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Where is your happiness?

golden touch
By Jana

Much of what has happened in my life has been beyond my control. I had cancer, became disabled, had an LDS spouse who turned atheist, and have had various other challenges. Back when I was in the throes of my cancer treatments I pursued hypnosis as a method for dealing with the rather intense pain that accompanied chemo and the subsequent amputation of my leg. The pain had become so bad that I was writhing and screaming all through many nights, which I’m sure was upsetting to my parents and others who could hear my anguish echoing down the hospital corridors.

My psychiatrist had me lie down and breathe deeply, then he spoke and told me to imagine the most peaceful and beautiful place that I could think of. He then led me through the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of that place to relax my body and distract me from the pain. After a few sessions with him I learned how to control my breathing and master some elements of mental pain control.

Since then I’ve had many times when I’ve needed to escape for a bit from the realities of my life so I can endure pain and/or regain peace and hope. Sometimes I still use the hypnosis/meditation skills that the I learned many years ago, sometimes I make a list of things that I’m grateful for to put the ‘bad’ into perspective, or I engage in a hobby (like crocheting or painting or baking or gardening) to bring me joy. On other occasions I will google images of waterfalls, cottages, or flowers and just let myself fall into them for awhile. Listening to Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos makes me happy even on my crabbiest days. A kindness from a stranger or from a family member nearly always makes me smile. Petting the soft belly of a cat, is a sure way to lower my blood pressure a few points.

I have an acquaintance who has had some really tough things happen in her life. For nearly two decades she was constantly in crisis mode as she dealt with the trials that were thrown her way. When all was said and done and she found herself in a space where she was free from all of the earlier entanglements and had the freedom to pursue just about anything her heart desired, she was completely stymied. She realized that she had no idea what to do. She had no idea at all what would bring her joy. Would it be taking up a new hobby? Full-time charity work? Moving somewhere away from all of the memories of her painful years? As I watched her struggle to figure out what would make her happy I vowed inside to do whatever I could to keep hold of my own happy places, to never forget the joy, peace, and contentment that they bring.

So today I’d like you to share with all of us what your happiness is. Where do you escape to when the trials come your way? What can always bring a smile to your face? What is your bliss?

Photo taken in my garden, one of my very special happy places. Note: even as you read this I am traveling to the Rocky Mountain Women’s Retreat to spend time with many awesome women including a handful of my sister-bloggers here at Exponent. It wil definitely be a weekend filled with happy-place moments! 🙂


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com

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  1. Bee says:

    Nice post.

    I can always escape from the world and be happy when I am doing genealogy. Usually it’s at home on the internet, but a REALLY happy day would find me at the Family History Library. How I love my dead people! They aren’t demanding anything from me but to find them and learn their stories.

  2. MoJo says:


    Fondling good fabrics.

    Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    Listening to my playlist entitled “Happy Laughing Walking Music.” (Yeah, I know it’s corny.)

    Watching Legally Blonde.

  3. sarah says:

    Even as I am inwardly jealous about the retreat (I missed Midwest Pilgrims Retreat because of scheduling conflicts) I am remembering how happy the Feminist Mormon retreats make me. Being with people who can at least allow my perspective to co-exist with theirs, and some who even share mine, brings such peace to me.

    Snipping baby lettuces and chards for salad, caressing ripe tomatoes, talking to my fruit trees, all give me a grounded feeling, even a sense of self-worth.

    Playing Bach Preludes and Fugues on the organ, or Trio Sonatas, or singing rounds with my mom and brothers.

    Reading cheerfully admonitory books about being more environmentally conscious.

    Smelling lilacs and roses until I’m drunk.

    Having nothing on my bedroom floor (a very rare occurrence).

  4. Ana says:

    Sleeping kids. Singer-songwriters. Reading novels. Planning my menus and groceries. Hanging out with my sisters (the ones born to my parents, and the ones I’ve picked up over the years). Rescuing plants from the clearance rack in the back of the produce section. My job, usually. The paved creekside trail near my home, with or without a stroller. Kids singing along with Pete Seeger and Burl Ives in the car. I really am so lucky – I have a lot of happy places.

