The professor had this to say about my work, “Sometimes I get the feeling that you are sitting at your desk and just cracking yourself up.” She was wrong. I didn’t have a desk. I sat on the bed, at a coffee table at Starbucks, on the train, or on the yoga mat that doubled as an accent rug. She was right about one thing, though. I make a habit of cracking myself up. I had to. I was working full time and in grad school so tears came easily and regularly. Laughter was a bit more elusive. The yoga teacher would begin class by having us set an intention for our work, something that would carry us through the convoluted poses, the unnatural stillness, the words I didn't know. As I sat before whatever surface that got the opportunity to hold the weight of my blank page, my intention was quite simple. It wore brown slacks, a grey shirt, and a tan hat. It contorted its face into funny shapes, it held wordless conversations with headless manikins, it tapped dance in the middle of movie set, and when the big moment came it belted out, “Make ‘em laugh.” My dance students look at me with wide eyes when I ask them if they know the combination well enough for me to turn the music on and stand off to the side. “It’s just hard,” one of them says. “We lift our left leg,” she pauses and performs a small, personal version of the combination. “Then the right and then the left again.” I nod. “It’s so complicated!” she tells me again. “It really isn’t.” It isn’t like you are an octopus. You only have two legs.” I am serious, but they laugh. They foil my plans to be the “humorless dance teacher” and they laugh. Their eyebrows fall away from their hairlines, and they tell me they are ready to dance. We are rarely short on sources that encourage us to feel our feelings in the corners of dark places, especially in the arts. The goal of a lot of the “successful” works seems to be drama, conviction, introspection, berating self-reflection. It is far too easy to find failures and shortcomings to dwell on and to replay the never-ending movie of images things that we could have done better, or the millions of other choices we could have made. But we have other options. We can laugh. Not a snicker at something stupid, or an academic chuckle at an intelligent joke, but a full-bodied guffaw over something that is actually and simply hilarious. By doing this, we give ourselves a few seconds of love and relief. In the time it takes to squint the eyes, throw the head back, and forget that the world can be a sad and horrible place, we experience an appreciation for our lives and all of the twists, turns, and choices that brought us to the moment that invites us in to take a load off and have a drink. In the movie, the girl who took some creative writing classes in college tells the author that his narrator is narcissistic. The author, wearing khakis and a white t-shirt, both wrinkled, shrugs and says, “Well, somebody’s gotta love me.”
I laugh at this every time.