Finding A Happy Place In Life

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - April 01, 2009
The bad boy jellyfish Ernie and Bernie in the movie ‘Shark Tale’ give the Reef Boss, Don Lino, some advice worth following in these times

There’s a great line in the movie Shark Tale when the hoodlum jellyfish Ernie and Bernie tell their boss, Sykes, to “find a happy place, boss.” Of course, that’s easier said than done when the Reef Boss, Don Lino, has you in his sights, but the positive reinforcement is appreciated.

I think I’m gonna need a little positive reinforcement myself.

The relentless spewing of negative and fatalistic reports every time I turn on the news, read the paper or listen to the radio is getting to me.

Now, I am resilient and I appreciate the realities of life. But just like a steady diet of Spam cooked in bacon grease then dipped in butter, it just isn’t good for you. Neither is exposing oneself to an onslaught of demoralizing and deflating headlines and conversations, for that matter.

So, just like Sykes, I am ready to go to my “happy place,” too.

I am sure you have yours and I have mine.

There is nothing in life that makes me happier than being with my beautiful wife, Bernadette, and equally beautiful children Zachary and Zoe.


There are those dramatic moments on vacation when we are gazing over the city of Chicago from the Hancock Tower or standing together on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. But the best for me are the simpler times. The four of us playing Chutes and Ladders when one of the kids wins and their sheer joyful and guttural laughter echoing off the living room walls is priceless. Or just laying on our bed with Berna reading to Zoe and me reading to Zack late in the afternoon is wonderful. Watching the kids so relaxed, almost drowsy, at the height of contentment only a child knows is infectious.

I am happy in the kitchen. Cooking is therapeutic for me. I love making something out of nothing or I enjoy planning a specific menu. A happy place for me is concocting a new dish that people enjoy. At a recent dinner party, I literally made a dish I “thought” it would taste like. Not having prepared it before, it was a bit of a risk since there were guests involved. Sure enough, it was well received and I found myself standing knee deep in my happy place. Unfortunately, the unhappy place is nearby at the kitchen sink where I’ll be doing dishes afterward. Sigh.

The bad boy jellyfish Ernie and Bernie in the movie ‘Shark Tale’ give the Reef Boss, Don Lino, some advice worth following in these times

I am not a proponent of promoting the bottom of a bottle as a happy place, but I’d be lying if it’s not one of my favorites. Aside from the obvious effects of alcohol, which ain’t such a bad thing, enjoying wine is beyond the buzz. I love a glass of wine. There is so much more than just imbibing when you are spending time with a nice pour. I relish the label, the winery, the history, the grape, the color, the nose and finally, the “swish and swallow.” Wine is delicious when it’s a familiar friend or a new discovery and takes your thoughts to a romantic and exotic place.


Standing on the first tee with your buddies, waiting for the first swing of the day, is a definite happy place for me. Golf is not

just swatting a ball around rolling pastures into a hole. It’s a game where you compete, ultimately, against yourself. It’s a test of your psyche, physical execution and a validation or rejection of your self-perception. Every swing of the club evokes an immediate response of joy or sadness, elation or depression, confidence or emasculation or a little of each. You cannot be indifferent and call yourself a golfer. It’s impossible. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of my happiest places.

Yes, there is negativity swirling around us every day, and it’s virtually everywhere. But one of the basic lessons in life is finding a balance. We are treated to headlines bemoaning our economic condition, the devolution of our society and the unstoppable march of time better known as mortality.

Since we live in the real world and must confront all these challenges, sometimes we need a retreat. So, go proudly and with great purpose, to your respective happy place. The sanctuary will restore a bit of tranquility to your afrenetic life. And when you emerge, you’ll be in better shape to take on the day. And win.

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