Head in the Sand

I am nothing if not an escapist. Bad day? Bury my head in a book. Important conversation? Put it off as long as possible.

I'm better at this now than I was a year ago, and it took work to get to that point. But like most things in life, I'm starting to think this, too, requires balance.

Life is meant to be avoided. Sometimes. Media wouldn't exist if that wasn't true; books, movies, parks, sleep, and anything else that carries around the label of "unproductive," these things allow us to step back, even just for a moment, and breathe.

There's a vital benefit of doing nothing; pick up any recent book on our addiction to technology, and half the argument will be about the benefits of processing our thoughts in moments of rest. Despite your religion (or lack thereof), that's one of the benefits of prayer or meditation. As Olga Tokarczuk says in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: "Perhaps that's the whole point of prayer, to think to yourself in peace, to want nothing, to ask for nothing, but simply to sort out your own mind. That should be enough."

I think, too, of Hugo in Toilers of the Sea: "Did he understand it? No. Did he feel it? Yes."

There's a difference between avoidance and space. Between wilful ignorance and curated time. Between procrastination and contemplation.

When I'm reading, I'll often feel the cogs of my back brain processing my latest dilemma. Grabbing lunch with a friend, talking about something "meaningless," like a new recipe or plans for the summer, can be just as healing as digesting the bigger things going on in our lives.

And let's be honest: life happens in the shadows, in those in-between moments, in the good cup of coffee and the simple conversation. Like Arthur Shappey says in an episode of Cabin Pressure: ARTHUR: I’m fairly often just completely happy. Like, for instance, when you get into a bath quickly and it’s just the right temperature, and you go ... (blissfully) ... “Ohhhh!” I mean, no-one really gets any happier than that.

MARTIN: What a depressing thought.

ARTHUR: No! No, it’s not, though! Because those sort of things happen all the time, whereas you’re hardly ever – you know – blissfully happy with the love of your life in the moonlight; and when you are, you’re too busy worrying about it being over soon. Whereas the bath moments – there’s loads of those! Oh! Like when you realise your knuckles are ready for cracking. I'm going to be more mindful of those small joys: both the ones that I devise, as escape, and those that pop up throughout the day.

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