Yesterday, to mark World Laughter Day my yoga instructor organized a taster of laughter yoga, a movement with which I have long been intrigued but have not had the chance to enjoy. Based largely on the medical knowledge that your mind and body benefit hugely from smiling and laughing - whether it's genuine or contrived - the laughter yoga movement begun in India is intended as a 'positive manifestation for world peace and to build up a global consciousness of brotherhood and friendship through laughter'. Nice, right? So although I wasn't in the mood, I cajoled myself into an afternoon of merriment with perfect strangers. Because that's the point of laughter yoga from a health perspective: studies suggest that you can actually 'trick' yourself into happiness even through forcing a laugh, and that you should do so as a means to build community too.
In addition to the kinds of breathing exercizes that are part of traditional yoga, and various absurdist activities in which one really couldn't help but laugh in the end, completely and authentically, our instructor shared some of the science behind the practice. We were taught how laughter-on-command can ease the stress of lots of little situations we all encounter in life; you know those moments that make you grit your teeth and set your muscles tighter and generally growl inwardly? The example used was hitting a red light in traffic. Just laugh hysterically at the light, she said, and you'll soon find it no longer holds the same toxic grip over you.
Since I don't drive, and (being routinely 10 minutes late for everything ever) I have come to accept that such small delays are not the mortal enemy, I don't much have a problem with red lights. But truthfully friends, (bad Sadie! I know!) for the briefest of moments, my infertility-addled brain actually wandered to the possibility of applying that same hysterical laughing technique to the legions of pregnant bellies which seem to accost me on a daily basis.
Hhhmm...guess that wouldn't really be in keeping with the laughter yoga mantra that we are always laughing with, right?
Of course I would never do that. Not really. I'm not going to live up to the archetypal, misogynistic evil-cackling-madwoman-who-never-fulfilled-her-maternal-instincts-and-is-therefore-dangerous bit that our culture still nurtures. Because, well...obviously. That would be too easy.
Anyway, where was I?
We also learned that on average, children laugh 300 times per day, where adults laugh on average 15 times per day. Just, wow....something is clearly getting lost along the way, so whatever we can do to restore it, even if I'm the first to indulge in the occasional bout of duvet diving, can't be a bad thing.
Sometimes laughter really is the only medicine. And you know, with my belly muscles pleasantly straining after one and half hours of mandated laughter, I actually felt not just emotionally lighter, but physically euphoric for several hours afterwards.
It was only on my return home later in the afternoon, after a long and lovely walk, when I learned through several bloggy friends that yesterday was also International Bereaved Mother's Day. At first I wasn't sure what to make of that perhaps cruelly random juxtaposition of days to simultaneously mark such seemingly opposing sentiments: laughter and dead babies. Then I thought, actually, it's quite true to life. And maybe they're not as opposing as they might first appear.
Much as I once might have implored it to - much as I feel at times that mine has - life has not stopped since S died, since we started on this scary, uncertain road of infertility. Much to my own surprise, and despite the brokenness from which I once thought I would never recover, I have gone on laughing (though you'd be forgiven for not believing that if you stumble upon this blog on any given day). I cry, I laugh, I breath. I am alive and he is not. I owe him the full life - to accept, inhabit, embrace it - that he cannot and never will have. And despite the realities of birth and death, we remain connected. I try to remind myself of those things every day.
There was one thing about yesterday which somehow, serendipitously, brought all these sentiments together. The laughter yoga class was held on the grounds of a beautiful medieval convent which remains in use today. It is filled with tranquil gardens designed to bring peace, to foster the contemplation of life's great mysteries (or at least so it seemed to me). Just being there was a special experience. And the lawn on which we sat and moved and breathed and laughed among strangers was also home to this beautiful flowering tree. A memory tree.
The sign under it's branches instructed us to: Tie a ribbon on the tree and remember someone special.
And the next time I visit the lawn to sit and laugh with strangers, I will do just that.