Like a lot of people this weekend
who opted to tuck in front of the fire in lieu of holiday parties, I watched Rudolph, which always stresses me out and I’m not sure why I go, “awwwwwwwwww” when I see it’s going to be on television because that abominal snowmonster still freaks me out and all those sad toys with Rankin Bass puppet mouths, and then Frosty (ditto—he melts! A little girl cries next to the puddle once known as his former self, and there’s a cloying bad guy that he can’t shake with a weird rabbit helper—I forget what happens in the end. I think he moves to Brooklyn.)
And then the healing began. Mary Poppins. Two hours of Mary and Bert and tuppence and votes for women and evening govnah and magic umbrellas and bottomless carpet bags and sidewalk chalk painting portals into barber shop penguins and carousels with real horses and hilarious helium tea on the ceiling and and and. Even though she leaves them in the end and they all have to find their inner Mary Poppins.
The only thing of it is: I laughed. And that is a physical response to emotions I haven’t let myself feel for two months. The who what when where why how of it has to do with a horse and my tendency to act over-confident when I’m scared. And a loose cinch. In short, he zigged, I zagged. Bottom line: if you’re going to ride horses, you’re going to end up on the ground sometimes. You just hope you don’t hear actual bones cracking. Three of them. Ribs.
If you’ve broken a rib, you are now making the face I make when I see the abominal snowmonster.
It suuuuuuucks. Breaths are reduced to small sips, coughing and sneezing are a delicacy you can only succumb to if you can’t not, sighing is not recommended, sleeping in any position at all is nearly unattainable (I seriously almost bought a recliner and put it in the living room), talking with any animation is ish-y, singing is better left to a dull hum, crying—meh…and laughter? Laughter is verboten, like the Burgermeister Meisterburger has some sort of hold on you.
You know that kind of laughter that happens at weddings and funerals and graduation speeches that you can’t control? It has total occupation of your diaphragm? Well, that’s one of my central goals in life. That kind of belly-womping primordial caccination. With snorts in-between. If you can’t breath deeply, you can’t pull it off, not by any stretch. So you have a choice: Laugh your way into scar tissue that will remind you of your stupid horse tricks for the rest of your life when you climb a ladder or reach for your shoes. Or go deadpan. Poker face. In short, I’ve been officially depressed. I lead retreats. I needed to go on one. Just not in my bed for two months, groaning.
And now that it’s the holidaze, the Kay jewelers people don’t help. Or those Folgers ads. Or all the perfect Facebook Christmas trees. Or the families in matching sweaters on my Christmas cards. Or the fact that I haven’t gotten a Christmas card out this year and probably won’t. In my mind, it’s still October. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened. I’m finally going out for a ride on my horse after a grueling fall work schedule. I’m tired. I feel sorry for myself. And I’m going to do something nice for myself, damnit. He jigged. I jagged. And I watched fall become winter from my bed for the most part of two months.
But I’m not writing this to complain. I’m writing all of this to say that I now know what gratitude really means. Bless you, cup of tea that took me twenty minutes to make, including the hard launch from bed– the roll, the sidle, the squirm, the shuffle, the sit, and the big one: the stand…the walk…and the stairs…the stairs, the pick up the tea pot, the fill it with water, the ow ow ow ow ow all the way back up the stairs, back to sit, to the slow timber back into the pillows. Oh. And then there’s the tea. Waaaaaaay over there on the nightstand, a century of inches away. “Forget it. Let it get cold. I’ve just done the Iditorod.” And there she lay. Watching the sun move around the house and the moon rise, and all of her responsibilities fall like the leaves she never got to on the lawn, and the snow that’s coming, that came, and all the people she’ll have to ask to help her do simple things and all the shame around one stupid moment on a horse that she was planning on riding every day for eight straight weeks of much-needed horse therapy. Her new craving: Epsom salts. And oh, that cold cup of tea. If only someone would come in with a fresh steaming cup and fold her laundry… Still, I have never been more grateful for just being able to get up and make the tea, never mind drink it.
That said, all that woe-is-me managed to loop itself around to a world of hurt that I’ve never experienced before. I’ve never taken anti-depressants, and for the first time, I seriously considered it. And then, just as I was thinking this would be my permanent world…I caught myself laughing at something on Jimmy Fallon. And it hurt…so good. And I realized what was really wrong. It wasn’t the horselessness or the shame or the frustration or even the pain. It was the lack of laughter in my life. Without laughter, I was living in a colorless world of fair-to-middling. I had untrained myself out of delight. Joy. Unabashed explosions of glee. And it had to stop. I am a laugher. No matter what. I needed to get back on that horse. (The other one can wait.)
So on Saturday night, in my eighth week of recovery, my ribs more mended than not, with permission from Mary Poppins and her tea-time wack-wonkery, I let myself laugh. Ecstatic laughing. In hee hee hees and hoh hoh hohs and hah hah hahs. It made LOL look like mere titter. And man…did it feel good. My whole being felt light and alive in a way it hasn’t for far too long. I am so grateful for this simple and essential human ability. I love to laugh, indeed. Laughter really is the best medicine. LOLOLOLOLOLOL!
Now Booking Haven Writing Retreats 2017
February 22-26 (one spot left)
***According to Mayo clinic laughter is just what the doctor ordered!