My husband and I were in a book store when we came across a title directed at married couples called Our Story. It was a beautiful journal filled with pages containing writing prompts a couple could use to document and treasure key moments in their marriage.
I was intrigued by it. It reminded me of a bridal book I filled with all kinds of pictures and mementos from our wedding, as well as the first year of our marriage. There was a spot in the book for the till receipt from our first grocery purchase, our first vacation, and first major household expense. But that book was considered complete at the end of year one. Most of us were probably not as intentional at keeping track of what the next years of marriage brought.
The book we saw contained questions a couple would provide written responses to so it could become a record of their life together. The idea would be to one day pass it down to children who might be greatly or less enthralled depending on their own sense of nostalgia and history.
Some questions were fairly standard: where did you go on your first date, who was the first to say 'I love you', and a page to write down the story of your proposal. Others were a bit more pragmatic: who chooses paint colors, who does most of the cooking, and who handles budgets and bills.
Some pages required couples to ponder more deeply: what have been the toughest things to deal with together; what shared dreams are coming true; and what was the biggest unexpected decision you had to make as a couple. But one of my favorites was a question that asked simply, "When have you laughed the most?"
It's a great question. One my husband and I talked about a fair bit. One we failed to answer. But let me explain.
The tougher stuff in life tends to have long-lasting consequences and life-impacting effects. Trauma, heartache, loss and grief are the kind of painful events that take time to understand and work through. The emotions impact every aspect of our lives and so we carry it with us and have to learn how to adapt to something new after experiencing unexpected or serious challenges.
On the other hand, the moments of laughter we get caught up in are far more fleeting. They dissipate as quickly as they happen. The actual process of laughing is only a few seconds long at the time. But think about the number of times you might laugh in a row when you are having a fun conversation with friends, watching a great comedy, or reading a funny book. Yes, we know laughter is good for the soul, but in fact a really good laughing session does a body good as well. Laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on a rowing machine – what a fun workout! Given the sheer number of contenders my husband and I mentioned, I should have washboard abs. I do not.
Yet we have laughed a lot; riding roller coasters, buying furniture when I was on potent pain killers, clearing out closets and trying on outdated clothes, favorite movies, camping mishaps, burnt meals, looking through old photos, funny Christmas presents, dealing with puppies, countless moments with the kids, having to do the math to remember how long we’ve been married, or, perhaps it was the day after coming across the journal when we laughed so hard attending the Wisconsin State Fair pig races! We couldn't pick one because, I am grateful to say, the list went on and on. I have truly benefited from all that laughter in my life and our marriage has been enriched because of it.
It was easy to come up with the answers for the toughest days because they are embedded on our brain and we carry them with us. But we need to be reminded that while laughter might seem fleeting, it is actually part of a bigger story involving joy, contentment and genuine moments of happiness. It builds the bridges between the times we are in the valleys. Laughter is the stuff of life.
The painful times might leave their mark, but it is the times we laugh that leave the impression. That's my outlook.