I am 36 years old, and I ran away from home.
I ran away from home.
I ran away.
No matter how I break it down, the truth is that I was breaking. I’ve been under an enormous strain lately, and it shows. I’ve barely touched the novel I’m writing. Even my blogging has taken a hit because I haven’t written as much as I usually do. I’ve been too busy sorting out stress and trying to figure out how to start over. I’ve been impatient with my children, and they, in turn, have picked up on my stress levels and have been difficult to manage. When their dad asked to take them on a week’s vacation, I had no choice but to agree. Not only is that sort of visitation clearly outlined in our divorce agreement, I want my kids to have a great relationship with their dad and his wife and her kids. They headed off to Florida, and I started to feel the four walls of my home close in on me.
I love my home. Let me say that first. I love it. But I’ve been cracking under all the stress of these last few months, and I needed a break. My budget was so small as to be laughable, but I’m clever with money. I decided that I needed a short getaway, a couple of days would be enough, and I began looking for cheap accommodations. I found them at a campsite with a teepee, and the affordable price included breakfast. It was also near the beach and near a national park I’d been longing to see. I packed up, told only a select few friends, and headed out. I didn’t want to hear all the people who would discourage me from traveling alone. I didn’t want to hear the judgment of people who thought I shouldn’t spend the money on a small trip for myself. I’ve scrimped and saved for months to get by, and I wanted this small escape for me. With a small bag packed, I gassed up my car and headed out of town.
The closer I got to the beach, the more I could breathe. I felt the weight of months of financial stress and heartache slide off my shoulders. I didn’t bring my laptop. I only brought a handstitched journal and pen. Anything I wrote would have to be handwritten. I didn’t bring any self-help books or nonfiction. Anything I read would have to be purely for pleasure. I brought bug spray, sunscreen, and hopes that this escape would be healing for me.
It wasn’t enough for me just to get away. I drove nearly 5 hours, took a ferry, and went to Cumberland Island National Park. The ferry left me there for the day and came back to get me later. By that time, I had spent 4 hours wandering trails alone, seeing wild horses, admiring the peacefulness of the estuaries and marshes on the island, finding my own personal strength in the ruins of Dungeness, walking the beaches, and finding such a sense of calm and self-possession under the twisting live oaks with their draping Spanish moss. I ran away to a wild and primitive island, and I found myself there.
The me-me. The core of me. The wild version of me buried underneath stress and expectation and heartache and responsibility. I unearthed her. I brushed off the dust. I brought her into the light. At last, I felt healing.
I couldn’t stay long. My kids would be home soon, and I still had things to get done before they came home. But for a couple of days, I ran away from home. It’s what I needed. I slept in a teepee and walked beaches alone. I wandered around a forest in true forest bathing fashion. I read books for pleasure and wrote about my trip in my journal. I didn’t watch any television or entertain myself with anything but a book, a journal, and the most incredible natural beauty that I found along the way. I let my hair go wild, curling in a way I usually don’t allow. I went to bed early and woke up to the bright morning sun and got out of bed when I felt like it. I reset myself. I began to heal.
I’m 36, and I ran away from home. I let myself heal. Then I packed up my belongings, got back in my car, and headed home again. Stronger this time. Calmer. And ready for whatever comes next.
*Disclaimer* Running away is great when you’re 36 and a writer who can work anywhere. My kids were cared for, those arrangements made in advance. This isn’t to advocate for minors to run away or for people to run out on partners, children, or jobs for the sake of healing. Please run away as responsibly as you can. But, by all means, find your healing.