The drama club photo in my high school yearbook from my sophomore year horrified me. In the photo, everyone is smiling nicely at the camera - except the girl sitting front and center. Her eyes are sparkling and her mouth is open wide in laughter. That girl in that photo was, of course, me, and when the yearbook came out I could barely stand to look at that page because it was, I thought, not a pretty photo. But it sure was authentic. I'm a laugher from way back.
Of course, it wasn't the first or the last image of me laughing in photos. When there's a photo taken, I'm frequently the one with my eyes squeezed shut and my mouth wide open or my teeth bared because I laugh a lot. And over the years I've come to think differently about my image in photos where I'm laughing. Is it a prettily posed selfie showing all of my best angles? Nope not even a little. But it is a true representation of who I am. I love to laugh; I believe it is the joy of my soul bubbling up and overflowing. So if you see photos of me or spend time with me, be prepared to see my eyelids and my uvula (that thing that hangs down from the roof of your mouth) a lot.
There are reports of people healing illnesses with laughter and medical professionals tout various health benefits, including stress release, boosting the immune system, relieving pain, and improving mood.
But I love laughter more than anything because it makes me feel good. Laughing brings me into the moment. Regardless of my mental state before I started to laugh, as soon as I start i feel fantastic. It brings me joy, and it connects me to others.
Most of my closest friends over the years are people I can laugh with. On a recent road trip to Northern California with my friends Kristen and Kasci, we spent a lot of the hours we logged in the car laughing. My family is getting together this weekend to remember my dad (and scatter his ashes), and much of our time will be marked with laughter.