You know how people say, “I’m going to my happy place” when they want to avoid dealing with something unpleasant?
I’ve never been a fan of that saying. It conjures up images of that inane yellow smiley face and ostriches with their heads in the sand.
I’m not confrontational person. I avoid confrontation at all costs, usually. But I’m also a fixer. If there’s a problem, I want to figure out a solution. Going vacant eyed and picturing yourself standing in a mountain stream is never a solution.
My cats get that “happy place” look on their faces when they’re scooped up and cuddled against their will. It’s sort of a glazed over expression, like their bodies are being held captive in a hug but their minds are far away in a field of catnip or a fish market.
I looked up happy place on the urban dictionary. My favorite definition was this one:
“[A] place inside all of us where we are all happy and get the warm fuzzies. Our happy places are insulated from the shitheads that make up just about everyone we encounter.”
I added the punctuation and capitalization (do they ever edit those entries), but it really just nails the explanation of the phrase, doesn’t it?
Just because I don’t like the saying doesn’t mean that I don’t have a happy place. Everyone has one, even if we don’t retreat to it at the first sign of stress.
If you’ve read one or two of my posts, you might think that my happy place is my home.
It’s no secret that I’m a homebody. I like my house and enjoy being in it. It’s where I recharge.
But even though I’m at my most comfortable at home, it isn’t a stress-free place. I worry about things while I’m at home. My mind is sometimes still on work or other anxieties.
And I always feel like I should be doing something. Cleaning my bathroom, painting a wall, anything that needs to be done.
So while I love my home, I don’t think it’s my happy place.
I feel a little silly saying it, but the one place I can think of that totally relaxes me and leaves me happy, content and stress-free is York Beach, Maine.
My family has a long tradition of driving to York Beach, from before I was born.
I don’t know if this is originally how it became the family destination, but my grandfather was a scuba diver so he used to go over to dive off the rocks at the Nubble Lighthouse.
And the family would go over for beach days.
We have a picture of my mother, aunt, cousins, brother and I at the beach when I was just a baby. Everyone is sandy, sunburned and smiling.
By the time I was old enough to remember, it was just my grandparents, mother and I.
I’ll never forget those long drives back, wearing a sandy, damp bathing suit. Exhausted from being in the sun and water all day. The car was always stifling because we were driving into the setting sun.
We used to stop for ice cream at a certain dairy stand. I don’t know the name of it, but I can picture it in my head even now. The windows, the big parking lot, the picnic tables.
As an adult, I love to go to York for the day or, once in a while, for a longer stay.
There are several nice beaches in the town. One is called “Long Sands” and another “Short Sands.” Not very original names, but they fit.
Long Sands is quieter, with more beach. It is lined with summer cottages, porches draped with drying towels and swim suits.
Short Sands is much smaller, but that’s where all the action is. The stores, the hotels. There’s even the “Fun-O-Rama” complete with Skee Ball. I love Skee Ball.
Even though Short Sands is busier and usually filled with more families, I prefer this beach. I like the luxury of being able to walk to the gift shops when I get hot or tired of sitting in the sun.
You can watch salt water taffy being made, buy a “genuine” sterling silver toe ring or a postcard with a lobster on it and eat onion rings.
Or you can sit under an umbrella, read a book and watch the waves.
There’s something about this balance of beach and business district that soothes me. As soon as I park my car, I can feel the tension leaving my body. I don’t worry when I’m at York, or if I do the problems don’t seem as big.
A few years ago, a friend and I took her daughter to Short Sands for a couple of days. I was just about to start my graduate degree program and I was practically frantic with worry. Would I be able to keep up with the work? Am I smart enough? Do I have enough experience? How would I handle the two weeks away from home every summer for three years that the residency required? What if I didn’t like the people?
The morning after we arrived at the beach, I went for a long walk. It was early and the only other people out were walking their dogs.
As I walked, I thought about going back to school and my concerns. I looked down and there was a tiny, perfect shell in the sand. As I picked it up, a sense of calm came over me.
I’m not a particularly spiritual or superstitious person. I don’t believe in signs from above and I’m not all that convinced that there is a higher power.
But I figured if something as small and fragile as that shell could survive on the vast beach, I was going to be just fine.
So when I do need to go to my happy place, you can find me in York. I’ll be the one under the turquoise umbrella.