When the Laughter Returns

All of us who have been through a hard time can say that when the laughter returns, it erupts from a place that is so much deeper than before.  It boils up from the tips of your toes, from the depth of your soul, from the bottom of your heart and spills out.  It is that deep belly laugh that truly originates from joy.

When you have been through a hard time where laughter was scares and tears were plenty, you appreciate that laughter as the miracle it truly is. To me joy is a miracle because it is the other side to the coin.  And both sides celebrate our humanity.

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”  – Kevyn Aucoin

When we go through painful experiences, it shows our humanity in the fact that we can feel, and cry, and ache and empathize.  We can also comfort and hold and find solace in the humanity of others.  IT is all part of the human experience.  As hard as life is. would we really want to live a life with no pain or discomfort?  How boring would that be?  And if we never felt any kind of emotional discomfort, how would we grow or become more compassionate human beings? How could we truly comfort a friend with a broken heart at the end of a relationship if we had never felt that same pain ourselves?

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”  – Robert Fulghum

So for me, that laughter represents the return to myself, the return to life, the return of joy and of love and peace and all that is wonderful.  It is my life being returned to back to me.  And the truth is that I have missed my life, while I was away.  And I have laughed more in recently than I have in the past two years.  And it feels wonderful. Because when you have truly seen the bottom, and felt it in the deep and dark places no one talks about at night when it is quiet, then that laughter is freedom.

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” –  Joseph Campbell

And so here I am, giggling and laughing just like I used to, but even more.  Because I appreciate life more, after having been through the dark and difficult times.  I have a thriving career, wonderful friends, an amazing love, and peace.  Yes, life is good and I am happy.  And I Am laughing all the way to this wonderful, fulfilling, amazing life God has given me.

When you get to this place, even when bad times or bad days or sadness comes, it still doesn’t rock you to your core. You still have joy and happiness in reserves, And mayne that is what it is, having enough happiness internally to get you through the hard times.  And I thought I had that myself.  But when something so huge happens that is does deplete you of your reserves, it takes some time to build up again.  But it does happen. You will get there. My heart is free and my spirit feels lighter and brighter than ever.  Even this month, with the first anniversary approaching, as hard as it will be, I know it will be OK. But it has taken a year.

And that is how it is with life. So don’t be afraid of your own humanity.  Feel whatever needs to be felt. Because it will lead you back to the laughter, back to love and joy and peace and …life.  And when you get there, you know you have earned that laughter. And you feel it in every fiber of your being.

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”  – Victor Hugo

Spring is coming after a long cold winter. Life is renewing, and if you listen close, you can har the giggles and laughter of those new little green leaves of your new life growing.

Wild Hearts Can’t be broken

Hollywood. A town a of glamour, movie starts and money. But honestly I have not been very impressed with Hollywood lately. I haven’t seen many movies or TV shows that are worth my time or many kind of praise.

But then I see things like Ashton Kutcher’s speech to Congress about his organization that has help over 6,000 victims of human and sex trafficking. And I see Pink’s video “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken” with links to Unicef and women who are victims all over the world. And I have a friend who is a movie producer of Christian films like “God’s Not Dead” and specifically a movie about human sex trafficking called “Caged No More.”

They have such a huge platform and are truly using their influence to make changes and help those who need it most. And truth is that human trafficking can happen anywhere, On any street, in any town. It can happen in any house. Atlanta is one of the biggest cities for human and sex trafficking in the world. And there have been many news stories about human trafficking rings being busted, news cameras surrounding houses where the victims were being held and forced to work. Many times those houses are in very affluent neighbors, in multi-million dollar homes. Surprised? Most are. It that insidious, that it can be so close, yet undetected.

Maybe this topic hits so close to home because my parents took foster children. We were a therapeutic foster home, which meant that we got those who had often been abused the worst and were the most damaged. So I have seen what severe sexual abuse does to children. I know what it means when they are “conditioned” or “trained.” I have had them in my home as a child, played with them, eaten with them, even held them and tried to reassure them when they woke up scared and screaming.

Who are these men who shop around and take advantage of women and girls who have been trafficked? I used to wonder that too, and to a large part I still do. And what part of them is so broken and sick, that they would take advantage and exploit others? But they may not be who you think.

They are men like my ex. My ex was well educated, professional, came from a “good” catholic family…looked great on paper. But he shopped on Craig’s list for prostitutes, went to strip clubs to find “dates” and knew that many of the girls in the ads were under age, but did not care. Even if all the girls happened to be of age (which is doubtful), he was still contributing to an industry that perpetuates human sex trafficking…He took pictures and videos of them naked and sent them around to his friends. He volunteered as a career coach, and often worked with desperate unemployed women, so he would be in a position of power. And even now, at age 50, still brags about having 18 and 19 year-old teenagers that come to his house…But you would never know any of this to look at him. Or if you met him at work. Or at a social function. Or even on a dating site.

I mention this because it shows how bad and widespread the problem is. It is not just creepy men in back alleys with slicked back hair that look like they could sell you a horrible used car. It could be anyone. In any city, in any industry, in any socioeconomic level and any education level. They can seem charming or harmless but these men often lead double lives. The reason why human trafficking is such a problem, is because there is such a huge demand for it. And it is not just in other countries. My ex lived with me. This man was in my house. It hits close to home, because he was in my home.

Several years ago Dateline had a series called “How to Catch a Predator” that shocked the nation. How many men were out there looking to hook up with under age kids? How many men did they catch? Many. And still not enough. They were doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, mechanics, father’s, business men, firemen, some unemployed..some married, some single, some younger, some older And show after show, these sexual predators would take the bait.

Now, those clients have simply moved to another supplier. But it’s not just girls below 18 that are being trafficked, there are women of every age. Because human traffickers have figured out that sex sells and the age doesn’t really matter. Out of the 6,000 victims of human sex trafficking that Ashton’s company has saved, only 2,000 of those were minors. That means 4,000 of the victims were prostitutes above the age of 18. Children get the biggest spotlight (and they should) but it is a problem that does not end once a girl turns 18.

I think that it’s wonderful that celebrities are bringing attention to, creating dialog and helping victims of human trafficking. It is truly a worthy cause. For an industry that is known for being superficial, it is good to see so many rolling up their sleeves. It is good to see this topic get so much attention, because even one victim is too many.

Ashton Kutcher’s speech is below and his organization is called Thorn: https://www.wearethorn.org/

This is a local agency that helps victims: https://www.unodc.org/blueheart/index.html

And this is the movie that my friend produced about human trafficking: http://www.cagednomoremovie.com/