This week I have been reminded that when people act out in prejudice, discriminatory, and outright ignorant ways…they are being driven by fear. It may be fear of themselves, fear of uncertainty, or such a deep fear they don’t even realize it exists within them. My response will either give fear more power and promote separation or provide the antidote and guide us towards unity. It doesn’t mean I accept behavior and ignore the consequences of their actions…it means that I generate something that is impossible to exist in a state of fear: love. When we respond in kindness, patience, understanding, and generosity we promote a strand that connects us a human beings and reminds us that we are all the same perfectly imperfect and beautiful being that is.
When I hear the term ‘happy place’, I’m always curious what that means for people. Throughout the years, I have explored different ideas of what this magical place would look like. It would vary with certain images and experiences but nothing remained constant. I struggled with the confines of establishing a physical location that only held feelings of happiness or peace. I began to wonder if I would ever determine one place of existence as purely happy.
Then, this past week I had a perfect storm of stress, anxiety, and fear all rolled into one challenge after another. As I experienced intense uncertainty, anger, and frustration I wasn’t sure what to do or even how to cope. There was nothing ‘to fix’, it was more about navigating overwhelming feelings and accepting the reality of the situation. I knew in my heart that I would have to let go of the worry, the fear, and the frustration and try to find a place of peace. Talking seemed to help a little, but I still needed to clear my head and lighten my heart, so I decided to go for a walk.
As I headed to the park by my house, still full of fear and worry, I realized that I was going towards the only place that could provide me peace. The park. It was my refuge. I go there every week, almost every day to walk our dog or go for a run. I couldn’t help but welcome the small sense of relief flooding my body as I realized that no matter what, when I am at this park, I feel that the world is an okay place. There I am insulated from the chaos of the day, the ever-growing tasks lists, and any other expectations from the world. There is a calm supported by the trees and the rolling hills that is hard to express through words or even pictures. There is a constant that only nature can provide. The birds never fail to sing in the trees, the river doesn’t cease to continue rolling past, and the squirrels and wildlife promise to rustle in the woods every evening. And sometimes, the universe will grace me with wonderful surprises in the form of a deer and her fawn running across the grassy area or even the rare site of a blue crane walking along the banks.
I walked for a while and then became absorbed in watching the river run past me and disappear around the bend. Then, like water rolling off my shoulders, the burden in my heart became lighter. I forgot about my fears for just those moments and breathed in deep and started releasing some of my tension. I couldn’t help but be reminded that even in the midst of angry and hurtful people, scary situations, terminal illnesses, and more pain than is imaginable at times…there is also peace. Walking along the river path and catching a glimpse of a blue crane doesn’t make all that heartache go away. But it allowed me to catch my breath and simply remember that there is always something bigger than me. Something more powerful. I can choose to get caught up in the things that are big, powerful, and scary; or I can choose to embrace the bigger/more powerful and peaceful things.
I came home that evening feeling only a little lighter, but I had gained just enough of what I needed to get me through that evening and the next day. And even more importantly, I realized that I can, without a doubt, finally claim my ultimate happy place. It’s not the actual space of the park, it’s perspective that I gain through the park. I believe our happy place resides within us at all times; sometimes we just need an external reminder of how to get there. Maybe it’s a river walk, maybe it’s a meaningful conversation with a loved one, or maybe it’s just the stillness that is finally recognized in the heart. No matter what, the space to feel peace is always there, it’s just up to each of us when we are ready to embrace it. And in that space, deep within my soul where stillness lives…is my happy place.