Laugh often and loudly
There’s a thing that everyone waits for on a rafting trip through Grand Canyon. That thing is big, gnarly, and gives pause to even the most experienced oarsmen.
That thing is Lava Rapid.
Lava is a Class TEN rapid and is perhaps the most dreaded rapid on the whole trip.
I could feel the tension build as we got closer to Lava. We camped upstream the night before so we would be fresh and ready for the challenge.
As we geared up the next morning, people were quiet. Solemn. Respectful of the big thing we were about to do. There was nervous laughter and only a little mindless chatter.
As we floated downstream, we saw our landmark – the thing that told us we were very close. Vulcan’s Anvil is gigantic black rock on river right. A rock that is sacred to Native Americans and a rock we were instructed not to touch.
Just before Lava, we eddied out on river left. Oarsmen and kayakers scrambled out of boats and headed downstream to scout the rapid.
The Gods were smiling upon us today – we’d be running Lava Rapid at a level that allowed us to take “the sneak.” We were running the left side of the rapid, far from the angry foaming frothing holes on river right and far from the rock known as “the cheese grater.”
After scouting, we watched another group begin to enter the rapids. One by one, they launched, most of their group choosing the same left side run we planned. A few ran the right and we saw one boat flip, its now-displaced (and very wet) occupants “swimming like carp” to get safely reunited with their raft.
Finally, it was my group’s turn. We lined up in an order that took experience and safety into account. One by one, each boat entered the rapid. In the froth and roar of that whitewater, Nelson and I hit one rock that spun us around, and then the whole thing was over before I had a chance to even think about counting.
Very quickly we turned around to see the rest of our group have a successful run. One more rapid and a very big dousing of water later, we all gathered on river right at “Tequila Beach.”
The mood was euphoric. Everyone took a big swig of tequila from the bottle being passed around. “We did it!” Dancing, smiles, and general ebullience were the name of the game here. We expelled all that nervous energy onto the beach with our laughter and turned it into relief.
Arriving at our campsite that afternoon, people put on costumes and decorated the beach for an official “Alive Below Lava” after party. We laughed often and loudly, told jokes, drank more tequila, and generally praised the river gods for sparing us that fine, sunny day.
Beyond the Canyon
I love my dad. And one of the things I love most about him is his laugh. It is loud. Very loud. When he thinks something is funny, EVERYONE knows it.
Thing is, I’m just like him.
And one of my best friends in the whole world, she’s the same way.
Get two or three of us together for a movie or comedy show and people suddenly start staring and/or moving away from us with haste.
We laugh. A lot. Loudly. And without apology.
But, I’ll admit it wasn’t always that way.
There was a time I felt embarrassment and shame about my loud laugh. I’d catch people looking sideways at me and feel judged by them, like I’d done something offensive or wrong.
The very wise Brené Brown, researcher, storyteller, and author Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, talks about shame like this:
Shame thrives on three things – secrecy, silence, and judgement. Guilt is ‘Your actions were wrong,’ where shame is ‘YOU are wrong.’ Shame also thrives on you telling yourself you’ll never be good enough and ends with, ‘Who do you think you are?’”
For a long time, that shame of being “too loud” or “too much” kept me from laughing my laugh. It made me feel vaguely embarrassed by Dad’s loud laugh.
To use a phrase I love, I didn’t allow myself to “let me freak flag fly” because I was afraid of being judged for this thing that was part of me, but that wasn’t part of, or even accept by, everyone else.
So, let’s talk about you…what’s your thing? What your version of “laughing loudly?”
What’s the thing about you that’s bold, aggressive, obvious, loud, and unique…yet you find yourself apologizing for, trying to tone it down, or explaining it away in embarrassment?
Maybe you like to wear your hair big. Or you shave your legs (and you’re a guy). Or perhaps you’re quiet – a true introvert – and big social settings send you running far away, fast.
On the surface, laughing loudly and often is about finding time for joy and pleasure, but it’s also about accepting and loving the whole of who you are.
And I seriously mean all of you – flaws, quirks, and kooky habits.
I laugh loudly and often. I could be seriously embarrassed by it…or I can just embrace this quirk and laugh naturally when I find something is funny.
I can’t encourage you enough to be your very real self. It brings me so much joy when people can be their authentic selves.
If we really love ourselves and know we are worthy, we don’t feel the need for outside approval; we don’t explain or apologize for who or what we are.
To paraphrase something the marvelous poet David Whyte said:
It is our humanity and our imperfection that make us divine.
And if your quirkiness has both of us laughing often and loudly together, then all the better.
Get out there and strut your stuff. Fly your freak flag proudly and share the whole of YOU with the whole world.
Ways to Make Some Room
If you’ve lived in shame of this “thing” of yours, now’s the time to begin discovering how to embrace it.
By eliminating your hatred, fear, and loathing of this “thing” that is part of you, you are making some room for love, acceptance, and tolerance for yourself.
Grab a pen and start writing:
My thing is:________________________________
The negative emotions I feel about it are:
The positive emotions I want to feel about it are:
Next, see how you can begin to catch yourself each time you begin to think that negative thought. Go back to your list and choose a more positive thought. Practice thinking and/or saying that positive thing out loud. Choose a trusted friend to practice with. Soon, you will replace that negative chatter with positive, accepting praise.
Well done! Let’s laugh often and loudly together, shall we?
Have you missed any chapters?
- Chapter One
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Seven
Also, stay tuned for Chapter Nine (#UNPLUG) next week!
[All content and photos are (c) 2016 Angela Mattson Stegall and Nelson Stegall for the book, Make Some Room: Powerful Life Lessons Inspired by an Epic 16-day Colorado River Rafting Trip Through Grand Canyon.The book will be available mid-June through Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.]