MY SAFE PLACE
“The ache for home lives in all of us,” wrote Maya Angelou.
“The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Way before Covid, when I was writing a book with a Secret Service agent, Ray, he and I spoke regularly on Facetime, we met in person, and before we ended a writing session, Ray always said, “Stay safe.” It wasn’t gratuitous. I could tell by his tone of voice and the kindness in his eyes that he really meant it. In fact, that was what his entire career was all about. Keeping people safe.
These days, we routinely tell each other, “Stay safe.” We say it when someone leaves our home. We finish our emails and Zoom meetings with it. It’s a reminder that during this pandemic, the health and well being of friends and family are the most important things in our world.
It’s important to feel safe, especially in our homes. My mother was a stoic New Englander, with no regard for comfort. In fact, she shunned it. She slept on a twin bed with a thin foam pillow, worn sheets, and she used a dial up phone that she only retired under great duress from my sister and me. The seats of her chairs and couch were hard and rough to the touch, and it was difficult to find a comfortable place to be. She was offended when I told her I couldn’t sleep on the forty-year-old pullout bed in her den with my legs higher than my head. I asked her if she’d consider a new mattress so I could be comfortable and sleep well when I visited.
“It’s a Beautyrest,” she claimed and added in a resolute
voice, “I’m not into comfort. It’s not my cup of tea.” She thought I should feel that way, too, but the inability to sleep felt unsafe to me so I stayed in a hotel which she didn’t condone.
In direct opposition to my mother’s sentiment, my home is filled with down and feathers. My first questions to a guest are, “Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything?” It’s the polar opposite of my mother’s preference of utility over comfort.
I have secure places all over my house. The oversized sumptuous
chair where I read the newspaper in the mornings and do the LA Times crossword puzzle. My yummy couch with fat arms and a soft cotton covering that creates the sensation of being swaddled. The lighting which is easy and relaxing on the eyes. And my bedroom. Anxiety is a bully that I fight regularly and my bedroom is where I go to ground myself when I’m anxious or sad. It was built below street level and when I step across the threshold, the atmosphere feels
different from the rest of the house. The noise and chaos out in the world, both physical and psychic, are non-existent. It overlooks a fertile hillside and the only sounds are ravens and crows calling to each other, squirrels playing in the brush, a family of deer munching on greenery and the odd helicopter whirring high in the sky.
All of this is deeply comforting but the piece de resistance, the place that absorbs my stress and encourages slow breathing and sighs of relief is my king size bed. That’s where I can feel my breath deepening and my solar plexus relaxing. I have a mountain of pillows, pastel sheets and soft duvet covers that are light as air.
I watch TV there, (not the news), talk on the phone to good friends, read books, play with my cat, knit beautiful things, come up with writing ideas and find my center in a dizzying world. My bed is legendary among my friends. When a girlfriend and I sprawl out to laugh or cry about life and love, husbands and boyfriends, feuds and forgiveness, we feel safe and we never want to leave.
As a teenager, when I toured with my ballet company, I slept
on lumpy mattresses and I danced on injuries with very little sleep. That’s over now. Today, I go for comfort above all else and life has become more safe and friendly. So when someone tells you, “Stay safe,” take it in because it really means something. It means everything.
Do you have a safe place?