The tie that binds

Last month, my siblings and I were together for several days. Although there were serious moments, mostly during our discussions of our mother’s health, we laughed a lot as we usually do when we’re together. We laughed at each other’s stories and at old family jokes and sayings (as my brother said, sometimes the old jokes are the best).

It got me to thinking that one of the ties that binds people together is laughter. I won’t quote research on how laughter is good for us physically, mentally, and emotionally—you can find that out in a quick online search. But it’s not just what it does for us as individuals, it’s what it does for us as a group.

I’ve noticed over the years how laughter can mitigate stressful situations, both at home and at work. I admit to using it as a technique myself to lighten the mood of a meeting—I could almost say that the co-workers who laugh together, work well together. And with our family and friends, laughter—whether at a well-told joke, a funny story, or a situation—unites us in moments of fun and relaxation.

Think about it—once you’ve laughed with a person, doesn’t that increase your sense of connection to that person? Your desire to spend time with them? Your willingness to meet halfway to resolve an issue? When I think of my friends and co-workers, both past and present, I see how many of those good relationships had the factor of laughter. Just thinking about a card my co-worker Mandy gave me when we were in the midst of a tough project has made me laugh!dinosaurs-275x300Conversely, I hate seeing people use laughter as a weapon against others. It is so hurtful to take something that should be a uniting force and turn it into something that shames or embarrasses another person. Sure, that sometimes happens unwittingly—when we’re caught off guard or are being smart-asses without realizing the truth of a situation—but laughter should not be intentionally cruel.

I leave you with a story from a couple of months ago. My friend Catherine and I were discussing a restaurant meal from the previous night, at which one of our group had ordered veal. Said I, as I got up to clear the table, “I usually steer clear of veal.”

Honestly, the words were out of my mouth before I thought!

Changes in latitude

A concatenation of circumstances earlier this year—projects on which I was working with one of my sisters, training for the Katy Trail Ride, and my mother’s health—resulted in my taking advantage of the opportunity to spend several months in the Texas city in which I grew up. It was definitely a change in latitude—not better or worse than what I was used to, just different.

For one, I lived in a standalone house for the first time since I graduated from college. It was odd how insecure I feel without having people connected to me by a hallway. When I tripped a circuit breaker the first weekend I was in the house, it never occurred to me to check outside for the breaker box—it had always been in my apartment. And watering a lawn—what’s that about?!

For another, I haven’t owned a car for most of my adult life and have walked, used public transportation, or once in a while, taken a cab, to wherever I needed to go. Early on in my stay, I took the bus to the transportation center downtown. When I got off, the driver, knowing I was new to the bus system, asked me where I was going. I said I was walking over to the library and he said ‘walking?’ like it was a marathon. It was a less-than-15 minute walk! It made me laugh but it was a reminder of how car-oriented and -dependent people are in a sprawling area.

As much as I enjoyed the winter (it was sooo mild compared to New England), I found the summer a challenge. Here in New England, a heat wave is when temperatures top 90 degrees for three consecutive days. In Texas, family and friends were talking in early July about how mild the summer had been because the temperature had yet to go over 100 degrees! I, on the other hand, was melting and melted even more when we hit the dog days of August.

While sometimes Texas felt as foreign to me as any foreign country, I enjoyed my time there. Because I was there for longer than my usual one-week visit, I was able to look about me more. Some of the changes made me feel as if someone was messing with my childhood, but others were wonderful—the Trinity Trails where we did our bike training, Sundance Square downtown, the developments in the public library system that allowed me to borrow books from numerous branch libraries.

Most of all, I loved being with my sisters and as hard as it was, being able to visit my mother while she still knew my name (there is no timeline for that changing, but the odds are that it will). For four months, my sister Nancy and I met two or three times a week  to work on our blogs, the documentary, and various business ideas we are considering. We took advantage of a Shutterfly offer to collaborate on a book of my pictures and her words. All in all, it was a soul-satisfying and intensely creative time.

I also got to attend two of my nephew’s high school band performances and his Eagle ceremony. Twice, my sister Susan invited me to her place to share in the fun of a weekend babysitting my absolutely adorable great-nephew. One of our best get-togethers as a group was on the 4th of July, when we decided that morning to meet at my house for a cookout; to be in the same area and be able to do that spontaneously was a gift.

Because Texas had not been home to me for many decades, I did not worry about whether one can go home again or not. However, as my sister said in one of her posts earlier this year, if home is where the heart is, you can go home again, no matter how many years have passed.

My favorite page from my and Nancy's Shutterfly book.

My favorite page from my and Nancy’s Shutterfly book.