Laughter

Very_funny_2
After I finished 9th grade, I went to work at a summer camp.  One of my girlfriends from school worked there too.  It was as much fun as an employee as it would have been for a camper.  We got to do all of the same activities and, at the age of 14, you can imagine the wonderful independence that living away from home for the first time afforded us.  Probably one of the best parts of the entire experience was the exposure to new people that we had that summer.  While we were the youngest ones there, the rest of the staff ranged from older teens to people in their twenties to early thirties.  For such a huge age gap and different , the group as a whole was surprisingly close knit.  I could regale you with a million tales from that time, more than a few for each of the wonderful women and men I spent those eight weeks with, but when the topic of laughter was given to me as a prompt for the blog-off, there was one in particular that came to mind.

I did a lot of thinking before I chose a direction for this post.  I thought of a list of things that prompt laughter from me, a catalogue of stories that I could share, but never felt satisfied with my ideas, it wasn’t until the other day that I stumbled across the cobweb covered memory of mine.

One night during Kai (the period between ten and midnight when we were allowed to spend time and socialize in the dining hall without the campers around) my girlfriend and I sat talking to one of our new friends, a university student in his late twenties named Dave.  I have no idea how we ever got on topic, but he told us a story that I will never forget.  (Forgive me for not remembering all of the exact details, but it was nearly 18 years ago!)

When Dave was a boy, his family (both parents and, I believe a sister) spent some time vacationing in Hawaii.  While there, they’d rented, borrowed or somehow acquired some kind of dirtbike.  (Maybe it was a motorbike, but seriously, what’s the difference?)  For days, his dad rode that bike around, each of the kids and his wife taking turns riding on the back.  As happens in conversation, we interjected, making jokes and comments here and there, both Shannon and I did, but so did Dave.  As he continued, he told that on the morning of the day he was telling us about, Dave’s mom asked for a turn driving it herself.  After a quick lesson, she took off.  I remember that he told us she was squealing in excitement as she drove a wide circle around them twice.  As she became more confident, she drove faster and dared to go further.  "She came back and looped around us one more time.  She was waving at us and not looking where she was going’ he recalled. Then he told us "And she drove right off a cliff."  And we… laughed.

It wasn’t malicious, it wasn’t intended to be rude or insensitive, it was pure shock.  Our little fourteen year old sheltered brains could not process past the ultimately unpredictable ending to the story.  Through our laughter, we apologized, we said a million sorries to our friend Dave, but the thing I remember most was catching my breath and telling him how awful I felt for laughing, then looking up and seeing a big grin on his face.

Dave and I remained friends for years after camp, as much as a teenager and a man can.  In that time, I learned that it was, in fact, a true story, that he’d never seen his mother again after that day and that the way we’d responded to it hadn’t bothered him at all.  Looking back, I think that after years of grieving he’d learned to tell the story in a way that he could share it while crafting it in a way that others could most appreciate.  For him, after nearly two decades had passed, laughter truly had become the best medicine.

I think it’s true that for whatever reason that I can’t even dare to distinguish, we do respond with laughter to a wide variety of completely inappropriate situations: when a co-worker uses the wrong word, when we see a stranger trip on the sidewalk or when someone makes a complete ass out of themselves in public.  I can’t be the only one who will roll around giggling while a loved one writhes in (relatively minor) pain, can I?

The truth is, we all respond to some pretty bad stuff by bursting into peals of laughter.  Who can say why we do it, it’s just a fact that we do.  Could it be that we laugh to make things better?  That when we laugh at a stranger, we do it to convince ourselves that it’ll be okay the next time we commit the same faux pas?  Do we use laughter to cover up the shock of feelings we’re not quite ready to deal with?  Do we offer it as comfort to others, to encourage them to look on the bright side, that things will get better?

Who knows?  What I do know is that nearly 20 years on, an intimate story given and received in friendship still has me thinking about it and about the greater lesson that it has me on the path to learning.

The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”  When I initially read this quote, I thought of it in a negative context.  While I don’t know what Mark Twain meant when he said it, I went back to it and decided that I’d prefer to think that laughter, as our great weapon, gives us the ability to heal, to bond, to share and to open our minds, our heart and our lives.  To laugh gives us a fighting chance to combat all the stress and strife that we have to deal with every day.

This was my week one entry for Courtney‘s Breast Cancer Blog-Off.   We were given a one word prompt to write about, this week’s was LAUGHTER.  As all contestants rate their favourite entries, the competitors earning the fewest votes will be eliminated.  I found it an interesting challenge to have to work within the guidelines and hope that I’ll be around for another week to do it again!

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22 Responses to “Laughter”

  1. Courtney Says:

    I really liked this angle and I really enjoy that quote. It’s interesting that the first time I read laughter as a weapon, i read it as battling evil, but just a few thoughts later, realized that laughter can be used as a weapon against each other as well- to hurt.

    You always make me think, Carly. Keeping me on my toes!

  2. chuck Says:

    Honey, you got that right with the comment you laugh every time you hear a co-worker say a wrong word, I laugh twenty times a day at Scott Paper!!

  3. aaron Says:

    Interesting take on laughter Carly-Ann. When I read the story, it sounded pretty funny, but then it’s like “What?? She DIED!!???”.

