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!

Silver and gold

One of the nicest coincidences in my life is that I have two dear friends with the same birthday, one of them a friend I’ve had since childhood, the other a friend I’ve made more recently.

My friend Lee and I have known each other since we started grade school (and a shockingly long time ago that was!). We were best friends all through grade school and high school. We had sleepovers at each other’s houses, talked about the horses we would have, including the details of their coloring and their names (we read a lot of “The Black Stallion” books!), and played fashion photographer by taking photos of ourselves in our best dresses and accessories.

In high school, we both worked part-time at the public library, starting our freshman year. We gossiped about our crushes, asked boys to the backwards dance together, and had more discussions about life than I can count or remember. She even asked my mom what the rules were for my dating when I was too scared to ask myself.

In our college years, we took a summer class together and as I recall, spent almost as much time cutting class to go for coffee with some ‘older men’ (I think they were a year or two ahead of us in school) as we did in class. We covered for each other with the parental units (we can admit that now).

We lost touch at some point in our adulthood, but reconnected when her father died and my mother attended the funeral and passed on my email address. We started emailing and have kept it up ever since. When I signed up for Facebook, she was one of the first people I friended because it seemed appropriate.

I met my friend Phil several years ago when he worked for me as a co-op student. We realized how simpatico we were early on, but for me, the moment that really kicked off our friendship occurred when we drove a Zipcar to the beach for a sunrise shoot with another co-worker. We got turned around going through one of the towns south of Boston; when we pulled up to a stop sign, Phil said, “I’ve been lost here before.” I almost fell out of the car – I had been saying that my whole life! After that, we went on several sunrise shoots, some of which turned into all–day excursions, and all of which were followed by a cholesterol-laden breakfast.

Another of our activities is cooking great meals together and for each other (well, he’s cooked great meals for me; not sure if the reverse is true). We believe that having a dessert that requires whipped cream every time is not a rut, but a tradition.

Phil helped me pack up my kitchen when I moved apartments several years ago and was at the end of an intense, over-Christmas, packing period and could not do any more. He repeated the process last year, bless his heart.

As with Lee, we’ve had good times together and I was thrilled when I found out he had the same birthday as she does.

As a song I learned in Girl Scouts goes,

Make new friends, but keep the old,

One is silver and the other gold.

 

Angels

I’ve been thinking about angels for the last couple of days. I am not religious (spiritual is a different story), but sometimes I revert to the terminology of my Catholic upbringing. In this case, I use the word ‘angel’ for a person who has said or done something that I needed in the time since my accident. 

What brought this to mind was a conversation I had this past weekend with the sister of my college roommate. My college roommate and I had been out of touch for a couple of years when we reconnected last summer at the memorial service for her mother. After the memorial service, as we were catching up on each other’s lives, the subject of my accident came up and I mentioned that it was the post-concussion issues that were driving me crazy. My friend said I should talk to her sister Kristin because she had sustained a severe concussion a couple of years previously. When I returned home, I got in touch with Kristin.


Well!  Being able to talk to someone who knows post-concussive syndrome up close and personal has been a godsend. Kristin has shared her experiences, recommended books and been there for me. We had a conversation this past weekend that was incredibly soul-satisfying and something I needed more than usual at that point. I think of her as one of my ‘angels.’

She’s not my only ‘angel’ though. Another is a member of the maintenance staff at the apartment complex in which I live. Because I was not able to work for several months, I was at home more often when he came to take care of apartment issues. I’ve known since I met him that he was a nice man, but appreciate him even more now for all the times he said something encouraging and positive.

My masseuse is also an ‘angel.’ She has not only dealt kindly and competently with my aches and pains, but as I’ve moved through the process of rethinking and restructuring my life, has been an emotional cheerleader for me.  

I wish for everyone that they have an ‘angel’ or two when they need one and I hope that some day, whether I know it or not, I can pay it forward by being that ‘angel.’