Is this what they call a happy place?

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Garry –

As children, we’re taught that whenever we feel afraid, sad, or angry, we should go to our “happy place.”

Our happy place can be anywhere we want it to be.

The only requirements are that it make us feel safe, protected, and at peace.

I had a wonderful childhood.

Unlike other children who visited their happy places in stressful times, my nana suggested, no, ordered me to go to my happy place whenever I was bored.

I guess she figured it was easier to keep me out of trouble by having me exercise my creativity.

“Bella,” she’d say, “take a trip. One of those magical ones you always tell me about.”

And I would oblige.

There was no limit to where I could go.

It was one of the few things I could label infinite.

The greatest thing of all is that I could “travel” whenever and wherever.

Unfortunately, my nana didn’t count on the fact that so much boredom inspired travel could lead me to be deemed, “inattentive,” “distracted,” and my favorite, “seems to be in a world of her own.”

Come report card day, when my mother would enter the house shrieking, my grandmother would say, “What do they know, these teachers who teach children to be robots? They kill their imagination; that’s what they do. Don’t you listen, Bella. Never believe there are limits to what you can do.”

I heeded my nana’s advice and as I grew older, my happy place acquired a fancier name: my alternate reality.

Happy place or alternate reality, its purpose remained the same: transport me away from whatever situation I was in and deliver me to a place where I could exhale.

Different circumstances prompted me to take off to faraway places.

The death of our first dog, my first kiss, the first time I had my heart broken, a fall out with a best friend, my nana’s passing, the news my mother had breast cancer, daddy’s first heart attack, learning I was pregnant.

These were times when my imagination acquired wings and I flew to exotic places; faraway lands where people were happy; where people danced and laughed.

They were places filled with delicious food, dreamy men, and hypnotic music that lulled me to sleep.

The realization that it was time for my trip to end was always a sad event.

I found it heartbreaking to say goodbye to warm beaches in Barbados, to the snow on the Viennese Alps, to the party scene in Ibiza.

And each time I visited my alternate reality, I was tempted to stay longer; to share in the company of a magnificent lover, a kind and compassionate friend, or an intellectual stranger I met in a coffee shop.

My visits afforded the possibility of being anyone.
A Hollywood actress, a famous writer, a poet.

Yet one thing never changed, the feeling of well-being that comes from captaining one’s destiny.

Far from being in control, it was more the knowledge that no matter what, the outcome would always be favorable.

It’s been years since I learned the effectiveness of this coping mechanism.

I’ve come to accept that no matter where I am, no matter how content I think I am, my alternate reality will always be a special place.

My happy place.

A place where I can reinvent myself; be who I want to be; dress, act, and do what I want to do.

Without limitations.

I can dine with a best friend, make love with a perfect lover, sleep cuddled in my nana’s lap.

I can stroll through the streets of Paris, visit Rome and throw a coin in the Trevi fountain, travel to the outback and eat shrimp on the barbie.

No one can stop me.

Only I can impose limitations.

I can go anywhere I want to go, as long as I remember to come back.

To reality.
To my reality.
Whatever that happens to be at the time.

And that’s okay because, no matter what, I can always return to my happy place.

Do you have an alternate reality?


58 thoughts on “Is this what they call a happy place?

  1. I adore your alternate reality…I can visulize it.

    **They were places filled with delicious food, dreamy men, and hypnotic music that lulled me to sleep.**

    Lovely…. You are!

    My alternate reality is “writing.” (always) Always.

    Love to you, dearest, Bella. xx

    1. Kim, I knew you were going to say that! Inevitably, writing is your escape and what beautiful work it produces too! Love to you, lovely lady! :)

  2. Bella, what a great read! I was never taught as a child that I could go to a “happy place!” I don’t know how I missed out on that!!! How were you so lucky to have such a wise nana? I learned as an adult, though, that a few moments in life are “perfect.” And when they happened, I always told myself to remember them and hold them in reserve for when times got tough. So when I’m really stressed, I close my eyes and go back to those perfect moments. Very relaxing!

    1. Jann, then those happy memories are indeed your happy place! How utterly delicious to store your memories only to bring them out when you need to be uplifted! I love to do that as well and find it allows me to smile secretly, like a cat who’s eaten the cream, as I remember mischievous moments. My nana was spectacular. Suffice to say I loved her more than my mom and dad put together! I have never again met anyone so savvy and wise. Sometimes tells me you would have liked her immensely! :)

  3. “A place where I can reinvent myself; be who I want to be; dress, act, and do what I want to do.”

    This is so true for a child imagination. The idea of achieving your childhood dreams, the sense of escapism and the “other reality” have been the main factors that motivate me to travel write.

