This is me laughing. I know. I realize I’m kind of in the background, behind my wife’s ever-smiling and lovely face. But I’m back there. And I’m laughing. I mean, really laughing. Not in a, “This is just a courtesy laugh” kind of way. Not in a, “I’m laffin’ now cuz that thing you just said there wuz amazin'” kind of way. I’m really laughing, in an “I won’t remember this picture when I see it because for a few seconds I forgot about myself and my deep thoughts and abandoned myself to life” kind of way. I laughed the way people laugh when they — well, when they laugh.
You might read this and think, “Big deal.” If you do, that’s proof that we have never met. I don’t do this. At least I don’t do it often enough that anyone is able to get a picture of it. My full-bodied, abandoning-myself laugh is elusive, somewhat like — well, like this:
Okay, maybe not quite like that, but almost. Notice that the picture of me is kind of fuzzy, something you might not notice right away if you’re focused on the picture of my wife (and why wouldn’t you be?).
But this is me laughing. And I’m going to do it more often in the next part of my life than I have in the first part. I’m making sure of it. For all the time I spend pondering deep things, and feeling lost in the hugeness of the world, I have a lot to laugh about. I have a beautiful wife who still thinks I’m amazing after 22 years. She has given me three incredible and gorgeous daughters who love me and consider me their hero. I’m well-educated (though I’m addicted to school, so I’m probably not done yet). I have a job that — well, it allows me to do the things in my life that I love and that I probably do better than most other people. What a privilege that is, and I hope everybody can identify a few things they can do that few people around them can do as well as them. I have great friends who love me and see things in me that I still have not seen in myself. We’re not rich, but we don’t lack for anything in life that matters. Every week a group of people shows up to listen to me speak — people who could be watching TV instead. Or golfing. Or sleeping. Or making love. Or out to breakfast. Most of them, most of the time, are pretty encouraging to me, and allow me to say things to them that perhaps they wouldn’t allow a lot of other people to say. I get to teach at a university, were I am respected (I think, at least, by most people) and have further opportunities to do what I love to do. After 41 years, I’m just learning to enjoy my life a little.
But I know I have a long way to go. I carry a heaviness with me much of the time that would be withering to most people — and is sometimes withering to me. That’s where the intensity comes from. But if everything ended tomorrow, I have lived a full life and enjoyed blessings already that the great majority of the world will never know.
This is me laughing. I have a lot more laughing to do, and I’m going to learn to do it, no matter what it takes.