Love and Laughter: A Healing Journey

19 August 2009

Love and Laughter: A Healing Journey
by Catherine Ripplinger Fenwick
Printed by St. Peter’s Press
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$21.95 ISBN 1-896971-34-2

The last time I was in McNally Robinson in Saskatoon, I happened past the self-help section and was amazed at its size. I was thinking about this as I read “Crises are part of the human condition …” in the introduction to Catherine Ripplinger Fenwick’s Love and Laughter: A Healing Journey. The book, an expansion on her popular 2004 title, “Healing With Humour,” is in part “a psychological and spiritual first aid kit.” Inside it the Regina author, therapist, and educator offers anecdotes, quotations, poetry, prayers, jokes, affirmations, activities, cartoons, strategies, and information on making humour and hope part of daily life, which results in a healthier and more joyful existence. It is both a “work-book and a play-book,” and for those who need a lift, it could be just what the doctor ordered.

After a breast cancer diagnosis in 1990, Ripplinger Fenwick set out on her lifelong goal to write a book, recognizing the importance “healthy humour and hope” would play in her healing journey. She maintains that laughter is important because it “enriches all aspects of life,” and because it reduces stress, it also encourages numerous physical benefits, including the production of “endorphins and disease fighting immune cells.”

The book is bursting with fun and interesting suggestions for examining and improving one’s emotional life. It begins with a quiz which tests one’s “L.Q.” (“Laughter Quotient”), suggests readers keep a “thanksgiving journal,” and create a “Healing Activities Chart.” The writer recommends making a “Love and Laughter First Aid Kit.” Hers consists of books, photo albums, games, toys, wigs, and “dress-up” costumes. I wonder what mine would include?

I appreciated her ideas for a walking meditation (thinking positive thoughts like “My mind is sharp and clear. My soul is at peace” while walking); for hosting a “Tell only funny stories” party; and for writing a “laughter contract with yourself,” but especially interesting for me was the harkening back to innocent childhood joy.

Ripplinger Fenwick acknowledges the role our own childhoods make to our happiness as adults, but she makes the critical point that “We are never too old to have a happy childhood.” That’s beautiful. She suggests reading uplifting children’s stories, like “The Velveteen Rabbit,” and includes a “Visualizing Your Inner Childlike Self” exercise. There’s a priceless anecdote about a Special Olympics race during which the young participants all stopped when one runner fell shortly after the start signal. One child “kissed [the crying boy] on the cheek and said, ‘This will make it better.’ A few minutes later the ‘competitors’ linked arms and walked across the finishing line together. They were all winners.”

The author quotes Chief Dan George, Mark Twain, Confucius, Deepak Chopra, Thomas Aquinas, and the Buddha, to name a diverse and inspiring few, and she includes a “References and Recommended Reading” list.

Yes, crises are part of the human condition, but as the author writes, “[you can] overcome them as well as anyone.” Love and Laughter is her handbook for happiness. It can be yours, too.


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