laugh – verb | \ˈlaf, ˈläf\

: to show that you are happy or that you think something is funny by smiling and making a sound from your throat
: to think or say that someone or something is foolish and does not deserve serious attention or respect
: to not be bothered by something


I went to bed last night with a sore face from laughing so hard. As we turned off the television and made our way up the stairs at bedtime, my youngest stepson and I were still quoting Jim Gaffigan from his Mr. Universe show we had been watching on Netflix. And even though it was nighttime, and the quiet and dark of outside were supposed to be telling our brains that we should settle down for sleep, our shoulders kept shaking and we kept using our raspy voices to say, “That’s not even funny; he shouldn’t talk about the children like that,” in our best Gaffigan impression.

Even though it hurt my cheek muscles and gave me a fitful night of sleep, I needed a good laugh. Sometimes, I get so hunched over and serious that I forget what it’s like to let out a laugh so loud it surprises me. After one big guffaw last night, our oldest son said, “That did it,” and I was pretty sure he meant I had ruptured his eardrum. Thankfully, it wasn’t that at all. But since I was laughing so hard, I didn’t really take note of what he was actually referring to. Maybe I should ask him.

Recently, I co-led a writing workshop with Ann Kroeker at one of the northside branches of the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library. About 70 attended, and when the event was over, a handful of people came up to talk with Ann and me. A dozen or so more crowded around the book table. And when it was over and we were cleaning up, Ann’s husband handed me a note. “Someone left this for you,” he said.

“I miss your laugh and your light,” the note said. It was from an old friend who had slipped in too late for me to catch her before the event began, and apparently she had to leave before we could chat afterwards. I nodded as I read the note, because sometimes, I miss my laugh, too.

At various times in the past, my laugh has been the thing people commented on when they met me. Not “nice glasses” or “what beautiful hair color.” Instead, people would say, “I love your laugh.” As a teenager and young adult, I felt self-conscious about that. As an adult, I miss hearing those comments.

Years ago when I was going through cancer treatment, I read that laughter really is good for one’s health. I watched a lot of comedies on television and DVD after that. According to an article on WebMD, “Some researchers think laughter just might be the best medicine, helping you feel better and putting that spring back in your step.” Of course later in the article they quote a therapist who says you can get even more benefit from laughter if you move around while doing it. “Combining laughter and movement, like waving your arms, is a great way to boost your heart rate.”

I’ll say (waving my arms in the air like I just don’t care).

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Even as I write this today, I’m still smiling, thinking about last night’s laughter and a few other times recently when I nearly busted a gut laughing. While busted guts are probably not the healthy benefit researchers attribute to laughter, the feeling I have for hours, even days, after surely is.

And the best news is that we saved the last half of that Jim Gaffigan show for tonight. I’ll bet my face will be sore for days.


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Photo by Gregory Gill, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.