A few years ago a friend said to me in conversation, “You really are a runner, aren’t you?” She wasn’t referring to running in the physical exercise sense of the word, but emotional running.
I was living in Australia at the time, having made the decision to travel there after a horrible past year in my hometown. I don’t remember the details of our conversation, but it’s irrelevant. The point was, not only did she think I was a ‘runner’ in that moment, it was clearly something she had considered before.
When I first arrived in Australia, the newness of everything distracted me from the pain I felt inside. The dry earth, the overwhelming yellowness (as compared to the cool, damp green of Vancouver), the heat, the accents…it was all raw, wonderful, and a little confronting. But as the weeks wore on, the realization gradually settled in…wherever you go, there you are.
All those painful feelings I’d left behind hadn’t really gone anywhere, and they wouldn’t for a while. They were in me, and no matter where I went in the world, there they would remain. Moving to a new geographic location wasn’t going to heal what only time could.
My friend’s words have left an imprint on me. It’s five years later, and I find myself wanting to start anew yet again. Something has always felt missing in my life. I’ve blamed my city, the weather, its people. I’ve long thought my ‘real’ home was somewhere else.
I recently made the decision to leave my job this summer, and travel abroad for a couple of months. I have fantasies of starting a brand new life in another country, meeting new people, doing something completely different. Isn’t that what life is all about, especially in this age of awakening? Following your heart, dreaming big, taking a leap of faith? Saying YES?
Or am I motivated by something else entirely? Running away…escape…an inability to be present…boredom?
I know that I can’t evade whatever is inside me. If there was one thing Australia taught me, it’s that. Wherever I go, there I am.
So I ask myself: am I at peace within?
My inner voice (gently): No.
You don’t meditate.
[Sigh. Again with the meditation.] What does that mean?
You can’t sit in silence for 10 minutes without getting antsy or finding a distraction. How can you know what is within, if you don’t let yourself experience it? How can you have peace with that which you don’t acknowledge?
It’s clear why my friend’s words struck a chord (or nerve). I have had a strong urge to flee situations that I find uncomfortable. Not only physical places, but interactions and relationships. Perhaps even my own emotions and inner being, which I thought I was in touch with.
I think I’m running towards something better ‘out there’, but the trajectory is usually more like a circle. There’s a part of me that still firmly believes that when I find the right job, city, partner, etc., things will finally fall into place. I put so much pressure on myself to create this, to search for this, to make it happen.
I’m still valuing the ‘doing’ over the ‘being’.
I know better than this. I’m chasing the ever elusive.
And as crazy as it sounds, a part of me also fears that by going within – by finding peace – I won’t be motivated to change my outer world. That I will accept things the way they are, and become passive about my life.
But does acceptance necessarily result in inaction? And is it possible that inner peace would transform my life in a way that no amount of world travelling could? Maybe I would look at my present life with new eyes. Maybe I’d even fall in love with it. Maybe I’ve never felt a connection to my city, because I’ve never felt it to myself.
Attempting to mentally determine the difference between ‘running away’ and ‘advancing towards’ is somewhat pointless. There are too many competing voices vying for my attention, and they all say the same old things.
I do know there is a genuine wanderlust and love of freedom within me, and it will likely yearn to express itself throughout my life. But I am beginning to understand that only when I’m intimately familiar with my inner landscape will I be able to fully appreciate what’s on the outside.
It may be that the ultimate adventure lies in stillness.