Recently, I found out that Stoicism was an ancient Greek philosophy that was based in accepting that which we have been given in life and not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our fears or desire for pleasure and that it was part of nature’s plan. I knew it as something that was often a word that described how we, as children, were to act in public. We were to keep our emotions inside, and perhaps, pretend that things were all right. We were to be strong and reserved. It seemed as though this came about as a by-product of being the children of parents who had been affected by their own upbringing and their bearing witness to persecution and oppression. One learns to manage feelings. Somehow tears were shed in private. Looking back, I “learned” not to cry.
Then I grew up, and I revel in the delight of feeling so many different feelings, sometimes all at once and sometimes when I least expect it, I burst into laughter or I burst into tears. When I found out that we were going to be grandparents for the second time, the moment it registered, I exploded into wails of uncontrollable crying, and they were absolutely tears of joy. I hadn’t remembered ever actually experiencing that rollercoaster of emotion. My son actually videotaped my face and it was real, but not real pretty. A blubbering mess which in retrospect was one of the best moments in recent history. It has been a feeling that a switch was turned on and crying is something that comes easily. I react to movies, television stories, commercials, anything about babies, animals, old folks, young love, new love, reunions, and all those things that tug at my tear ducts. I am a mush and I have the snotty tissues to prove it. I don’t go out of my way to watch or find things that evoke strong emotions, but they find me and I emote. It isn’t because it is always sad, it is just responding to life with all its circumstances. I am often a silent crier, with shoulders shaking up and down and lots of sniffling and covert tissue recovery, but not my sleeve because that’s pretty gross. My FHB and I often both respond with tears and somehow we move closer on the couch and lean into one another for comfort, but avert eye contact, since we know, that is not necessary, because it’s just another sappy commercial for coffee.
My FHB and I don’t really share the same sense of humor. I am pretty sophomoric when it comes to laughing and I react to visual humor and funny accents and idiocy. I also don’t have a lilting laugh. I snort and then, when I try and get it under control, I bark and my FHB is simply horrified, which just makes me more hysterical. It is almost as though the more sternly he looks at me, the more I have to shriek till my sides hurt. Perhaps another effect of stoic parents. I love to laugh and giggle. Sometimes, I say something that only I find funny which is lonely, but I get over it quickly and hope that it is infectious to those around me. My sister and I usually can laugh at the same things and react with giggles. Those moments, which might be based in a past experience, could arise just from a glance or a word, and the rest is unspoken but the laughter is loud. My FHB’s smile is slow to form and often shared in metered doses. It is like the sunrise. It starts slowly and then it lights the sky. While I smile much of the time, and it is perhaps observable to most who look my way, his smile is very valuable and saved for what he deems deserving. I remember when we met I knew his smile meant something, and came from deep inside. It is often my challenge to unwrap his smile because it is so worth the wait.
When our granddaughters laugh, it reaches to our core and makes everything in that moment incredible. How children know what’s funny is mysterious. The connection is real. They are better at getting Saba to smile and that special smile is reserved for those girls.
A sense of humor these days is necessary . There’s always lots to cry about, with little provocation. A strong belly laugh can sustain you and if you can share it with someone, it can echo and come back and keep a positive momentum. Make a funny face and have a good weekend.