“I wish I could do that, sometimes. Escape myself” says President Francis Underwood, in a dark and intimate moment of Season 3 of House of Cards.
I can relate, Mr. President. Not that I have many complaints about my life – as lives go, mine is pretty pretty pretty good (to borrow from another tv icon, Larry David). Blame it on nature coming alive at this time of the year, but, in a familiar rite of spring, I find myself wishing I could take a vacation from being me, from the roles I inhabit day in and day out: wife, friend, step-mother, caretaker, middle-aged woman, chef, dog-walker and, yes, even blogger.
It’s a desire to step out of the borders I created for myself as I ran, plodded or marched through this one life: a wish, just for a little while, to forget what defines me, with no need to come up with alternative definitions.
Sometimes travelling is the way to achieve such a state or, at least, it used to. It was so much easier to get lost traipsing around Ecuador or the Yucatan with sofagirl many moons ago, when we were completely disconnected: no mobile phones, no laptops or tablets. Just one phone call halfway through our three weeks to let the family know we had arrived and to check nothing had befallen them. That was the only connection we had with our quotidian – 5 minutes top – and then we were free to be who we chose to be or not to be. Acquaintances met along the way hardly ever morphed into lasting friendships or relationships because their very nature was temporary, and tinged with shades of our personality we might not have projected back home. Also, we were much younger, with much fewer responsibilities.
Now, whenever I travel solo, or with a friend, I feel compelled to check in and make sure the family at large is fine; emails are read, if not necessarily answered, and with wi-fi available in the most unlikely places, I don’t even miss any news stories from back home. All this ensures I keep on inhabiting “me” no matter how far-flung I have travelled.
Could this be a childish desire to shed responsibilities or difficulties? I think it’s less shallow than that, more nuanced, more like shedding all the layers that have accumulated with age to go back to the source.
The question is: can it be done anymore? Would collecting elephant poop in Thailand do it? The trip to Laos I am mulling? Hardly. The roles we chose to step in have a habit of following us wherever we go, which is not a bad thing, if we are content with them. Still, to escape them just for a little while…
All images C&S