“Laughter is a physical reaction in humans consisting usually of rhythmical, often audible contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system. It is a response to certain external or internal stimuli.” –Wikipedia
As Jonathan and I watched a National Geographic video about dinosaurs at the public library my friend suddenly decided to share a pun. “Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl use the toilet? Because its ‘p’ is silent.” I grinned and complimented him for telling me a pun I’d never before heard.
That’s when Jonathan’s body began shaking and his face turned beet-red. He tried to suppress it, but that caused the laughter to build up steam. He couldn’t hold it back any longer. Jonathan’s laugh erupted like a volcano. After a few more outbursts his reaction simmered down to intermittent cackling. I noticed the librarian who then gestured that we should go to one of the conference rooms. So I guided my pal to the nearest room and closed the door.
He laughed on and off for the next few minutes, then finally calmed down. He asked to borrow my handkerchief to dry his eyes and blow his nose. Just as I reached for the door knob so we could return to the workstation, Jonathan started laughing again, but in a more controlled manner. I patted his back, which calmed his nerves. He took some deep breaths and was good to go for the rest of the morning.
I felt grateful that I didn’t also dissolve into uncontrollable laughter at the same time as my friend. Sometimes, I do so. We share the same sense of humor and laugh at the most innocuous, mundane things. However, this time, while Jonathan laughed uncontrollably, I felt twinges of panic about his state of health. Jonathan is prone to such laughter much more frequently than me. He has numerous chronic health issues, so I worry when his laughing fits erupt.
Perhaps once or twice a year, something only mildly amusing or not funny at all triggers a very severe chain-reaction of laughter to manifest from somewhere deep inside my mind. It soon escalates to full-body laughter. I’ll laugh to the extent that I cannot breathe properly. It’s the type of laughter that brings truth to the idiom, “to die laughing”.
Whenever a laughing fit envelopes me, I have to just ride out the emotional storm. It’s futile to try and suppress it. Quite often, trying to halt the laughter only causes another strong outburst and more chuckling. Eventually I come to my senses and distract myself by engaging in a simple chore. This act effectively breaks the hysterical cycle.
I remind myself that in the scheme of humorous things, the wordplay or event wasn’t even objectively funny. The act of analyzing whatever caused the laughing fit brings about a reassuring calm.
I’m thankful to be able to see the humor in everyday, unfunny stuff. That’s enough to keep the rest of the day on a happy note. I remember why my cheeks hurt so good.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer, Khalil Gibran. “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”