I believe that having a happy place is a fantastic defense mechanism. Face it, there are time when the world is a monster, as REM has told us in song. One does not need to have a horrible life to need a happy place as an escape hatch from reality deep in one’s psyche.
My happy place is Venezia, La Serenissima, Bride of the Sea. I had wanted to go to Venice for as long as I could remember, one of those “One day, when I grow up, I am gonna…” ideas you carry with you from childhood. In late 2005, ten minutes after I was diagnosed with MS and that scream/sob that lasts moments but goes in slow motion and seems like hours had stopped, I grabbed my husband by the shoulders and said, “We are going to Italy this year. I will see Venice while I can still walk.” So let it be written, so let it be done. We were in Venice the next fall. The city lived up to my hopes and vision in my mind’s eye. We have been back two more times. We hope to go again.
But, if we never are able to go back to Venezia, I still have it in my head. On the worst days, be they filled with emotion, stress, physical pain, exhaustion, or just plain craziness, I can go there. I go to the best part of the journey. The anticipation of being on the Trenitalia train, gliding along the tracks over the lagoon across the narrow, three mile railroad bridge that links Venice to the mainland. The sun shines a late fall glow of pink and silver flecks across the water, and through a slight mist The Most Serene One appears. I am headed to my happy place.