Running Away

I suppose it’s a straw that broke the camel’s back sort of thing.

The plastic storage containers tumble onto your head one too many times, and you know it’s your own fault for cramming them into a tiny space on the top shelf. The dishes are left in the sink day after day, and this time, you’re the one who let them go, and let them go. The stack of bills is higher than usual – despite all your attempts to economize, to go without, to cut, to juggle, to shuffle.

There’s yet another maintenance issue with the house. It’s not a fortune, but it’s a hassle. There’s yet another rumbling from the car. It’s getting older, and then again, so are you.

Aren’t there a hundred minuscule moments when you want to run? Just leave it all – and take off?

What kid doesn’t plan his escape at least once in his young life? He packs up a little bag, and makes it as far as the corner of the street. What adult doesn’t dream of running away – leaving behind the messes of daily life – at least in his or her dreams?

Most of us, of course, never abandon our families, our responsibilities, or our most proximate selves. But we’re tempted. We get tired of our spouses, our marriages, even our divorces. We’re sick of our jobs, our lack of jobs, our escalating challenges. We seek a haven – running away physically at times, and at others, taking refuge in a new relationship, a change in career, or possibly food, alcohol, or other substances.

I’m convinced that it’s the mess that drives us to it. The complexity, the stupor faced with the repetition of tedious tasks or callous confrontations, those that drive a wedge in our relationships with loved ones. Those that drive a wedge between who we have become and a self we once knew.

I won’t say I haven’t thought of running away from home. As a child, you could say I found an acceptable way to do so, though it took me many years and of course, I had to return. But it was empowering to make that run – to work three years at every chore and job, saving every dime so I could buy myself the benefits of an ocean.

Those thousands of miles of distance helped; I took to a summer living experience in France like the proverbial little canard to water. I was running away, yes, and also running to – though at the time I’m sure I didn’t know the difference.

And that distinction between running from and running to? Does it really matter – when the point is that you feel a need to run? An urgency, spurred by a sense that it’s your only chance at survival?

Some individuals run more easily than others – when the going gets tough or complicated, when life isn’t going their way. They leave families. They cause wreckage. They may carry regrets; they may even circle back to make amends.

I’ve thought about the notions of quitting, the nuances of abandonment, and what it means to take distance. There are times we know that a situation isn’t working, or a project, a career, a relationship, a friendship, a marriage. Do we speak up? Do we try to fix what isn’t functioning? Do we sever all ties because it seems easier? Do we simply walk away, and leave the mess to someone else to clean up?

I have no answers. But I’d be denying my own truth if I didn’t say I wish I could run away – from the dishes, the bills, the pressing responsibilities. From myself. But usually, there are options – a middle ground to establish – something far from abandonment of adult accountability, and closer to a simpler way to live.

As for that straw that breaks the camel’s back – maybe it’s only a strain and not a break. More of a strain on some days than others, and a reminder to rest, rather than run.


© D. A. Wolf

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Comments

  1. Can I run away too?

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      :) I think most women wish they could run away at some point. (Or should I amend that to most mothers?)

      But we don’t. It might do us some good… especially if we return with a brighter perspective and a few new solutions to those perpetual messes.

  2. Wherever you go you are there (or something like that). I take vacations to run away. Always clears my soul. But if you can’t afford that then run to a river, a lake or the ocean for the day without any materials to do anything but relax. Just sit and relax and breathe.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Sound advice, Madge.

      No rivers, lakes, or oceans within reasonable distance. Then again, there is a lovely duck pond, and not far at all… :)

  3. You raise an interesting subject, Ms. Wolf, run away because the current situation has become untenable. Without the means or the requisite expertise or the “power” to deal with it, a person one day decides to escape what may be for them a life sentence in hell. Those of us who are witness to this seemingly out of character abrupt change of behaviour have no understanding of the person’s perspective on their situation. We may be perplexed; we may question; we may even vilify the person and their actions but we will more than likely never ever fully appreciate just what hell has been for this person.

