When I was in the tenth grade, I took geometry with this sort of kooky woman named Ms. Hassall. If you know me, you are aware of my brain’s dysfunction when it comes to any sort of mathematics other than basic arithmetic (I can figure a tip easily. . . most of the time). Geometry did not challenge my previous experiences in math class, although Ms. Hassall along with my classmates, whose detailed discussions of their dating lives, which for the record, could not be avoided from my seat, at least made the proofs and triangles and whatever else they [try to] teach you in geometry slightly more entertaining.
What also made the class more bearable was Ms. Hassall’s weekly tendency to order us to go to our “happy places.” We’d all created our own place at the beginning of the year so that when the class got more out of control than it usually was, we were supposed to recall our happy place and become calm and collected and ready for math learning. I don’t really remember how effective this strategy actually was, but I do remember that my happy place consisted of me walking on streets of a large city, such as New York, passing all different sorts of people; always smiling with the sun shining through the buildings down onto my face.
As a teenager, I think I envisioned freedom as being independent– roaming a huge city by myself, finding happiness in the busyness of everything around me. If I were to go back to Ms. Hassall’s geometry class now, my “happy place” would be much different.
I spent the past few days at the Outer Banks (or do you say “on the Outer Banks”? I always switch it up ’cause I don’t know), and it reminded me of the importance of having a “happy place”– an actual geographic location or physical space, a mindset, or a combination. My physical place at this point in my life is definitely the beach, which I think helps me access my mental space a little more easily. Walking on the beach with the sun on my face and the wind blowing through my hair makes me feel more connected to God than any other place. In that place, I feel vulnerable and accessible in a way that I don’t otherwise. I can talk to God so openly, and I love that. In my day-to-day life, being vulnerable and making and taking time to ask and listen feels difficult. It feels scary. But in my happy place–the beach– everything opens up.
I want and need to access my “happy place” every day, at night or right when I wake up, sitting at my work desk or while I’m on the treadmill. I recently saw a tweet by Joseph Simmons AKA Rev. Run (@RevRunWisdom) that said “Someone asked, ‘Can you teach me how to pray?’ I replied, ‘Prayer is learned by praying.'” This really doesn’t seem too difficult to comprehend and follows the well-known saying, “Practice makes perfect.” However, I often find myself thinking I’m not great at praying, or connecting with God, or making time for myself, and not really doing anything about it, so this really hit home for me. It makes me want to say “Duhh” (is that cool at all anymore?) because of course if you don’t make a habit out of doing something, you probably shouldn’t expect to become a regular at whatever it is.
My “happy place” brings me reminders to carve out time for God and for myself, and to address the urge, which sometimes feels more like a nag, to be open in a way that leaves me feeling vulnerable in the best possible way. I am thankful for these reminders and for the always existent possibility of growth that practice and perseverance bring.