Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cracking Up at the DMV

...and I don't mean as in going crazy because of the wait time. I mean cracking up as in laughing so hard and long that your cheeks hurt.

Yesterday was a prime example of the concept "Life is What You Make It."  My fifteen-year-old daughter and I had to go the DMV to get a replacement driver's permit.  (The original was left in a jacket which was left in a security bin at the entrance to the Chunnel Train on the London side.)  We had gone down there the week before, only to find out that the wait time was more than 5 hours - which was amusing since they closed in 4 hours.  We gratefully learned that we could make an appointment and come back.

(As an aside, I believe that being able to make an appointment at the DMV is akin to discovering electricity - a brilliant solution to making the world a better, more efficient place.)

We made our appointment and returned the following week, right on time. I punched in our arrival on the welcome screen at the door, and to my amazement, we were taken immediately. We didn't even move from our spot at the entrance and our number was called.  (see above aside)

After five minutes at the counter, we were then directed over to the waiting area so my daughter could have a replacement photo taken.  As we sat down she noticed the electronic reader board on the wall and said, "Oh cool, it's that trivia game."  I looked up and remembered that the last time we were here we had wiled away our time trying to answer the extremely random and varied questions that shot across the board in-between the rules and regulations of the DMV.  (Including keeping noise to a minimum...we didn't exactly follow that one.)

So we started playing.  Question after question we kept getting the answers wrong.  Five minutes turned into ten, ten minutes became twenty, and while everyone around us got more and more annoyed, frustrated, and grumpy with the wait time, the two of us got sillier and gigglier.

Did we get strange looks? Yep.  Were people around us annoyed by our laughter and high fives when we guessed correctly? Visibly so. Did we care one bit? Nope.

You see, not only were we trying to answer these ridiculous questions, but sometimes the questions would remind us of something funny, or spark a memory of something, and we'd talk about those things, which would start us laughing, often collapsing into each other, which inevitably distracted us from the next question, and sometimes we'd only see the answer and then try to think of the question that might have preceded it, which often made us crack up even more.

In short, we were having a grand time.  So much so that after a few minutes the older gentleman sitting next to me asked, "Are you two here just for the entertainment?"

We were determined to get at least one answer right and I'm glad to report that by the end of our 50 minute wait we had 10 correct answers out of the more than probably 70+ that we saw.  At one point my daughter was getting a little weary so she put her head on my shoulder and we played that way for a while.  In that moment I took a second to recognize and appreciate the situation:

Here we were, in a drab, dingy, incredibly uninviting atmosphere, sitting on uncomfortable chairs, surrounded (and I mean packed in like sardines) by strangers who would have all preferred being just about anywhere else at that time.  The guy next to me had terrible breath, the guy next to my daughter had B.O., and there was dark cloud hanging over everyone in the place.

Except for us.  For us the sun was shining and the DMV was a glorious place to be.  Especially for me as I realized how things could have gone:

I could have been angry that she lost her permit and we had to go all the way here TWICE, only to have to wait for a really long time.

I wasn't.

I could have been annoyed and bothered that even though we had made an appointment, we still had to wait for a really long time, and I could have let her know that this was all her fault.

I didn't.

She could have had her teenaged face buried in her phone, completely ignoring me and everything else around her.

She didn't.

Instead we chose to have the most fun we could possibly have despite our circumstances, and even used our circumstances to help us have that fun.  When my husband called later in the day he asked how it went and I said, "We had the best time at the DMV!" to which he replied, "I'll bet that's the first time anyone's said THAT!"

Happiness is a choice. Yesterday could have been a wretched, boring, frustrating time that we would have looked back on with irritation and aggravation. Instead we get to look back on it as a cherished and special time shared together.

Life is, indeed, what you make it.  Even at the DMV.

Monday, July 7, 2014

To Laugh or Not To Laugh

I love to laugh. I mean, who doesn't, right?  But I, and my family, really love it.  We go out of our way to find things to make us laugh, and we have spent many happy hours together guffawing until our stomachs hurt.

I have a very distinctive laugh. I've been told it's infectious, I've been told it's joyful, but most often I've been told...it's loud. How loud you ask?  Well, someone once told me that they were in the grocery store, heard my laugh from afar and thought to themselves, "Oh, Rachel must be in Produce." It's not a nasal, Fran Drescher type of laugh, nor is it a raucous howling one, it's more the sound of a regular laugh, just dialed up a few notches.  (It is often accompanied by my head thrown back or the occasional clapping of my hands together.)

I bring this up is because today in the store I was sharing a laugh with one of the clerks, and as I walked away another clerk peeked her head out from one of the aisles and said, "I love your laugh. It's so boisterous."  To which I replied, "Really? Some people hate it." To which she replied, "Oh no - it's great!"  I smiled, thanked her, and as I left the store I got to thinking about those people who have told me to my face just how annoying and unnecessary my lively and energetic laugh is.

I realized something in that moment.  Every single one of those people falls into the category of being one of the most miserable people I have ever met.  It seems like they don't like loud laughter because they don't know what to do with that much joy in close proximity.  They don't know how to laugh at anything, so a great deal of laughter must make them very uncomfortable.

If enough people tell you something about yourself, whether it's right or wrong, you begin to believe it.  As a result, I have consciously held myself back from laughing in the presence of these people (and others too) because I didn't want to offend them, nor did I want to risk being verbally put down again.  But what does that do?  It suppresses my sparkle and my love for life because these people can't handle it.  I'm bringing myself down, to their level of darkness, because they can't stand the light.  One could argue that these people need to be exposed to laughter and joy the most.

I wish it could be the other way around - I wish that being around happiness could bring unhappy people up to a level of joy where they can feel comfortable to laugh and enjoy life themselves.  But in my experience, that rarely happens.

Which makes me holding back my happiness absolutely ridiculous!  What's the point? My loud, exuberant laugh is part of who I am, and no one should ever subdue something that is a part of them, no matter how people might react or how they will be viewed.

So, to laugh, or not to laugh? I have learned that some people will laugh along with me, and some people will shake their heads in disgust.  But I'll tell you this, those of us who are laughing will be having a great time enjoying life.  Care to join me? I'll be in Produce.