I read for many reasons, but I am nor sure that I, read for escapism. ‘Escapism’, the Cambridge English Dictionary tells me, is a way of avoiding an unpleasant or boring life, especially by thinking, reading, etc. about more exciting but impossible activities. So no, not really.
It’s not that I view reading for escapism as ‘bad’, and I am certainly not averse to a light read; it’s just a question of personal preference. Besides, I get my escapism through other routes.
We probably all have one. For my son at the moment, it’s reading about travel and watching travelogues – just at the time when such a journey is denied to us. Not planning a holiday in the usual hot-spots, but rather following those who trek into the lesser-visited parts of the globe, the North Caucasus, say, or the Faroe Islands, Svalbard.
For myself, at the moment, it’s a new form of life-style pornography: sneaking onto YouTube, dipping in to those people who have chosen down-sized and simpler lifestyles, even off grid. Growing their own veggies and keeping chickens definitely, building their own homes from logs and daub, perhaps.
It’s the gentle pace, the collecting of eggs, planting out seedlings, pouring a home-made kombucha vereee slowleee and mindfully from a flip-top bottle, and with a pleasing gurgle and sparkle, into a glass. All in the dappled sunshine. To the gentle warmth of a single acoustic guitar. Sometimes a harp, delicately plucked. Or something Medieval and carved by one of these down-shifted inhabitants – yes, I am thinking of a dulcimer, maybe a theorbo.
That’s the gentle part, of course. Digging your own compost toilet or hacking enough logs to last September to April, not so much.
Still. Having moaned on (sorry!) about how lockdown, with the job and kids and all, hasn’t necessarily less to do, it is also clear that some things, have, inevitably, and despite the worries, been simplified. The lack of the commute, for instance; the abandonment of ‘work wardrobe’; the noise – both auditory and visual – of the urban streets (I live in a small and semi-rural town); the need for less stuff. It’s appealing. And even if I am not about to give everything up to retreat to a wooden hut in the forest, I wonder how I could carry lessons of simplicity and balance back into ‘normal life’, when it resumes.
- Accumulate less stuff, but better – I hardly dare add this one, because you cannot open a newspaper or turn on a radio show at the moment without these messages: get rid of the stuff you don’t need, don’t use; organise your space; buy less, but better quality. It’s true though. Given that your environment impacts on how you feel physically and psychologically, then a less busy space is going to calm, and using well-made items bring those modest daily pleasures.
- Retain some life balance – I have been guilty of getting sucked into presenteeism at work. There is nothing heroic about it. Often, too, I would ‘front load’ the week, work stupid hours Monday to Wednesday, then feel wrung out. Recently, though, I have had to set a timetable and stick to it, including start and ends times and time off for lunch. Yet you know, I have met my deadlines.
- Let the past go – it’s another form of clutter and noise. In quarantine, I have had the inner critic try to come to visit more often, playing back my greatest hits of past insecurities, failures, rejections. You name it. However, equally, I have also had to develop strategies to tame and to quiet this. I have started to regard this critical interior voice as a bully, a have-a-go tyrant, and I am standing up to it.
- Stop indulging toxic people – I have blogged before about what a die-hard people pleaser I am. But being in lock-down, you have opportunity to consider which of the people in your life you really want to see, to spend time with – and on (also see point 2).