You laugh and laugh and laugh.

You laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

You play video games till 2 in the morning even though your whole body is screaming GO TO BED NOW. You ignore your circadian rhythms. Your highly specialized health regimen is off the table now because every moment counts and sometimes those moments are best between midnight and two am. And you all complain that "for some reason" none of you has been sleeping well these past few days and it shows on your faces but none of you would dare suggest you do anything different.

You endure your eyes almost swelling shut from cat allergies. And the dry air made worse by the stale cigarette smoke. But you take it because they make you laugh so very hard and you realize that this whole trip is worth it just to be able to laugh with them for just a few hours every day.

You look down at your distended, swollen belly and tell it, Just two more days, ol' girl. Just two more days of eating this way and then you can go back to eating wheat free everything. And you can stop drinking beer. And whatever else is making you so upset. Just give me two more days because it's going to be another 360 before I see them again and I need you to hang in there.

You shop for clothing with your mom and realize that she actually DOES have an eye for fashion. And that she has an indomitable spirit. And you ache to tell her at lunchtime in the middle of that diner that, even though she put you through hell all those years ago, she really did a fine job of raising you. And that you appreciate all the things she's taught you. And that, on most days, you cannot fathom how you chose the path you did and how she chose the path she did. But that right now, as you sit in a vinyl booth off a major highway in New Jersey on a freezing cold morning, it doesn't really matter.

You have dinner with your dad and you pay special attention to the subtleties in the way he talks, the lilt in his voice, and you see it: THERE, there is where your flair for the dramatic comes from. And that flair, that ability to infuse a story with all that passion, that's okay. That's a talent, in fact. Especially when you're talking about his grandfather, who was an inventor. And the pride shines in his face just for a moment and then fades just as quickly and you're betting he feels his life is pretty dull by comparison. And you wonder if he has done the same calculations you do every night when you lie awake in bed and ask yourself: is this the life I am supposed to be living?

You see your family, your funny, talented, smart, sensitive, wonderful family, as much as you can, and you laugh and laugh. You think: Who cares about the small bed and the gunshot and the rest of it? I have this awesome family that makes me laugh.