Tag Archives: escapism

Make good your escape

I’m very much a fan of escapism. Sometimes we all need to get out of our own heads for a while. A good distraction can give considerable respite from mental and physical health problems. When we’re burned out, emotionally exhausted by the state of the world, or struggling with despair, escapism can restore us, and can be really helpful.

I’m not here to judge where anyone else escapes to. If you find something soothing, restorative, uplifting or otherwise helpful, then do with it what you can.

However, it’s best to avoid the things that numb us out or kill time. It’s easy to fall into using distractions that don’t give much, and that don’t leave you feeling better afterwards. It’s especially easy to end up watching crap just because it’s there and isn’t what’s going on in your head. While there’s some gain sometimes in any kind of break from what’s going on in your head, it’s worth paying attention to what you are feeding yourself.

It’s a lot like junk food, and having the odd days where you comfort eat or comfort watch things you know aren’t so good for you, is no big deal. Sometimes you just have to get through as best you can. Living there takes a toll and will grind you down and undermine you, physically and emotionally. Brains need a good and nourishing diet, too.

I find it helps to have some ideas of where to escape to in place so that they can be easily deployed at need. That might mean having a few unread books stashed and ready to deploy. I’ve found National Geographic documentaries to be a good resource in an emergency, and there are many of those on their youtube channel. I’ve had some serious sessions with The Magnus Archive podcast, and I go to the Shrewsbury Folk festival youtube channel for folk fixes. There are other podcasts I’ve worked my way through at need. It’s as well to have something to deploy.

Killing time is an emotionally dangerous thing to do. It gives us nothing in exchange for the most precious thing we have. Escape can be a good and necessary thing, but it is so important to escape to somewhere that will do you some good. Don’t take your brain vacations inside a dumpster fire!

Escapist Druid

In the last week, I’ve spent time in Middle Earth, visited Japan with Arriety, wandered Wonderland and seen something of the surreal world of Professor Elemental. In the physical world, I’ve not been more than ten miles from my usual haunts. This combination is not unusual for me. I travel more in thought than in body. The mind can go anywhere, unhampered by cost, timetables or physical health. I always was a daydreamer.

In my imagination and meditations, I can go to Stonehenge or Avebury. I can go back to scenes and places of abject wounding to try and reclaim parts of my soul. There are otherworlds to explore, imaginatively, even if I’m not confident of my ability to make real journeying. (How do you tell?) As an author I’ve always lived a lot in my own imagination.

It’s grey, wet and cold here. Yet another rainy day, but at least the wind has dropped. It’s so wet underfoot that walking and cycling are miserable, and I don’t have a car. I have nowhere to go, and am still ill. The imagination calls. I’m surrounded by books, each one of them a doorway into another world, or time, or location. My childhood was full of books, and this sort of escape. Life always seemed too narrow, dreams could take me anywhere, and usually those dreams were shaped by books. Aged 11, I wrote quite a long story for a school project that was supposed to be “how I became famous”. I pictured myself as a successful author, so involved with the fictional world I’d created that I became unable to function in the real world, and was only able to re-engage after a train crash allowed me to fake my own death and start over. That was the future I saw for myself, aged eleven. Lost in my own imagination, isolated, a bit mad, but writing books. However rich the dreamworlds might be, there was always that skein of darkness in the mix.

I didn’t get that life, for which I am grateful. I’ve learned a thing or two about the escapism and the lands of dream and fiction, too. They only work when they hold real life resonance and relevance. Go too far into fantasy and you get nonsense. Alice in Wonderland may be surface nonsense, but it’s the existential crisis of Alice that makes it compelling. How do any of us know who we are, after all? Or what the rules really are? Wonderland is also the insanity of this world.
I escape into books and films looking for inspiration, wonder and enchantment. When life seems grey, or I’m ill, those escapes give me back a sense of possibility and magic. The trick is to bring that with me, back to here and now, and do something about the greyness, or my perception of it, or share a flicker of possibility with someone else.

Two years ago to the day, I married a fellow dreamer. Someone with whom I can make the journeys to those other places, and come back again. It’s the dreams we make for our own shared life that are the most powerful, though. Daring to imagine better ways of living and more potent things to be doing. Refusing to become banal, resisting mediocrity and the insipid norms of the consensus reality. If fantasy tells you that you can’t have those dreams as real things in this life, then the fantasy itself is doing it wrong, and exists to trap you, not to set you free.

If, as my younger self imagined, the journey into creativity is a one way ticket to madness and isolation, you’ve missed the point. It’s not the going there, it’s the coming back, and what you bring with you from the journey. Because if you bring it back and make it shareable, it becomes real. At eleven I didn’t understand the power of a story told, the magic of sharing a daydream. It’s not the lonely place I thought it would be, and out of those dreams, all kind of real things are born.