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RUN AWAY

“Go ahead. Run away! That’s what you’re good at!”

I can’t tell you how many times my husband has said these same words to me over the course of our twenty-nine-year marriage.

I am about the least confrontational person you’re likely to meet, (though that’s changing rapidly the older I get, coupled with the current administration). I keep things bottled up inside to my own detriment, ever fearful to say how I feel about things at the risk of being hurt more than I already am. When I do finally summon the courage to say what’s in my heart, I almost always put pen to paper to do so.

So every time I would hear those words coming from this person whom I love deeply, it hurt me terribly, yet I continued doing it for more than twenty-five years.

“Strangely, we are perhaps most fully incarnated as humans, when part of us does not want to be here.” – David Whyte Consolations

I did not want to be there. I did not want to share a space in the same room with him whenever we were arguing about something since it always followed the same script.

HIM:  You always do this. That’s right, run away. What else is new? It’s the same every time. I’m so sick of this. I can’t do this anymore.

ME:  Silent. He doesn’t understand me. He will never understand me. I can’t keep doing this. Nothing I can say will make him understand how I feel. It’s not worth it. I know I’m going to say something that I will regret. I’m outta here.

I literally could not stand there and take it, whatever ‘it’ was going to be. As soon as I’d hear him begin speaking, I’d get fidgety and make my way over to a window always in another room and stand there stoic with my back to him staring at whatever might catch my attention. Like a squirrel burying an acorn in the lawn or a swallowtail in the butterfly weed or an oriole in my apple tree or the contrails of a plane overhead. It didn’t matter what I happened to be looking at just as long as I could focus on something other than what he was saying, but even that I could only do for so long. Within a few minutes, I would always leave the room or in many cases the house. I would always run away.

I did this for more than twenty-five years, and in all that time I never thought to ask myself why.

When I finally did a few years back, I saw that no matter what we might be fighting about – which thankfully, despite how it sounds, did not happen all that often, I was making things decided worse by running away, and I desperately wanted to change that.

Change does not come easy for any of us, that much is obvious. I knew that in order for me to change I would need to do some serious soul searching not just in the moments or hours after we’d argue, but while it was happening.

In the heat of the moment, I was going to have to keep my cool.

As hard as that might sound, that was the easy part. I was already good at that. I was already great at keeping my composure never letting on when it felt like I was dying inside.

Except, in the past, as I stood stoic, I wasn’t thinking about why I felt so defensive, all I was thinking about was getting the hell out of there; I was thinking about running away.

When that started to change, I started to change, or maybe it was the other way around.

Instead of tunning him out and thinking about all the things I wished I had the nerve to say, I tried hard to be a better listener. I tried to let my defenses down long enough to hear his side of things. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Not because all of a sudden whatever he happened to be saying started to make sense, (many times it still doesn’t) but because my reactions were starting to make more sense.

Slowly, I began connecting the dots, and by doing so, the big picture finally started to come into focus.

It took almost thirty years for me to understand just how ingrained this behavior had become, and just how much it continued to be a major problem in my marriage. That’s when I knew it was time to descend into darkness. I knew all this shit was lurking in the shadows and didn’t want to be found. I knew I’d have to feel my way around in the dark before my eyes could adjust and when they did, I knew I would once again see the world as a child.

I also knew there would be pain involved and I was right. Not only the long-buried pain that was finally rising to the surface but the pain and the guilt that came with knowing how my actions as an adult had been seriously testing the bonds of my marriage for a very long time. Too long.

I am small, still just a child, and I have somehow gotten myself into trouble again. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t. I already understand that no amount of defending myself, however passionately, will make any difference. I cannot talk my way out of being punished any more than I can talk my way out of going to school the next day, but for once, I finally have their attention, so I try. I always try.

I protest. I explain. I argue. I apologize. I tremble. I cry. If I am feeling indignant, I shout, “I hate you!” to whichever parent was doing the punishing that day. I leave it all on the table then I run away to my room and slam the door, accepting my punishment. Accepting that nothing I can possibly say will ever make any difference.

The one time I vaguely remember trying to physically run away, I didn’t get far. I climbed a tree and sat there for what felt like hours before eventually climbing back down. By that time I was good at backing down. I came back because there was no point in my staying away. I came back and learned that no one even realized that I was gone.

Over time, running away became my defense mechanism. Instead of standing my ground and fighting to be heard I allowed myself to be silenced where I stood. If I couldn’t physically run away, I ran away in my mind. I shut down. I swallowed my anger to the point where I could no longer speak, then past that to the point where I no longer had any desire to. I no longer saw any point. In my mind, it was and always would be, an exercise in frustration.

“To understand the part of us that wants nothing to do with the full necessities of work, of relationship, of doing what is necessary, is to learn humility, to cultivate self-compassion and to sharpen that sense of humor essential to a merciful perspective of both self and another.” – David Whyte Consolations

I knew it was time to cultivate some self-compassion, which for me has always been a big ask. But I also knew that if I didn’t, nothing would ever change. I began by simply observing my behavior and over a relatively short a period of time, I was able to see that my longing to flee was a learned behavior deeply rooted in my childhood during a time when I had little or no control over what was happening.

By being kinder to myself about what was happening in the heat of the moment, and being mindful of the fact that I was being triggered, things started to change. It was a very old script, a very old story I’d been telling myself forever where the ending was always the same but I knew it was time for that to change. It was time for me to change. That change did not come easy for me, just as writing this blog every week isn’t easy for me, but in both cases, it has been worth it.

I am worth it. I have a voice. I don’t have to run away. I can stand my ground and speak from my heart knowing that in the end it no longer even matters if the other person is hearing me or not. What matters now is I’m no longer afraid to say it. What matters now is that I stop running away.

 

NEXT WEEK: SELF-KNOWLEDGE

 

About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

One Reply

  1. Linda Wells

    Beautiful Amy Thank you so much for sharing. I think we all can take a piece of your blog and apply it to our own lives!! Love.you. linda

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