Reading in Good Times and Bad

It’s been a little over a month. I haven’t spoken of it much, just with the people I see every day, the people suffering just as I am, if not more. I’m lucky. I haven’t lost many people close to me. I recognize how rare that is, and I am grateful every day for my fortune.

My grandfather’s passing wasn’t tragic. Three weeks from his 91st birthday, the same year my grandparents celebrated their 65th anniversary, he lived a life of joy, humor, success and happiness. He was at his own home, capable of walking on his own two feet, and far more at peace than any of us were with his decision. But, at the end of the day, it was his decision. 

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Of course, it is harder for my mom and grandma. They are the ones who knew him best, who feel his loss in the house and the bed, who do not know a life without him as a constant, irrefutable presence. In many ways, I suffer more at their pain than I do at the loss of a person I consider a confidant and inspiration. Grandpa, too, was a writer.

Why do I say all this? What’s the point of writing over the harshest edges of the last four weeks. I have found catharsis in writing about it for myself, but why share?

Because, like so many people who have come before, I found a simple escape, a simple joy during these difficult days. Of course, you mustn’t be surprised that I spent the first week after my grandfather’s passing binge-reading romance novels. And, of course, it worked.

I’ll argue for romance novels until the day I die. They are feminist, standing in solidarity, supporting, pushing women to succeed, to thrive, to take control of all factions of their lives. This is remarkably important.

But so is escape. And while many may refer to romance as “escapist fiction” in a derogatory capacity, I think that’s short-sighted. Being able to get away from the truly terrible things in our lives – be them personal or universal, a loss in the family or the overwhelming tragedy of the world that seems so completely out of our control, is not a bad thing. It is a survival technique, a self-care step we must all take in order to make it through the toughest days.

country-21460_1920In those first few days, I put back Sophie Jordan books like they would spontaneously combust in my hands if I didn’t read them fast enough. I escaped to worlds of fantasy and fairy tale, to young women falling for dukes, to scandalous marriages that the ton would never approve of.

I don’t know where I would have been without those books. If I had been forced to face each moment of those early days, of my family weeping, of the low hanging, gray tension that permeated my home, of the constant stream of letters and phone calls, I would have lost my mind. Escape, to the countrysides of Regency England, was the only way I could recharge, take the breath I so desperately needed, and deal with all that needed to be dealt with.

It has only been a month. Tough times remain ahead, and I have no doubt that I will need to face some of them head on. But I know I can. In addition to the world’s most supportive network of family and friends, those who came out of the woods to offer support and love that we so desperately needed,  I had a way to forget the world around me, to recharge, regroup and recenter myself.

Bad things happen. They happen in our own lives and they happen in the world. Each day we are faced with a new barrage of bad news, bombings, shootings, new laws, new wars. We must take care of ourselves. We must shut off the television, turn off our computers and step back, whether those bad things happen in the world at large or our own backyards.

And the best way to combat hate, grief, sadness, despair, well, it’s always going to be a love story. ♥

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