It is my most favorite coping strategy...like my all time favorite. Run to places, away from places, just shut the world down and not answer the phone - there are as many ways to run as there are minutes in a day.
I guess I have always been seeking escape. Mostly from myself. I have this mind that feels like it is against me. Like doesn’t want me to be content and happy. Without my permission or consent, it just comes up with shit to make me miserable.
I used to escape into others. That is how much my mind was unsafe. Like I had to get consumed by you in order to find any kind of lasting peace. Being alone equalled misery for me and felt like a death sentence. As an only child, it was lonely growing up often. Now, I am not sure if that is because it really was lonely or that was just my experience. Perhaps if I had twelve siblings it would have still been lonely, just a different kind of lonely.
I can remember, years ago, making plans to go away by myself and then cancelling the whole endeavor because the thought of being alone with my thoughts caused me an outright panic attack. That is how mean my head is to me sometimes. So I developed and somewhat perfected the fine art of distraction.
“Don’t think that! Look over there!”
“Don’t feel that, become consumed with this!”
There are literally a million variations.
But, as I grew up and became more recovered, spending time alone with myself feels like some sort of cashmere throw I wrap around my shoulders on a cold morning. Being alone feels better most of the time than being with others. I have made peace with most of the demons in my head and the ones that still rankle around up there are mostly benign and do not feel like the have a hit out on me anymore. They are like somewhat irascible ghosts, retired hit men, living in the attic of my mind. Their commentary has become less threatening and almost humorous.
A couple of nights ago, my daughter came home and told me that a dog had been hit on the main drag through our little town. She told me this because it was where I go to the gym daily. She wanted to spare me the horror. And I appreciated it.
But what it did to me was as I was falling asleep, my mind decided that even though I wasn’t there, that I should conjure all the ways this could have gone down. Even just writing this feels especially treacherous to me. And so, I lay in bed, unable to sleep thinking about a dog that I did not know getting hit by a car over and over and over again. I can’t even find words to say how painful this is to me. But there I am with this mind that still feels like it hates me, running through scenarios that make me desperately sad and depressed.
And this is exactly why I used to run away and into other things, people, places and the like. I needed, quite literally, to be saved from myself. This mind that loves to torture me with things that I didn’t even witness happen. All the could have beens...and so it was the other night. I finally turned my iPad on and watched Netflix until I dozed off. I very much needed my brain, at least the part that is still out to get me, to shut the fuck up. And it worked, distraction still works. Those mental hit men apparently are only marginally interested in Six Feet Under so slumber descended upon us all.
Today I feel like my time spent alone is not as defensive as it once was. I like to read, write, exercise, run all of which are easiest done solitary. These are the support beams of my life and I enjoy doing them solo. Sometimes a friend will offer up a walk together and I am like, “um, yes right after I take my walk alone...”
So I still run away but it feels more like I run toward things that support me and save me than ever before. I still feel the panic when confronted with thoughts and feelings that I do not like, wish would go away and feel like they are just too much for my tender heart to handle. But, today, I feel like I willingly spend more time solo and that feels life affirming.
The thought of moving away from my current home and living on 100 acres in the woods, solo, with my cats and goats and horses is like some sort of fantasy that brings me instantaneous joy, relief and pleasure. I think about a cabin in the woods pretty much every single day of my life. Sometimes I live there solo, sometimes I am with the ever illusive “him” that I haven’t completely given up is out there somewhere, sometimes it is with my children or mom, but always it is me, surrounded by trees, earth, sky, furried friends, with few things to do but live this life. To notice the ordinary so much that it becomes extraordinary.
I have come to believe that running away isn’t always a bad thing. I just do it now for very different reasons and in very different ways. I am not moving all over the fucking country, instead I just retreat into the solace of my life, my mind and heart. And that provides me the comfort I used to seek in booze, men, shopping and friendship. I used to NEED you. Now, if I am engaging with you it is because I want to, not because I need to, well, most of the time.
My running today is more of a life support activity where I am running to myself in a world that clamors for too much of my attention. It is a marvelous shift and one where I can see the healing. I used to run away and into you so that I could be saved from suffering through another moment in my head. Now I have Netflix for that...kidding, only sometimes.
Today my running away feels like magic. I retreat into the woods, the desert, the hills be it for a hike, for a weekend or perhaps one day, for a lifetime.
I feel like I have taken a survival skill and done the work to morph it into a life affirming activity which can be done with others instead of at others on occasion. I feel like I have made peace with those ghosts, rattling chains and making a great deal of noise in my attic mind. I still hear them but they have less purchase than they used to. Leaving me free to run, stay put or whatever else might feel right in the moment.
I am not running scared anymore, sometimes I am just simply running away because I enjoy it. And that feels like progress. Again. Still.