Finding My #HappyPlace #UntamedJoy

Today my world was filled with fragrant flowers, lush green grass and towering shade trees, gently flowing streams, soft breezes caressing my face through the rays of a beaming sun, sweet soul music played by a band whose name I don’t know, and kind compassionate friends whom I can hug without fear. 


Where is this? In my Happy Place. I escape there from time to time. I do it through a movie, a book, a song, a meditation, a dream, a remembrance of a beautiful experience from the past, or one I hope to create in the future. Today’s Happy Place came about because a friend reminded me of an odd experience I had on August 3rd, 2018, and because of a delightful Saturday I spent with a woman on her 101st birthday!  

Before I tell you about the events that transported me to my Happy Place, I invite you to share your “Happy Place” with us, and tell us what gets you there. Please write to tell us about a movie, TV show, book, play or song; or even a recipe, remembrance, person, dream or life’s experience that takes you to your Happy Place. Send your email to editor@ebertdigital.com

Life during this Pandemic Quarantine is littered with alarming news about illness, economic downturns, social upheaval, fires, hurricanes, murderous hornets and apocalyptic election predictions. But we know that these times are also sewn with silver linings and we are looking for them. I am a realist, and I think we should work to solve all these problems. Our good deeds, empathy, kindness, compassion and forgiveness is needed more than ever. Along with our willingness to stand up for what is right and fair and just in the world. But it is a scientific fact that a steady diet of bad news is just not good for your brain, your nervous system, your mental health or your physical and psychological well-being. All the bad news was taking me down a rabbit hole I just didn’t want to enter. I had to get out of the cycle of doomscrolling one scary pessimistic article after another. That contributes only to depression and a sense of hopelessness. Without hope, we are lost.

Back in 1990, Roger and I were at the Conference on World Affairs where we were invited to visit a technology cave at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The tech gurus hooked us up to what they called a "mind vacation." We now call it Virtual Reality. The point was to escape and create a more pleasant mood or experience at will. I have learned that I can also do it with a movie, meditation, prayer, music and so forth. Roger calls it tapping into "Untamed Joy!"

This Essence cover was a gift from Mrs. Stovall's children for her 100th birthday.

Saturday, August 1st, was the 101st birthday of Mrs. Catherine Stovall, the mother of a friend of mine who is part of my Crane High School Reunion group. I decided to spend some time filming her (socially distanced of course) to glean some insights from a wise woman who has spent her years helping others and who still finds hope in the world even in the midst of chaos. It worked. Her outlook was surprisingly refreshing and helped to turn around my day. “Live life a day at a time,” she told me. I have heard that in various forms from twelve-step recovery groups and Eckhart Tolle’s admonition to “Stay in the now.” But there was something about the way she said it that jolted me back to the core of myself. 

Her gratitude was front and center. She was born on August 1st, 1919, in Carleton, Alabama and lived through many things including the Great Depression of 1929. She spoke about not having food to eat or running water or indoor plumbing during that time, but said the grace of God brought her through. She raised seven children (the eighth died at an early age), and she learned to sew to make clothes for them. Times were tight after the death of her first husband but she worked hard to provide for her family, and eventually remarried. 

Helping her children with their homework inspired her to go back to school and she was awarded her GED at the age of 71. After that she attended Northeastern Illinois University and Malcolm X College. She also earned a Christian Education Diploma from the National Baptist Convention at a ceremony in San Francisco. Career-wise she worked for Motorola, Allied and retired from the Board of Education. She taught Sunday School until she was 95 years old!  She told me about her love of travel and how it took her to the World's Fair in Canada in 1964, the Bahamas, and Ghana, in addition to cruising and visiting ports of call in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, St. Martin, Hawaii and Alaska. She smiled when recalling she has visited 38 of the 50 states. Being in the presence of this Queen and watching her sparkle took me to a place of untamed joy. She says we will get through this. She too believes in connecting with the joy.

The second event that took me to my #HappyPlace was a reminder from a friend of what happened to me in August of 2018. I had a dream that it was my birthday and that I woke up so happy. In the dream I was having tea with the Buddhist Scholar, Professor Robert A.F. Thurman. We were sitting at a table discussing Buddhism. After our talk, I went to a small town nearby and as I walked among the people I became aware that I could read their thoughts or feel their emotions. I noticed that there was no judgment, only feelings of kindness and compassion. It was extraordinary. When I wrote about my dream I got messages on social media that it was Professor Thurman’s birthday! And then he wrote to me that he had a dream the same night that he was having tea at a table with a goddess deity. Still generates endorphins when I think about it. 

The ancient mystic and poet philosopher Rumi said we should be the change we want to see in the world. If I want to take a break from bad news, what is stopping me?  There will be plenty of places for us to continue to get bad news, but for now let’s be the change we want to see and spread a little untamed joy.

So whether your #HappyPlace is a movie, or a dream or a song, or whatever takes you out of the current chaos, please share it with us by sending a brief sentence to editor@ebertdigital.com. And in the Subject or Topic box write #HappyPlace, #UntamedJoy. 

Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, including the President of The Ebert Company Ltd, and of Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of RogerEbert.com, President of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 18th year.

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