Thursday, February 11, 2010


The past few weeks have contained a bit of self-induced hibernation... a sort of huddled, closed off, hunching against the cold and damp and dark of winter. I burrow - groundhog like - into a warm little reverie of interior fantasies and recollections: biking along the Channel Trail, eating freshly made gelato across from the park, walking lazily down the street at dusk and laughing into the fuzzy sunset of a beautiful day.

It was not until today - tromping through snow and avoiding ice on the stairways as I carefully held my daughter's hand and marveled at her winter-tinged elation - that I realized I had been seeking to escape winter. I was actively avoiding the present in an attempt to race forward to a warmer and theoretically more pleasant time... while simultaneously evading the present moment by reaching back to grasp at an idealized and romanticized past.

"I love winter!" my daughter exclaimed as she jabbed her bright boot into a snow bank half her size.

"I thought you hated winter. You said so the other day." I try to be gentle in my asking, but my true self knows I am seeking some form of camaraderie through the power of mommyness and the tendency of my daughter to seek my vantage point.

"No. I thought I didn't like it. But I do. I love snow."

Mmmm. And there it was. A simple lesson from a small teacher - providing opportunity for insight via her unencumbered and wholly honest interaction with the world at present. No yesterday. No tomorrow. Now, now, now.

Now there is snow. Now there is sunshine. Now there are icicles and slush and bundled up bodies holding swaddled hands because the world has reminded us to help each other on the stairs. The day is inviting us to stomp and scoop and giggle as the ground sparkles like a blanket of stars and the landscape lies altered and special.

My daughter reminds me it is not hard to find joy in life. You just have to live in it. Be there with eyes open and readiness in your heart... and there it is. Forever unfolding and stretching and shifting before you with newness in nearly every second.

I am sure I will still engage in escapism from time to time. I am too used to such actions as a form of self-care, and they rarely (any longer) take a form that is damaging or self-destructive. These are timid forays. Like a sheep straying away from its grazing spot because it forgot what it was supposed to be doing there.

Harvey Steiman is credited with saying, "Everything in moderation—including moderation." In the context of escapism, I think it's safe to acknowledge we all have our outs as a form of psychic and emotional survival sometimes. And sometimes we even go off the deep end... lost in an abyss of our own making... eventually resurfacing and reconnecting with the real world once more.

But perhaps it's helpful to remember such recourse is sometimes more a force of habit than product of necessity. And sometimes the ability to see joy in our present circumstances is as easy as changing our minds and deciding to see the world through fresh eyes.

May you remain mindful within your efforts to escape and return to life with new resolve. May you strive to live in the present with a sense of wonder and joy.

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