A Belly Laugh: Fuel for Heart and Soul

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
– Victor Borge

When is the last time you laughed so hard that it hurt? Isn’t a belly laugh shared with a loved one an uplifting experience? A shared joy?

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend with a visit from two of my closest friends, Beth and Mary. As usual, we found ourselves reliving hilarious stories from our rich history together…races we ran, races we didn’t run, birthday cakes with the wrong name, our mystery man named Brad, the list goes on and on…and gets longer each time we get together.

We laughed so hard that we cried, with aching stomach muscles, struggling to catch our breaths. One of us may have even needed to rush to change clothes (it wasn’t ME!) – giving us yet another story to belly laugh at in that moment, and in the future.

It was a weekend filled with joy, and it got me thinking about laughter, relationships and the link between the two.

A quick Google search confirms my suspicions that there are plenty of studies around that confirm the health benefits of laughter…increased endorphins in the brain, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system…There is even a study by Dr. William Fry of Stanford University Medical School that says one minute of laughing is equivalent to ten minutes on a rowing machine – how is that for a cardio workout? Sign me up. I would rather spend 10 minutes laughing than 100 minutes sweating on a rowing machine – or any other cardio workout – any day of the week!

Laughter is not only good for the heart – it is good for the soul. For me, a laugh shared with my friends or family is not just a good substitute for a workout. Laughter is a way for me to foster the relationships that are most important to me. Laughter is a powerful way to connect with others, to share an experience, to create a lasting memory, to not just cope with life – but to enjoy life. Laughter is a way to live in the moment. Laughter awakens all of our senses. Laugher is fuel to me during difficult times. Laughter is energy. Laughter is joy.

To my friends and family in appreciation…thank you for making me laugh and bringing me joy in our relationships.

Laugh on!


The Greatest Love of All

Like so many today, I turned on the television this morning to the massive media coverage of Whitney Houston’s untimely death. After watching the Today Show and surfing the net for a bit, I decided to turn off the TV and to ignore the snarky comments about her drug addiction that some were making on Facebook. Instead, I decided to play her music for a while and to reflect on what I was thinking and feeling.

I remembered the fun I had seeing Whitney in concert when I was 16 at the old Charlotte Coliseum back in 1987. It was the first time my parents let me drive to a concert, and I was excited to drive my friends for our big night out to see Whitney sing her big hits “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “The Greatest Love of All.”

I sat and thought about how dramatically her life changed during the years when so many tuned into “Being Bobby Brown”, and how many people were entertained by the drama of her “crazy” life. Watching other people’s pain and chaos on reality television is just something I have never really understood. Addiction is a disease, and while the media will always focus on famous celebrities like Whitney and Amy Winehouse, it is easy for us to forget that so many people struggle with the same issues that they did.

Then, I listened to The Greatest Love of All, and I felt sad that Whitney sounded like she had it all figured out back in 1987, but then struggled with the demons of addiction and a difficult marriage where she clearly never fully recovered. I sat and wondered where the lesson was in this.

Whitney sings that: “The greatest love of all is easy to achieve…Learning to love yourself…It is the greatest love of all.”

It occurred to me that learning to love yourself is not exactly as easy to achieve as it should be. And it is most definitely not easy to maintain in the face of what life throws at us. We all have our own demons and struggles, whether due to addiction, loss, illness, failure…Even if we have it figured out early like Whitney did, many of us struggle to maintain love for ourselves through all of the mistakes we make along they way.

I think that the lesson here is to remember that learning to love yourself truly is the greatest – and probably hardest – love of all. And that we mostly battle ourselves when it comes to achieving it. We carry so many “stories” of not being good enough – and we fight the voice in our heads that someone I know calls “the itty-bitty-shitty committee”. You laughed because maybe you have one too??

I believe that learning to love yourself is how you strengthen yourself to be a better spouse and parent, and employer or employee. Loving yourself is how you serve the community and world around you. I believe that loving yourself will lead to more love, success and happiness in all aspects of your life. Keep at it. It’s worth it.

What do you want?

Recently, I learned a pretty good lesson from my (almost) 7 year old nephew Dillon. His 7th birthday is this Thursday, and when I asked him what he wanted. his answer reminded me of a story from this past Christmas.

On Christmas Day, Dillon proudly told me that he got EXACTLY what he wanted for Christmas. He explained that his strategy was to tell Santa just one thing because then Santa wouldn’t have to pick from a variety of options. Santa would only have ONE choice of what to bring him – the number one (and only) thing on Dillon’s list.

