Finding balance through escape, with some help from Dune

I’m laying down on a blanket, staring up at treetops, broiling in the shade under a July sun. This park is empty, save for people just passing through, no one staying any longer than their pets deem necessary. The grass and trees aren’t as fortunate, stuck in place, yellowing and browning day after day in a show of botanical malaise.

Somehow, the park is a means for escape. My world through much of spring was a three hundred square foot studio, every crack in the walls and creak of the floorboards an over-familiar friend. I could travel back to past memories of watching a sunrise over the Persian Gulf and a sunset over the rooftops of Barcelona, but denying the present couldn’t change it. Video conferences gave views into other worlds, but those worlds were all just the same off-white spare rooms we were pretending to call offices. I could change my daily routine, but that only underscored how much my world was staying the same. But time still moved as March simmered into April and boiled into May and exploded into June and now it’s July and I’m ready to go anywhere and everywhere. 

Which leads to this moment in this park, waiting for stray clouds to slide through the sky and blot out the sun, laying in the grass and reading Dune. Whereas I know the world around me, this novel’s world is new. It’s undiscovered for me, an exploration of Frank Herbert’s imagination through my own—people and plots and planets I’ve never before dreamed. It’s somewhere I’ve never been.

The world around me seems to slow and slow and slow as the journey of a young protagonist awakening to his power progresses faster and faster and faster. This tree-strewn park fades from my reality, being replaced by the red-brown hues of a desert world lifetimes away from ours. Adventures playing across hundreds and thousands of years in a universe that exists, in this moment, only in my mind.

This moment is my escape. My reality outside of it is filled with broken promises of seeking more balance in life and avoiding burnout. Much of the year before and after this point was and will be spent pushing myself further out of balance, ignoring the call to escape, all for the sake of ambition. But for now, I’m here.

I’m choosing to recognize the need to break from answering emails and analyzing investments and writing for an audience that isn’t me. I thought I had been making art by doing those things without pause, but I wasn’t. I was just grinding myself further and further and further down into a single-purpose tool, dulling my effect and affect with every use. It’s only by exercising the choice to escape that I do reach a balance for just a moment.

But moments do end, and July melted into August and stumbled into September and slid into October and accelerated into November and crashed into December and here I am in January of a new year. I don’t have any resolutions. I don’t want to lay grand, multi-decade plans in a world intent on destroying them, but I also don’t want to sit here waiting for the world to do that.

I do want to play at the intersection of creativity and conviction in everything I do. It’s not possible though as a single-purpose tool with tunnel vision, unbalanced and unable to escape and see where the new wild things are. I’ll just have to flow back into balance whenever I fall out. I’ll have to recognize those moments where my pace veers into the unsustainable. And I’ll have to give myself permission to escape.

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