Point of No Return — Happy Places can evolve, and that’s a good thing

There are certain things that just “feel right” in life.

Of course, these comforts are somewhat personalized. What feels natural and comfortable to one person might not be another person’s cup of tea.

For example, well, a cup of tea. To our publisher, Susan Lyons, a cup of tea can transport her to a calmer, less-hectic place filled with unicorns or James Taylor concerts or wherever her “Happy Place” resides. To me, a cup of tea means I have a sore throat or needed someplace to hide my shot of whiskey in the morning.

To each their own, right?

And, really, that’s what makes a Happy Place happy. We all have those things and places that can just wash away all the blues and make us feel comfortable in a way that’s unique to us as individuals. I’m knocking on the door of turning 50, but there’s still something about sitting down at my mom’s kitchen table when I visit that makes me feel “at home,” or that rush I get when I walk in the door after a long day of work and my daughter comes running down the hallway with a smile on her face.

Nothing else in the world is all that important when you find your comfort zones.

One of my personal favorites returned with a bang last Sunday. Nestled in the middle of a family-filled Sunday was a three-hour period of Darin Nirvana — replete with snacks, drinks and grown men attempting to do massive physical harm to other grown men.

Yes, the NFL came back last week, and Sunday was the first full slate of the 2017-2018 season. There was a time when I would wake up on fall Sundays at 6 a.m., turn on the coffee and flip to NFL Network to watch the matchup and pre-game shows. There I would sit until the Sunday-night game would end close to midnight, content with a day of entertainment behind me, and recharged for another week of the grind ahead of me.

Of course, things change when a baby comes into one’s life. In fact, every single thing in your life changes when a baby comes into your life. No longer could I rot away in a room watching football for 18 hours, accompanied by my growing body odor while firing peanut shells at the television every time my beloved Baltimore Ravens would take the field on offense.

And, really, I didn’t want to do that anymore. I like spending time with my family, and weekends have become sacred territory for me. Working 50-60 hours a week, accompanied by a daughter who goes to sleep at 7:30 every night, leaves little time to just “be with my girls.” So I take it when I can get it.

But at my heart, I’m still a football junkie, in particular when it comes to my Ravens. Hence, the three hours of Darin Nirvana every week in the fall.

Fortunately, my wife and daughter afford me that time with no arguments. I spend the mornings with them, playing outside or flipping channels back and forth between NFL stuff and Disney Kids, and then retreat to my Happy Place for a few hours to watch the Ravens.

I scan how my teams are doing in fantasy football, switch to NFL RedZone during commercial breaks to keep up with what’s happening in the other games and scratch myself wherever I feel like, while all along making unholy sounds and spewing profanity at the television in response to yet another miscue by the Ravens. As soon as the clock hits 0:00, I wipe the froth off my mouth and return to the land of the living, ready to dedicate the next few hours to family.

It’s win-win.

I was a little curious to see how it would go this season. My daughter is a little older now and, much to my delight, actually likes hanging around with me now. I knew she’d be a little confused as to why I was home but not spending time with her, so I really didn’t know what to expect. My hope, I kept telling myself in the days leading up to Sunday, was that she’d go down for a nap right around kickoff, wake up at about halftime and be fine for 90 minutes until the game ended.

Kickoff — Riley goes down for a nap. Perfect.

Halftime — I hear her playing in the other room. Perfect.

Two minutes into the second half — Riley is standing in front of me with a toy snake in her hand. Uh oh.

“What are you doing, Daddy?”

“Watching some football.”

“I want to see.”

“Sure. Have a seat.”

So, there we sat. Me watching the Ravens, and Riley eating all my potato chips and keeping herself busy by trying to get her toy snake to eat my foot.

“I like this game.”

“The football game? Or your snake trying to snack on my toes?”

“Daddy, what’s that?”

“That’s a cheerleader.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s a commercial for male-enhancement products. You don’t really need to...”

“What’s that?”

“That’s another commercial for another male-enhancement product, and wouldn’t you rather go play with Mommy?”

“No. I like it here.”

So, there we sat, watching the Ravens and eating chips together. It was my new Happy Place. Is it Sunday yet?