    We all at one time or another have had to deal with tough times. However, we have always had hope; the hope that someday the bad times would be over and the sun would shine once again. But what if any of us were in a situation where there was no hope, where there was no longer any chance the clouds would part? I have read many stories in the past year about war, famine, disease, economic hardship and even divorce. I will not pretend to understand anyone’s motivation and I will not play Monday morning quarterback or armchair general knowing full well that things look dramatically different when I am the one staring down the barrel of a gun. I do know however that without hope, one can’t carry on. Without hope, life isn’t worth living. And without hope, one will eventually decide to escape.

    I’m reading, Ms. Wolf. wb :-)

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Many interesting points, Mr. Belle.

      Ironically, I’ve found that one can carry on without hope. Especially when others are depending on us. Perhaps we may have lost hope for ourselves, but the staying, the not abandoning, it is an act of offering others hope.

      I quite agree that we can never know the particular hell that another has lived, even if we think we can imagine it. All the more reason that ours isn’t to judge, if at all possible, understanding that for those left to clean up the mess, that can be a mighty challenge in and of itself.

  4. pia louise says:

    yes yes yes while raising 3 kids alone not one day went by that i didn’t fantasize running away…..i did get away alone once in a while…..and as they grew up and independent it was like a switch inside flipped to where it was like midway and i made a plan amidst the mess to move towards something new at the right time…..and that time is upon me very soon as my youngest leaves for college in the fall and i shall leave for life alone……no messes in my wake…….such is life ain’t it?

  5. Ah. Yes. We Are running away (on Monday).

    To Paris.

    But “apparently” it’s on business. So, you know, we’ll be Expected to Work at the other end.

    Paris.

    Always a good place to run away to, non?

    Will send tweets from a cafe pour vous, dear D.

  6. Some comments about hope.

    In the last few years I have dealt with either the prospect or the actuality of most of the major life disruptors which are generally expected to leave you without hope. In most cases, hope was quick to vanish, only to return, only to disappear again with subsequent crises.

    Through that process I have learned not to rely on hope. In the more hopeless moments I have compared myself to previous down times and realized I have hit a new low. Realized that in previous times which I had considered hopeless I had actually been supported by inner reserves and landmarks (including hope) which I was now completely without, leaving me in completely unexplored emotional territory.

    After going through that process a few times, finding a new nadir of maroonment each time, I no longer hope for hope, per se. What I hope for is the process, not the quality. I hope that even if my previous low levels of emotional resilience are crashed through during future crises, there will be some minimal core of resilience which will allow me to pull through and put things in perspective after the fact, as I have so far always been able to do.

    So I don’t hope for hope, as I have been profoundly without it and emerged OK. I just hope that the process of emergence is infinitely repeatable, should that be necessary.

  7. Sometimes we have lived a good part of our lives not authentic to who we really are. And we “wake up” from autopilot and it is impossible to fall asleep again. I am still living with the repercussions of my decision to leave the US and live in France. But I am alive and I am not so sure I would have remained so had I kept waiting to become numb again…which is what I kept praying for at the time. Some insight…
    http://farmhouseinfrance.blogspot.com/2011/12/wishing-for-family.html

  8. you have opened a dark and often secret door. the need to flee…one way or the other, leaving behind those ceaseless tasks that render most of us hopeless. then you add the aging process; the need to keep up and function as you always have, but finding that your body doesn’t cooperate, your mind can’t remember, your energy was all but used up on the very first item on a long long list.

    i’ve said before that one of the most significant things i have learned in 58 years is the nature and power of GRACE. not religious grace, like someone or something somewhere is going to forgive me or intervene on my behalf….no, no, no. i am referring to the grace of my own self-acceptance. rather than suppressing feelings, wishing with all my might that they weren’t there, i have come to manage my personal inadequacies and short comings with grace…giving myself permission to feel what I feel. it’s like grieving. if you’ve ever lost anyone dear to you, chances are you have been counseled about the grief you feel. sage words at such a time, are to feel the grief, experience the loss…because if you don’t, you will grieve forever. feel it and experience it as it comes…with all the reality and pain and hopelessness. give yourself permission to feel. i truly believe that it is the avoidance of what is, that drives us crazy and renders us hopeless.

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