Thursday, March 24, 2016

Walking Away

Raise your hand if you’ve ever dreamed about dropping everything and just walking away from it all. Oh my! Look at that ocean of hands. I’m not talking about frustrated, children screaming, the boss is on your case, Calgon, Take Me Away moments that many people experience several times a week. I’m talking about standing on the curb, watching a bus go by, and counting out the cash in your pocket to see if you have the money for a ticket without making an extra stop. I’m talking about sitting at that intersection knowing that turning right is the way you go every day but turning left … goes everywhere else, and being unsure which direction you’re going until the blinker turns on. I’m talking about, “If I don’t tell anyone my real name and only use cash …” I’m talking about that moment when the coin is spinning in the air, and it’s even odds on which way you go when it comes down.

There are less hands now, but I suspect that are still quite a few. Especially if you know no one is looking. There is no judgment here. I know that you’ve never told anyone, not even the people closest to you, but you’ve seriously considered it. I promise not to tell on you, but can I tell you a secret? You’re not alone. It’s a more common thought than you might realize. In fact, many of those people you’re not telling have probably considered the same thing, and just as seriously have you have.

I think most of us face that moment at least once in our lives. Personally, I’ve been there four times that I can remember. I’ve actually done the whole sitting at a stoplight thinking about turning left instead of right for so long that traffic piled up behind me. I’ve been stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire and thought, “If I just stick my thumb out going that way instead …” I once got as far as walking to the next town over (about fourteen miles at the time) and introducing myself to people I met along the way under a fake name. Then of course there was the time I walked away without realizing it, the time I woke up in a field with no memory of how I got there. The one that started most of this journey. Believe me, I’ve been there. I understand.

I’ve also talked with enough people under enough circumstances to feel pretty confident in my prediction that this is a common occurrence. Maybe not so common to the extent that I have taken it, but common just the same. I truly do believe that most people face this kind of crisis at least once in their lives, and what makes it worse is that we don’t talk about it. It’s embarrassing. If you’ve actually considered quitting, that’s a sign of weakness, and we don’t share weakness. Nevermind that this is nonsense. So much of our culture is nonsense, so why should this be any different? Most of the people who have considered walking away didn’t do it, so must have been stronger than all that in the first place. Even if it were a sign of weakness, though, when we’re feeling weak is exactly when we do need to share. That’s the whole point of sharing! That’s what it’s all about, helping each other stand through periods of weakness.

Facing a crisis is nothing to be embarrassed about. If you’re living, you’re going to face crises. Some you’ll sail through with relative ease, and some will give you a beating. The more crises you face, the more likely you are to face one the tough ones. That’s just the law of averages. Tough crises are going to happen, but tough crises can be good teachers. Sometimes the most important lessons are the hardest to learn. Sometimes you may have to face the same crisis more than once to get the lesson learned. If we can talk about these things, it might go better. We may be able to share notes and get a better handle on what works and what doesn’t work.

I won’t tell you not to be frustrated. That’s one thing that doesn’t work. You’re going to be frustrated, and trying to pretend otherwise won’t make things any better. In fact, pretending usually ends up being even more frustrating. There is nothing harder to live up to than a fake smile you know you’re faking. The more you pretend the more you’re concerned that people know you’re pretending, and now you’re frustrated because you couldn’t fool people into believing you weren’t frustrated, and you have more issues that didn’t even exist until you created them. When it comes to dealing with a crisis, adding to it is usually not the best option.

You’re going to be frustrated. Own it, acknowledge it, and move on. It’s neither here nor there. Frustration won’t help you get through whatever is frustrating you, but it won’t stop you either, unless you let it. Don’t let it. Take a deep breath, tell your frustration hello and goodbye, and get down to business. More often than not, it’s what you were going to do anyway, so skip the middle and just get to it.

If you’re standing at that intersection, understand that you will be the same person whether you turn left or you turn right. Any change you make going one way, you can also make going the other. Sometimes we have to start over - we have to go where the job is, or we have to get away from unhealthy influences, or any number of other legitimate possibilities - but if you have a support system in place, it’s best to use it. You have family and friends who want to help. Let them. Share with them. You never know, but you might be helping them at the same time. Remember, anyone can face a crisis, and sharing is often how we overcome them.

If you feel an overwhelming urge to walk away, try walking away from bad habits. You can change who you are without changing where you are. I know how tempting that road is, but it’s not usually the answer you’re looking for. Travel, go everywhere, see the world, but don’t go because you’re looking for yourself. You’re not out there. You won’t find what you need out there, because what you need is already within you. You can embrace it anywhere, and once you do embrace it, you can go anywhere with a free heart and an open soul. The more peace you have within,k the less location matters. Once you find your real inner peace, you’ll be at peace everywhere.

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