Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rainbows and Unicorns

We've all heard the phrase, "Go to your happy place." 

Where do you go, mentally and emotionally, when your entire life feels like it is falling apart?

Some people just emote: cry, yell, and vent. 

Some people close up and shut everyone else out.

Some people go spend a lot of money.  Retail therapy, you know.

Some people scrub, rearrange and purge clutter.

Some people pray real hard.

Some people dream big dreams about what could be.

Some people just read their Bibles quietly.

Some people literally pack up and leave town.

Some people post all about it on Facebook (and we all wish that they hadn't).

Do you have a happy place?  Have you created an internal place of refuge that brings you back to center?

Of course, what we are really talking about are coping mechanisms.  Everyone has a bad day here and there.  Everyone.  Sometimes, though, people have a bad year, or bad YEARS.  Sometimes there is so much loss that the soul resembles Swiss cheese.  Swiss cheese that has been left out overnight and is now limp and greasy.  Some people never really recover from their losses.

I was speaking with someone the other day and they admitted that they do not have a happy place at all.  There is no internal place of comfort and peace.  That it seems to be black everywhere. One day I just blurted out, "Rainbows and unicorns!"  I then explained that when I felt the mood had gone too far into the blackness I would say, "Rainbows and unicorns!" to change the mood.  I don't think it helped.

That got me thinking about whether I had my own happy place.

When I was younger I learned the art of escapism.  I had a wonderful imagination, regularly climbed trees, even hid out on our roof.  I knew how to get away from the pain.  But I never dealt with it. 

When I got a little older I didn't escape as much.  It didn't seem to work.  Of course, I was a poor single mom, and escaping for an adult usually costs money.  There were no free Kindle books then and I have never been a crier which is a real shame.

Then I "got religion*" and was taught that escapism was wrong, bad, cowardly. 

A few years more down the road and I had a couple more children, a disconnected husband, and an idealistic point of view -- I have always been idealistic. I began to finally reach a point where I had to face my demons instead of hiding or escaping from them.  Oh,  I still had my escapes. Were they really escapes, or were they my "happy places"?

After the loss of an early pregnancy, I planted an herb garden in my backyard.  Was that an escape or a therapeutic exercise? I created something beautiful and useful as a way to work through my pain and disappointment. I realized that my happy place is not an internal place where only I am allowed.  My happy place is something external, something beautiful that I can enjoy but can also share with those around me. The internal part is the planning, which is extremely pleasurable to me. This is the truly creative part of any project, and might have something to do with the oh so many unfinished projects in my possession.

So my happy place is creating something.  That is what truly settles me down, brings me back to a place of civility and calm.  

What or where is your "happy place"?

*In 1984 I joined a church that was a borderline cult.  It didn't quite qualify as a Reverend Jones kind of cult, but it had controlling leadership, isolation, and no heart.  It was legalistic and therefore "religion," not a healthy spirituality.


  1. This is such a good subject. For me, it depends on where I am in the "getting dark" continuum. If it's just twilight, my happy place is a set of videos I've collected that make me laugh, and actually laughing can shift things for me. Music -- Light and Day, by Polyphonic Spree, for instance -- that can shift things. If the dark place is depression, I mostly just have to be patient and take care of myself, and wait it out.

    But anger is the hardest dark place for me, and I've never really learned how to deal with it. It's much more difficult to be angry (for me, and for many women I suspect) than it is to be down, even though down can surely suck. Happy place doesn't work with anger, for me, and I'm too agitated to sit with music. I mainly just stride a lot and wave my arms around and say mean and terrible things, either out loud if I'm alone or in my head if I'm not, and then it settles down to human and more acceptable form.

    I've tried the 'happy place' images -- a field of bluebonnets is as close as I've ever come to such a place -- but it doesn't really take me out of anything. I've never had a problem crying, or feeling everything I feel, which makes me lucky, I guess? Writing is always a good refuge, and I have notebooks filled with all sorts of i'm-in-trouble writing.

    But when my dad died -- and maybe, thinking back on it, you had a hand in this -- I planted some flowers in pots on my porch, and digging in the dirt and helping something grow were probably the best medicine there was. Even if that wasn't much medicine for the situation, it was still the best there was, and I remember being so comforted by it.

    So thoughtful, this post, and I wish you lots of happy making -- and plenty of time where it's not for medicinal purposes. :)

  2. I hadn't thought about the degree of darkness but that is very important. What is sort of difficult for me now is that the activities, distractions, movies, and music that previously comforted me and brought me back no longer do so. I think that is a sign of growth and change, or at least change.

    When I was a teen I wrote some pretty dark poetry, and it was very therapeutic. I am pretty sure I wouldn't want anyone to read it now. I like the idea of writing for myself -- not a journal but just whatever comes out. At least it isn't hidden away in the dark to fester.

    Thank you for the well wishes. I really feel them and they truly do encourage me.