I remember being in a group of parent peers of children with a vision impairment, and we had all been asked what we did for ourselves – to relax, enjoy, be active etc.
One parent described their preferred activity when there was no particular requirement of them by life, and ended with, “But that’s really just escape!”
The first thing that stood out for me, was that shame had been attached to their preferred activity, which they found revitalising and enjoyable.
Now, though I can read and research as much as anyone (and usually enjoy doing so), I am not qualified in medicine, psychology, or research beyond the overview one gets from Community Service training, my professional and personal experience. Having said that, my fifty plus years of living has been amongst and in the support of folks and families from multiple walks and experiences of life.
My observation through my own life and the lives around me is that we need ‘escape’ and encourage it in many forms. We all need relief, rest, change of position, direction, focus, activity and community…but there is a difference between that which is sought out to refresh and enable re-engagement, and that which is pursued to consume and thereby inhibit connection, intimacy and purpose.
We encourage ‘date nights’, family getaways, blokes/girls weekends, solitude, meditation, exercise, visiting a café, festivals and milestone celebrations (e.g. birthdays etc.), producing art, enjoying films and books.
Many times these things are used as an escape, and I’ve made use of multiple versions of these activities myself. They have been deliberately incorporated into my life as healthy, enjoyable, necessary, desired, hoped-for, and as a means of realising hopes…and as a regular provision of space or as an escape when overwhelmed.
As parents, we can sometimes forget that we are also carers – a lot of extra stuff comes with raising a child who is not ‘mainstream’. Time out (or escape) to recharge is taught and encouraged. Among other things, Carers Victoria suggests finding “out what relaxes you and take regular time out to recharge. Try to do something that you enjoy every day and spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself.”
A couple of the things I believe we were built for are connection, “The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship” and purpose (Brené Brown). But when these are being broken down and impacted on negatively, repeatedly or over a lengthy period of time, we become less healthy versions of ourselves. So, these are two of the aspects of life I look to make/keep developing if I’m to be a healthy me. Doing those things which revitalise and refresh me, and inspire desire, motivation and direction for purpose, is part of being a healthy me.
I like to go for long drives or walks through the bush or in the mountains – long because it can take an hour or two before I am relaxed enough to attain the benefits of this ‘escape’. I enjoy photography but, this too can require something like a long drive or long walk to bring my mind, soul and body some unity/peace to ‘see’ what I want to capture. Other times, the act of ‘seeing’ to photograph is the means of aligning my inner person into a whole again. I also just sit…sometime with a cuppa; sometime with music; often just sitting or laying down in quiet (for some of us, or in some seasons/circumstances, this can take some getting used to).
Often, I’m looking for escape because I don’t want to do life anymore. I don’t want connection or purpose. I’m sick of responsibility and tasks to complete. I am replete with working to be a healthy participant in my relationships. I don’t want to read, or write, or paint, or photograph.
I have small moments where I ‘top-up’ my need for escape – a massage, a coffee alone etc. But I have to plan in fresh scenery, protracted periods without responsibility for what others require. I also know the difficulty of no finances, seasons of busyness (seasons is not the same as life pattern, but that’s another blog post I feel), being in the role of carer…therefore I need to plan to replenish, even if that means asking for help to do so.
Help may be available in various forms:
- Someone to share in your caring role – even for one meal time
- An acquaintance who has property where you can stay
- A vehicle to borrow
- Venues with free cuppas/meals that have been “paid forward”
- Someone who already offered with help or finance that you turned down
Escape is not necessarily a word to be ashamed of, in my opinion.
But an escape can be used in an unhealthy way.
Particular ways of escape may be healthy for some, and not for others.
So…escape, refresh, re-focus, re-engage.
We all need hopes that can be realised – go realise a hope this week, big or small!