by MIA FREEDMAN
“Happy place. Happy place. Think of your happy place.” Someone put their hand on my arm and said this to me half-jokingly the other day when I was particularly riled up about something.
It’s a bit like that pukey phrase “turn your frown upside down!” except less likely to make you want to punch the person saying it. The idea is to shift your mood and escape your reality by imagining yourself in a familiar place that lifts your spirits and settles your soul.
Your happy place can be highly revealing, as I discovered when I asked some 20-somethings about theirs. “My happy place is with my family at our holiday house,” said one wistfully. “It’s with my parents and sister playing boardgames around the kitchen table,” replied another with a faraway look in her eye. And from a bloke: “In the shower at my parents’ house. I can think back to escaping there on every stressful occasion in my life – exams, girls, fights with mates… Loud music and good water pressure. Bingo.”
Interestingly, all three of these people were living far from home and their families held a powerful happiness pull.
Then there was the 28-year-old, newly engaged who said, “Lying with my head on my boyfriend’s chest. It’s where I feel safest and it always calms me.” Sweet.
Next, I asked some mothers. No mentions of chests, children, husbands or in fact, anyone at all. Their happy place was most often a bath (frequently with wine) and they were always always alone. “For me it’s in the bath at night when everyone’s been fed, the house is clean and the kids are asleep,” replied one. “Those supporting details are crucial or else it doesn’t have the same effect.” She thought for a moment and a guilty look flashed across her face. “I’d like to think my happy place is around the dinner table catching up with my family but that’s only in my imagination where everyone is cheerful and wolfs down my delicious food as we exchange witty anecdotes from our day. In reality, dinner time is usually a shit fight.”
Other answers from mothers included: “having a massage where nobody can interrupt me,” (lack of interruptions feature heavily in mothers’ happy places) and “any beach with the sand between my toes,” (note the absence of a small person demanding she construct a sandcastle and whining about the sand making their bottom itchy).
My own happy place is the Sass & Bide boutique at my local Westfield. Yes, I feel deeply shallow telling you this but it’s my happy place so shut up. Just thinking about being there lightens my mood – as opposed to actually being there which tends to lighten my wallet.
I once met a woman who ‘read’ energy. She told me mine was frenetic and I needed to ground myself by walking barefoot on grass or sand every day. So I’m slightly sheepish that my happy place does not involve nature or any type of spiritual transcendence. Not even a bath or a candle. No, my happy place involves fluorescent lighting and, occasionally, sequins.
In my happy place, I haven’t bought anything yet so there is no anxious feeling that I possibly shouldn’t have spent my children’s school fees on a full length beaded dress with only one arm. It’s simply a place full of cool clothes, beautiful women and infinite possibility. There’s no space in the fitting room for anyone but me with the occasional arm coming through the curtains to hand me something in a larger size. I’m totally free of responsibility, my phone is off and my laptop’s far away. It is the POLAR OPPOSITE OF MY REAL LIFE.
It will come as a surprise to nobody that shopping and baths didn’t rate a mention when I asked men about their happy place. Activities did. This from a mate who’s a mad surfer: “My happy place is in a six foot clean barrel for six seconds witnessed by all my mates.” I like the detail in that answer. “Fishing in Cape York,” was another one and so were “Gardening,” and “Playing wall ball out the front of my house.” Watching sport also featured. And one bloke who has a thing for cars likes hanging out at his mechanic. I also liked this answer: “Going to bed on a Friday night knowing the next day is Saturday”. Although that one doesn’t apply to any parent with a kid who does Saturday sport LET ME TELL YOU.
Finally, it’s worth noting that one person’s happy place is another person’s hell. What makes your spirits soar can be as appealing as eating bark for someone else. When I told one friend about my happy place she shuddered. “If I didn’t feel so self-conscious about my body I might say that too. But clothing shopping is a nightmare to me.” I feel the same way about massages. And boardgames. And spending time with my mechanic. Different strokes.
The best part about asking this question though, is when you get a totally weird answer. Try it at your next dinner party. Like the political tragic who admitted under duress that her happy place was watching Question Time. Did I mention hell?
What’s your happy place?