  5. bridgette says:

    My husband and I have been taking a class with our teenage daughter. She was sexually assaulted a few years ago and it has been a long, hard recovery for her, and us. Anyhow, the assignment was to find a container and put 1 thing from each of the 5 senses in it that bring you joy, calm you down, bring you back to your center. This wasn’t to hard for my daughter. She decorated a cute box with her favorite colors, put positve affirmations on it and then filled it. For touch she put her favorite baby blanket. Smell was baby lotion, she loves babies. Sight was photos of friends and family.Taste was a candy bar and sound was her Ipod. Try this, it’s harder than you think! I’m still working on mine.

  6. Maria says:

    -Long walks or hikes with my husband or dad.


    -Really good Mexican food.

  7. Deborah says:

    Homemade hashbrowns with scrambled eggs.
    Cadbury Eggs

    The moment my students walk into the room.
    The first spring flowers — it’s almost worth winter for the dizzying joy of seeing trees in full bloom.

    “Build Me Up Buttercup”
    My husband’s voice when he’s in his goofy mood
    Rumbling thunder on a hot summer afternoon.

    Dry spring/summer/fall breezes

  8. jana says:

    My latest happy place? Being with friends, who can make me giggle even when the going gets rough. 🙂

  9. Jessawhy says:

    I think Denver is now one of my happy places. It was so wonderful to spend time with you and the other girls.
    And, I love hearing you giggle.

  10. Kiri Close says:

    For an immediate dose of happiness in small things–I like the smell of used bookstores & small coffee shops, inhaling an entire bar of dark chocolate, a new place to visit, those moments (i can now admit that there have been few in my life) when the scriptures truly spoke to me, good sex with Rob, creative indie & foreign films, reading, a good play, learning something cool, getting something off my chest, dreaming, swatting mosquitos who’ve just sucked my blood (oh, the violent satisfaction!), and a really good cussing session (oh, the violent satisfaction, part II!).

    But for the long, unmoveable happiness-es, an accompanying amount of work is involved over time. My top 10 of these is (in order, kinda):
    1. Thinking
    2. Writing
    3. Any art requiring hands and body movement & skill
    4. Making out
    5. Studying/researching toward a project
    6. Singing
    7. Messing with chords on piano
    8. Cooking
    9. Conversations with people, or by myself

    Well, there’s more but those are what come to mind first. Sounds quirky and eclectic, but these are some things wherein my ‘happy’ truly lies.

    I also love to eat!

  11. caroline says:

    Kiri, I love all your comments. I hope you’ll continue to join in the conversations!

    My happy places/things….
    -great conversations with my friends.
    -submersing myself in a really good novel
    -writing something I’m proud of
    -watching my baby sleep
    -laughing with Mike
    -beautiful views

  12. Dora says:

    Things I can’t get enough of:
    Cozy, seated conversation with people who listen as well as they talk.
    Confidence and a genuine smile.
    Dancing with a good lead, completely in the music.
    Relaxing neck rubs, having someone tousle my hair.
    Books I can’t put down ’till they’re finished, and talking them over.
    Words … you know, the really good ones.
    Mail. Email will suffice, but I love receiving letters written by hand and delivered by the post.
    Winning at Catan.
    Making music.
    Travelling to intriguing new places, and learning why people love where they are.
    Finding kindred spirits.

  13. charades says:

    I find much happiness when I have a Lofthouse sugar cookie in hand, and a Diet Coke in another. Just wanted to be honest.

  14. Kiri Close says:

    I also love speaking languages. I think i don’t like learning them, though (conundrum, I know).

    I’m also happily obsessed back-packing in foreign countries.

  15. Kiri Close says:

    oh! and happily mimicking the hairstyles of Alicia Keys and Mariah Carey.

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