There’s an image from when I was a kid that plays over and over in my head way too many times for me to count. It’s one I can’t shake, of my mother running away from the side of the house and to the front, and then down the street in the rain, chasing after someone I couldn’t see. I ran behind her to the front of the house, but never saw who or what she was chasing. It wasn’t until my father got home that afternoon, after the police showed up at the house, spoke to my mother and wrote some things down, that I realized she’d been chasing a thief away from our house. And that he’d broken in and was prepared to use one of our steak knives as a weapon, but dropped it when he saw my mom, and even after she saw the thief, and the knife, she ran after him anyway.
There’s something about that day that I’ve never been able to shake. Ever since then I’ve found myself running after something I can’t see. Found myself chasing away something I can’t place my finger on. It’s been 40 years since that day, but that pattern persists in my life. I’m always running. Chasing something away. It was only recently that I realized that it could only be one of two things: either I’m running after something that is unattainable, something that I’m not worthy of having and never have been. Something I wasn’t meant to catch up to.
Or maybe I’m chasing away joy. Happiness. Contentment. Success. Sense of being. It must be I’m chasing away whatever it is that is making me feel less than, but not in a good way. I’m chasing it away even though I can’t see it. Even though I’ve never seen it. Felt it. Never seen it staring me in the face the way my mother must’ve seen that thief staring at her, knife in hand, before running away. She ran after it with all she had. I feel like I do that same thing, but for all the wrong reasons. Like, I’ve spent my whole life running away from who I’m supposed to be and have never figured out why.
Some days I chase away the blues. Some days it’s chasing away what’s good for me. But it’s something I can’t see, just like I couldn’t see who or what my mom was chasing all those years ago. I guess that’s the thing about running. After a while it just becomes habit. Vice. Survival. Denial. Instinct. Life.
I try my best reconcile those thoughts every time they play in my head, of eight year old me watching my mother run after whatever was trying to literally attempt to steal her joy. I always wanted to be like her, and be ready to pounce in order to protect what was mine. I’ve just never been able to identify what I was chasing away. The bad or the good. I’ve never been able to make sense of what makes me overthink and fail miserably time and again at doing what’s best for me, even 40 years later. I’m still trying to figure it out. Trying to come to terms with the fuzzy images from that day, and the fuzzy logic I’ve used to justify what my life has been. I’m hoping I figure it out soon, before it’s too late. Before whatever good gets completely away, or before I get too tired of chasing away the bad. I hope I’m able to figure out how to be like my mom. Selfless. Ready for a fight to protect what’s hers. I want to get there. Soon. One day.
In the meantime… at least I’ve got the running part right.