The relaxation! The food! The vaccinated HUGS! And oh, the good stories! We feel restored to our fullest contentment and ready to handle whatever nonsense comes along next.
It was interesting to reflect on myself, how I've absorbed beliefs about my need to earn happiness, comfort, and even basic health based on family dynamics, my educational systems, certain emotionally abusive friendships and romantic relationships, and my work environments.
But now, as an adult in a healthy marriage, with better boundaries and insights regarding family issues than I had as a child, and as the mother of a child I never want to burden with feelings of inherited shame or worthlessness or lack of agency, I understand that there is nothing lazy or indulgent or "extra" about demanding, up front, the right to healthy sleep, nutrition, time with loved ones, and the freedom to write and experience and live out stories that are meaningful to us.
Through my 20s and 30s, I have fought hard against negative self-beliefs to carve out the time to write two novels, Leirah and the Wild Man (on sale now) and The Grove of Thorismud (coming in spring 2022). Both of these novels were therapeutic for me to write in different ways.
Leirah, the main character in my first book, is a semi-feral orphan who scavenges her survival out of the land and a life of crime. I didn't write Leirah as a homeless orphan and nationless outcast to gain sympathy from the reader; to be honest, I wrote her that way to fulfill a wild fantasy of my own, to imagine what it would be like to feel no obligation, ever, to an oppressive family, school, employer, or society. Of course, a fantasy is not a wish. I am well aware that I am fortunate to have a family, an education, and many years of work experience. I would never even consider trading my life for one like Leirah's--I don't even like camping! But in a movie or a book, we can find release from the pressures of our real lives in the perilous adventures of a fantasy character who has problems compelling enough to distract us from our real life but whose dilemmas don't trigger our own real-life worries because they don't hit too close to home.
In the end of Leirah and the Wild Man (no spoilers, though), Leirah seeks a life that more closely resembles mine, and describing her yearning and gratitude and wonder at this kind of life made me feel more appreciative of the privileges, comforts, and blessings I have.
The main character of The Grove of Thorismud, Rosemary, is another young woman, but she is the opposite of Leirah in many ways. Rosemary is a cloistered princess with an excess of stuff she doesn't need and a numbing lack of danger in her life. And yet she doesn't have her real needs met either. She's bored, lonely yet deprived of all privacy, so anxious she suffers from insomnia within a cushy fortress, and smothered by the overbearing obsessions of her mother.
But does Rosemary get punished for this wanton intemperance of desire, in the end? Or does she revel in unearned naps, snacks, and pleasures of the flesh, happily ever after?
I can't spill that tea either, not quite yet.
But I do hope that someday, somewhere, someone reads her story while eating cookies and snuggling with a sexy partner in a sumptuous bed, only dropping the book to fall into a blissful and uninterrupted slumber full of indulgent dreams and fantasies. And that the reader awakens, refreshed and rooting for poor little Rosemary whether they like or admire her as a character at all, because happiness should not have to be earned.
Jean Michelle Miernik is the author of Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World.