Always On the Run

My elementary school used to put on a carnival every spring.  There would be food, a dunking booth, a petting zoo, and a place where you could have your caricature drawn. In the music room, students created a haunted house out of butcher paper and flashing lights.  Outside, near the front office, parent volunteers would paint stars and rainbows and other colorful images on your face.  White canvas booths lined the parking lot, and within them artists sold paintings and crafts.  If you grew tired of the bustle of the carnival, you could always cross the street to the nearby park and spin on the merry-go-round or bob up and down on a see-saw that no longer exists.

What’s odd is that instead of participating in all of the fun and games, I would wander around until I found a certain girl that I liked.  Then, once I found her, the two of us would initiate what eventually became a sort of annual tradition.  She would chase me around the carnival for hours.  We would run into the school building, through empty hallways and classrooms; then we would emerge onto the playground, scamper up and down slides, around swings, climb monkey bars, only to end up back where we started, in the thick of the carnival crowd with all of its noise and boisterous energy.  At regular intervals we would both stop and take a break, standing within ten feet of each other, panting and out of breath, eyes locked together saying everything our mouths were unable to say.

I never let her catch me.  I always maintained a pace that would keep us within ten to fifteen feet of each other, but never, not once, did I allow her to penetrate that fuzzy boundary.  And I wonder now, as I did back then, what was wrong with me that I prolonged the chase and never allowed it to reach a conclusion?  Every year it was as if we resumed the whole endeavor anew, beginning where we had left off the year before, only to leave things unresolved again.  We both understood the rules.  Each of us knew when and where to find the other.  These rules of the game were implicit, unspoken.  We communicated through eye contact and nothing more.

In the end, nothing changed.  The little girl never caught me.  Why not?  Because I could acknowledge my fascination with her, yet I could do so only at a distance.  I sought her attention, yet at the same time I fled from it.  Now I realize that’s the story of my life.  I run from things.  No, I don’t run from things so much as from people, from relationships.  Not only because I’m often scared, but also because I enjoy running.  I love being chased.  It always gave me a sense of power.  Make others chase you, avoid being caught, delight in evasion.  But you see, the problem is that eventually those in pursuit give up on chasing after you.  They disappear and wander off in pursuit of others who play more fairly, who understand that eventually, you have to be caught.  And long after they’re gone, you realize that you’re running all alone.

*This post is actually five years old.  Honestly, I don’t feel much like writing lately.  My apologies.  I’d like to say something about what it feels like to leave Texas, again, not knowing exactly what I’ll be doing three months from now, but I don’t have it in me.  I feel confused.  And sad.  Texas is home.  Rather, it used to be home.  Words seem kind of inadequate at the moment. I may just take a break from WordPress altogether.  We shall see!

*Update: I’ll keep posting, but maybe more like once a week from now on.  That’ll do. 🙂  Thanks, everyone.

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About atomsofthought
Photographer. Traveler. Writer. Reader.

16 Responses to Always On the Run

  1. Anonymous says:

    Please don’t take a break! I love reading your articles.

  2. Texas will always be home. I left for seven years and lived in Switzerland and made my way back. I never told people I was from the USA; if I did, I got a long political rant. I told them I was from TEXAS and they wanted to be friends. You will find your way back, too.

    • Thank you! You’re right–Texas will always be home. I hope I make it back eventually. It’s true: Wherever I’ve gone people have been friendly to me because I’m from Texas, regardless of any stereotypes they have about the state. It always sparks good conversation. Which part of the state did you grow up in?

      Thank you again for the encouragement.

      • I grew up in Dallas, in Oak Cliff. It was like living in a small town when I was a kid. I was born in Oklahoma, so I’m not a “true Texan,” but I still call it home.

  3. pattisj says:

    I’ve been exploring your blog, sifting through your thoughts, trying to get to know you better. I found someone with a deep compassion for mankind, someone seeking they know not what. Maybe you need to slow down and catch up with yourself. Happiness is fleeting, but internal joy that is never shaken awaits you. Praying you find your way.

