Anya, You Laugh A Lot.
I heard these words in the passing when I was hosting my most recent play session - from a person I had met the first time.
In that moment, those words caught me off guard. But as a responsible host and facilitator, I acknowledged it and decided to address it after the play session. I didn’t want to feel self-conscious, I didn’t want the safety and sanctity of the space affected, I didn’t want to disturb the fun.
Play sessions are private invite-only events I run where we convene with a single goal in mind, to play. Whether that means fun for one person, or experiment for another, or exploration for someone else… I leave that up to them. I listen to each person’s intention at the start of the session.
The premise and call to mission is broad and open enough for each person to do their own thing and explore their own desires, yet feel like part of the collective temporarily.
In this session, I was introducing my boss, Nya the pawfessional cat (who lives in my head rent free) and announced the call to mission. Nya had found the keys to The Egg-cellent Factory, an egg factory. In this session, she was recruiting hoomans to suspend their realities for a few hours, join her in her shenanigans, imagine new future where they can build her the most robust supply of chimken food.
I naturally laugh a lot when it comes to Nya. Call it love, call it laughing at myself, call it a defence mechanism coming to terms with myself - she is my strength on many days when I can’t find it in me to put a smile on my face.
Nya reminds me that it’s okay to laugh despite how tough life gets, despite how dark my days may be, despite how incapable I feel or despite all the critical voices in my head. She’s taught me how to make fun of them. She gives me the strength to taunt them back.
How dare life question a cat? A cat just is, there is no questioning them or their ways of life.
It is presumably because of this that I found myself laughing a lot during the session (that I was not aware of until it was pointed out to me). Or was it because of this?
When I sat down with the observation later, I was riddled with self-doubt and quickly became anxious.
Laughing reminds me of pain. A few years ago, I discovered that one of my preferred genres of comedy is tragedy. I laugh in response to tragedy. I laugh in the face of tragedy. This is my coping mechanism, this is my way of standing in the face of something difficult without answers or solutions.
Laughter gives me the strength to look in the eyes of something that hurts a lot.
This ability also means there have been times where I’ve lied to myself and laughed excessively when it was simply too painful to live my life. This makes it easy for me to sweep difficult things under the rug, pretend it never happened, and turn up to do life with a fake smile. If I catch myself looking into a mirror in this state, I find this face ‘ugly’, mostly because I feel sorry for the side of me that hides, unable to face the truths. I betray myself, my own values and perhaps people around me when I invalidate some things and put up a wall to the world.
But there is also the ability to find that laughter emerging from the depths of my belly, feeling genuinely ticklish and unable to stop the mirth. All of me smiles when I smile this way, I call this my pretty face. There is a wonderful dose of optimism, there is a warm invitation for people to come join me in the warmth and light. There is a call to dance and sing (metaphorically or otherwise) with me despite what pain or hurt we may be facing - by acknowledging that the laughter and smiles heal us in those dark moments.
I became self-conscious because I was fearful and wondered if I was hiding behind a wall. But I sat down to think about it.
In those few hours of play, my heart felt free. I could put my worries to the side and be equals with everyone. We laughed, we played, none of it bearing any significant consequence to what would happen later; apart from the fact that this laughter would recharge me. And hopefully those around me.
In those moments, I felt so much bliss and felt like I reconnected with my inner child for a precious few hours. And for that I am thankful.