Lessons from seclusion

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.beverage-blur-breakfast-cup-370018

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.

Some suggestions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).

    Main photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash
    and freestocks.org

21 thoughts on “Lessons from seclusion

  1. Your post hit the nail on the head. Recently, I’ve been dividing my media consumption between podcasts and YouTube. I’ve been drawn to a lot of self-help and creativity. Also, I’ve been watching old episodes of Hoarders, Intervention, and Obsessed. I’ve been motivated to finally get organized in certain areas, re-establishing a cleaning schedule, and trying new things with bathroom cleaners and recipes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s about timing, I guess. When we’re ready, we will attend to the house, the creative side of ourselves – but we may have needed to cocoon ourselves for a while, given the many hard realities.


  2. I find myself reading posts by those with nomadic lifestyles. It’s amazing how we-all can get by on so much less!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. I’ll look out for the nomands, too!


  3. These are really great suggestions! Congratulations on gaining power over your inner critic 🙂 Not an easy task to accomplish. Would love to hear how you’re doing it, if you happen to be inspired to write a whole post on the topic. Wishing you a lovely weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a work in progress! I still have to have a few stern words with the inner critic almost daily to keep it at bay.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. frugal lifestyle I def. aspire and lockdown is teaching a lesson or two for sure – a great piece again

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is. The trick will be what and whether we can carry back with us into ‘normal’ /new normal life.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I learn from books. Whether it’s Russell’s History of western philosophy (Been stuck on Kant for 18 months now. Kant does that) or Lawrence Block’s burglar series. I learn form the characters, their lifestyles. Their speech mannerisms. All is good.
    Books transport me. In Mexico I read in English of French at the end of the day. Seldom do I read in Spanish now. (Grown over García Marquez I guess).
    I also tend to read in a language different than the country I am staying in at a given moment. I might bring Paul Auster to Paris.
    I think to read is to “break” at the end of the day.
    The “pornography” of growing your own veggies eludes me a bit. But I realize the very special, sensual relationship the English have with their gardens. 😉
    And last but not least: never try to please toxic people. Shoot them first.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, so gardening could be a form of displacement?! Oof, I remember Kant from some years ago at university – I could get on board with some of the philosophy (“We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” may be apt here), but the text was indeed hard going. Auster I keep meaning to return to – read nothing by him since Brooklyn Follies, and Lawrence Block is new to me. I need a light read so I’ll look out for this – I like the idea of taking the thief’s perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Displacement? Definitely. The only way to make do withe the English weather. 😉
        Auster? The New York trilogy is amazing.
        And Block? Well, New York Humour at its best, and since I’m reading the whole lot again it takes me back to my days in NY, late ’79, buying dimes at the Bank on 42snd St, to place calls from the public Library payphones, looking for a job. I’d more or less set up my office there. Pay phones inside had a seat. I could work my call schedule in the library. Bolck’s burglar is always looking for dimes to call from a payphone… (I did not burglarize anyone during my NY stay) 😎

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed, New York Trilogy a postmodern masterwork of alienation and surreal paranoia. I’ll look for Block – more 1970s NY; sounds good. Not a ‘gentleman thief’ in the mould of Hornung’s Raffles then, I take it.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It is very light reading. Just what I need right now. Just read from ’78 to ’94. A call from a public payphone went from a dime to a quarter. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

            1. A light read sounds what we all need! Combining that with literary merit is a real art.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. LOL. Not sure Lawrence Block has so much literary merit, but I like his stories. Breing me back to New York at every page. I can even “hear” the accent, sense the New Yorker’s attitude (get out of my way!).
                I’m a peculiar reader anyway.
                All good with you?

                Liked by 1 person

                1. We’re good, busy but lucky to be working. Much is a waiting game now. Most of us want control, or the illusion of it, to return.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Absolutely. It is a waiting game. I’ve made my peace with that a long time ago. Stick to what you enjoy and only you can do. 😉


                  2. And ye, lucky to be working. There’s like 8 million in temporary dole in France. When Little macron stops paying? what happens?


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