It is hard to stop running. It is hard to stop running once you start running.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, in a land not too far away, not over the seven mountains or behind seven lush forests or anything, but here. Right here. Someone lived there. I am not exactly sure why I used the past tense here, because that someone is still alive.
Allow me to start over: once upon a time, not so long ago and in a land not too far away, there was someone who introduced him or herself as someone else.
Like countless others, I had been given (fed) information: often, no, mostly discouraging information about who I was supposed to be. And I came to believe all of that and build an identity loosely held together by shame, booze, and obligation, or at least the idea of it.
I thought it would get easier with time, but the opposite turned out to be true. The longer I kept up the lie, the harder my life became and the more I suffered.
I knew something was missing, but wasn't quite sure what. But I came to understand soon enough that one lie leads to the creation of many others, to keep your cover. Deconstructing one truth leads to unraveling the rest. I was terrified all the time.
I tried so hard to keep a false silence in my head. But the truth kept seeping through. I tried to silence that truth with alcohol. That helped for a while. Just a minute though. Until it all got so loud I couldn't do anything but listen.
In a span of what seemed like an eternity, I committed myself to be true. I left my partner and began to explore everything that I thought defined me, and I concluded that I was never really lost. I was just hiding.
All my life I have been running from something. My childhood years and youth were a collage of poverty and abuse. To escape I had to demand perfection from myself. I knew I had to leave to improve myself. To be my best. No, not true: THE best.
I could not wait to leave my childhood home. It would be an act of resistance, but also liberation. My intuition was screaming for me to go. I had to get away from that place where I knew I didn't belong. I would strive for perfection and I would arrive somewhere. Somewhere else, somewhere better!
But my urgency to get somewhere soon turned out to be a hurry up and go nowhere act. My gut told me to shut up. How could it be, otherwise, that was the only thing I had ever learned. And old habits die hard.
My book of life unfolded the way it would in an old-fashioned movie: get married, have kids, work, until the end credits started rolling, too fast for me to be able to read them.
I was back on the hamster wheel. What had gotten me out of my unhealthy situation had led me straight into more of the same. So, I went looking again. Searching for something that was missing.
Perhaps I had tried to move past the damage of my offended childhood too quickly. I wanted so much to grow and prosper, to be who I was meant to be. But secrets and shame grew even faster and my pace started to slow down...I was rejected more than accepted.
To become yourself, you must first lose who they told you, you are. And that can take a long time.
Depression and anxiety constantly pumped pauses on my creativity and productivity. It wreaked havoc on my self-confidence and self-esteem. Everything was threatened by my hunger for validation. With the return of each dark episode in this gall-black cycle, I became convinced that I would never get anywhere or heal because I simply didn't know how to do it.
I had to escape and thought alcohol was the solution. I was sure that I would find the solution at the bottom. The bottom of another bottle.
I was a fast drinker. I could drink anyone under the table.
How could I heal or become happy if I kept drinking my feelings away? But I was in a hurry. Hurry to find something that my fogged brain could not define.
I hated myself and everything around me. I hated the alcohol I needed to survive the hate. I drank to feel better, drank to forget, drank to avoid.
I knew I could not go on like this. It turned out that I knew very little. The people around me didn't know much either. Their fear of confrontation, their blissful ignorance, and my excellent ability to conceal myself kept me trapped in the dark. I had to get out. I had to get out of that darkness, where I wasn't who people thought I was.
I had to start cleaning. And that meant it got even messier at first.
The alcohol kept me from seeing myself. But I was not seen by anyone in general. Healing never happens along a straight line. It got messy, indeed. What seemed like progress masked myriad fears. Even though I was sober, I kept avoiding. What seemed like joy belied sadness, and my emotions darkened even more.
I still kept myself away from myself. I was on my way to self-destruct, but no one noticed.
Was my pace too fast, or did people simply get used to it?
I had to learn to be comfortable with uncomfortable feelings.
The closer I was to someone, the harder I was to see. Like I had to prove my existence.
Considering how long it took me to get to know myself, can I blame others for never knowing me either?
It took years to find the words in a language I understood to find the need to affirm my identity.
I did not value myself or my right to happiness. I did not give myself the value I needed for that.
I began to choose to be an example of truth. The risks of getting stuck in a character from a wrong play were too great. I was angry, outraged, and absent. And I was tired of being angry, indignant, and not present. My unhappiness overflowed. I wanted to get better. I had to get better. I began to choose to be an example of truth and to show how important it is to be true to yourself.
I am often accused of my pace being too fast. Not my physical pace, but the speed with which I expect, or even assume, that people can follow and keep up with my ideas. I must admit that a busy brain wants to keep me constantly moving. My body and mind feel like they are on fire, and the only thing that can put out the pain is honesty.
It is hard to stop running. It is hard to stop running once you start.
At what point should my expectation of being seen be justified? How patient should I be? How long should I be patient? What is the pace I need to keep, to feel validated and affirmed? How many of those who kept my wounds open must I leave behind?
I finally learned who I am. I will never stop here. I will not stop now.
Bigots and zealots, tell me I'm crazy. That I don't understand how things work. That I'm wrong, that I'd better learn about Jesus and His gospel instead of claiming I know what I need or assuming I deserve better.
Maybe it's not my pace that is too fast, but the pace of the others that is not fast enough. At what rate does the world make sense, for anyone? In what gear are people willing to push themselves to face their truth?
I couldn't accept what I have always known, and it took me forever to do so. Fortunately, the fire in my soul never went out.
I've been lonely, I've waded in muddy waters, and I've traveled to dark places. I was ashamed and sank deeper with every step. I sank to the bottom No one tried to pull me out. Nobody saw me.
Then I stopped fighting. I stopped fighting and started walking. I found a new way. I found my way out.
And now that I'm back on solid ground, I can run as well as walk. I no longer run from anything. I no longer run out of fear; I run from fear.
My speed is high, and that is a good thing. It is the pace that gets me where I want to be. My pace!