I am still, hot, languid. Utterly relaxed. I am fully, completely obligation-free. I am—did I mention? Still. Zen. And no one is budging me, no one needs me.
I am bliss. But no, that’s not right. Not bliss. I am just… still. I am paused. I am not doing. I am barely being.
I am—I was, for I am now back, but more on that later—I am “run away.”
(You might think I should have written “I have run away.” But I haven’t done anything. I AM. I am run away.)
I’ve reached that terrifying age when, instead of wedding invitations and “We’re pregnant!” announcements, our friends are separating, divorcing. That one-in-two statistic? Playing out, in full force, among my friends, my loves. Sometimes, it makes sense (“How on earth did those two ever get together and stay together long enough to make two children?”). Sometimes, it hurts as much as if it were my own closest relationship being torn asunder (“But… but… you two are so… but I love you both! No!”).
Sometimes, they agonize over the decision, discuss, torment, suffer together for months and years before ending it.
But sometimes, he, or she, runs away, leaving the other partner, the family, in shock.
Runs away, and not metaphorically. He doesn’t come back from a business trip. He ends the marriage, the relationship, the family… by email.
Her friends rally around her. Condemn him (it’s not always him, of course; sometimes, it’s her. But in my life in recent years, it’s been mostly him). Show their unconditional love and support for her by unexamined anger and malice against him. “Rat-fuck bastard.” “Dickweed.” “Good men, sane men don’t do this.”
I go home and cry in my husband’s arms.
Because, you see—I get it. I get the desire to run away. And I get how, if the nature of this most intimate of relationships is such that you cannot articulate your (past-and-present) frustration, your (in-the-moment) unhappiness, your (intermittent-but-it’s-been-here-much-too-long) angst, your children-are-exhausting-the-house-is-killing-me-work-sucks-life-is-a-slog-right-now-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-about-it feelings… if you cannot articulate all that to the person you come home to, sleep with… one day, you will snap. And run away, fully. And not come back.
In a life full of obligations, in a house full of three young children, I am mistress of the five-second, five-minute run away. I turn my back on the buttsacks ransacking the living room and screaming at each other, and give my attention fully, completely to the taste of chocolate. To that first, scalding, fabulous sip of coffee. I disappear into the bathroom. The bedroom. Put all the kids in the car… and then don’t get in for a while. Sell them to a neighbour and go for a walk alone. Lie very still in the sun while they run on the periphery of my vision, awareness…
Sometimes, I run away without actually physically moving. Just into my head, into my thoughts.
“Mom! You’ve spaced out again! Come back!”
I come back. I always come back.
But—I come back, willingly, only because I know how to run away… Does that make sense? I acknowledge my need to run away. And I fill it.
Five seconds. Five minutes. Easy.
Five hours—I need to plan for. Carve out. Insist on, when obligations get too intense. A full life—and a life with children, with family, with meaningful work, is always full, no matter what else you add on to it—is full of things that must be done. For me, running away for five hours here and there—that’s something that must be done too. It must happen.
Being present and being “in the moment” is all the rage in parent-lit and pop-psych right now. But it’s just as important to recognize, I think, that being sane requires being absent sometimes. And respecting, feeding that need in yourself.
If you don’t—if you deny it—when you snap—and you will snap—and you run away—you will not come back.
I am, for the first time since I’ve had children, run away for… seven days. For seven days, I am still. On pause. Totally obligation free. Absent-from-children-marriage-house-work. Present-in-self. And sometimes, even not really present-in-self. Just… fully, completely, gloriously run away. Absent.
(I was going to run away to write. Instead, I sleep. I am still.)
I come back.
I come back—so here’s the thing—I come back NOT re-energized, not full of pep-and-zeal-and-new-plans. Better. I come back with “still” within me. I infect my children, my husband, my neighbours with it.
Not this still: My life is still busy. My house is still a disaster (my four-year-old asks his six-year-old friend if their contractors are also “incompetent m@th#rf*ck%rs” and I turn brick red as my elder two children waggle their eyebrows at me… “Where did he learn that from, huh, Mom, huh, Mom?”). My existential angst is still here (always will be).
This still: When I need to be fully present—I am, and I can give that freely, un-resentfully. Gratefully, even. When being present becomes fucking exhausting, too much—that five second, five minute run away makes me… find that still. Pause.
And—most importantly, perhaps—lets me come back quickly.
Reminds me, also, of how critical that five hour run away is, and to not neglect it, no matter what.
I’ve always know this about myself. That I need to withdraw, disappear, be absent from whatever/whoever it is that most often demands my presence (attachment parents, take note). I’ve (usually) done this, guilt-free. Joyfully. Occasionally, with a degree of almost-wanton abandonment.
My life partner has known this about me too, even before I fully-truly articulating it for him.
But here’s the funny thing: despite seeing, honouring and facilitating my run-aways for me… he felt guilty about his desire, his need to do the same.
There is nothing unique about my desire and my practice of being run away (or yours). There is nothing unique about his guilt (or yours). Worse, there is nothing unique about our—and yours—inability to articulate this need… never mind to our closest loves, but even to ourselves.
And if you cannot articulate your (past-and-present) frustration, your (in-the-moment) unhappiness, your (intermittent-but-it’s-been-here-much-too-long) angst, your the-children-are-exhausting-the-house-is-killing-me-work-sucks-life-is-a-slog-right-now-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-about-it feelings… if you cannot articulate all that to yourself… never mind the person you come home to, sleep with… one day, you will snap. And run away, fully. And not come back.
(“Didn’t you say something pretty much exactly like that already?”
“Indeed, I did. I say it again. I don’t want you to miss it.”)
I am back.
I will need to run away—I will run away—I will BE run away—again. For five seconds, five minutes, five hours. When finances and circumstances permit, five days, maybe more (but first, the Daddy gets to run away for a longer stretch; it is only fair).
Because I know how to run away, I will always come back.
How about you?
P.S. My friend Sarah at Left Brained Buddha turns almost 40 this week, and meditates on this age and stage in a lovely way. Have a read: This is Almost 40.