Readers Who are Krazy for Kindle: Go ahead and laugh

July 24, 2010

Go ahead and laugh

I woke up thinking of the word "chortle." No, I don't know why. The twilight between sleep and awake is where a lot of writer's work is done. And maybe, too, that's where best to commune with the Divine. And maybe even the Ordinary.

When this happens, a word or a phrase or dialogue popping out of the sleep-tainted mists of mind, I don't often understand its relevance. Sometimes, if I wait long enough, it becomes clear what I'm meant to do with the word (or the thought). This is the process of writing for me as well. I just sit down and write, and sometimes what I write seems strange and out of place until much later when something else happens, and suddenly I realize that nugget of weird makes total sense.

I trust my own process. In writing. Not always in life. I don't think, when it comes to life, I trust myself very much at all. I wear too many scars of bad decisions---and suffer too many fears that I will make more bad decisions. The worst part of this fear is that I don't realize "oops, that was stupid" until after I've stepped off the cliff. I need a better internal alarm. How does one upgrade instincts?


Other times, when words are embedded into my waking thoughts, there is no purpose that I can discern. I ruminate. I have a new word worry stone. And so it is, I think, with the word "chortle."

Last night, I did the usual go-to-bed rituals with my head full of worry and my stomach full of knots. I have not gotten paid. Payment arrives at the behest of people who have salaries: it's a long process that starts with my editor and ends with some accountant in New Jersey. My son is so used to the rhythm of this feast-or-famine lifestyle, he doesn't even argue when I say, "Nope. Haven't been paid." He, too, lives by the words, "When my check gets here..."

As much as consistency and routine offer opportunities to fail, they also offer comfort. I'm broke, but I can still brush my teeth, shower, climb into comfy clothes, and chose a book to read until I'm too sleepy to see the words. No one will take away my shelter or what food is left in the cupboards. Today, I can still breathe, still eat, still do some quality lolling.

The book I chose to read last night was EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert. A few days ago, I had started Laura Munson's THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS... but her prose is so pretty, so fluid, I found myself re-reading passages to get the meaning of the words. I was too distracted by the beauty to understand the purpose.

EAT, PRAY, LOVE is also beautiful and reflective, like reading a poem etched in a mirror. I see her words, and then I see myself behind them. Reading this book makes me feel better. And so, when I go to sleep, I'm not as worried, not as knotted, and when I wake up, I think, "Chortle."

Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary defines "chortle" as:
1 : to sing or chant exultantly
2 : to laugh or chuckle especially in satisfaction or exultation

The word's history, according to the Free Online Dictionary, is this: "'O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' He chortled in his joy." Perhaps Lewis Carroll would chortle a bit himself to find that people are still using the word chortle, which he coined in THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS, published in 1872. In any case, Carroll had constructed his word well, combining the words chuckle and snort.

Last night, after reading the words of another struggling woman searching for her own truths, I thought: I don't want to feel stressed anymore. I want peace. I want joy. Mostly, I want money in the bank all the time. It's where security starts. It may be mundane, and not Ghandi-like, but that's what I need.

It wasn't exactly a question, or even a prayer, but I think that "chortle" was somehow an answer. I looked up quotations about laughter, like it's my new meditation, my soul homework, and this one resonated most:

"The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy." ~Eudora Welty

Well, then.

Callooh! Callay!

And chortle.