Run Away or Return Home
The longing to escape, jump in the car and run away to a deserted island, has returned with the return of Sam and Thorin. At night, I toss and turn with a racing mind and a body ready for flight.
During the last few years of marriage (when things were unraveling and divorce was imminent), I dreamt of living alone in a house at the beach where I could do whatever I wanted, simple activities like swim in the ocean, walk along the beach, collect seashells, read, write. Not that I didn’t want to be doing much of what I was doing (being a mother, finishing my MFA degree, etc.), but that I felt like I was doing it all to other people’s timetables and expectations and at the same time being judged short in the process.
Now that I am revisiting the longing to run away, the yearning to go anywhere but home, I am surprised to discover that what I most wanted/want to escape are my feelings, and I am reminded of the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Then, like now, I felt overwhelmed to an extreme level, and I felt like I was going crazy. The pressure of too much responsibility, of taking on too much, of going it alone, of not knowing what to do crushed me. Also, I lost sight of self and priorities. I felt as though circumstances were thrust upon me that I had no control over and could do nothing about. Placed in an impossible situation, I felt powerless, stressed, confused, and inadequate. Invisible.
While there are many parallels in our current situation, I am grateful for this experience because it is helping me pinpoint, articulate, and process these emotions and because I recognize that it is not the same and that I am not the same. There are things I can and have done to help the situation, and I am not alone. Not only do I have many amazing people around me, but also God is with me. This time, I know that it will be resolved, it will get better, and I will survive it.
The girls are also learning powerful lessons from this experience. They have missed Sam and Thorin the past three years and have wanted them to come live with us. Now they are seeing why I said no. After walking Sam last night, Laina said, “I can’t take this anymore. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted, and I have scratches and bruises on my arms from Sam pulling on the leash.”
They are also seeing how one cannot really go back. Perhaps they imagined an idealized version of reality where having Sam and Thorin live with them again would be recapturing their earlier childhood or where it would be a parent trap and bring their childhood family together again. I am not discounting the fact that they love the dogs, and if I had a full-time job and we lived in a house with a backyard, it would not even be an issue. At the same time, our lives are very different now because things change and people change.
In his poem, “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost says:
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
We cannot go back. Even if we moved back to the same town, the same house, and the same family, we have all grown, changed, moved on. We are different people with different lives. Not good or bad different, simply different. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever go back and revisit the past but that you return as a new person.
Part of returning to something is seeing who you have become and how far you’ve come. Transformation is not complete until after a homecoming. Think of Homer’s Odysseus or Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter. Having our Missouri dogs transplanted into our Florida lives is a form of homecoming, though I still need to make the trek up north someday soon for a true homecoming. For now, we are realizing our renewed selves and lives.
At the same time, I am also longing for home. The whole purpose behind Nehemiah building the wall was the return and protection of the people. They uprooted the lives they had built to return home to “their own towns.” In the study, Kelly Minter writes, “But I am not home, and home is where I am most at rest.” Home is where we sleep at night. Home is where we feel most safe. Home is where our loved ones are. Home is what is familiar, comfortable, and loved.
Here, in Florida, my condo is my home, my girls are my home. Sunshine, ocean waves, palm trees, and cats are my home. We have created a safe and happy home here.
Yet we miss home: extended family, the autumn air and turning leaves of the Ozarks, Scrabble and Bridge tournaments, the spring buds and robins of Missouri, traditional family events like Apple Butter Day, snow days, and the roaring rivers, towering Oak trees, and colossal cliffs.
This week’s study of Nehemiah ends with celebration and joy and relates the story of when the people stayed in “booths” (like tents) for a week to remember how far they’d come and how God works in our lives. Thus, today I reflect on the art of homecoming as well as healing and hope and appreciation.
Have you ever yearned to run away or longed to return home? Have you ever experienced both at the same time?! Would love to hear your experiences!!