  4. skippingstones says:

    No apologies necessary, although I’d be lying if I said I haven’t missed you. And was a bit concerned. I’m actually a little relieved to find out that you’re “just” feeling conflicted emotions over moving and changes in your life. I’m not at all belittling your feelings, I’m just glad to find out you weren’t in jail or the hospital or taking time out to move the body or something of that nature. Instead, I find that the feelings you mentioned are things I can understand and relate to, and I think they are pretty normal feelings to be having at this kind of personal juncture. You’re already feeling homesick. I’m imagining second thoughts, nerves at kind of starting over, not to mention all the emotions, frustrations and hassles that come with moving! And your Grandfather. Homesickness, missing your friends and family, the yearnings and backward glances that come with a move like you’re making – it’s like feeling trapped in a box that you made yourself, then stepped into and closed on purpose, all the while thinking, “I’m not sure if this is a good idea.” You’ve got a lot to deal with right now, least of which is the blog.

    As for the writing (and other creative endeavors), sometimes it’s just not in us…but it always comes back. I go through “poetic periods”, times when poetry is just falling out of me. Then I go through stretches, years even, when I feel as though there’s not a poetic bone in my body. Where does it go? How can it be there and then not be there? The bottom line is you don’t have to be “on” all the time. Friends don’t need that from each other. It’s not your responsibility to write these amazing posts for us all the time. They are wonderful and enjoyed, but I agree with pattisj – it is you that brings us back, it is your mind, your thoughts and feelings that come through the writing. Honestly, you said as much in those last lines as you have conveyed in an entire post. You weren’t even “writing” then, you were just talking. But I felt it, and I remembered times in my life when I’ve felt the same way. I still feel sad. I feel nostalgic and homesick and a bit lonely.

    So…
    1. take your time and do what you need for yourself
    2. you don’t have to write the perfect piece of literature every time (Which you pretty much do, but it must be time consuming, a little stressful, etc. I can’t keep up with the longer articles I wanted to produce, so I’m just doing what I can as I go along. Of course, I don’t have your writing ability, but I’m going to pretend that it’s the same kind of situation.)
    3. don’t go

    Wait…I mean you can go if you need to, but don’t go. I mean don’t go. Hmmm…

    Anyway, we would miss you if you just totally disappeared. So don’t do that.

    PS: You’ll get to Tennessee (?, I have Nashville in my head for some reason – maybe just because I’ve been there) and school and it will be great. Wallswithdoors is right, once your home, always your home. You don’t have to live there for it to be home. As an interesting side note, remember she just made a courageous move herself – leaving her job of 15 (?, I think) years. You guys are inspiring me to be bold myself, to look for my happiness instead of waiting for it.

    Also, in addition, another PS: The rest of the post was also fantastic. I almost hate to tell you, since I just got finished saying how you don’t have to keep writing masterpieces for us. But I loved it. It is a way of controlling the situation, yourself and the other person. And yet, by maintaining the distance and control, you eventually realize you’ve lost control. What you purposely held at arms length was just far enough away that it was impossible to maintain the grip. My question is (always, as you know), “Why?” Why keep the distance, why fear the relationship? Is it better to keep your distance and not get truly hurt? It is a loss, but perhaps not a debilitating heartbreak when you lose the person. Or is it better to allow yourself to pull that person in, and yourself be pulled in, even though it may lead to heartbreak? Is it better to have loved and lost, or never to have loved at all? (I’m going to be so completely selfish and ask you again not to completely disappear. I’m not done talking to you yet.)

