The Second Time I Ran Away From Home

“As surely as there is a voyage away, there is a journey home.” ~ Jack Kornfield

The first time I ran away from home, I didn’t go far, made it half-way round the block. But the distance didn’t matter to my eight-year old self. The fact that I let myself go, did.

The first time I ran away as a mom, I didn’t go far either, made it half way up my own state. But the distance didn’t matter to my 45-year old self. The fact that I let myself go, did.

Sometimes in life the right thing is running away. Sometimes when we say we are “just taking a trip” or “getting away for the weekend” we are, in truth, running away. It’s just when we grow up, running away loses the badge of honor it had when we were kids. When we get big, it’s no longer cool to run away. It’s even shunned upon, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer needed.

One summer, not too long ago, I needed to run away. I was flying solo with my boys, ten and six at the time. My husband was traveling and working way over over time, which meant we wouldn’t really be seeing him, except maybe in our sleep.  Whatever was going to happen that summer, I had to be up for it solo. And I was starting to smell her salty sweet perfume. Summer was getting dangerously close. I was also starting to sense that motley mix of gratitude for the expanse of time ahead with my swiftly growing sons and fear. Fear of what might become of me and my children with so much time on our hands all alone in our home…all summer long.

Summer camps in Los Angeles are exceedingly expensive and this was not a summer for exceeding expenses. Exceeding expenses mean Dad has to work even more which means even less of Dad in our lives. We didn’t need less of Dad in our lives.  

June came faster than she promised, and the endless days of sun and heat and nothing to do began. And not so slowly but definitely surely, I began to lose it. My center, she started slipping. I could hear it in my voice. The slight shrill rising in my requests to please pick up this and that and turn off that and this and PLEASE take a shower! And then one day, she left, my center. She dropped out of me somewhere. Maybe out on the sidewalk, not sure.

Parenting young children all summer long, can cause even the most conscientious and patient parent to lose his or her sense of their very selves. Being the baby-sitter, housekeeper, playmate, cook, therapist, nurse and more on call 24/7 makes it so easy for our understanding of where we begin and end and where our kids begin and end to slip away. Without the space and time apart that the school days provide, it’s hard for a parent to see straight, let alone see themselves clearly.

So I hatched a plan….

“Road trip!” I announced to my boys.

“Let’s run away!” I said to myself.

“Why?” they protested.

“For fun! Of course!” I informed them.

“To get some seriously needed space and hopefully find your mom’s missing sense of self,” I answered to myself.

“When?” they asked.

“In Two Days people!” I exclaimed, “So let’s pack our bags! It’ll be an adventure! It’ll be so fun!  Promise!”

“Promise, I am going to do my best to find you,” I whispered to myself.

Einstein says you can’t solve a problem from the same state of mind that you used to create it.  “You must learn to see the world anew,” said the genius.  Losing my center was definitely a problem. And I could not think of a better way to see the world differently, than to see it from a different place. And the place I chose was due north. Once upon a time, before kids, before marriage, I had lived up there. I had found myself up there. Maybe she was still there waiting for me?

Thank my lucky stars my boys were still little enough to be blindsided by my sheer enthusiasm. (Desperation can mask well under enthusiasm, so parenting has taught me.) They were also up for watching movies for hours as mom did the dirty work of driving California’s Interstate 5.  For my virgin solo road trip with kids, I allowed myself and them some creature comforts. They got to watch movies without interruption, and I got to not be interrupted.  Such a deal!

To San Francisco and beyond, over the bridge and through the woods, we made it to Marin County.  Marin was the first place I had ever lived where the place and me, we were in love, enmeshed really.  I was in my early twenties, who knows really how old she was, didn’t matter.  I needed the bodacious curves of her hills and deep crevices of her sumptuous valleys.  I needed her crazy.  And I really felt like she needed me, like she had been waiting all eternity for me. And I was back now with my boys. I couldn’t wait to wake the next morning to see what magic Marin had in store for us.

Fog.  Fog, was what Marin brought for breakfast the next day. To be expected this time of year. I had forgotten, but I was fine with it, totally. My boys though, had a different opinion, and they made sure I heard it well all day long, and for the next day and the next. For each day we were there, there was the fog.

“This isn’t the BEACH in SUMMER!!” was the main protest. For native Southern Californians, this is true.  For them you can see and enjoy the beach in summer, because it’s clear, warm and sunny.  And my native Southern Caifornia sons wanted the summer they knew and loved.  I got it, but I didn’t give up.  We had one more day.  And I had noticed a break in the clouds further north.  I begged the boys to get in the car again and come with me. They protested, but truly, I asked, “What else do you have to do?”

Driving due north again, I followed the sun. She brought us to Bolinas and a small crescent shaped bay with a flat beach and tide pools. Shangri-La!  Of course the boys refused to get out of the car.  But again, truly I asked, “What else did you have to do?”

“Just get out and start walking,” a little voice said inside my head.  So I did.  I peeked back at the car a few times. No movement.  “Just keep walking,” the little voice got stern. “Okay,” I said, so I did.  And then I heard a car door open.

The sand was white and warm to the toe touch.  The water was royal blue, so formal.  And the tide pools were lying out and glistening in the sun, just being gorgeous.  What a welcome!

Little foot stomps sounded behind me.

“Were you just going to leave us there in the car all alone?!?!?!” I think they cried in unison.

“Don’t be silly,” I said, “But I am going for a walk.”

“And leave us here all alone?!?!?!”

“You are welcome to come with me!” I offered knowing the answer and getting giddy about it.

“No way!” I think they again cried in unison.

“You’ll be just fine. This is a crescent bay, it’s curved in, I can see you all the way down the beach and back.  I’ll keep checking on you.  Check out the tide pools!!  And don’t go into the water any deeper!!”

Tide pools are mother nature’s gift to parents of young children. Seriously.  And they were off into exploring them.  And so was I, off to go exploring.  I’d be lying if I said I felt totally comfortable walking away from my young children on an unknown and apparently deserted beach. But the very topography of the landscape allowed me to watch over them, as I made some space between us.

And that little voice kept nagging me to, “Keep walking!” 

So I did.  I sauntered slowly at first through the shallow ripples of waves, my back to my boys, while sneaking peeks at them.  “Oh get on with it!” I finally yelled out loud to myself.  And I walked faster and faster. I dropped into my feet and dropped my feet into the sand, with each step.  With each step I dropped away from everything I told myself I was.  And I just…was.  I was just there. 

Do you know a place so breathtakingly beautiful to you that all you can do there is breathe?  Everything there is enough.  Including you.  You are enough, just you standing there breathing.

It came time to turn around. I watched as the little specs of life I helped create, came into fuller view. They had moved further onshore into the base of a small cliff. They were busy. And as they turned to face me, they were beaming.

“We made tools mama!! We’re carving into the stone and making tools for our survival!” my eldest announced. “Tools mama tools!” his little bro screeched barely containing his bright spirit.

Tools created and uncovered in the rocks. Two young boys alone in nature will do what they know how to do, make tools, make meaning….I was flooded with gratitude for my little gurus.  Tools.  Of course!  We all need tools, it’s in our human nature, it’s in our desire to survive and thrive.  Travel is my tool.  Travel to places I resound with brings me back to me.  What a useful and wise tool to use.

I thought I was running away.  I thought I was running away from something and dragging my boys along.  But I wasn’t running away from anything.  I was running to something, to my home, to me.