To Laugh

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend you’ve known since childhood, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Like many families in our suburban town, we lived in the same house, while all six children in turn, attended the same elementary, junior, and senior high schools.

Shared experiences create bonds at any age, especially in the formative years of zero to eight. It is then that our behaviors and values evolve, and pretty much guide the rest of our lives. Growing up in the same social and economical environments, there remains between some — a lasting affinity.

The Class of 78′ turned sixty this year. Mark is one of the “lifers” I’ve known since kindergarten. He and some friends were planning a big scuba diving trip to Bonaire to celebrate the new age. Then the world went flippin’ bonkers. Fires, hurricanes, politics, and the beepin’ virus (I’m trying not to have such a potty mouth). His trip and his disposition fell apart.

Subtle suggestion from a friend?

We’ve spoken maybe twenty hours in thirty years; a little more since a fellow classmate died last year. But after our brief conversation a few days before his October 1 birthday, he was on a plane from Ohio to California. I picked him up at the airport; we greeted like the platonic friends of old we were. Partly because of the familiarity, honesty, and non-judgement between us, and partly because of these wacko times we’re living in, the innate child in us began to play…

On a day trip to Ragged Point in Big Sur, I hid behind a penny-printing machine waiting for Mark to emerge from a small market. Imagining to scare the beejezuits out of him, I shook with excitement before jumping out in front of him with a “BOO”!!! He didn’t even flinch or drop his (soda) pop.

The next morning, I slid a large plastic roach half underneath his tea cup. When he walked in the kitchen, I feigned nonchalance but giddily kept one eye on the counter. He picked up the cup and gave a casual look at the roach. “I’m not scared of bugs,” he said calmly.

Mark’s got an intelligent, goofball countenance that makes you grin before he opens his mouth. Like Bill Murray. You just anticipate something funny is going to happen or be said. Sometimes his dry sense of humor goes beyond verbal wit. When Mark mentioned one thing he disliked about cigarette smoke was the residual smell on his clothes, I snickered and concurred as I rolled down all the windows while driving fast. From then on, he performed this crazy “get this smell off of me” dance before getting into the car.

Naturally we talked about life and memories and classmates, but mostly we laughed. It’s what we…what the world needs now.

On his birthday, Mark showed me three words he wrote on his birthday wish paper. “Acceptance, Freedom, Yes.” We philosophized about that a bit before agreeing that we should “get out of our heads”. We then initiated a dance party with a version of, “I Can See Clearly Now,” by Hothouse Flowers. Wine was involved.

Three days of disaster relief.

When I dropped Mark off at the airport he said, “Heidi, I’ve been thinking. This trip has been like chemotherapy. Good cells had to be sacrificed to eviscerate the bad. Laughter is after all, the best medicine.”

Deepak Chopra believes the world would be a happier place if everyone made a point of laughing more (he watches Candid Camera). He doesn’t trust anyone who can’t laugh.

What makes you laugh? Whatever it is, do it more often.

Smile in the mirror. Laugh at yourself. Stop worrying. Dance with abandon. Walk around naked. Marry yourself. Wiggle and wave your toes. PLAY. Take a break from the news. Be ridiculous.

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright bright
Bright bright sunshiny day” – Johnny Nash

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