Yesterday I was ruminating on the foolishness of leaving my mental-vacation hours or days too often unused and under-appreciated. A good night’s sleep is a grand thing and can help stave off the need for more frequent visits to my Happy Place, my Playland, my refuge when I am stuck in place either metaphorically or literally, but it’s not a complete negation of the need. And, unlike many people, I do have such options. I am not so trapped in my suffering, whether virtual or actual, that I can’t dip my toe into the pool of soothing quiet and beauty at least in a pause for meditation once in a while.
What of you who have no such safety zone?
This is no casual question; it’s a matter of sanity and survival, for many. And I am not the person who can cure the disease once and for all. Tragedy can befall anyone; accident, ill-health, loneliness, financial ruin, crime, natural disaster—they’re lurking around ever little corner of life, and some people’s life sojourns seem to take them along the cruelest, most persistently terrible paths imaginable, and I can do nothing whatsoever to stop it. I cannot take away pain, heal wounds of the flesh or the spirit, stop runaway trains, or end wars.
What I can do is small. It’s quiet, it’s incremental, and it comes with no guarantees. I call it, simply, Love. But it can take so many forms, some of them quite unattached to any visible action. It is the true defining factor, for me, of my own versions of a Happy Place, no matter what its current address on earth or in my mind might be. Love, in the form of rest, calm, peace; of hope and anticipation. Of cheery reminiscences and optimistic plans and present contentment.
It’s love in the form of a well-loved song drifting in my inner ear, in the voice of my beloved, on the strings of a celestially fine orchestra, or with the irresistibly danceable beat of the most fabulous band. It’s a violet-scented, cooling breeze in a mossy glade right in the midst of the hottest, sultriest summer ever, or a cup of steaming soup to warm stomach, hands, and mood when I’ve been knocked down by a brutish winter cold. It’s a place where all of my most adored friends and loved ones are gathered around me in a welcome-home hug-fest after a tiring day or week or year—or a candlelit reading chair in an upper room of a place far out in the countryside where nobody can be seen or heard for miles, where I sit and repair my frazzled nerves one poem at a time, uninterrupted.
And for you, you friends of mine who haven’t access to these riches yourselves, I can only give you this: my promise. I promise you that if you will try to build your own place of refuge in your heart, really go deep within yourself and think hard on all of the beauties that you crave most and imagine yourself immersed in them for just a moment, and then for a moment more, I will be here waiting to greet you when you return. With a silent look of recognition that says, Yes, I will be your friend, and I will meet you here again whenever you’re ready. Or with the biggest hug imaginable, if that’s your style. Or with a hot cuppa tea or a cold glass of water and a time sitting together in a peaceful corner while you tell me your story. All of this, in cyberspace, shared because we will it, we imagine it, we mean it.
If you feel like crying, imagine my hand reaching out just as yours does, to wipe the tears off your cheek, and perhaps you will do so yourself with a little more patience and kind detachment that says, Yes, you will be okay. This may not pass, but you will find your way to exist in and through it. Hey, if you need a good rant-and-scream session, I won’t be put out by the noise or cussing when you find a spot safely out of others’ earshot and shout at me until you’re exhausted. I’ll shoulder it from here as best I can, if you promise to let go of it by the end. When you’ve been carrying your burdens for too long—carrying the whole world’s burdens, it seems, forever—it’s okay to say No, to Stop, to grieve over the stress and strain of it all, and to lay those heavy weights down and just let them be. Let yourself be. Know that the world won’t end if you don’t take care of everyone and everything else all of the time, and if it does, it won’t be your problem anymore, either! I understand.
If you need a good laugh, let out a gigantic chortle or just go ahead giggle yourself silly, all the while hearing me joining in on the joke, even if I don’t speak your language, because the language of laughter is universal. Sing softly or at the top of your lungs and I will harmonize perfectly with you, because out here in the ether it doesn’t matter if either of us can carry a tune in real life; in the space we occupy with our hearts, we are perfect singers and know every word of every song ever written.
If what you need is the sleep that eludes you perpetually because of work or pain or fear, take rest in closed eyes and a meditative, purposeful letting-go of all that you cannot solve, fix, or understand as you’d like, if only for a thousandth of a second, and when it has given you that increment of relief, go back for seconds. And thirds. Someday you may sleep again. Spend the wakeful hours until then building your dream palace or hideaway inside your quieted mind, room by room, foundation to roof, and all of its gardens perfectly tended by invisible angelic beings who plant and shape everything you love best into a picture-perfect park for your delectation alone. May you find sweetness and happiness there enough to carry you to and through all that your life brings. And I will wait for you here, be here when you come for respite again, because you matter.