a few embarrassing episodes to spoil your joy.  Take a breath, step back, and learn to laugh — long, loud, and often.  Life is too short and laughter too episodic not to chuckle at your own slips, trips, and stumbles.  Learn to laugh at yourself. Besides you might also learn some things.

Which reminds me of one particularly embarrassing moment in 1994.  

Our youngest daughter was playing Middle School basketball and had a Friday afternoon game in nearby Covington.  My late wife (Tootie) and I always tried to attend each of our children’s activities.  With five active children, it was always a challenge.   On this occasion, I left work early and met them in Covington for the 5pm game.

Following the game, Tootie reminded me our oldest daughter, then a senior at Salem High School and a cheerleader, needed a ride home following that night’s high school basketball game.  She suggested I drop off my car on the way home and she and my youngest daughter would be right behind me in our red Ford Aerostar Van to pick me up.   I was driving a 1992 Saturn at the time and drove straight to the high school and parked the car behind the gymnasium.  I remember getting out of the car, still wearing a suit and tie with a briefcase in one hand and an armful of work papers in the other.   It had started to drizzle.  With my glasses blurring with raindrops, I looked up expecting at any moment to see Tootie pull alongside.  As the rain picked up, I hustled over to the steps under the awning at the back door of the gym.

A minute later around the corner came the red Aerostar van.  I started walking down the steps to the street but as I got to the curb, the van drove past and continued to the other end of the parking lot.  I recall thinking,   “What is she doing?”  The van turned around and proceeded slowly toward me.  There I was, standing in what is now a steady rain, my papers and myself getting soaked and my wife is taunting me by driving the van slowly in my direction.   After expressing my growing aggravation with a few urgent shoulder gestures to hurry up, I grew weary (and wet) of her silly, not-so-funny game and ran toward the van. With each step, my aggravation grew, until I got to the van, jerked open the door, and squawked “What are you…….you, you, you are not my wife!”  I had mistaken another red Aerostar van for ours.  

Realizing I was lucky that this lady wasn’t carrying a gun, I offered my profuse apologies and turned my red face back to the protection of the gym’s awning, hoping I might at least be out of pistol range of this frightened and startled lady.

Seconds later around the corner came an identical van.  This time, I closely watched to be sure it was, in fact, Tootie at the wheel.  I nodded over at the lady in the first van still parked nearby, no doubt with her handgun loaded and the safety off.  Hopefully, she would see I was not the crazy fool she first imagined.   When I got inside the correct van and expressed my exasperation and the embarrassment that just occurred, I received no sympathy.   None.  Not even one “I’m sorry.”  My wife and daughter just laughed.  I’m not talking about a giggle.  No, these two women who professed to love me broke into a raucous chuckle that sounded more like they had just successfully pulled off a practical joke.  They didn’t plan this of course;  they feigned innocence by claiming to have stopped to get my daughter a hamburger.

It was awhile before I found humor in that misunderstanding.  But wait, there’s more.

Two months later, Tootie was backing out of our garage in that same red Aerostar van when the rear crossbar of the luggage rack caught the handle on the not fully raised garage door.  No serious damage was done other than the crossbar was slightly bent in the center.  When I got home that evening, Tootie took me to the garage and explained what had happened.  She didn’t seem to be the least bit upset and her unapologetic tone reflected no hint of regret. Before I could respond, she suggested this actually might be a good thing.   After all, I would never ever fail to recognize our van in the future.  

How do you argue with that logic?  This time I just laughed.  

We never fixed that crossbar.

What did I learn from this rainy day of humiliation back in 1994?  I have learned over time never to allow my assumptions to fully inform my expectations.  But what I really learned was that the joy of living must include the willingness to laugh at yourself.

A friend once told me, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, call me.  I have no problem laughing at you.”  Or maybe a better reason to laugh at yourself is that as you get older, the more you laugh, the better the chances are that your wrinkles will be in the right place. 

In other words, if it’s raining, you are going to get wet.  Might as well dance.

Photo courtesy of  NeONBRAND on unspalsh.com

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