How improv saved 2012

Washington Improv Theater, "Seasonal Disorder" run, Dec. 2012. Photo by Xavier.

Thanksgiving 2012, 11 p.m. New Mexico time. I was sitting in my married friends' guest room in Albuquerque, with another friend in the next room, thinking about our long, casual, laugh-filled holiday thanks to pervasive giddiness about being together in person again and also to board games like Taboo.

For the first time since I'd stepped off the plane, I was in silence. Posts had flown around social media all day on what everyone was thankful for, but I hadn't really participated. Not because I wasn't thankful for anything (I certainly am; read how my dad so beautifully summed it up), but because I wanted to push myself beyond the obvious blessings in my life and pinpoint a source or cause of gratitude I hadn't adequately acknowledged yet.

I thought back through my year. It included: a breakup, my grandfather's death, a parent's brush with cancer, family employment turmoil, up-and-down dating, increasing work ennui, and all-around transferred stress from friends and family who were unanimous in their analysis of 2012 as "a pretty crappy year."

The year brought a torrent of tears and many sleepless nights, for sure. But as I flipped the mental calendar pages and examined their throughlines, one bright thread emerged: humor. And not just any humor, but improv specifically.

Thanks to improv -- an activity I started in January and kept up throughout the year -- I feel faster on my feet. I am more relaxed in the present moment. I am more accepting of the unknown. I make people laugh, and in doing so I like to think I'm alleviating both our burdens, even if only for the span of a 15-minute set.

Thanksgiving giggles, Nov. 2012. Photo by Kristy.

Improv gave me an outlet. It gave me perspective. It gave me optimism and silliness and a renewed belief that life is not a vale of tears. It resurrected my childhood sense of play, and with it the personal understanding that we can add light or darkness to this world, and that I prefer to add light. Improv showed me that joy walks in on laughter's back, and humor helps invite them both in more often.

So for the as-yet-unknown 2013, I am already thankful:

Thankful for my silly, sarcastic, steeped-in-cheesy-vaudeville-humor family.

Thankful for my witty and clever friends who keep me on my toes.

Thankful for my coworkers, my classmates, my audience members, all of whom laugh with me and for me.

Thankful for my funny and friendly community of improvisers who took me in without condition and generously, unknowingly, lifted my spirit whenever I needed it most.

Thankful for levity.

Thankful for balance.

Thankful for giggling.

The work ladies are not impressed with this post. Nov. 2012.

Prayer #235: Laff Track

Life has dark corners, but it has wacky ones too. Thank you for switching on the lights in forgotten rooms and reminding me that laughter likes to hide -- and be found -- in unexpected places.