  4. Vanessa Says:

    Oh! I loved that story! I am still in shock though.. that she really did drive off…..I am with a man (7years now) who has something he calls “nervous laughter.” It gives away his sins!! It is funny! And contagious.. I ask a serious question… then he giggles uncontrollably.. Then I start laughing and tug harshly on his arm saying, in between giggles, why are you laughing? Stop laughing!! Ha…Yes, laughter is good.

  5. Bex Says:

    I’m mixed emotions right now after that story! Very funny, but how awful! That guy had an interesting take on how to react to the story.

    This was a good topic to write about. Lots of different takes on it.

    My mom and aunts were infamous in the family for laughing when their kids got hurt – not seriously injured, or anything though. We’d be crying, and they’d be stifling laughter! I find I do it sometimes today with my kids too. I think it just helps me deal with it better, and it probably helps them deal with it not so seriously either.

  6. Diane Says:

    I think its a shock thing. I remember laughing when my boyfriend took the radiator cap off and the hot water spurted out and burned him. Truly inappropriate but that was my reaction!

  7. ~G Says:

    Wow. She drove right off the cliff while smiling and waving!? That’s horrible…but it is quite a dramatic exit, to say the least. This story will be haunting me today…

  8. Evey Says:

    I have to admit I laughed when I read she drove off the cliff. lol. When I read your post to Chris he also laughed. How truly aweful for a family to have to experience that, but how could you NOT laugh when it is told in such a manner. I love it. Good for Dave for being able to find a way to laugh and smile about something so tragic in his life.

    I really loved this post, your such a great writer. You even had Chris sucked in…..and he gets bored easily. ha!

    And the picture, I love it.

  9. Tara Says:

    “Could it be that we laugh to make things better?” I think so, nice observation.

    great photo.

  10. kelly Says:

    Wow, truly amazing story. Laughter definitely has some healing power. Laughing through your pain is good – even when it makes it hurt a little more, it’s a good hurt.
    And I admit, laughing when someone falls is an absolute must. Whether its someone running down the sidewalk to catch a bus or a baby learning to sit up, it’s freakin’ funny.

  11. Piera Says:

    I seem to laugh alot. There’s nothing like a good laughing session with your best friends, does a body good!

  12. durante vita Says:

    I still don’t believe that happened. Good for him to be able to be able to tell it the way he does.

    Good luck in the blog-off!

  13. C~ Says:

    Holy cow. I knew she was gonna do that, too…but still…holy cow.

    Interesting take, though. I used to be an operating room nurse. I cannot tell you all the inappropriate jokes we threw around trying to cope with horrific situations.

  14. Erin Says:

    It is so true though isn’t it!! I do the same thing, like all the time! It is in bad form, but hey, it is a natural part of our reaction. I would’ve laughed too 🙂

  15. Mindy Wilson Says:

    You should wear a little crown. You are sunshine. I love this photo of you and it makes me giggle. This is the third time or so… that I have come back to this post. I love your writing Carly. I’m just glad you didn’t use that wild cackle of yours (wink) when your friend Dave told you that story. That would’ve been out of place and frankly–creepy. This was just the shock in hearing the story that made you laugh. And, in any cartoon this would have been a Saturday morning YEE HAW! But, poor Dave and his family. I’ve been the only one laughing at the wrong time….this wasn’t the case with you. He chose to tell the story in a funny way for safety (I’m sure) and you reacted naturally!

    But, the crazy-eyed wild cackle…creepy

  16. flap Says:

    Excellent post. I would have laughed too, but I am evil.
    I loved the spin you put on what could have been a mundane topic. Excellent journalistic skills Carly-Ann!
    Write a book already.

  17. Lynn Tucker Says:

    Wow this is lovely.
    I like the personal approach to the story.
    You learned alot about life as a whole at camp.
    Your memories of the story are interesting, and your great ability to tell a story makes it interesting.
    I think that your knowledge in retrospect is the Wow factor.

  18. Julie Says:

    I have been told that laughing produces serotonin, so I looked it up…very interesting. And great post Carly. Tragic.

    http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/Laughter-and-Health.html

  19. jan Says:

    One of my dear friends when we first met told me that she was a widow. Her husband’s heart stopped. After a truck hit him.

    It took me a while to get used to her sense of humor but I have loved having her laughter in my live.

  20. John O Says:

    I remember a story I heard when I lived in Scottsdale, AZ. A co-worker of mine married a widowed woman with three boys. Her previous husband died while working in the logging industry cutting down a tree. My co-worker told this story to somebody, and that person BROKE OUT IN LAUGHTER! It wasn’t really a funny story, but it struck this person as funny somehow. Obviously, if my co-worker wasn’t meaning to tell it in a funny way, the laughter was probably inappropriate at best.

  21. Tisha Says:

    what a turn of events I certainly did not expect that ending!

    laughter is a defense mechanism for me, even in the hardest, saddest or most frustrating of times I laugh and then I sometimes have to go back and apologize for being such an insensitive jerk but that is just my way of dealing with things.

    much love!

  22. Kristin Says:

    I know that lots of people respond to stressful situations by laughing. Sometimes your body just takes control and that is what comes out. How terribly sad though…what a tragic story.

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