MAMATA VENKAT looks back over the last year, which has been full of tragedy, and finds the moments of light and laughter that bring joy and celebration to life.
Here are a few statistics I recently heard on an episode of the Hidden Brain podcast:
On average, children laugh 300 times a day.
It takes adults two and a half months to laugh as much.
Adults stop laughing around the age of 23, once they reach working age.
I’m an adult (theoretically). I laugh a lot, don’t I? I think I do. I think I laugh many times a day.
Actually, I don’t.
What is stopping me from laughing more?
And why does it take difficult moments to realize how much we take joy, laughter, love, and people for granted?
This realization sticks with me harder than ever in a year our family has been hit with several successive months of sudden loss. It has been overwhelming trying to make sense of the grief that we never, ever, expected to experience.
As you slowly start to shake off the shock and heaviness of loss, you resurface to find that simple things like jokes, humor, and laughter still exist. They are still allowed to exist. And every moment that you get to soak in that joy from laughter feels almost medicinal, a soothing reprieve from the pain that reminds you that, yes, even in the midst of deep, overwhelming sadness, you are still allowed to be happy.
Laughter has been the light we have let in during a year that has often been quite dark. It has come in many forms:
In the staring contests I have over entire weekends with my young cousins, who will giggle at just about anything.
In a story my dad shared shortly after my grandfather’s funeral, about the time my grandfather waved merrily to a driver who was giving him the finger because he thought it was a friendly American gesture.
In the heated board and video games that my nephews pull me into, which have me cracking up because of their smack talk.
In the inside jokes shared over the phone amongst friends that keep us satisfied until we can all be together again in person.
In the Friends reruns that my niece and I enjoy, which still make us laugh in all the same spots.
In the moments my mom and I dance around the kitchen to our favorite ’90s country songs that have us sharing twin snorts because she always forgets the lyrics.
I will allow myself to laugh with the innocence of a child,
straight from the heart, with abandon and without fear,
with gratitude for every person in my world,
and full of appreciation for simple humor, joy,
and celebration of life.
This last year has so painfully and beautifully cracked my heart wide open and has taught me to let the light in and appreciate every moment to its fullest. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I often take the simple things for granted.
Forget the adult statistics; I will never, ever, take laughter for granted again! I will allow myself to laugh with the innocence of a child, straight from the heart, with abandon and without fear, with gratitude for every person in my world, and full of appreciation for simple humor, joy, and celebration of life.
Illustrations by ANANYA PATEL