Dillon was lucky that he was on the “nice” list last year, and also lucky that my brother and sister-in-law were “in synch” with Santa to help execute Dillon’s masterful plan.

As I remembered this story, I was struck by Dillon’s wisdom: keep things simple, be certain of what you want, and be specific when you ask for it. He is a pretty smart kid!

Why as adults is asking for what we want so difficult to do? What gets in the way? Fear of rejection? Baggage we carry because we didn’t get what we wanted in the past? Somehow we lose the ability to make requests effectively. I know I am guilty of this – more often than I like to admit.

Think about it… When is the last time you sent an email to a group of people thinking you were clear on what you were asking them to do…and then only a handful of people actually followed through on what you asked? And then you think to yourself when you experience this disappointment: “I was so clear! I used bullet points and everything! I made a list – I numbered it for goodness sake!” This has happened to me more times than I can count.

Consider the flip side of this example…When is the last time your manager sent you an email asking for follow up on some task and you ignored it..because it didn’t pertain to you…I have been there too.

Requests should be simple – but they are not. We get in our own way – and tend to blame others when deadlines aren’t met. Rarely do we look back at what we actually asked for…what went wrong? Did we keep the request simple or was it lost in a long preamble? Was the request specific enough?

Here are the elements of a clear, complete request:

  • Requester: Who is asking?
  • Committed Listener: Who is being asked to do something?
  • Future, Specific Action: What do I want you to do?
  • Conditions of Satisfaction: How will I know it’s been done?
  • Time: By when?
  • Trust: Sincerity, competence, reliability
  • Purpose: For the sake of what?

Sounds easy, right? Hmmm. Not so much. How many times have you sent an email – and guess what – there wasn’t a “Committed Listener” on the other end?? Or you didn’t give a deadline? Or you failed to say why your request was important?

And there’s more. Here’s the kicker. AFTER we make a request that we often forget that  we don’t have an Agreement until someone actually says “Yes.”

Have you sent an email recently, making a request of someone following all of the criteria I just stated above – and then STILL you don’t get what you asked for? Or maybe you asked your team in a meeting rather than an email. Or maybe you forwarded an email to a large group of people that you KNOW can follow through on what you need. And then NOTHING HAPPENS. How frustrating, right? Guess what – I will let you in on a secret. It could actually be your own fault because it is highly likely that you didn’t have an “Agreement!”

Why are we so surprised when we don’t get what we thought we asked for?

Dillon gets it. This week, he was just as specific with what he wants for his birthday as he was last Christmas. Granted, he doesn’t have an “Agreement” yet either…he’s just a lucky boy that is lucky who has family who will gladly give him what he asks for. But at least he knows how to ask.

My advice is to follow Dillon’s example. Figure out what you want. Be specific when you ask for it. Then, follow the elements of a complete request. Clarify that you have an agreement.

And… you will get more of what you want.

Eat, Pray, Love Part 2

It took me 6 years to read this book. I guess timing is everything, because I am really enjoying it much more than I thought that I would. Everyone said that “Eat” was the best section…which yes, I did enjoy immensely.

But – I am in the middle of “Pray” and am fascinated.

My favorite line so far:

“You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” Page 150.

This section of the book sums up one of my biggest pet peeves of all time: the phrase “It is what it is.” Or another way to say it: “Everything happens for a reason.” Both of these statements are true. However, I personally feel that these statements represent a passive way to go about life – as if we are just pinballs in a crazy pinball machine being bounced around without any control over our direction.

I think there is MUCH more it. Here is how I see it. We make meaning out what happens to us. It is up to us to figure out what the meaning is – and to DO something about it – to BE something because of it. Isn’t active voice a whole lot more fun than passive voice??

Is life happening to you – or are you living your life? Are you wishing for things rather than doing something to make them happen?


Il bel far niente

“Il bel far niente” 

Doesn’t this just sound beautiful without even knowing what it means? I learned this phrase today while reading Eat, Pray, Love (page 61)  – a book that for some reason I resisted reading for the last six years.

“Il bel far niente” is an Italian expression that means “the beauty of doing nothing.” What bliss is there in just being – and not doing? What a beautiful name for what I normally call presence – being in the moment.

So rather than filling up my time tonight in my quiet hotel room in Emporia, Kansas with work, surfing the internet or TV because there isn’t anything else to do…I think I’ll enjoy my time doing nothing instead.