How are you all doing out there!!? With Covid and now Monkey pox capturing our collective imaginations , and very possibly our immune systems, I’m just wondering how we’re all coping, managing these ever-heightening levels of fear and anxiety. How are we suppose to cope?
I feel compelled to pose the question:
“Do we need illusions to cope?”
I’m not a carnival magician coaxing you to shed the cape of your frail reality and exchange it for my smoke and mirrors stage show and bold bravado. Nor is it my goal or desire to encourage a mass exodus from our shared public health reality, rather provide opportunities to positively move forward in this current climate of fear and isolation.
I suppose escapism is defined differently by each of us based on our life experience, our families, the people and neighborhoods that populate our lives. Escapism, for me, is a book that you throw your heart and soul’s imagination into so as to fully integrate your self into a different world, a world less terrifying and blessed with so much more tangible magic than the one we’re currently inhabiting. Such is the case with my current indulgence, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” by Brian Selznick, a deep dive into the life and struggles of a timekeeper in the Paris train stations of the early 1930’s. The story centers around the life of a young orphan who’s searching for his uncle who suddenly disappears and leaves poor Hugo with the job of keeping all the station clocks properly wound and fully functioning, a job not usually meant for a child , no less an orphan. So I follow Hugo along his journey of love and loss , disappointment and despair. I follow Hugo willingly. I picked up this book knowing that it just might not end well. And then the beauty of nighttime Paris and the streets aglow with gas lanterns and childhood dreams captured me and didn’t let go.
Yes ! I needed this fictional detour down the proverbial rabbit hole of relief, my escape hatch. I followed it because I needed to see and find another way out of always feeling afraid of my very real modern-day self, reflected back to me every morning in the mirror as I brush my teeth. Hugo’s fears are so much more comprehensive, all-encompassing. He needs someone to take care of him, to tell him it’s going to be alright. He needs someone to tell him that his art and his visions shape him, guide him as he pushes forward. Hugo is always searching , yes. But he’s always believing, too. His fear doesn’t blind him to his own needs. Hugo’s art and heart bump into, brush up against people who understand him and who value his dreams, his art, his hope.
Without providing a spoiler and ruining it for you, I can only tell you how it ends for me, not Hugo. Hugo’s gift to me was to encourage me to embrace my fear, to not let it own me. Fear can most definitely be a motivator , a catalyst that propels us forward and back and sideways until we crash-land into a new, deeper understanding of where we’re standing, right now. But fear, once unveiled, can also show us another version of ourselves that offers a glimpse of grace, our truer selves revealed slowly and carefully. Lovingly.
Escapism is power because it allows us to breathe differently, to place ourselves in someone else’s pain, someone else’s moments of clarity and joy so that we can , ultimately, see our own true selves more clearly and with greater self-regard and respect.
Hugo took my hand and we ran, together, through the clockworks and tunnels of the Paris train station , through the little streets and arrondissments in and around the City of Lights. I felt the Paris night sky stare back at me and the River Seine flow under the Pont Neuf, as we ran across it laughing and singing silly childish rhymes all the way to Hugo’s favorite patisserie.
But I’m back now. Hugo let go of my hand as he was reunited with his new family , just as I was reunited with my current-day life, the people with whom I share my life and dreams. And I’m refreshed.
Maybe your escapism is not through reading a book but writing a book or a story or a poem, instead. Perhaps your illusions are best fed by a steady diet of visits to your local art museum or by a stroll through a nearby park or greenspace. However you tend to your fears and nurture your hope, be sure to create space and time and place for your self to dream. You deserve that sense of renewed calm. Allow yourself that luxury to feel safe, again.
Wishing you peace.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
From The Good Men Project on Medium
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