    The reality now is becoming what I used to dream of as a kid.
    This post was a great read, really relational.


    1. Rob, hello and welcome! I’m delighted you were able to relate to the post. It must be beautiful to travel write! I wish I could afford to travel to then write about it! You have my dream job! :)

  4. Bella, I love your Nana and wish I could have known her! The closest anyone ever came to telling me to find such a place was a commercial for a bath soap product. A woman would slip into a tub and say, “Calgon, take me away!” So I thought the only way to escape whatever ailed me was to take a bath. I took quite a few.

    Of course, now I’m with Kim. My writing takes me to a happy place. Actually, reading a good book, too. That’s a wonderful escape.

    1. Oh my God, Monica, I remember the “Calgon, take me away” commercials! My goodness, how old are we?! hee hee! I think both writing and reading are wonderful ways to escape the daily conundrum. I remember when I was a little girl, reading also served to take me to faraway places. Although, what am I saying? Reading still takes me to faraway places now! And it allows me to turn into the heroine. I think that’s why I love Jane Austen so much. After all, what woman can resist a Mr. Darcy? :) And Monica, my nana would have loved you too!

  5. Your nana is my hero! How wonderful that you had someone in your life to teach you such an important lesson. I didn’t learn it until I went into recovery for an anxiety disorder…and now I can visit my “happy place” any time. It’s a big garden filled with flowers. My dogs, my cats, and loved ones who have passed on visit me there, and I am filled with joy.

    You have made my day. Thank you!

    1. Nadine, I am overjoyed with your kind words. Thank you! Your happy place sounds delightful! Would you believe my mother’s happy place sounds very much like yours? Her loved ones also pay her a visit and every time she returns, she tells me about it. It makes for incredible conversation over a cup of coffee. :) I wish every child would have someone like nana in their lives. Something tells me if this were the case, kids would just depend on toys to make them happy. :)

  6. Positively loved this post! And your Nana. What a wise, wonderful woman! I, too spent an inordinate amount of time in my alternate reality. I called it ‘creating worlds’. I still do it as often as possible. Every time I sit at my computer and start writing!

    1. Diane, how lovely! “Creating worlds” is a wonderful term to describe these escapades of ours! Writing is a magnificent way to escape our reality and transform ourselves, our circumstances, and our setting. And you’re right–nana was wise and wonderful! :)

  7. Thank you for the kind welcome!
    Travel writing is amazing, there is always something that you can write about, even if it is just in your local area.

    In relation to the “happy place”, I think mine would have to be something i read a few months ago, Tioman Island

    It just holds so much beauty and tranquility that you can just imagine yourself sitting back and contemplating all that is going on around you.

    It must have been amazing to have a nana that could be such an inspiration to you.

    1. Rob, you’re welcome! I will definitely check out your link to Tioman Island. Consider me intrigued regarding what this setting is like! I consider myself immensely lucky for having had nana in my life. Thank you for your kind words. :)

  8. Your Nana was so wise! When you mention all the things she taught you in your various posts, it just amazes me. These are life skills that many parents don’t know to teach their kids. Me included! It really makes me think…

    I just read an article on about this very thing. Going in your mind and taking your own little vacation. I think it’s a wonderful idea.

    I LOL at Monica’s comment about Calgon ’cause i was thinking the same thing and always thought the bath was the greatest place for escape!

    1. Michael Ann, I think they broke the mold after granny was born! I always considered myself the luckiest little girl in the world for having her in my life. She was a no-nonsense little woman, with storytelling abilities I have never again encountered. She wasn’t very warm fuzzy but when she kissed me goodnight, I felt loved. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. And yes, baths can be a wonderful escape. Gosh I wish I had a tub! European houses are fonder of shower stalls and sadly, the last time I soaked in a tub was four years ago!

  9. That’s why I love reading and writing. No matter what is happening in my world, I can always escape to a good book. Writing doesn’t provide quite the same escape for me since I have to work so hard at it, but I love visiting the world my characters live in.

    1. Shary, whenever I’m really engrossed in a book, I find myself living the life of the main character. It provides a wonderful sense of escape and it’s even better when there’s action and adventure involved! :)

  10. I’m with Shary! My favorite present when I was a kid came from my mom, a big box of books. There must have been 10 in there. Now THAT box was a very happy place. =) Great post, Bella, and OHMYWORD to that picture. Gorgeous.
    I love your Nana.

