First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on April 20, 2021
When I was walking home from work one day, my coat buckle on my sleeve caught in a fence around a tree. I had been trying to move out of the way of someone passing. With my fast pace, I got pulled back sharply, my leg flew up and I let out a big, “Oh!” I smiled at myself and was able to get over the embarrassment quickly. As I walked the rest of the way home, I chuckled quietly at how funny that must have looked.
I don’t take my dear self too seriously. And that helps me to laugh easily. I enjoy giggling with my sisters, brothers, and friends. To have a hearty chuckle – the one that comes deep from within my belly is the best feeling. And I am always looking for more.
I take laughing seriously. It is a wellness strategy I love to tap into.
Last year, I took an improv class with Tiffani Sierra from Improv It Up in an online class during the first wave of the pandemic. We were a small group of individuals engaging with the power of our voice and actions. We participated in games to increase our confidence in acting with strangers.
One game was to come up with a very ordinary skill that we were good at and make it a superhero name. My name for the game was the Ultimate Compost Emptier. We also added an action as we shared our name with an epic voice. I felt silly and strong at the same time.
Tiffani shared how improvisation can help our mental health flourish. The arts can be healing. In her acting classes with businesses, youth, and communities they experience more freedom in expressing themselves.
The whole improv attitude is to accept things the way they are and do something to improve the situation. It’s the “Yes, and” approach.
In my neighbourhood, one homeowner posted a sign that read, “Silly walks,” on their fence – a nod to the Monty Python sketch The Ministry of Silly Walks.
Immediately after seeing the sign I lifted my leg high and started hopping along. I couldn’t do it without laughing. My sister laughed along with me. That street became part of my route when I needed to do errands. Each time I walked by that house I invented a new silly walk. It became so much fun!
Living with seasons of depression often accompanied with suicidal thoughts, I have come to treasure the simple joys of life. My mood disorder leads me through many hills and valleys. Sometimes, I experience intense sadness and have a hard time holding onto hope. When I am on a downward spiral, I reach out to those around me.
My family is always there for me. Encouraging me and listening to my worries. It makes me want to share the joy I have. I can relate to Robin Williams’ words, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.”
I make use of all the help that God has provided for me: Therapy, medicine, sleep, and a good dose of laughter.
In his Apostolic Exhortation on Christian Joy, Pope Paul VI wrote, “to savour in a simple way the many human joys that the Creator places in our path: the elating joy of existence and of life; the joy of chaste and sanctified love; the peaceful joy of nature and silence; the sometimes austere joy of work well done; the joy and satisfaction of duty performed; the transparent joy of purity, service and sharing; the demanding joy of sacrifice.
Savouring the simple human joys is a way to stay in the present moment. With God there is unending joy.
I have a friend I call on the phone often and when we chat, I laugh until I cry and my sides start to ache. It’s an exhilarating feeling of being alive.
Nothing can take away the joy in my heart, which is Jesus. He is the source of all joy. When I start to feel sad, I recall all the blessings I have. “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh 8:10)
Will you laugh a little more knowing that in Jesus your joy will be complete?
Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.