How I lost my laughter

I am a big fan of laughter. You can catch me watching comedy specials, telling goofy jokes, making funny faces for my nieces and nephews. I love the feeling of throwing my head back in a riotous laugh, forgetting for a moment to worry that there might be something in my teeth or that someone may think I am a bit too much.

In all my love of silliness, I am also a very serious person. You may be able to tell from the way I write. As much as I am prone to exuberant joy, I also am prone to rumination on my innermost thoughts.

When I was younger, the sweet innocence of youth helped me keep a very good balance between the two. I wrote on my blog—Julia’s Quill (which has now been archived)—about nature and art and God, and it was all very serious and contemplative. Navigate a few webpages away, and you’d find Facebook posts that consisted of one liners, inside jokes with my high school friends, and Lord of the Rings memes. Perfectly balanced. It was the same way in real life of course. I’m not suggesting that my online presence was my identity, merely that it reflected reality pretty well.

Fast forward to college. Struggles with depression and heartbreak, faith that felt lonely and full of doubt… my laughter became more of a way to escape than a way of life. I found my way again my senior year, felt more like me, and that balance returned.

Fast forward again to becoming a wife, then a mother, then a mother of two, and slowly my laughter was slipping away. Of course in the harder seasons I cannot wholly blame myself for how my smile felt pretend. But I want to talk about the serious decline in silliness, and how I am partially to blame.

Somewhere in my journey to being a wife and mother I began to put pressure on myself. Pressure to perform, to make everything perfect, to have a clean house, a perfect routine and to figure out WHY everything felt so overwhelming and hard and FIX it.

This pressure made me feel like every day was a battle against all my weaknesses. Like I was waking up facing the insurmountable challenges innate to who I was. My son didn’t take a nap, I’d failed. My schedule got thrown off and dinner was late, I must be a terrible homemaker. My husband would come home and I’d desperately need a break, burdened by how everything was out of my control, and feel like a robot. An irritable robot. He’d joke with me and I’d respond as if he were serious. My son would do something funny and I’d give a small smile and then go back to work mode and wash dishes or tidy something.

It took a few things for me to realize something was missing. The first was that I wondered why my husband and I never laughed together. The second is I saw how easily my son laughed at everything. And the third thing was my sister making a hilarious, silly joke on her way to the bathroom. When she made that joke, I laughed, and realized that I was a completely different person when I was with her.

You see, when I was at my sister’s house, it was “leisure time.” Or that’s how I was acting. My sister was someone I called when I wanted a break from the overwhelm of a household I was struggling (by my impossible standards) to manage. So I was my silly self with her.

At home that was a different story. At home I was like a grumpy worker still clocked in to a difficult shift. My husband was only my reprieve from my duties, not a person to laugh with. And worse, I felt I had no right to have fun because I felt so burdened by the day-to-day tasks.

So I decided to do an experiment. Since having a new baby made it hard to maintain my perfectionist standards, I decided to laugh despite the difficulty, and to let it give me cause for joy. I committed to trying to be silly with my husband and kids, and to laugh off inconveniences whenever I had the wherewithal to do so.

I’ve been doing this for a few weeks. And guess what? Nothing in my life has changed, but I laugh way more now. I smile easier. I think of silly jokes. I make up funny stories for my son. I make my husband laugh, and when we argue I apologize quicker, because everything isn’t such a big deal. It really isn’t.

My disposition and circumstances may have made it difficult (and still do, to be honest) to have a positive outlook and manage my stress. But my experiment is proof that despite what I FELT was true, it could be helped.

I am reminded of Psalm 92:4–

For you have made me rejoice, LORD,
by what you have done;
I will shout for joy
because of the works of your hands.

Because of who God is, the psalmist chooses to shout for joy. I, like the psalmist, will choose to laugh and embrace joy despite my circumstances, because of God’s character. He is a God who loves me and cares for me, so I have every cause even in difficult circumstances, to make a joyful noise.

And if you are facing a season where you are finding it harder to laugh, maybe it’s up to you to choose to throw your head back and let go of your cares for a moment.


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