Faded Memories

What do you do when you lose your Happy Place?

For the longest time, my happy place was a spot in the Giardino di Boboli where I could see the city of Florence spread before me. A bright blue sky with a few puffy clouds; the warmth of a Springtime sun; the birds in the trees, the children playing in the garden, the faint traffic. Thinking back to that spot has always been a source of comfort when I’m stressed, even though I haven’t been there in over twenty-five years.

But recently I noticed its not really a Happy Place anymore – all I have is a postcard. I can still see the scene, but I’ve lost the other senses. On one hand, how can I be upset about life going on? I’ve seen more and experienced more in the last two decades than I ever did in the first two decades. I married an amazing woman. I saw my two wonderful boys born. I saw us buy two houses for our growing family. I visited historical sites and learned about different cultures. All of those events were a whirlwind of activity, though. Looking back, I can’t say I had the time to revel in any of those moments. In fact, they all seem like a giant blur of adulthood.

On the other hand, when you’re really troubled, it would be nice to have an internal source of comfort. It’s great to have family and friends who care, but they are not always around. Let’s face it: the only person who is ALWAYS with you is you. The first line of psychological defense is you. Some of us do not find solace in religion, so where do we turn? It’s not that I don’t have faith; it’s just not a source of comfort. My comfort was always having Firenze. Rick told Ilsa they lost Paris until she came to Casablanca, but I don’t have a Casablanca to go to.

I would love to take my wife and kids to see Florence. I’d love for them to fall in love with the art and architecture and the food and the sense of community and the language. I’d love for them to get lost in the museums and gardens and side streets. But it won’t happen. Too much to do. Too busy at work. They’re signed up for sports. We’re supposed to visit someone. There are a million excuses, all irrelevant and all valid.

How come there are all those people who you hear about who quit their day jobs and live their dreams? How do they have the guts to do it? What happens if they can’t make it work? How many succeed and how many fail? When you’re health goes downhill you come up with loads of ideas on what you SHOULD have been doing for all these years. But then you’ve got to balance it with treatments and normalcy for those around you. As much as I’d like to spend two years traveling the world with my family, providing my boys with a reality-based, worldly education, would that be fair to them? Spending a fortune, my wife being set back in her career, leaving them to pick up the pieces and start a new life, just for the opportunity to go out on a high note. And then there’s the fact that I don’t think I’m going to die any time soon. So we do all that and then I have to come back and find something to do – the Army doesn’t give you two years off because you need a mental break.

Ah, Firenze, here’s looking at you, kid.

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