I’m an “escaper”—when things get stressful (the compounded, excessive kind of stressful) I do a Houdini. Sometimes it is literally, but most of the time it is imaginatively. I create a plan, then imbue that plan with bucket loads of hope, and ardently look forward to the fruition of said hope. However, when I do this, I am no longer invested in the present, I am AWOL.
Three years ago, after my emancipation from an unhealthy five-year relationship, I literally escaped—I went to the Sunshine Coast in Australia alone. Two years ago, I moved cities, nothing like being nine hours drive away from home for an escape. The former escape was a relatively impulsive plan, hatched and undertaken within weeks of realising I was free. The latter was the product of six months thinking and six months planning. This was my lifeline; I endured all of the present knowing I would soon be rewarded with my escape.
The only problem was that I wasn’t enjoying the now. At the time, there was no other conceivable way to act, even with the benefit of hindsight; I don’t know what else I could have done. Now I have a choice. I stop myself from planning too far in advance.
When a situation arises, once I’ve pull my brain out of a tailspin, I find the space to look at the situation logically and make a short-term plan to deal with the problem. Lists are great. Mini to-do lists are my favourite. When I began this year redundant and half-employed, with no idea of what I wanted to do next, I was panicking (not visibly, but internally and quietly). So I created a to-do list for January, February and March. Naturally, finding a job I wanted to do (that wouldn’t bore me within two weeks, that didn’t involve central city parking or long hours etc.) was number one. But I also added several tasks that would keep me busy (like starting this blog).
I started my new position in April. Crisis averted.
Another form of escape is disappearing into addictive novels; I have been known to disappear into a series comprising several books. But single title books are still good. Below are a few good books/authors to disappear with:
- Any Jane Austen (currently, I’m reading a book inspired by Jane Austen heroines, a Jane Austen biography, and am about to start Pride and Prejudice again – this time with first edition text J).
- Any Jodi Picoult (Sing You Home, Handle with Care or Lone Wolf are great page turners)
- Any Belinda Alexandra (epic, wartime stories with beautiful characters and countries)
- The Vampire Academy Series, by Richelle Mead
- The Harry Potter series, By J K Rowling
- Any Young Adult series with a dash of the supernatural can pull you in, also, New Zealand authors have produced an abundance of excellent YA novels!
- The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
- Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
- PS I Love You, by Cecelia Ahern
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (I pretty much always skip the first few chapters though!)
The trouble with escapism is, defining when it is acceptable and when it is not. I am learning to avoid my inbuilt instinct to escape and can put in road bumps to slow me down. And it can be massively rewarding in the end to stick with something. Sometimes though, you just gotta go, and if it is just a mini-escape, there are many excellent books to go with.