I was walking in town recently enjoying the change of cooler weather as we transition from summer to winter (there’s rarely an autumn feel up here in the tropics) when my reflections were disturbed by this unbridled peel of laughter and giggling. I knew immediately what it was as I turned around. Two young boys for the moment ‘off the leash’, with their parents obviously busy getting something organised, playing together totally in the moment and free.
In that moment their laughter triggered a cascade of memories, a sense of nostalgia and a strange sense of loss all at the same time. The memories were of my own freedom as a child and the joy of spending time exploring the forests, farms, creeks and streets unencumbered by adult responsibility or experience.
While the boys were moved on quick smart by Mum the echoes of their laughter stuck and it got me thinking about how adulting can often separate us from our inner child and the fun-loving, in the moment desire to let it all out, laugh, yell and shout for no other reason than we want to.
Continuing to walk I was pulled back into memories of moments over the years of my childhood – climbing to the top of the biggest tree on the farm and feeling the adrenalin rush of fear and excitement as I looked way, way down to the ground, jumping off the cliffs into the pool at the base of the rapids my reflection rushing up to meet me, sneaking out the window late to go night fishing for kurras. Or just running wild over the paddocks like you could run forever collapsing into the long dry grass with the wind in your hair and sun on your face and laughing for the sheer unbridled feeling of joy that would rise up from within and escape out into the world.
The sadness I felt then was not that those moments were gone, it was that they seemed to come now so far apart and I realised that I have to do more to engage with the sensation of living not just a life being lived. For me, that has meant going and actively seeking out the experiences and the joy that is there in every day.
It’s not that I am on adult auto-pilot and just go through the motions, not at all. I think what COVID has done is to put a constraint on how we perceive we can engage with life naturally. It’s brought a caution to what we may prefer to do, how we do it and the exuberance that comes from the joy of doing.
So what have I been up to? Thanks to those little boys I have been laughing more, fretting less, wandering the beach at all hours, playing hooky, catching up with old friends and loving every day.
I wonder if it’s ironic to say it’s funny what laughter can do?