Like many other young women of my generation, I knew every word of Joni Mitchell’s iconic record, Court and Sparkby heart. I had some recent experiences that illuminated one particular line of her song “People’s Parties.”
Photo Beauty gets attention
Then her eye paint’s running down
She’s got a rose in her teeth
And a lampshade crown
One minute she’s so happy
Then she’s crying on someone’s knee
Saying, laughing and crying
You know it’s the same release
The idea that laughing and crying offers similar relief to a troubled heart always made perfect sense to me. I get the same deep, cleared out feeling from a good crying jag as I do from a breathless fit of hilarity.
My beloved friend, Lia Breen Falls, recently introduced me to a new aspect of this idea. Some of what Lia does in the world is being a devoted companion to people near the end of life. She absolutely loves this work – and brings creativity, deep love, harp music and compassionate presence to the people who are blessed to be in her care.
One of her beloved clients died last year after a long, slow waning after a stroke. Lia loved this woman and her family, so her passing was a great loss to her. At the same time, Lia knew that her deeply spiritual client-friend was completely at peace with dying. This woman had been struggling for a long time and had told Lia that she was looking forward to being free from her weary body.
In the week following her client’s death, Lia began crying in her car about the loss of her friend. The weeping then gave way to joyful laughter as she imagined how happy her friend was in her new spiritual realm. Then the tears returned again for a few moments before cycling back into laughter.
That day in the car, Lia coined the term “craughing” — a combination of the words crying and laughing — that perfectly describes this cycling between laughter and weeping, giggling and sobbing.
A few months later, Lia and I were at Village Fire, an intergenerational oral tradition singing camp in northeast Iowa. We’d had a difficult moment leading some singing before dinner one evening and went off to chat about why it had felt so hard to get the group in sync.
Before we knew it, we were lying on a carpet in the healing tent, having a good cry together. We’ve cried buckets of healing tears in our long friendship, so this was not an unusual occurrence. Soon the tears gave way to loud and raucous laughter. Then the tears welled up again and took us over. We were “craughing!”
I love many things about “craughing,” but perhaps the most significant is this: it helps me embody and express the truth that joy and grief are twins. When I feel joy about something, grief for its potential loss is always right there. And when I am grieving, my heart is full of joy for having had whatever has passed.
Laughing. Crying. “Craughing.” You know, it’s the same release…..