The older I get the more I know that humor, playfulness, and laugher are keys to a happy life. As a kid, there was a lot of laughter in our house, for sure, and a sense of humor was valued. There was also, however, the Catholic Church. I can't speak for today but in the 50's and 60's the Catholic Church was not a playful place to be. I attended a rigorous Catholic elementary school where silence was king and laughter was generally met with reprimand. Mass and other devotions stressed (in my childlike mind) suffering, sadness, sacrifice, and solemnity and were often just plain scary. Since life in our house was shaped by the Church, I suspect that those characteristics were part of the fabric, even if laughter was also a strong part of the fabric. And life was serious. You needed to do well in school you needed to have the right answer at the dinner table, you needed to "hold your tongue" when told to do so. You were an O'Neill and O'Neills did not fail. One thing that O'Neills had in common though? A furrowed brow and a serious and responsible outlook on life.
That seriousness did serve me well, no doubt. Because I took education seriously, I was a successful student. Because I paid attention and studied how to make it in the job world, I secured valuable and responsible employment. When my children were born, I felt to the core of my being how important their early years were and took my responsibility as parent to the extreme. My focus in all was on how to do well in the world and doing well seemed to be about work. And work is serious business.
So then I started getting up there in the decades and I stepped back from all this serious stuff and I discovered that it was all bullshit. The furrowed brow is not pretty, is not playful, is not relaxing, is not fun. The furrowed brow doesn't make me smile. It doesn't make anyone smile. Sure, there is a time and a place for seriousness but not all day, every day. Playfulness, levity and laughter lighten the days. Silliness and an ability to be a bit of a kid provide balance to the tragic headlines that weigh down the life of an adult. I have decided that laugher and play are healthy behaviors that need to infuse each and every one of my days. In fact, to be happily alive, I must laugh. I must play. I must be affectionate and warm and that joyfulness must be contagious.