Friday, February 3, 2012

Laughter in the Dark

Last night I went to a videoconferencing seminar on laughter. The presenter was Albert Nerenberg, a Montreal Gazette columnist, film-maker and Laughologist. It was a great experience. We learned the benefits of laughter on the body, spirit and mind, as well as ways to increase our laughter-quotient every day. And yes, we laughed. A lot.

During the course of the evening, I realized that we laugh a lot in our home. Grace and I crack each other up on a regular basis. I realized, while listening to our speaker, that laughter has played a large part in how I have gotten through the past year. My prayer, when things are really hard, is always that God would help me not to be afraid. I pray that He would help me to trust Him, as I make choices daily to believe that He knows my needs and will see that they are met. In a way, laughter is evidence that God has honored my prayer. Where there is fear, gut-wrenching, life-consuming anxiety, there is no laughter. The funny stories I tell about life around here? They are proof that God is keeping my eyes pointed upwards, to Him, and because of this I can see the wonderful, unique, silly things in life that make me laugh.

You have probably noticed that one of the funniest things in my life is Jean-Luc. At less than a year old, he alternates between wild, frantic energy and cool, feline distain, with periods of endearing devotion to make it all worthwhile. His world revolves around us, and as much as we like to tease him, he sees us as a vital part of his world. Which makes for some pretty funny situations.

Last night, when I was in bed waiting for sleep, I thought of an incident that happened before Mum died. It was probably less that 2 weeks before her death. I received a very painful phone call from a loved one who had decided that it was a good time to tell me exactly how much of a screw up I was, and how I deserved some of the terrible things that had happened to me. I was devastated. It was like having old wounds ripped open again, and then added to. I literally had to hang up the phone to stop the ugly words that were pouring into my heart.

I was feeling fragile, anyway, because at that point in my mum's illness, it was becoming clear that she was not going to recover. The phone call ripped my heart out, in a pacing, hand-shaking, anxious, helpless way. Just after I hung up the phone, I received a phone call with news that Mum had taken a turn for the worst and was becoming incoherent. It was feared that if I did not go see her the next day, she might not remember who I was. Mum was in Ottawa at this point, so I made plans to go to my sister's place in Longue Sault that evening, and we would head to Ottawa the next day. I hung up the phone. Then I fell apart.

I went up to my room, sat on my bed, and howled. I felt as if my body could not contain the amount of pain that I was feeling. I wanted to scream, to bang my head on the wall, to do something, anything that would make the pain go away. I sat on the bed with my face in my hands, rocking back and forth crying hysterically. I was vaguely aware that Jean-Luc had come into the room and was on the bed with me. He meowed at me, and I knew that he was distressed, presumably by my crying. I couldn't stop, certainly not for the cat. He moved closer to me and meowed again. I ignored him, still only vaguely aware that he was there.

Then his front paws were on my leg, and he was trying to crawl into my lap. Cats do not like being ignored. I pushed him off, back onto the bed. Jean-Luc apparently decided enough was enough. In the midst of my crumpled, miserable sobbing, I felt him hit me several times across the head, in quick succession. I pushed him away and cried harder. Then, meowing, he did it again. Bang, bang, bang. In the midst of my pain, it occurred to me that my cat was hitting me upside the head in an effort to shut me up.

I lifted my head and looked at him. He was standing beside me, and I'm pretty sure that he was frowning. I know that he was ready to do it again if I didn't stop. It suddenly struck me as funny. And I laughed. It was a choked, sobbish kind of laugh, but it was a laugh. I scooped Jean-Luc up, buried my face in his fur and weepily laughed until he started twisting out of my grasp. Apparently, he wasn't THAT invested in my emotional state. Just shut up, fercryingoutloud!

And life goes on. I managed to get myself ready for an over-night in Longue Sault. I drove to my sister's place, shared my relationship woes with her and was lovingly comforted, and when we got to the hospital in Ottawa to see Mum, she had rallied around and was doing much better. While the coming weeks would bring much more sorrow and a few more phone calls, I wouldn't find myself in that place of desperate, wounded hysteria again. I don't know if it was the laughter than made the difference. Or the thought of Jean-Luc's very stern, "Pull yourself together, woman!" Whatever it was, it saved me in a very real way.

Laughter born from the silly, the endearing, the joyful, is a very clear signal to the darkness that we are not afraid. I may be sad, but I am not afraid. I may be in need, in a corner, even wounded. But I am not afraid. Laughter says, it may be dark in here, but I am not alone. God is here.

Besides, I have a feeling that if it happens again, Jean-Luc may bring out the claws. Okay, so maybe I'm a little afraid...


Shanda said...

LOVE it. I'm a cat lover myself and this is so cute. I'm very sorry about your mother and pray comfort and peace for you both.
I came over here from the Sat. Evening Post.

Kelly said...

Thank you, Shanda. I really appreciate your kind and comforting words. Pets are a wonder at bringing laughter and fun to a home! :)

My Zimbio