Thursday, August 30, 2007

Time for a Prison Break?

Don't we all create our own little prisons that we need to break out of now and then? I certainly do.

In a former life I couldn't say no. That meant anytime someone asked me to do something -- bake cookies for PTA, serve on a committee, take care of their kids, shoulder another project at the office -- I'd smile and cough out, "Yes, of course."

My inability to say no often led me to seek a more hermit like existence, cutting myself off from others who would make demands on me. In essence, creating an even more narrow little jail cell.
These days my prison consists of living my life around work schedules, writing deadlines and the beck and call of loved ones near and far. Illness, aches and pains, demands of the job, chores always needing attention.... I'm afraid I'm the kind of jailbird, that even though the door swings open, I still sit on my little cot behind the bars. It has been so long since I thought about what I wanted to do, I can't consider it any more. Every thought is about 'we'.

Yet, sometimes I have to mentally escape from the realities that surround me.

Lately I've stepped into another world and find myself returning to it, even in the midst of reality. In an earlier post, I mentioned reading the Outlander series. I'm still reading. I can't get enough and yet I worry that I'm running out of books and may soon be forced to return to life without Claire and Jamie, return to the 21st century instead of pre-revolutionary Colonial America.

Without them, I will be forced to concentrate on getting the oil changed in my car, dealing with repairmen, blood tests, trips to the grocery, balancing budgets, cleaning the hot tub, figuring out why our lawn died.

But for now I think of baking bread, chopping wood, clearing fields, snake bite remedies and making a syringe out of a snake fang and some tubing. I think of porcupine quill sewing needles, sitting before a hearth fire with a pot of stew (or laundry) bubbling in a big kettle while knitting stockings for my family.

Perhaps the real thing I embrace about this hard scrabble life is that they can provide for themselves and their loved ones themselves. They make or grow or harvest or invent whatever they need to survive. They have control over this very basic daily life. Of course on the horizon lies war, enemies, disease, death. But then, it is a book, a series. And as long as I know there is another book in the series, I know that Claire and Jamie will continue their lives, survive the hardships, and be free to make the choices that matter to them. No cubicles, no bosses, no timelines or deadlines other than the changing seasons.

I want a life as ordered and reliable as a book with a happy ending. Sometimes, I just need to escape into another world to find it. The best part of escapist reading -- I can always return. Usually I bring a bit of the book back with me. While going about my own list of chores, I recall how the characters coped -- knowing that Jamie could survive the horrors of war, how could I not survive scrubbing showers and toilets and floors?

Funny, too. Although Jamie is this amazing fantasy man -- I see him in my husband. Or perhaps I see my husband in him. While reading about Gabaldon's character, I realize that for almost 36 years, I've been living with a man that many call hero and write books about.

With a refreshed view of my surroundings, I realize that my life, my circumstances are only a prison as long as I view them with the wrong attitude. But in order to find that out -- I must see my life through the pages of a book. Others may find escape in other avenues. But escape we must now and then, just to see more clearly.

P.S. Salon offers an interesting column about the Outlander series and Gabaldon's 'backwards' romance techniques. I highly recommend the series to historic romance lovers, history buffs, mystery buffs, and sci-fi/fantasy audiences. The writing is above the norm, too.

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