A Safe Place

Today, I sat in my therapist’s office and talked about my grandmother’s house. I am starting EMDR therapy, and that means I will be going backwards in time. I will be revisiting the scenarios that have left me a big ball of anxiety this year. While doing this, my therapist wants me to have a “safe place” to land inside my brain, a mental place I can visit when I need to regroup.

As soon as she said, “safe place,” I pictured Grandma’s house.

It’s not that nothing bad ever happened there. I cannot tell you the nights I spent afraid of ghosts and spirits living in the walls. And, lawdy, my cousin Richard found all sorts of ways to torment me. Threatening to lock me in the cellar and feed me possum stew were his favorite “jokes.”

It’s not about the absence of stressful events. It’s about being a kid and being 100% myself.

I didn’t fit in at school. I got made fun of for having the wrong clothes, crooked teeth, greasy hair, etc… The boys I liked never liked me back. Friendship was often a minefield in elementary and middle school. I was also living with undiagnosed ADHD. I was disorganized, always in trouble for not keeping my bedroom clean enough, always losing papers or turning in messy assignments.

But not at Grandma’s house.

When we were at the white house with the grey porch, perched on a hillside in Eastern Kentucky, I was a child through and through. My days started with Grandma reminding me to put on socks, because the floor was cold. Then there was breakfast and playing outside and visiting my Aunt Dixie just up the walk. There were always stray dogs and cats to be found, well-water to drink, and bright flowers blooming. There were long hours to read my Oz books and tables covered in my favorite foods. Grandma always made me deviled eggs.

it can look and feel however I choose.

At home, I had chores… a room to clean, dishes to wash, the vacuum to run. In Kentucky I had no responsibilities. Maybe I would sit on the porch and help Mama snap peas. Maybe I’d ride to town and pick out ice cream and sweet cereal. Maybe I’d be able to convince someone to walk me down to the creek, where I was terrified of falling through the bridge slats, but I wanted to be there anyhow.

I haven’t been to Grandma’s in more than a decade. My uncle lives there now. I’m sure, if I went, it would be a very different experience.

But inside my head, it can look and feel however I like. Inside my memories, I can cover the bottom in corn stalks and sunflowers, ripe red tomatoes and row after row of green beans. In my head, my favorite orange Tupperware cup will forever sit by the well, waiting for me to fill it to the brim and take deep cold swallows.

In my heart, also, Grandma is always there, sitting in her chair, telling us the local news. And Grandpa’s there too. When I close my eyes, there he is, a deck of cards spread out across the bed, letting me pretend to play with him, even though he was really setting up for solitaire.

There are warm hand-stitched quilts on the beds, bottles of Avon perfume in the medicine cabinet, and no matter how life is in reality… here…

Here, I am always welcome.

What about you? Where is your “safe place?” Do you have one?

If not, think about it right now. It is a beneficial exercise, EMDR therapy aside. Think about a place where you feel loved, safe, happy… What do you see there? What do you feel? What do you smell? What sounds are around you? What do you taste?

If you’re willing to share, leave a description of this place in the comments. I’d love to read them.

Heather Truett
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Heather Truett

I drink Sweet Cream in my coffee. My DVR is set to record Doctor Who, Grey's Anatomy, and The Walking Dead. I have a serious chapstick addiction, a history of purple/blue/green hair styles, tattoos on my left ankle and my right foot, a whole solar system of freckles, and I may or may not spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince my kids I am a Time Lady from Gallifrey.
Heather Truett
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Latest posts by Heather Truett (see all)

About Heather Truett

I drink Sweet Cream in my coffee. My DVR is set to record Doctor Who, Grey's Anatomy, and The Walking Dead. I have a serious chapstick addiction, a history of purple/blue/green hair styles, tattoos on my left ankle and my right foot, a whole solar system of freckles, and I may or may not spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince my kids I am a Time Lady from Gallifrey.

  • I actually chose my safe place to be sitting on the couch with my husband while I read and ate sunflower seeds. Very calming for me because essentially, my husband is my safe place. Love you!

  • Cortney Something

    Crystal Beach, Texas. A rental house, owned by a friend’s parents. It’s turquoise, and it’s up on stilts, twenty feet in the air, because that area is prone to flooding from hurricanes and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s evening. I’m listening to the Gulf–one of my favorite sounds in the world. A thunderstorm is off in the distance, toward Beaumont, far enough away that I can’t even hear the thunder over the Gulf, but I can watch the lightning. There’s enough of a breeze that the mosquitoes aren’t biting, and the late-summer air is just slightly cool. My tummy is full from the shrimp jambalaya I ate at Stingaree’s a little while ago. In the morning, I’ll go take pictures of the sunrise on the beach. My family is spread out on the deck that goes all the way around this house, doing their own thing, and I’ve got a few minutes to just be me for a while.

    That’s my safe place.

    • That sounds absolutely breathtaking.

      • Cortney Something

        If you go to my Facebook page, my banner picture is the one I took of the sunrise the next morning. 😊 It was incredibly cold that morning, even if it was September. I had to bundle up in a thick jacket, and took a blanket with me. I’ve gotta get back down there. Soon.

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  • St. Amant, Louisiana, on the banks of New River Canal. Outside our house, there were huge oaks with branches crawling along the ground, perfect for climbing and reading. The bridge to the church was wooden, covered in creosote. My sister and I spent hours playing in the backyard, dodging wasps and spiders, and in the front yard, even to the cemetery on the other side of the driveway. When I think of my childhood, these are the images I see.

    • heathertruett

      This made me smile.

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