In Spanish class, our teacher instructed us to find our “happy place” before we listened to native speakers on tape. I had never heard that term before, and no one ever asked for clarification, but the same place always came to mind.
I imagined a turquoise ocean, a white beach, and an azure sky, then focused on the task at hand: figuring out what the Spanish speakers were rattling off. The tranquility of my happy place helped me concentrate.
After that class, though, I never thought about happy places.
Not until one night several years later. In bed, eyes closed, nearly asleep, I realized my mind was taking me somewhere strange. I clung to the neck of a winged beast as we flew through frigid night. Blackness stretched below us, and purple plastered the sky. Then I saw where we were flying: a giant, rocky plateau that seemed to rise out of nowhere, many miles away from us. Fifty-foot-tall glowing pink crystals thrust from the terrain, and a maze of stone buildings populated the lonely plateau. This was a place of solitude, isolated from the world’s troubles. The world was unfamiliar, and not at all like the paradisiacal beach from Spanish class, but somehow I felt at home.
I re-visited the crystal city as I drifted off to sleep the following nights. I realized I had found a legitimate happy place, and I wanted to learn more about it, but I didn’t want to push too hard. I suspected the city was, like a portal to Narnia, not completely under my control. Push too hard and the entrance might cave in. Return too often and the magic might evaporate.
Eventually, my happy place ebbed out of existence. I missed it, badly.
But more came.
I entered a snow-laden evergreen forest smelling of pine, mountains, and, somehow, mint. I trudged through snow, spurred on by the thought of my snug cottage mere minutes away and my family awaiting me by the crackling fire.
Another land between waking and sleeping: I found myself sitting at the edge of a pond, my feet entrenched in cool mud, a gentle breeze blowing over me, and water lapping at my ankles. On the fourth or fifth visit to this idyllic site, I looked up. My loved ones who have passed before me were waiting for me at the edge of the grove, smiling at me.
Or a wardrobe, standing quietly in a large and otherwise empty room. Rain pelts the latticed pane of the arched window to my left. Laughter echoes down a distant hall. The door of the wardrobe? Ajar.
Don’t exhaust your mind before bed with a flashy screen. You’ll collapse on the sheets and fall asleep in three seconds. Instead, take your mind on a date and flirt with it like it’s your teenage crush. It knows that life worries and scares you and will provide the anchor you need to keep you in the harbor.