We all need a break from our everyday routine sometimes. We all need something to soften the heavy-handed punches life throws. We must stop and take a good look at ourselves when it seems like everything is too much too soon too often.
This wisdom has never steered me wrong. It’s crucial to find a balance between reality and what’s good about being alive. I just never thought these things would become the standard for how I choose to live my life.
I’ve always loved to laugh and find goodness in everything around me. My sense of humor is definitely spontaneous and a little “off the wall”. I’ve been known to burst into laughter at the smallest, most random things—like the pronunciation of an obscure word or the high pitched, chipmunk-like voice you get when you inhale helium from a balloon, among other things. There’s just something about randomness that I love. And like the bond I share with the men in my family, I have no idea where it comes from.
It’s an attribute that found a place in my life from an early age. The beginnings were there when my I had to wear braces on my legs to help them grow properly when I was a kid. Or when a physical therapy session didn’t go the way I envisioned it in my mind, despite giving it my all. Laughter was especially important when I woke up every morning and realized everything I had put my energy into on the day before were still feats that needed to be addressed and conquered again.
My appreciation for humor and laughter grew from there. I had all of these overwhelming factors from my cerebral palsy to contend with. I didn’t know where to start or how to get the thought of always “getting things right” out of my head. It was like training for The Olympics because I was doing the same things every day, but missing a step in the process every time. When I had to have multiple surgeries on my legs, however, I thought the laughter would stop and the pain would start.
The pain did come, along with months of intense physical therapy for both legs. I had the surgeries done at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Erie, Pennsylvania—where I was treated like a queen. The hospital is known for their renowned expertise and care in helping young patients with disabilities. The staff took the time to work my family to review my case and figure out what would be in my best interest before performing each surgery.
My physical therapists and doctors there stayed by my side every step of the way. And it was probably the most fun I had as a kid. The staff had such a beautiful, creative approach to making me an essential part of my own healing process—whether I was cleaning up the mountain of toys from physical therapy or helping to change my bandages. The nurses even had activities and movies for patients every night, complete with popcorn and snacks. I brought home many crafts and “works of art” from those nights.
Everyone knew how to make things fun so kids would forget about their pain. It was a true gift, because I stayed at Shriner’s for weeks and months at a time. I was even known to hide in a few closets so that I did not have to face visiting clowns, which I had a fear of. When I was finally healed enough to go home, I always fought it. I was having too much fun to leave. I’d fight back tears as I looked around to see other kids ready to go home, too. They would already be crying, begging to stay a little longer.
Those surgeries and long hospital stays were very painful, but also imperative to my physical and mental growth. I look back on those days with immense gratitude because they were some of my most difficult times. They were also some of my best because I learned how to laugh and have fun while dealing with my circumstances. I am also featured in a few articles and pictures in their anniversary book.
At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. I know I’m not going to wake up one day and all the baggage that comes with my disability will magically disappear. As great as that sounds, it’s not my reality. I’ve learned to laugh because I feel like I’m wasting precious time if I don’t. It’s the only thing I have strength and energy to do some days, so I laugh until it hurts.
Laughter truly is the best medicine. So, however, you decide to use it, make sure to do so wisely.
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