“I hate you! I hate all of you! I’m running away and you’ll never see me again!” Grabbing my Barbie backpack loaded with toys, a sweater and a lunch bag full of cookies, I ran out the back door. Never to be seen again.
My life, over run by three monstrous brothers, became too much that fall afternoon in 1961. At nine-years-old, I was pushed into a corner with no one to stand by my side (both parents were out of the house). I felt my only recourse was to run far, far away… to the fort in our back yard.
There I stood in a damp, moldy-smelling wooden structure my older brother, David, constructed earlier that summer. The lumber was rotting and the roof appeared to be held up by a complicated system of leaning sticks. I was afraid to sit anywhere, terrified the entire thing would topple over me. Nails popped out of every board and just touching a wall made it precariously sway from side to side.
But after a half hour, when all my cookies were eaten and cold air wafted through the wooden slats leaving me chilled to my underwear, I quickly decided perhaps it was time I ran away to my bedroom instead. At least there I’d be warm. If I got hungry, I could sneak to the kitchen when no one was looking, and bring a snack back to my safe haven. One thing was clear: I could not live the rest of my life without cookies.
Webster defines a “runaway” as a fugitive who leaves an uncongenial situation. At nine, as far as I was concerned, my whole world was without doubt “uncongenial” and absolutely unpleasant. I knew there was a better life for me elsewhere, but I soon discovered just how wrong and stupid I’d been. No, I had to go back inside, make a stand, and face my brother’s school boy torture. I’m happy to say my stinky siblings saw the light (once I tattled to my mother upon her return) and decided to stop pestering me…as much. I never ran away again.
Growing up brought other moments where the only recourse felt like fleeing the scene. There were the numerous times I rear-ended another car because I was yakking with a girlfriend, the tearful break up with a boyfriend, cheating on a test I didn’t study for or being caught in a lie. Escape is a very seductive solution to life’s hiccups, both big and small.
Then there was my big debut in the musical, “Mame,” in college. Dancing my little heart out, my Ziegfield Follies’ silver sequin, spaghetti-strapped bikini costume (direct from Warner Bros. and vintage 1940) disintegrated as I twirled center stage. This left me totally exposed in front of a full house of family, friends…and the basketball team. Talk about wanting to vanish!
Recently, I ran away to Capitola Beach for two days. My life at home was feeling dull, dark, and depressing. My emotions were scattered, the dog was bugging me, the weather was frigid, and there were no more cookies in the house. Watching the majestic waves curl in and out, I grew mesmerized and calm. With the help of nature’s beauty, I became centered, rested, grounded and ready to face my world again.
Returning home, I found nothing had changed. The crazy dog was still there, the weather was yucky and the Girl Scout cookies had yet to arrive, but my emotions were intact and I knew what I needed to do to proceed. I felt reborn and revitalized.
Sometimes, we have no choice but to push through adverse moments. As my costume went flying off my body, with the very little God gifted me with for all to see, I quickly exited stage left knowing my required course of action. I took a breath, got pinned back together (plan to cry later), and re-entered as if nothing happened. The show must go on, after all. Later, I could hide in my dorm room until the dust of humiliation settled.
For all of us, life can get pretty heavy at times and all we want to do is crawl under a rock until it goes away. Occasionally we’re lucky and if we remove ourselves from the situation and give it a rest, all falls back into place – or at least our emotions do and we can begin to face the underlying obstacle once again.
March is Girl Scout Cookie month. When those adorable little girls ring your doorbell, I suggest you become adventurous and buy a case. As you chow down on Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties, think of it as a mini holiday. You’ll also be contributing to a good cause. Children will get to go to camp with the money they raise and you’ll come back to reality refreshed (maybe a little chubbier), refocused and ready to forge ahead.
We all have only one life. Care for it mind, body and soul. PLAN A VACATION!