I’ve been a runaway all my life.
I remember the first time I “ran away”. I was a little girl, probably about 4 or 5, and I was angry with my parents about something. I felt like they “didn’t love me anymore”, so I decided to split, and find a new place to be. I no longer remember what it was that caused me to pack my miniscule suitcase, but I actually made it about halfway down the block before I plopped my suitcase down and sat atop it, miserable.
They let me sit there for a while, what seemed like forever to my preschool-age heart, before my dad finally came over and asked if I wanted to come home now.
He came after me.
I don’t know if that’s where the mindset started, but somewhere along the line, my deepest fear became the idea that someday, no one would come after me when I walked away. And I would be alone.
When I was a teenager, and full of rebellion towards my parents, I ran away again. They were making me attend catechism classes, which I hated, and regularly lied my way out of by telling the pastor that I had to babysit, when I didn’t. I’d go to my best friend’s house, and we’d hang out. It all came to a head, when the pastor told my parents that I would not pass the class because of missing too many classes. There was an argument, and one day after school, I simply didn’t get on the bus to go home. I went to my friend’s house instead, and hid out.
My dad came after me again, even so far as to chasing me through our tiny town on foot, of course, catching me, and hauling me home, where I was told that if living with them was so bad, they would seek to find me another place to live. I broke down, and gave in, because I really didn’t want to live somewhere else, I just wanted someone to care whether I was there or not.
An aside on self-esteem: (The first time in my life I heard that my parents were proud of me? Was the day that I graduated from high school, and I was taking a picture with my parents. My dad reached over, took my hand, squeezed it as hard as he could and said “I’m so proud of you”) This is still one of my favorite pictures, because I was told that day that I was worth something. I was worthy of pride.
When I went through my really bad phase, at about 19-20, I ran away a LOT. There are simply not enough words to tell you how many times, in how many ways, and from how many people I ran away. I ran away from college, leaving after only a year and a half. I ran away from relationships, using all kinds of stupid behavior to push them away. Run before you can get hurt. Run before you can feel too strongly about anyone.
When I first met the man I married, I had given up on relationships altogether. I had told my best friend that I was “done with men”.
He sought to change my mind. He chased after me.
For a while.
But the years rolled on, and yes, there were good ones, I’m not denying that. We had a lot of good years. But there came a point, where the 2 of us, me included, stopped working for holding on to one another. Complacency became apathy. I tried to get back to the point where we had been, I sought reassurance that I was still important. But I never heard those words “don’t go, I still want you here”. I hinted about the way I felt, and when hints weren’t strong enough, I came right out and bluntly stated it. No response.
And so, I started to walk. Away. And I wasn’t followed.
And when I reached that invisible line in the sand, the one beyond which there is no turning back, I turned one last time to look. To see if I was someone worth following, worth chasing after.
And found that I wasn’t even being watched. He was too busy focused on other things, to even see that I had left, and was no longer standing next to him. He didn’t care enough to see that I was so far away, and our relationship was drowning out its last gasp of air.
I’m not saying that my behavior was totally right, in any of the instances where I’ve run away. I’ve been testing people most of my life. Testing their feelings toward me, and their commitment to whether they care about me. Trust issues, you might call it. The fear that, if you fall back, is there going to be anyone to catch you? My shaky self-esteem tells me to beware, to be wary, of trusting anyone enough to actually stay put, and to catch me when I fall.
And still, to this day, there are times when I feel a strong urge to run. To simply take the easy way out, and bolt. Escape before you can get hurt, before you can be vulnerable with someone that could get close enough to actually get up close and be inside the walls of self-defense.
One person in my life lately, someone that I ran from years ago, recently reappeared in my life. And this person was able to make me promise to “not run” again. And promises, to me, are something that you have to keep. It’s a measure of my own personal integrity, to do whatever I have to, to try to keep a promise.
So, for probably the first time in my life…. I’m not running away.
My feet are twitching, my hands are clenched in fear, palms sweaty and shaking. But I’m not running.
I’m trying, desperately, to change a lifetime of waiting for someone to come afer me, to make me feel as though I’m someone worth searching for. This is one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever had to do. To simply stand my ground, and face it head-on. But I’m trying. And sometimes, I falter, I fear, and I take a step away. So far, I’ve taken just that one or two steps, and I come back, like a hesitant, wild animal, wanting the promise of what stands there, but not sure if it’s going to mean being hurt.
I don’t want to be the runaway, anymore.
Not even from myself.
And I’m standing right here.