So, yesterday I wrote a piece on how I “get lost in things” sometimes, which is basically escapism.
As I thought of what to publish next with the myriad of ideas in my head, I felt led to research more on escapism and do a follow up article, so let’s get into it.
Do you ever numb your feelings over things? Gen Z and Millennials would ask “What is your poison?” When you are having a bad day, or pressure at work, or unpleasant feelings over whatever situation; do you ever find yourself distracting you over a movie, series, food, alcohol, weed, mindlessly browsing Instagram and twitter? Or are you like me who even uses novels to escape into a fictional world of love and feelings and goosebumps? Haha, or are you like me and you have tried all of these things at different times?
Well, if you are like me, human that is, I am sure you have tried at least one or all of these, or even more things not on my list. The truth is that we all like escaping the world every once in a while, or for some of us it is a vicious cycle of being present and disappearing. We all have had reasons to escape, it could be we are frustrated over projects not falling through, or we have faced some major failures, or in this day of mass unemployment among the youth one has tarmacked all day and nothing comes through… or we are simply bored! And so we over indulge in whatever guilty pleasure.
Usually, people mostly escape to avoid unpleasant feelings or situations. However, my history with escapism is quite different, complicated even. Stay with me, you will be finding out what I mean in a few.
See, we have all grown up differently. Some had really good lives as kids, and for some of us our childhoods were battlefields. It is in our adulthood that we are probably catching a break for the very first time in our lives. I personally had quite the childhood, as my dad was a chronic drunkard, he still is today, just a bit more chill.
As I grew up, most of my work was managing my reaction to my dads threats and theatrics when he was drunk, or running away from our home to the neighbors so I don’t have to deal with him, or simply pretending I was asleep as he raged on in noise and cussing at the middle of the night. And on the times he was sober, my primary occupation was avoidance- avoiding him, avoiding talking to him, avoiding being sent to him, avoiding interacting with him in any way. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel as afraid as I used to feel all the time. I was afraid he would beat me up like he almost did when he was drunk.
I have lived in fear almost all my life; my dad would be drunk at least five out of the seven days of the week, if not all seven days. And this does not include the days he would be drunk even during the day, meaning that I’d have had dreadful days and nights. My dad is those ones who get violent when they drink. But some days he would also try to be fun; but that was just confusing for me, because what was I to do with a happy drunkard? His happiness would actually terrify me because I had been in that household long enough to know this happy daisy wouldn’t last for long. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And so my happiest days as a kid were very few. I can probably write about all my happy childhood memories, because they are simply not that many. I was so happy on the days my dad wasn’t around at all. On such days I could carry on my chores without fear whether I’m doing it to my dad’s standards or not. I wouldn’t have to worry about him criticizing what I did… See, what I recall of my communication with my father is, he was either ordering me or giving me instructions or criticizing what I did. If we were ever in the house alone it was awkward because what were we supposed to talk about? I was already too afraid of him, I couldn’t talk about anything to him, unless I was asking for something. Even today we still are awkward, I am just a bit more graced and trying to bridge a- decades-old in our relationships.
Anyways, so back to me and when I would be happy as a kid. I would be happy when I passed in school and got presents, I would be happy when my teachers praised me(I was quite smart so this became quite frequent), I would be happy when I visited my grandmother and great grandmother, I would even be happy when I was in stranger’s houses because then my dad wasn’t there and I did not have to be fearful.
However, my happiest shared moments were with my mom. Just us alone. And especially when I was in class 6, about 11 years old, and we started watching this show “It might be you” on KBC, every Thursday evening. Y’all have no idea how much fun that was for me! My dad used to work nights on Thursdays, so yeii, peace galore… then it was just me and my mom, and this super romantic emotional show about an outcast girl loved by this rich handsome prince charming guy with an evil mother… the drama of it all! So, I was really happy on these Thursday nights when our black and white TV charged by a chloride Exide battery behaved, and we got to watch this show with my mom, and then discussed what we felt and what we thought would happen next.
And maybe it is with this “It might be you” soap opera we’d watch with my mom that I ever truly escaped for the very first time in my life. Escapism through shows. I just know I’d be so happy lost in this dramatic world and its characters. I even fell in love ! haha, with Lawrence the main character prince charming guy. How much more blissful could it get!
Anyways again, back to escapism. You may be wondering why I am writing all of this when what I have promised I am writing about is escapism. Here we go.
I mentioned earlier that my happy memories from my childhood(including my early adult life by the way) are very few. And so this tells you that for the most part I have been miserable in my life. I wish I had learnt the kind of perspectives I have now back then, maybe my life would have been more tolerable… but no tears, maybe it was all for something. I wouldn’t be writing here today without some of those experiences. Maybe I am able to empathize with a lot of people because of what I have gone through.
Haha, anyway, for real this time; what if I got so used to being miserable all my life, that misery became normal, and happy moments the odd thing out? Remember how I said earlier that my escapism is quite different? It is different because, for me, I tend to “escape” when I am having it too good. I am likely to sabotage myself at the height of something good happening. When I am having it so good I don’t know what happens, I think it almost shocks me, or feels abnormal that I can be consistently happy for a long time, so I sabotage myself to restore “balance?”
I was reading Loveable by Dr. Kelly Flanagan yesterday, and I came across this phrase that I think best describes my kind of “escapism”, “If we were mistreated or abused in our early years, the doubts about our worthiness are likely to become central to our identity- we don’t know who we are without them.” If I were to apply this phrase to my own life, I think misery became so much a part of my identity as a kid, that I am almost, ironically, lost without it. Unfortunately, I know it is shameful to admit so we do not talk about it, but I know if your home villages are anything like mine, then most of you experienced horrible childhoods, because almost every man (and some women) in my village are alcoholic parents. And then maybe, even if you don’t talk about it, you are a chronic self saboteur and you can’t even explain it, so you just hide away with your own shame and let it kill you slowly.
I do not know, dear reader (haha, use my lady whistledown voice), how much you sabotage your own happiness, or joy, or potential success, over escapist habits. How many times have you delivered substandard work, assignments, projects, etc.. because mid-process you decided to take a break and escape the tediousness of it all? How many times have you attempted avoiding unpleasantness by escaping into your “own world”?
Or if you are like me, are you so used to misery, and rarity of joy, that when things are going so well is when you “escape”, which is basically self sabotage, and take away all the joy you could have had if you just stayed and saw things through? Is continuous joy so strange to you, that you will miss church or fail to show up for a commitment, just so you can feel guilty and ashamed again, all so you can be miserable, and it can finally feel “normal” again, because joy makes you uncomfortable?
I had planned to conclude this article with some ideas around managing our own escapism, but I feel I have already talked too much. Stay tuned for the next follow-up on escapism.
My question to you as I depart though, what are you running from? And why are you running from it? Why do you keep sabotaging yourself? What wounds in your past are keeping you from experiencing the joy you could have, the peace you could have, the success you could have? What pain from your past is holding you back from actually living out the many and beautiful dreams of yourself you have, but somehow you are always getting in the way of your own progress?
I hope as you explore those questions you start getting some answers… what I know is you and me, we are about to shock our own bodies, souls and spirits… by showing up so much, by seeing things through, and when we feel too shocked by the happiness we are experiencing we just want to sabotage ourselves so it can feel “normal” again, then we shall face this strange thing called happiness by going through it.
Bye for now.