    1. Lori, I can’t think of a better present! How wonderful to be able to immerse yourself in the content of those books! With your lovely joie de vivre, my nana would have loved you! :)

    1. Bonnie, hello and welcome! I’m happy you like my sense of imagination. And really, it can’t be a happy place if we don’t feel some sense of peace, right? :)

  11. I love your happy place(s)! :-) My happy places were the books I devoured from the moment I could string words into sentences. I was friends with Cinderella, Snow White, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Peter Pan, the Ingalls family, Anne Shirley… I found respite in “happily ever after,” Neverland, Prince Edward Island (found it for real in 2003); got lost in Nancy’s cases and Trixie’s shenanigans. As I got older, the names and places changed, and became more intense, but they were happy places even so.

    Now I find my happy place when I stop to meditate; when I write; when I see or hear something that captures my ever vivid imagination and takes it to flight. Second star to the right…

    1. Hot Coco, your favorite books include many of my own! I can sense that you have a lovely imagination! And so many lovely tools! “Second star to the right…” I love, love it! :)

  12. I just adore this post, I too have a lot of happy ,secret places that I can go to in times of mental flight :) Your Nana was spot on, We need these places to survive in the real world.

    1. Sulekkha, I am delighted you like this post! And that you agree with nana! I seriously don’t know how I would’ve gotten through some of life’s circumstances if it hadn’t been for the probability of escaping to my alternate reality. Thank goodness we have such places, eh lady? :)

    1. Ariana, I didn’t know your blog was named after your nana! How beautiful! I’m glad you told me. Yes, nanas’ laps are wonderful places to cuddle in. I feel so lucky to have had nana in my life–just like you! :)

  13. I was very curious where this happy place could be… Thanks Sulekha love for posting this on your page.

    My siblings reprimand me for what they call “invisible” unrealistic world and “imaginary friends”… but I recreate myself through this ‘alternative reality’ as you call it.

    I, oftentimes, associate it with prayers ~ being with Someone or going back to my ‘heart’.

    This is such a beautiful and encouraging post. I loved it actually :)


    1. Melissa, hello and welcome! I’m so pleased you dropped by my blog! You know, my son had an imaginary friend at the age of four. He was with us for a year! I think having a fertile imagination allows you to recreate the most wonderful of scenarios. Your siblings may not be aware of the beauty it must be to go “back to your heart.” And that’s really too bad for them! :)

  14. Your Nana must have been one wise woman. Her words so resonate with me. Often, the imagination is killed by busy work, and kids do become robots, regurgitating what they’ve been fed. But not you Bella, you followed your grandmother’s wisdom and found an alternate reality in which to allow your imagination to soar! I love your alternate reality, and want to visit there with you again! Delightful!

    1. Debra, friend, thank you for your encouragement! I am delighted you liked the post as well as visiting the places my imagination takes me to. I would imagine that you too let your imagination soar and visit an array of amazing places! Isn’t it absolutely wonderful, lady? :)

  15. Good for your nanna. I never had a Happy Place that I would go to. But I did have my childhood room, which I guess was a real Happy Place. I would often retreat there when I wanted solitude or things on my own terms. Now I just have to replicate that place in my head when I’m at work.

    1. Leah, your childhood room sounds like a wonderful place to which retreat! As a child, I also loved being in my room which I had decorated myself and made me feel very secure. I’m glad you’re able to recreate that space when you’re at work! :)

  16. My happy place is pretending there is a fire, and then reading Pride & Prejudice.

    I am back……(could you tell)? LOL

    Have been reading your blogs, just not commenting. Your writing always make me smile……

    Hope you are well….

    1. Georgia, honey, I’ve missed you like crazy! I’m so happy to read your comment! I’m delighted to provide you with a smile, friend. I am indeed well and I hope you are too. Pride and Prejudice…I can’t imagine a happier place than next to Mr. Darcy! :)

  17. How I wish I had an alternate reality. Alas, my alternate reality ends up being something unpleasant as I create scenarios in my head of things that could go wrong with my son who suffered the stroke mostly (seeking treatment already, no worries). I think having a happy place is a sign of immense creativity, of a strong and vivid imagination, of a sense of hope and endless possibilities.

    1. Laura, I can understand why your scenarios would be different. When our children are in pain, our perspective changes and while we may want to be idealistic, sometimes other responsibilities don’t allow us to be. I’m sorry. I’m glad, however, that you feel that having a happy place is a sign of creativity and all the other good stuff you mentioned. I feel that not having one just means you have to stay home bound for the time being. Future magic travel still awaits you, Ms. Laura. It’s just a matter of time. :)

  18. I am many things in my alternate realities :) Mostly, I’m a superhero. But sometimes, I’m married to James McAvoy or Orlando Bloom. hahaha.

