The Pain of Joy (Chapter 9)

"You know its easier to get an appointment with the President of the United States of America, than it is to get your to laugh." he said to me one day.

We had been dating about 4 weeks. I actually laughed at that statement. He was right, I didn't laugh easily. I took myself seriously. I took spiritual growth seriously. I tried hard. I still valued hard work.

His name was Ed, the tall dark and handsome man from the cafe. It seemed to me that every time we would see each other we would also see a shooting star. I thought it meant we were destined to be together. I think it was a metaphor for our relationship, it came in hot, and ended as quickly as it arrived. 

He was attentive and sweet to me, and Ed gave just me enough attention to make me feel desired. He was divorcing too, but still living in the house with his wife, so we never met at his place. I was living with my parents, so we rarely met at mine. We spent time together at the restaurant where he worked, he was making big plans, building his own business was his dream. I love supporting a dreamer, so I was intrigued. 

I began to make friends not only with Ed, but with his co-workers. Most of them were immigrant like he was. I wan't familiar with their native language and sometimes felt out of place in a culture that was not my own. Yet, I was accepted there. Everyone seemed to enjoy my company even of we didn't always understand one another.

I sometimes felt awkward, but I felt that way in my life most of the time. I was not quite myself yet, because I still didn't quite remember who I was. My identity had been shatter by the divorce and I was doing my best to piece together parts of myself I'd lost along the way. 

We would sometimes have small, private karaoke parties with the staff after the restaurant closed. I would listen to them play piano and sing traditional songs and then Ed would put on an old Michael Jackson hit and sing. It was so funny. This is where I started laughing on a regular basis.
Although my house was full of love, I didn't grow up in a home full of joy and laughter. I had great parents who both loved me fully, but something was always off. People at school described our family as "The Cleaver's", as though we were the famous family from the 50's show "Leave It To Beaver".

I knew there assessment of my family was not accurate, but there was nothing I could do or say to let anyone know what was missing for my brother and I. I knew we were not the "perfect" family and I resented being labeled as though we were.

I wasn't even sure what "it" was that was missing, I just knew something was off between my parents. I recognized it when I was about 12 years old. I knew my parents were committed to each other for sure, but they didn't seem to have any spark. They never embraced, they didn't laugh together, they rarely sat next to each other on the couch. There was no affection.

I remember one Christmas my mom kissed my dad and I freaked out "you kissed him!!", I screeched. "No I didn't.", she replied, not even recognizing her moment of affection with my father.

As a family we didn't laugh together. We supported one another. We ate dinners together and did activities as a family. We showed up for each other and valued each persons contribution to the family, yet we didn't value laughter. My parents valued hard work, good grades and achievement, the closest to affection I got from my dad was an occasional hug. He would provide really good feedback if I got A's on my report card, so I became a straight A student and remains so through college.

Back in the restaurant where Ed worked, I had just gotten in my car and was ready to make the short 2 mile drive home. We had just had a wonderful time laughing and goofing off with the people I now called friends.

Then it happened. I pulled out the parking lot and onto the road home and I felt it coming. I thought about trying to stop it, but then realized I was alone, so I just allow the feelings to come up and I let go of trying to be so in control of my damn emotions. The tears cam streaming down my face again hitting the steering wheel as I made the left turn toward my house.

I was crying again. This time the joy had brought it on, but why? Why would joy bring me tears? I thought. I was genuinely happy to have just been with such kind people. It was fun. I wasn't sad, was I? 

As I considered what I was feeling, I realized that I was mourning. I was grieving. This night full of fun and laughter was long overdue for me. I had wanted to feel joy like this many times before, but just couldn't find it while I was with my husband.

I couldn't manufacture joy no matter how hard I tried. Now I was experiencing laughter and connection, and it made me realize how deeply I had been missing that expression in my life. I needed connection and I felt it with these new friends. 

So I cried on my way home from a night full of fun. It happened a few more times and each time I allowed myself the space to feel whatever I was feeling. After that first night it wasn't hard to just feel whatever came up and let it be. I knew I'd recover. And soon I didn't feel sad after a night of joy. I just went home and a state of gratitude for the laughter I had encountered.