They say that laughter works wonders for your health, especially when it’s unexpected. If that’s the case, then at least for one day I made my contribution to the happiness and well being of others. I must have single handedly removed some stress and lowered blood pressures for many in a matter of seconds.
I fell. In public, to the delight of all who witnessed it.
We were camping; I was having a great time at the playground with the kids, zoned out with the newest Kentucky Monthly and a cup of coffee. I was sitting (precariously, it turns out) on the (very) narrow plastic barrier that keeps the mulch from washing off the playground.
It was a perfect September day. The air was cool, the sun was warm, and all was right with the world… until a calamity ensued.
My six-year-old daughter wrecked her bicycle on the sidewalk behind me. I didn’t hear the crash, but the cry that came afterward. Like any mother, my natural reaction was to see what happened. I spun around, and that was it. My swift, svelte movement was thwarted by the aforementioned precarious position of my backside on that narrow piece of plastic.
I fell off of it, flat onto my back on the grass. My legs were stuck straight up in the air. Literally—stuck. I couldn’t get up. That dreaded little plastic barrier kept me from being able to sit up. And so there I was, legs high in the air in the middle of the campground play area.
Dylan, usually my most compassionate and sensitive child, stood over me pointing and cackling while I waggled my legs around in an attempt to get myself upright. Unfortunately, all the leg-waggling caused me to spill my coffee, which seeped underneath me and soaked my shorts, giving the appearance that I’d had an accident…the bad kind.
When I finally got up, I saw that my husband was doubled over. Alyssa, who had tears in her eyes from the scrape and bruise she acquired in her wreck, was laughing too. There were several people milling about their campers. Those who didn’t want me to see them laughing darted away from the scene quickly and with (the appearance of) purpose. I did hear a couple of snorts just before the clicking of the closing camper doors.
In light of all that public humiliation, many people would have probably jumped for cover. But the whole thing had been so totally ridiculous, and I knew there was nothing I could do to make myself appear dignified after that. I just stood there (once I actually got up) and laughed, too. I laughed until I cried.
A few years ago, I remember moping around for days, not being able to shake my toxic mood. One evening I walked in the living room to find someone had left the television going. I didn’t really want to watch America’s Funniest Home Videos, which was what was on, because I didn’t feel like laughing. But, I sat down anyway and didn’t change channels, mainly because I didn’t have the motivation.
A few minutes in, there was sequence of videos with falling, falling, and more falling. And… I laughed. I laughed hard, and strangely, I felt renewed. Suddenly, things didn’t seem so bad anymore. I still find it funny how something so simple can evoke such change.
And so, I thought of that after I stopped laughing at myself in the playground. While I looked like an idiot, someone probably got some enjoyment out of it. Maybe it even changed their perspective a little. And me? I got something from it too. Besides a hearty laugh and a good dose of humility, I got something greater—a story and a desire to tell it—something I haven’t had for a while.
Is laughter really the best medicine? I can’t say for certain, but there sure is something special about it.