How Laughter Saved My Soul

I forgot one of the cardinal rules concerning adapting to any major change. Do not think that you are fully prepared for all that can happen. If you do, as I did, you will most certainly get a good swift kick in the behind to throw you off-course.

I recently moved from 5000 square feet, where I had lived for 13 years, to approximately 900 square feet. I had measured all the furniture and knew exactly what would fit and what I would have to store or let go. It gave me a very false sense of security and a feeling that I had it all together. (Did I mention that it was the first time I had ever down-sized in 30 years? Did I also mention that my 30-year relationship with my husband was ending, or that my 18 year-old son would be graduating high-school and would soon be off to college?)

Moving day came and I admittedly was a bit behind. I still had much in the kitchen to pack. A word to the wise for those of you down-sizing in the future, have the movers pack your kitchen. I say that, but in reality, I learned a lot about myself and my “stuff” from packing up my kitchen. I was warned that it is the biggest job in the house, and all those voices were correct. For instance, I learned that I must have a funnel fetish. I had plastic funnels and metal funnels and silicon funnels as well. I had funnels in the bathroom, the kitchen, and the garage. I used them for moving body oil from a gallon jug to a pump bottle, canning, and birdseed. I came to realize, however, that one truly does not need a dozen funnels. When you live in a large space, you accumulate because you can. It is not need, nor necessarily greed; it is simply that you have room to have whatever it is your heart desires. I am proud to say at least, that I am not one of those people who has items in the basement or attic that I have never used since I have moved in. From my experience, I can tell you that the more you have, the more difficult the decisions become about what stays and what does not. You have to make choices in a down-sizing situation. Like it or not it is part of the process. I just heard about a man who had boxes he had not looked in for 15 years. Without inquiry, he took them to the curb for garbage day. What bravery! Really though, after that amount of time, what could be in those boxes that would cause anything but more angst at a time like this? And yet, most of us would painstakingly unwrap each item and examine each paper. If you have all the time in every day and a few years, have at it.

I digress, so let’s back to the story. The movers arrive … I am so organized … they are kind hard workers. The huge home seemed to get packed up very swiftly and off we go to the new abode, a quaint duplex with hardwood floors, built-in cabinets, and a few stained glass windows. Let’s talk about cabinets for a moment and I will stick with only the kitchen.

In my previous large kitchen I had:

  • 19 drawers, 2 of which were very large, deep drawers.
  • 2 floor to ceiling double cabinets, 1 with shelves that pulled out to reveal more shelving behind.
  • 12 double cabinets, 9 single cabinets and a corner cabinet with a swivel insert.
  • And let’s not forget the corner bread cabinet as well.

In my new kitchen, I have 4 stubby 2 shelf cabinets, 2 larger but shallow cabinets, 2 small cutlery drawers, and a cabinet that is merely doors in front of a space on the floor. So here’s the part where I was not prepared. I never even thought about the disparity in the amount of cabinet space. The sheer difference in number was mind-boggling. Never gave it a moment’s thought. WHAT??? (And I teach people about adapting to change. I truly need to listen to myself more!)

After knowing this information, it should not be surprising to you about what happens next. Somewhere in the afternoon, my basement area for storage was packed to the gills, my only closet, a walk-in, was bowing from the weight of the clothes that are hung in there, and I had boxes stacked to my ears in this quaint new abode. The furniture though, fit perfectly as predicted. (This was a small respite for the insanity to come.) The movers approached me to let me know they have 4 more wardrobe boxes and 50 more other items on the truck. They asked me “what should we do with them?” It was at that moment that I walked calmly into that closet, closed the door behind me and just started to weep. My sanctuary became a walk-in closet in a new home, while leaving behind a home I had lived in for 13 years, a community I had been a part of for 23 years, a life I had known as a married woman for 30 years, and my son who I would leave behind to live with his dad and a friend to finish his senior year. I felt lost, alone, sad, helpless and extremely frustrated. I was not even sure how to take the next step, or what that step would be.

Out of nowhere appeared John, a true angel. The guys from the moving company took it upon themselves to call him FOR me. John made arrangements for me to get some storage space nearby and there was enough time in the day for them to move what was left into storage. Following my instructions, this included all plastic bins. (Did not think that one through either as that included my dog’s food … oops.)

It was then that I forgot the second cardinal rule in adapting to big changes. Never, ever say “I can’t take one more thing!” Honestly, it is just like giving the Universe one big challenge. The response is, “Really, I bet you can!” It took me a day and a half to realize that message and get out of my pity party and move on.

I won’t bore you with the other incidences that the Universe saw fit to dump in my lap to prove its point, but suffice it to say, they were doozies.

So you might be wondering how I crawled out from under the rock(s) I had literally dumped on myself. I feel confident in saying that my recent work in laughter therapy and fair play activities played a significant part. First and foremost, while going through my emotional breakdown, I could still appreciate what was going right. I could still appreciate the kindness of others. I am sure each of you have experienced a time in your life where circumstances got the better of you. When I was younger, I was unable to filter through it, I just got lost in it. This time around, my work with Good Hearted Living gave me the tools I needed to filter the pain and anxiety so that it did not become my whole life, although there were certainly moments when it felt that way.

I moved on a Tuesday. I cried through that day and Wednesday and then remembered I had a Laughter Club to lead on Thursday morning. There was no way I was going to cancel it and I am not one to put on a poor presentation. I picked myself up, literally and figuratively, and went to my new office on Wednesday night to prepare. Even though I have done many workshops now, I want them to be fresh. This is especially important at the Laughter Clubs where people are coming back. I want new exercises and new experiences for them. I spent a good amount of time making sure I had everything in order. I had moved my office and set it up the week before. That I had under control and it came in very handy and assisted with the return to my sanity very well indeed.

The workshop was wonderful. I had a bunch of women return and new friends that decided this was the day they were going to show up. I shared the example of my woes as a testament to how laughter and play can truly help in stressful situations. It doesn’t get better than spending my life teaching others these important principles. I got my laughter back by giving to others and that is how laugher saved my soul on this day.

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Julie Ann Sullivan has been engaging people with her workshops and interactive presentations for more than 20 years.  She speaks to corporations, educators, students and professional organizations about life’s journeys. She is the author of Life Lessons, Shape-Up for Success and Pocketful of Inspiration.  Julie Ann lives in Pittsburgh PA with her poodle Lucky. Learn more about Julie Ann by visiting


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