Escapism and that amazing new version of “Emma”

Yes, I’d say that looks pretty much like my brand of escapism.
Photo by cottonbro on

I doubt anyone will be shocked if I say I’ve always been a pretty serious person. I love movies and books and music that make me cry—that dig deep and explore human connection and emotion—that connect us to the REAL.

But the last two years have been hard, and as I’ve already blogged a couple times, the re-entry into post-shutdown world has been… intense. Because I am a masochist and I like to know just how much I have suffered, I went through my calendar. Between Easter and October 1st, we had 47 health-related appointments in our household.


And that is NOT counting any of Julianna’s speech therapy appointments, IEP-and-related meetings, or a single one of the kids’ activities. Let alone any of my own professional obligations, some of which have involved some pretty heavy emotional and mental lifting.

Normally, I am not a person who feels a great need for escapism. I normally lean in to the difficult, the deep, the real. But during this incredibly intense year—and I’ve said nothing about the toll the news cycle takes!—I have found myself craving the emotional rest of sheer escapism.

Of course, “escapism” means different things to different people. For my husband, escapism means lots of things exploding. But if I’m tired and stressed and overstimulated/over-extroverted, all that racket just aggravates my nerves further. It’s the same reason I not-so-cordially loathe sports. All that disorganized noise. I spend sporting events wearing earplugs and constantly coaching myself to take deep breaths. I can get into it, but it’s work.

For me, escapism means period pieces—most recently, Downton, Guernsey, and Austen. Pride & Prejudice has long been my favorite Jane Austen, but the new version of Emma, which I finally got to watch two weeks ago and have been more than mildly obsessed with ever since, has my loyalties shifting. At the moment I’m totally on Team Knightley. Emma, as a character, can be hard to handle (Jane Austen famously said she was creating a character no one could love but herself), but as novelists are frequently reminded, the mere existence of someone in a story who loves a difficult character makes that character a whole lot more lovable.

Emma and Mr. Knightley Dance
From Emma, 2020 release

My Emma escapism is good on many levels. Professionally, it reminds me how great the act of storytelling really is. It’s showing (not telling) me how to weave character and absurdity and flaws and romance into a wonderful tapestry that is uplifting and humorous and teaches an important truth about life, all at once. Personally, it just makes me happy.

But I’m discovering there’s a danger in it, too. If you can’t leave the escape world behind, you end up having trouble with reality. When I was newly married, I had to learn to separate the world of my novel characters from my marriage. Lately, my problem has been that I can’t focus on writing fiction because writing is hard. It’s much more enjoyable to go back and revisit all my favorite Emma-and-Knightley scenes. But when I do, I end up feeling guilty, because in my heart of hearts, my passion for my own characters is real, and I’m letting them down and setting myself up for failure–because I measure success by productivity.

So that’s the balance I’m working toward right now: The discipline to kick my own butt when I know I’m taking the easy way out, and the self-love to give myself grace when I truly do need a break from reality.

What’s your brand of escapism?