    1. Laura, I love that you’re a superhero! How cool is that! In my alternate realities, sometimes I have super powers! hee hee! Oh, and I’m married to javier Bardem, Bradley Cooper or Jim Caviezel! :)

  19. Love your Nana’s advice. I remember one of my kids went into her own world — “Melindaland.” One night at dinner I wanted to give the kids a talk on chores and what they had to do to help me around the house. I was in mid-speech when I looked over at Melinda. She was twirling her spaghetti noodles in the air like circus trapeze artists. I said, “Melinda, are you getting any of these rules?” She looked up, with a distant, distracted glare and said, “Oh no, mom. You see, right now I’m in Melindaland and in Melindaland we don’t have these rules.” So I do understand traveling or shifting to a different place where you can be anyone or anything you want. Unfortunately, I was left in reality with no one to help pick up! :)

    1. Annie, yes, there is a downside to the alternate reality–when you’re not the actual magical traveler! :) Melinda sounds like quite a character! I like her style! :)

  20. A post that obviously a lot of people can relate to! Well done!
    Like Shary and Girl Parker, reading was always my escape. Writing is as well, though I think I write more for therapy and relating to my present than for an escape to a happy place!
    I can also apprciate Annie’s Melindaland… doesn’t it seem that kids create a happy place when it’s least convenient for parents to nurture their creativity? I have one like that, only his Nakanuku (“another planet”) has not made an appearance for quite some time!! Oddly enough, he is now intensely interested in astro-physics. Seriously, neither my husband nor I could figure this out,.. until I read your post! Maybe his adventures in Nakanuku as a toddler spurned an interest in the stars and in physics as a teenager in HS. Well.. waddyaknow!

    1. There you go, Astra! A logical explanation out of the most illogical of circumstances! Man, those children of yours–they literally reach for the stars, don’t they? What a proud mother you must be. If you ask me, Nakanuku was quite the positive influence! :)

  21. How fortunate you are, Bella, to have had a nana to encourage your imagination! Too often, the adults in our lives unknowingly stifle imagination through warnings to focus or grow up or get your head out of the clouds. How can writers write or painters paint or anyone be creative, unless they’ve first found their happy place? Yours sounds wonderful — good for you, describing it so vividly!

    1. Debbie, I am honored you approve! And you’re so right–we live in a world where many times children are discouraged from dreaming; from living in a world of imagination. I am so grateful to my nana for having me encouraged to tap into my creativity, to explore all there was to explore; the real and the imaginary. I want to think I also encouraged my own children to do the same. There’s more to the phrase, “You can be anything you want to be.” You have to actually believe it. :)

    1. Nan, thank goodness for the exotic locations reading affords us! Thanks to this possibility, I’ve seen the pyramids in Egypt, visited the Amazon forest, and sunned myself on the beaches of Fiji. And really, does it make a difference if these experiences are fantasy? Heck no! :)

  22. I LOVED IT BELLA!!!!!
    It’s like you’re talking about me, so similar, except that the event sending me to my happy place was not necessarily a very bad one, it could be any frustration, any sadness or even a small wish that i hope to see coming true. At school i was too shy and never participated to school events or dancing or theater projects, but when i was watching others dance for example, I used to see myself getting up from the chair, going towards the stage, in front of all the public and start my dance. It was so beautiful that the whole audience would stand up and applaud, the dancers all step back to watch me doing it.
    I was called the dreamer as i live in my dreams. What I can do in my happy place has no limits, everything is possible, i could also save the world, take food for the ones dying of hunger, giving a hug to the sad ones, making everyone smile, giving hope. The only thing i couldn’t do was stopping death, but i used to make people accept it with a smile and be happy to go.
    I can’t live in my actual life. Too bad for my kids because they need me more “present” with them, but I just can’t.
    My dreams lately involves each time one of my friends, my online friends. I can see a special connection with each one and build my dream on that. I know that tonight, when i will feel that loneliness, I will call you, and have a coffee with you, maybe we can share some of our happy places :)
    Thank you <3

    1. Nikky, I love what you’re able to do when visiting your happy place! It seems the sky was the limit with you to, eh, lady? And I can see altruism lies at your core. You seem to be a noble human being, deserving of receiving the best life has to offer. I would be honored to have coffee with you, friend, and of course, I’m sure much lively conversation would ensue! I’m delighted you liked the post! :)

    2. Thank you Bella for your very kind words :)
      Life has taught me great lessons, real tough ones, but I’m grateful because that was the best it has to give me. The hardest the lesson is, the more you learn.
      Looking forward to read more from you :)

    3. Nikki, you’re a sage, my friend. Like my daddy used to say, “No pain, no gain.” I’m delighted you’ve decided to stick around! :)

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