My Safe Place

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It seems a bit odd to be talking about having a “safe place” when one is past the age of 70, doesn’t it? In my case, I don’t think I ever had a true safe place until these past few years, so I never really gave it any thought at all.

Let’s also be serious here … I’m 6’5”, 250 pounds, and although I’ll never be mistaken for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I don’t exactly look like a pushover either. I don’t really need a place to hide, or any kind of panic room to retreat towards in the event of a crisis. And really, that’s not the kind of safe place I’m talking about here.

In the late 1990’s, just before the Y2K scare hit the world, I had to face the reality that I could no longer rely solely on music for an income, and I had to get and keep a “real job”. I needed to have a good insurance plan for my wife, who was in the midst of battling cancer. It was heartbreaking to realize that I had failed as a musician … partially due to poor choices, partially due to changes in the industry, partially due to extenuating circumstances outside my control … after nearly 30 years of pursuing that career. I had no safe place to retreat, no escape from the harsh realities of my perceived failure. I had responsibilities that needed to be handled.

In 2005, when my son, Steven, committed suicide at the age of 30, I really wished I could have had a safe place to go to at the time. But I didn’t and everyday I had to face the reality of his death. At the time, my wife was undergoing yet another series of cancer treatments , so it wasn’t possible to just sit in a dark room and cry … I had responsibilities that needed to be handled.

In 2016, my late wife succumbed to a nearly 25 year fight with cancer. We had been married very nearly 35 years at the time, and her death, while certainly not unexpected, felt a bit like the end of my life as I knew it. I really, really wanted to just sit at home and do nothing. It was exhausting, depressing and sad, but I kept on going.

I had to deal with her personal belongings, as well as her wares/supplies/product/equipment remaining behind from her doll artist career. I had to continue to work my day gig, a job at which I had by then become a sort-of valuable employee, as well as continue to play music on a steady basis in the evening hours. There was no time for self-pity, I still had responsibilities that needed to be handled.

Don’t get the wrong impression and think that this is a plea for pity. Far from it, I had a marvelous life up to that point, and with the exception of my son’s death, nothing had transpired in my life that I regretted. In hindsight, would I have changed some stuff? Of course, but on the whole I have been a pretty fortunate guy.

It was at that time in my life that I first thought I could understand how people become alcoholics or drug addicts or hermits. Absent a safe place to retreat emotionally, I could see how some might choose to alter their existence or simply go somewhere no one could find them.

Then I met Sheila. Our meeting was quite coincidental and not at all planned for either of us, a chance interaction as a result of our participation in a grieving support group. The history of our relationship and its eventual path to our marriage and life together here in North Georgia has been well documented on these pages, so I won’t bore you all with a reiteration of details covered.

But, more specifically to the point of this post, after a time with Sheila I realized that I had found my safe place, that emotional retreat, a reprieve from the challenges of the moment. While our relationship is extraordinary, we of course run into challenges that stress us. Household maintenance troubles, vehicle breakdowns, health issues, etc., we’re not immune to any of that just because we fell in love.

When these assorted challenges arise, we take them head-on, together, to solve/resolve them, just like we both have done our whole lives. The difference now is that at the end of the day I have a place I can go where everything feels settled and secure, even if it’s not. But I can take a quite literal deep breath and just feel the anxiety fall away from me. I’ve never had such a place available to me at any previous point in my life.

In my safe place, I can feel a calmness overtake me. Tension kind of drifts away, my thoughts settle down, and I relax completely. And this happens every time I get to that safe place, and happens without any forcing or conscious thought on my part. I think that’s what surprised me so much once I realized it was happening … it just sort of happened, you know, all by itself!

Maybe, just maybe, my safe place is a reward for a life well lived. Or maybe I’ve just arrived at a point where my life is settled and I can actually relax. It’s equally possible that the deep soulful spirit that Sheila has shared with me has given me the space I need to feel truly safe.

My hope for all is that you have found your safe place, and if not, that it will make its presence known to you soon. It’s been life changing.

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