Lately I’ve been trying some of those self-hypnosis tapes (well, MP3s, actually, but you get the idea.) Some of them are hogwash – or at least, don’t seem to do anything for me – while others are essentially digital sleeping pills. Others seem to actually help.
One of them suggests – at least during the parts I can stay at least semi-conscious for, anyway – creating an image of where you wish you were. Start small: a room, a clearing, that sort of thing. Then keep adding details as you go, trying to hook as many details and markers onto it as possible, make it as real as possible. It’s supposed to help you visualize where you want to be, and thus help you get there, as well as giving you a concrete image (and/or sound, touch, taste, whatever) to latch onto to combat depression, helplessness, hopelessness, etc in the course of the day.
I’m not trying to turn into some hippie New Ager, nor am I suggesting that such things are good and helpful for everyone, but this has been helping me a lot lately. And because I’m a wordy sort, I feel the need to share how I see my happy place on here… Somehow that cements it more in my head, makes it even easier to visualize.
The room itself isn’t really all that impressive; fairly big, maybe 15 feet on a side. One door, on the west wall; pretty basic wooden door, brass turn-handle, no lock. The walls are a blue-gray, with a maroon runner about eight inches up and a thin, black bevel running along the top where it meets the ceiling. The ceiling’s plain white, with a slight angle that reaches its peak against the eastern wall. The carpet is a fairly deep, dark blue shag.
There’s a bay window in the eastern wall; set about four feet up and running almost to the ceiling, about six feet wide. The inside portion is painted black, as is the frame. A set of gray horizontal blinds hangs in front of it; whenever I’m doing the exercise, the shade is up.
Against the window is an l-shaped desk. Nothing fancy; very much Wal-Mart special. Black particle board. On the part of the L directly under the window is my computer, a small bookshelf with a handful of reference books and some spiral bound notebooks that I know are full of my nearly illegible scribbles. Somehow I know the computer is just for work; Steam and Diablo III are not installed on this beast; just Pages, Numbers, Final Cut, that sort of thing. Pages is always on the screen, and while the words are different every time, it’s always a new manuscript, and it’s never just a blank cursor mocking me.
To the left is the other potion of the L. Against the wall is a Little Miss No Name doll, leaning against her box, turned so she can see the computer screen. Beside her is a Misfits ashtray, a fresh cigarette smoldering and forgotten while I peck away at whatever’s on the computer screen. Perched at the end of the L is a giant coffee pot, one of those fancy programmable deals, with a fresh pot brewing. Beside it are the implements required; sugar, an industrial size bottle of Peppermint Coffeemate, my giant Eeyore mug and a spoon.
Next to the desk is a giant whiteboard, the kind that’s a combination cork board and magnetized dry erase board. Tacked or hung on it are dozens of pictures and printouts; like the computer screen, they’re always different, but they always have a theme, and I know they’re my notes and aides for whatever it is I’m working on. There’s a tray beneath it, full of rubber bands, push pins and about six different colors of marker.
On the floor in front of the desk is a thick rubberized mat, so my chair can roll between the two halves of the desk and the whiteboard without ripping up that lovely carpet or sending me to my doom. The chair itself looks like a fairly basic office job; black leather and chrome, with a thick blanket draped over it. The blanket has an eastern-style dragon depicted on it, and under that is one of those back-vibrators. The wrist-wrests have extra pads on them, to compensate for the CPS that’s finally decided to sink its teeth into me.
Along the north and south walls are bookcases. To the north, it’s piled high with my favorites on the top two shelves; Stephen King and Clive Barker and Bentley Little, oh my. The lower shelves are reference books; Bibles, biographies, “find the quote” books, Urban Legends collections and serial killer case books.
The southern bookcase is quite a bit smaller, but no less important. On it are my books. The ones that say “Kaine Andrews” – or one of my other aliases, ha ha – somewhere on the cover. Even the ones that I don’t have a copy of and can’t get anymore are there, somehow, looking neat and pristine. There’s one of those wing-style book stands at the end of the lowest shelf with free space, and I know it’s waiting to be filled with a copy of whatever I’m working on at that moment.
It’s always either morning (around 10ish) or early evening (around 6ish) when I’m here, and it’s always raining. Just a drizzle, enough for the sound and the smell and to keep the temperature at about sixty degrees, not so much that you’d have an objection to darting outside and standing in it for a minute. The rain hitting the window and the little eave above it and the percolator are making a percussive rhythm together, and it sounds like heaven. The smell is delicious, too.
If you look outside – which sometimes I do, clicking away from the manuscript for a moment, picking up that cigarette and filling the mug with fresh coffee, knowing I’ll come back to work in a minute but just wanting a moment to absorb the atmosphere, to be happy with who and where I am – you can see I’m on the second floor. Out the window are a few evergreens, edging a small cobbled path that leads down to a well-maintained wooden jetty that inches out over a small lake. The lake is dancing with secret patterns as the rain hits it, and it sounds like it is calling to me, whispering in a language only I know and can hear. Sometimes it’s my own voice; other times it’s Little Miss No Name or one of my other characters. They’re telling me what to say next, or asking when I’ll come and visit with them again.
Beside the dock is a fairly new pickup truck, black and gleaming with beads of rain, and I know later I’ll climb in it and run to the store for smokes or dinner or something else mundane, but I’ll drive slow and relish the sound inside the cab while the rain pelts it, and swerve to drive through every puddle on the side of the road. I’ll do it all with the window cracked an inch, so I can feel the cold wind bite my lungs and breathe in the smell of wet pine, and when I do, Kansas or Creedence or Blue Oyster Cult will be on the radio.
That’s my happy place. Doesn’t matter if I can’t sleep because my wrists are singing Ave Maria, doesn’t matter if the lead has started screeching at me that they need more eggs, now, doesn’t matter if I’ve just had to endure another inane rant from a coworker about how awful the place is or how reading is pointless or how Jesus is going to send me to hell. None of those things matter if I can close my eyes for just a second, and see that place and take a deep breath and think – just for a moment! – that I smell pine and rain and tobacco and peppermint.
And that’s why I keep pecking away. Keep throwing myself at the blank space, stopped telling myself my writing is shit, stopped questioning every sentence I wrote, stopped bitching and moaning about whether anyone will read it or like it or depressing myself to the point where I don’t even open the word processor. Because I know, if I keep typing, keep throwing words at the white space and throw the pages full of words into the world, eventually I’ll have that little office overlooking a little lake (or perhaps just a glorified pond), where I can wake up, walk upstairs, and find the coffee already on, my thoughts already nice and ordered, the word processor blinking expectantly just waiting for me to tell it what happens next, and that truck waiting below to take me on my minor but still fun to me adventure to the corner store for a pack of Marlboros and a bag of Cheetos with “Carry on Wayward Son” attempting to murder my eardrums.
If you made it through all that, thank you for listening to the babbling of a delusional man. If you didn’t, that’s okay, too; I’m still smiling, still breathing that delectably humid air and getting ready for that cup of coffee. At least in my mind.
What about you folks? What’s your happy place? What image do you hang onto, your bulwark against the ravages of the world, that thing you strive for that you just know will be your place one day?