Dr. Seuss, (one of my personal heroes) once said, “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” I relate so much to this because I think that I must’ve, “flipped my telescope,” some time ago. I like to think of the song from Mary Poppins, “I Love to Laugh,” and imagine, that life can really be a “tea-party on the ceiling,” if I choose to see it that way.
One of the major problems with everything, actually, is just the fact that people take themselves and everyone around them much too seriously. Now I may be on the other end of the spectrum, but from what I’ve gathered–life is entirely too short not to spend a great deal of it laughing. When I tell people that I am a teacher, they think its nice. When I tell them I teach primarily middle school kids, they think I’m crazy. While that may be true, I can say that there is never a day that lacks laughter. Whether from an intentional joke, an unintentional blunder, a fashion faux pas, or an imaginatively off-base answer, I have hours and days worth of stories. I wish I could say this was the norm, that everyone around me shared in the joyous hilarity of the strange situations we find ourselves in, but that’s rarely so.
I think its the walls really. I don’t know if you’ve noticed them, but people have a habit of building really enormous, (rock-climbing-gym-worthy) walls that completely block others out. In some cases I think it started as a method of self-protection, but often I’m afraid that what was meant to preserve, just ends up blocking joy out. Afraid to share the whole truth, they share pieces. Afraid to let their guard down, they don’t talk. When someone, “beneath” them does a great job they’re afraid to give a genuine compliment as if recognizing someone else’s greatness lessens theirs. And it makes me so sad.
Though we’re all capable of creating barriers, I think we should take Berlin’s example here and tear them down. When someone’s funny–laugh! When someone’s unique–appreciate them! Don’t guard yourself in by blocking others out. And us parents do the same thing. Often, we’re afraid to really let loose, play, dream and tell stories because in some way we feel we’ll be undoing some precedent of authority. This, I can say with my own authority, is just wrong. Young people, (especially our own) need to know they are worth our time, our attention and our smiles. They too feel good about themselves when they make us laugh, so we need to let them.
The other night I had my walls up pretty thick. I was exhausted, from work, from being a mom, from everything. It was way to late for the kids to still be up, but there she stood, my little four-year-old at the top of the stairs, holding the railing and pushing her little belly through the bars crooning, “Mommy … just one thing, just one more thing I need to talk to you about.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the expression she wore and the tone she used; the crack in my stone-face broke into a grin and her smile glowed at the sight of it. She made mommy happy and she knew it–mission accomplished, my wall had a light shine through.
My parents were master gardeners growing up, and they had a lot of retaining walls built up around different parts of the gardens for various purposes. It always amazed me how, regardless of the great masonry, little, perfect flowers would find ways to bloom within the cracks between bricks. No matter how tightly wedged, a bit of sun at the right place and time, and there was a baby miracle. Isn’t it the same in our lives? We build a wall to protect our master plan, but a little unexpected light suddenly beautifies the very parts of ourselves we’d been holding back. So why not let a little sunshine in? Take down just one level of serious. I know we’ve all got a lot going on. I know we have images to uphold and critical matters to deal with and attend to, but as Abraham Lincoln, (the greatest president ever) once said, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”
Don’t let living take away the daily joy of life. Let yourself laugh–hard. The kind that hurts your tummy, makes you cry, leaves you gasping and giggling until you almost burst. Break down your self-imposed fortress of formality and lighten your heavy load.