A good laugh

Today I was challenged to write about a moment experienced through the perspective of my body. I decided to write about a good laugh.

A good laugh starts in my lungs with an inhale and then a stuttered, vocal exhale. My mouth turns up and my eyes narrow. Soon, I feel my stomach tighten as the breaths — inhale, exhale, get faster and deeper. My eyes fill with tears and my cheeks stretch toward my ears. My body begins to fold over as water streams down my face. I straighten up, trying to breathe, anxious for the oxygen, but not wanting the moment to pass.

It was an interesting exercise, to think about what my body does during something as simple as a laugh. Think about it. What moment would you describe, using only the experience of your body?

Do you know how you feel?

Last week a co-worker said to me, “You must be really stressed.”

Her comment took me by surprise. “Why?,” I asked.

“Because you’ve been talking to yourself a lot. You do that when you’re stressed.”

I stopped to think for a minute and she was right. I was feeling stressed. But I was so hyper-focused on the tasks of the week — including getting two kids ready to head out to college and one set for his first day of high school, I hadn’t taken any time to consider how I was feeling about it. All I knew was I had a to-do list a mile long (two of them, in fact — one at work and one at home) and I was chiefly concerned with ticking off  the boxes.

Since then, I’ve been trying to pay attention to how I’m feeling about situations and experiences. Those feelings have included:

Frustration — on several occasions, including when I’d spent more than an hour building a webpage at work, only to have the computer spontaneously shut down, causing me to lose an hour’s worth of work.

Exhaustion — moving two kids into college in two days will do that to you.

Conflict (Confliction? I’m not sure that’s a word) — As a lifelong Catholic, I’m feeling conflicted about my religion given several recent stories in the news.

Sadness — the first time I pulled up to our house and it did not look like a used car lot because there were only two cars there, not the four that had been parked out front all summer

Gratitude — For several things, a flexible work environment, the ability to provide our kids with education, a body that can move (mostly) freely

Exasperation — I love my daughter Annie but by the time she went to school, we were both very ready.

Fear — when my son Charlie told me he is going to his first college party and working with my other son to get himself organized for high school

As I look over this list, I’m surprised to see that happiness and joy didn’t make the list. Surely, I’ve felt both of those things in the past week. I’ve had periods of my life where happiness and joy went on long sabbaticals. This is not one of those times. I think I need to pay more attention to when those make an appearance and be grateful for them.

Are you aware of your feelings as you are having them? Or do you just march through your days ticking off the boxes?