I was at a work conference recently and like many others I’ve done, I smiled all day long, shared my knowledge, talked ‘til my voice was practically gone, and worked diligently to grow partnerships with my school districts. Great times! I also enjoyed time with my work friends who I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with. We had some fantastic and much needed laughs that I’m still recovering from.
At one point in the day, I met an educator who was writing a book about Latina leaders and their journey towards leadership. What drives them, what sparks their continued interest in what they do, and who motivates them. She asked if I would be interested in contributing and if there was anything I was particularly proud of.
That’s when I shared my love for Nico and how he has been a constant driving force in informing what I do to grow in my leadership aspirations and how I contribute to society.
To my pleasant surprise, this woman, too, had a son with autism. Our eyes lit up and it was like we had this instant bond. I met someone who understood. Who got me.
We spent the next 20 minutes sharing stories about our sons, how they are alike and different, how brilliant and talented they are, and how we have no idea what the future holds for them.
We shared our exhaustion.
We shared our pride.
We shared our skepticism around being “chosen” to be Autism parents.
And, we shared some laughs about all their idiosyncrasies that may not make sense to most, but to us, they’re everything. We expressed our absolute love for our sons because of what they teach us daily and how we are better people as a result of parenting and loving them through all the ups and downs.
We reminded each other to take care of ourselves and stay strong. She walked away and I immediately felt validated and uplifted. I gave myself a mental high-five because she reminded me that my life is not easy and the struggles I manage are more complex than most. I don’t always like to think that way because I am not seeking validation or empathy; everyone has struggles and we’re all exhausted, but it sure felt good to be seen… and to laugh.
I continued working with a bit more pep in my step. I navigated through the rest of the day with more strength, making connections, and sharing my love of literacy. The day was a success.
But what truly made this conference a fabulous one was the fact that I laughed a ton!
I laughed with customers.
I laughed with my colleagues.
I laughed out loud and often.
And I found that the more I laughed the better I felt—emotionally, mentally, and physically. I felt refreshed and upbeat and much less exhausted.
My work friends are truly a riot and one friend, when we get together, forget about it! We can’t get through a sentence without cracking ourselves up. I look forward to hanging with her specifically for this reason, and it never fails…we laugh loud and often. It’s definitely not a good scene for our bladders!
I went to bed that evening happier and rejuvenated; I needed a day filled with light-hearted humor because I have realized that laughing truly does make life lighter and more gratifying.
And as I flew home the next day, it made me think about how my life has actually always been filled with laughter.
My Mom had a great sense of humor and an insanely awesome laugh. It lit up my life when I saw or could make her laugh. And she surrounded my brother and me with people who had great humor. I always found that no matter how difficult life got, when my Mother and I laughed together it was transformative. Her friends have shared this with me too. She had a heart of gold and could light up a room with her smile and laugh. That is what is missed most by so many, including me.
Humor has been the common thread in all of my most sacred relationships.
Humor is what attracted me to my husband and what keeps us going when times gets tough. My husband has a wicked sense of humor and has always been able to make me laugh. Our lives are so filled right now and we often feel like two ships passing in the night, but the moment he cracks a joke or bursts out in melodramatic song for no reason, I laugh out loud.
And when Nico laughs now, I am instantly motivated to keep him laughing because his laugh reverberates through his whole body and his eyes light up just like my Mom’s. Whenever I need a pick me up or when Nico is struggling, I know that tickling him will immediately get him laughing uproariously and it seems to lighten the mood for both of us.
I have come to depend on the power of laughter a lot over these years and I’m so thankful that I can always find something to laugh about. It has been like a natural healing agent, and the longer and harder the laughs are, the more connected my little family becomes.
I recently watched a TED Talk about the power of laughter in leadership and it made me think so much about the conference I attended with my colleagues. We had such a fabulous time, laughing and cracking jokes together and it made me think about how my best times at work have been with others who love to laugh.
These women are true leaders in their own right, so the fact that they laugh and lead only makes them more incredible.
I think that it is essential to make sure laughter is a part of our everyday lives. No matter how old you get. How powerful you become. How much stress and responsibility you have on your plate.
Laughing loud and often is a sure-fire silver lining and the best connecting force out here.
I want Nico and Max to always laugh. I want them to make others laugh. I hope I can be the reason for and the witness to their laughter for years to come because I feel like it’s going to add years to my life. Laughter is truly my fountain of youth.
So, I ask you…
Have you laughed today? If not, you need to get on that stat!