During the first 3 years of my marriage, my husband and I were closely involved with taking care of his dad. His dad was diagnosed with ALS just months after we got married and our world was reeling. In the midst of grief and denial, I tried to keep a positive, happy attitude around my father-in-law as his body slowly stopped working. I loved him dearly and I couldn’t believe that I was losing him so soon. After spending a night at their home, cooking dinner and feeding him, helping him steer his wheelchair (which caused me great anxiety for fear he might tip over on a ramp), driving him to work the next morning, then going to work myself… I stood at my desk, preparing for a Midday Connection program and I suddenly couldn’t breathe. My heart was racing and I knew I was going to die. I quickly googled “stroke”, “heart attack”. What I read wasn’t comforting. As I gasped for air, I went to our office nurse to see if she could help me. The nurse checked all of my vitals and assured me they were fine. She gently asked me if any new stressor had entered my life. I immediately said “no”, of course not – I was managing just fine. On the way back to my office, I suddenly felt a surge of emotion. I ran to a nearby restroom and sobbed – it was like all of the grief and pain and sadness could no longer be pushed down in me and it had to get out. I was amazed at how much better I felt after crying. Back in my office, I googled “panic attack”. Oh. I’d never had a panic attack before. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d thought that only really “weak” people had panic attacks. But after experiencing one, I get it. It helped me learn that I can’t stuff my emotions. I’m in a much healthier place now, but I will still occassionally feel like I’m on the verge of a panic attack. I’ve learned instead of pushing emotions away when I feel panic, that I should stop and ask myself what’s really going on in my heart – and take time to address it. Emotions are God-given and they are often indicators of something much deeper going on. The question is, am I paying attention?
Earlier this month, I spent some time with my cousin’s young children at a small town festival. I felt an unusal (for me) energy and freedom in my heart. I laughed and ran and played and rode carnival rides with the girls. It felt wonderful. A woman who ran one of the carnival rides pulled me aside and mentioned to me that she never sees adults having so much fun at festivals and she loved it. I was a little embarassed, but also kind of amazed. Who was this Lori that I’d become? I’d felt this spark inside of me that exploded into laughter and smiles.
As I drove home, I thought more about the weekend. I’m usually a stay home and read a book kind of person – I’m most happy when I’m alone at home. But, that weekend with the kids at a noisy, crowded festival was so life-giving! It made me realize how my life centers on the serious – I’m naturally drawn to deep, serious, heavy topics. I love mulling over tough topics, sitting with them and journaling about them. But, this weekend made me realize that I have a serious “fun deficiency” in my life! I looked at a picture that my aunt took of me and my cousin’s daughter on a ride and couldn’t help but see that feeling of joyful abandon as an act of worship. Arms spread, shoes kicked-off, yelling “woo-hoo!!”, laughing. Laughter can be a prayer of gratitude. Holding a child’s hand can crack open my heart even more to God’s love for me. Joy and a smile can be incredibly meaningful to a heavy heart. Celebrating together deepens relationships. Now that I’ve re-entered my “normal” way to life, I’m trying to look for ways to bring fun, celebration and levity into my life regularly.
How about you? What role does fun have in your life?