  5. ‘it’s like feeling trapped in a box that you made yourself, then stepped into and closed on purpose, all the while thinking, “I’m not sure if this is a good idea.”’ So well said! Yes, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m shocked that you read so well into what I was saying, when I barely said anything. Well, not really shocked… It just goes to show hoa incredibly insightful and empathetic you are. And I REALLY beg to differ. I think you write very well, and I love your blog… which WordPress tells me no longer exists. Are you going to bring it back? I hope so. I haven’t been keeping up with many blogs over the last couple of weeks, but I’m back on top of it now, and I wanted to see what you had posted lately, and your blog is gone 😦

    Thank you for telling me exactly what I needed to hear. It means a lot. You didn’t have to take the time to do that, but you did it anyway. And I would be a moron to disappear completely and break the wonderful connections and relationships I’ve made through blogging. So, selfishly, I’lll stick around. I’ll just post what I can and that will be enough. But please resurrect your site, too!

    And, regarding what you said about the rest of the post, you’re right: “Why fear the relationship?” It’s crazy how fully certain parts of personalities, certain habits and attitudes are formed when we’re so young. It’s hard to go against them once we’re older.

    Thank you again.

    • skippingstones says:

      That is my brave and bold baby step – actually saying things I’m thinking. I guess it should be easy here, because people don’t really know you. But like you said, you are what you are – what you feel and think, your attitudes are ingrained since childhood. And it’s not like typing into a void. There is a person on the other end and, though you haven’t met face to face, you still care what they think. Rejection doesn’t have to be in person to hurt. But I am making myself do it, because you never know if what you’re saying is what they needed to hear.

      My blog is still there,but moved to steadilyskippingstones.wordpress.com I didn’t do the forwarding thing, because I don’t get many visitors, but of course you’re the third person who asked where I was, and then I realized you and one other person have me on your blogroll. That’s an example of doing first and thinking second.

      Changing subjects again: I read an article about the neural paths that are created and how they are strengthened every time we repeat the behavior or thought. Basically, for better or worse, the path is created and the next time the same situation occurs we always just naturally follow that same path, then the path gets stronger each time it’s used. That path turns into a highway – easy to create in the beginning, but hard to tear down once the asphalt’s been laid.

      I’ve brought it up somewhere before, I just can’t remember where (so if it was here and this sounds repetitive, sorry). But it takes great effort to change those pathways, unless it’s something major, that makes such a deep impression on us that the original pathway is broken. In that case, the new pathway that’s created is way stronger than the first. I’ll have to see if I can find that article again.

      I guess it’s psychology that interests me, and I’m wondering, “Okay, yes, but what made you that way? What made you fear the relationship?” What was it that created that first path? The thing is that it could have been something really small and relatively insignificant that planted the seed of doubt or fear or whatever it is. But it wasn’t insignificant. It was such a small thing that you’d never figure it out – the roots of the issue – but it turned into something big, something that effects the way you live your life. Pretty interesting.

  6. Very interesting childhood story. You know what I”m thinking…..of course you do.

    Essays on Childhood, with the focus on boyhood. This would be a great story for that!

    Part of what grabs me in the story is that you had a partner in this, a committed partner who did this WITH you over time, and quite consistently. Fascinating.

    Perhaps part of the mystery is finding out why people chase, as well as why you run. From a simple biological standpoint, they reinforce each other. Maybe one day you will find someone who stands still when you take off and you may find yourself not moving.

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. Another interesting aspect to it was that she and I were normal friends otherwise… nothing awkward whatsoever. So the carnival was kind of a break from the normal. It existed outside of our ordinary circumstances, and maybe we were trying on different roles because of that… And maybe we had hit an age where we realized that these roles were negotiated or worked out between each other and we were figuring out how to go about it. It’s easy for me to analyze now, but I devoted a lot of time to thinking about this whole routine when it was happening too. I was a weirdo. 😉

  7. anda says:

    I think it makes sense that you posted an essay about running when you are perhaps running from writing about what is going on in the present for you. I might be projecting, but I know for me it is often hard to stay in the present with confusion or sadness–I want to run from it to an answer and to happiness, I also know that you don’t need to apologize for not writing; this quiet, no-writing time is also part of writing. I’m sure you know that–just a reminder.

    • Thank you. The reminder always helps. You’re right: without these occasional quiet periods writing would become nearly impossible. And I’d say that your take on what I wrote is dead on. Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

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