Monday, January 7, 2019

Running Away or Running Toward Something -- A Defining Choice.

I know a man who is 5 weeks away from beginning another solo run across the United States. This will be his seventh crossing in 12 years -- and his second within the past year! All totaled, he has already run nearly 20,000 miles back and forth across America, and he'll add another 3,000 miles this spring. He is married, with children and grandchildren, and resides in Sweden. I've had a few face-to-face encounters with him and tend to be quite puzzled as to why he continues to leave his family and home country to run repeatedly across the United States all alone. He doesn't run to promote any charity – to raise money or awareness of any particular cause – and is not a professional athlete. He pays for all of these crossings out of his own pocket, and my own run across America in 2006 totaled about $7,000 to complete. Now, imagine multiplying that number by seven. I'm guessing the Swedish man has spent at least $50,000 to run back and forth across America.

I've met many ultra-marathon runners and journey runners (those who like to run across states and countries). There are certainly instances when I have believed that the runner is actually running away from something rather than toward something. They often use the worn-out lines of "I like to challenge myself" or "I crave adventure" or "I like seeing new places and meeting new faces." Well, after awhile it can seem that the person simply doesn't want to be in his or her life where they are. It's almost as if they are constantly looking to escape -- to lace up their shoes and head out the door.

Heidi Priebe is a young author who contributes to Thought Catalog, an online magazine which serves as a platform for emerging and seasoned writers. Ms. Priebe wrote a piece that I want to share with you today.

"The Truth About People Who Are Always Running Away"
by Heidi Priebe

There’s a certain romance associated with running away from one’s problems. It’s one of our favorite tropes: The hero or heroine gets their heart broken or their dreams stripped away from them and so they hit the road. They reinvent themselves. They start over.

We like this cliché because it’s one that centers on empowerment. We like to believe that any struggle we’re up against can be risen above by simply abandoning it. By changing our environment, shifting our mindset and bracing ourselves to start all over. We like to think that being bold enough to step outside our comfort zones is all it takes to reinvent ourselves.

And to an extent, this is the genuine truth. There are times in life when we need to detach. To step outside of our regular environments. To allow ourselves the chance to change everything.

But this strategy has its limits.

The problem is that when you’ve been running from things for long enough, you inevitably realize that you’re actually only comfortable when you’re on the move.

To the people who run away from everything, leaving will always be more comfortable than staying. Running will always be easier than remaining. Packing up your life and flinging it into a state of perpetual chaos is your way of staying comfortable, rather than your way of embracing discomfort.

Because as long as you’re always the one leaving, you’re always the one in control.

You’re the one calling the shots. You’re the one choosing that chaos. If your heart is breaking every single step of the way, then you’re the one cracking it open. And you’re comfortable there. You know how to handle those self-inflicted wounds. To you, leaving poses no real risk.

What’s scary is actually staying. What’s scary is investing. What’s scary is opening your life up to a situation or a person or a circumstance that’s not entirely within your control, with no guarantee that it’s going to work out in your favor.

What’s scary is building a life that you cannot escape from the second something goes wrong and every nerve inside your body flips into high alert, telling you to get out and protect yourself at any cost. What’s scary is being personally or financially or emotionally invested in something that you have anything less than complete autonomy over. That is what’s out of your comfort zone. That is what’s profoundly and unequivocally terrifying.

The truth about people who run away from everything is that they aren’t any more bold or courageous than anyone else. They’re simply only comfortable when they’re in control. They’re comfortable with problems that can be solved by purchasing a plane ticket or packing a bag up or moving on from whatever it is that is tearing at them. They’re comfortable with self-inflicted change but not externally imposed change. They’re comfortable within their physically mobile bubble of emotional security.

And ironically, when you know yourself to be one of these people, the only cure lies in following the very advice that began the whole cycle. The answer lies in stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. It lies in staying when your impulses are telling you to go. It lies in remaining focused and letting yourself follow through on what actually matters, even if it’s unsettling to do so.

Because at the end of the day, the entire art of living rests within that careful balance of staying and going. It rests within the understanding of when to run and when to stand your ground. When to give in and when to hold strong. When to abandon it all and start over and when to stay and fight for what you have.

At the end of the day, we’re all focused on and influenced by the core, primal fear that we will not be enough – not enough if we stay, not enough if we go, not enough if we stay hopelessly stuck in between the two, never deciding one way or another.

And the only way to fight that fear is to challenge it – to embrace it, measure up to it and stare it down. To refuse to run away when it matters. Because you’ll know when it matters. And it’s what you choose to do in those moments that ends up making all of the difference.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso