Two and a half years ago I ran away from home.
I wasn’t a rebellious teen, feeling misunderstood by the world and fed up with parents and school. No. I was a 47-year-old woman, a mother of three teenage daughters and married for over 20 years.
I went on a yoga retreat to India and I had a return ticket. Don’t laugh though, because although this is what most normal people do regularly, it felt like running away to me.
I had never separated from my family for more than a few days before. I had never wanted to.
It wasn’t even easy to make this decision to leave, to abandon my duties, abandon my family. I hesitated for a while—there are always plenty of excuses to stay stuck, to keep the nose to the grindstone. As much as life had become a drudgery, it was my drudgery.
It seemed easier to go on mindlessly, dragging my feet, expending as little energy as possible just to make it to the evening.
But some new feelings had started entering my realm of thoughts—unhappy, overwhelming feelings. They were unfamiliar and disrupting and the more I tried to brush them away the more unbearable they became. I needed a distraction to keep them at bay. I decided to go to India, an ancient dream of mine.
By the date of my departure, I could not wait to run away from the people on whom I counted to make me happy. Exotic India was calling, a promise of new sights and sounds, scents and colors to revive my exhausted senses.
I took a notebook with me. The last time I kept a diary I was a teen. Perhaps it was putting pen to paper that made me feel like one again. That and the fact that this was the first time in a long while that I was in a completely new environment and on my own. No one knew me here and I knew no one.
For the first time in forever I was introducing myself by my name with no titles attached: wife of, mother of…
I was me. Just me.
It felt nice. Pleasant. Unfamiliar. A little strange.
Not being a mother or a wife felt lighter. There was no one to worry about—no one’s wounds to attend to, no one to take care of but myself. It was disconcerting.
After the initial dusting of the surface, I’d follow my thoughts to explore deeper and get lost in the process of writing, sometimes for hours.
It led me to peeling the layers, breaking through all the gates, doors, locks and barbed wire that I have surrounded my soul in—rusted and moss-covered from decades of neglect, buried under layers and layers of life.
One night my stream of consciousness took me somewhere that I had no intention of visiting.
I did not intend to slice to the bone. It happened on its own, before I could censor it.
There it was: the unexpected and unfamiliar nakedness of my soul. My loneliness.
The feeling that I was—I am—profoundly alone. And that I did not want to return home.
Decades of suppressed needs and reactions were now being expelled in painful spurts. It felt like vomiting. Spasms followed by pain and then relief as the poison came out. Bursts and bursts of undigested feelings. Of rejection, of neglect, of loneliness. Of shame, of unmentionables, of imperfection, of humanness.
I am so much more than the woman I have played all my life: by all societal standards respectable, with a kind and handsome husband, three children, my life the envy of many, judging by my social media pictures.
The bile and poison that came out from within my cultivated and carefully polished vessel was the other side of me. This was me sick of pleasing, being the strong one, feeling responsible for everything that goes wrong. Tired of playing by the rules, trying to be all things to all people, holding myself to unattainable standards of perfection.
Having never been taught to understand my own needs, I adapted perfectly to whatever role I was supposed to play at each stage of my life. In a society full of masks, I chose the mask of dignity and propriety—trying to stay above reproach, in my constant attempt to fit in and be accepted. In a world that values achievement and acquisition, I was an over-achiever—competing, consuming, acquiring.
Now, two and a half years later, I am still writing.
Putting pen to paper opened the magic door to me. It provided an escape at first, and with time brought insights and solutions. It became a safe place where I can go to be myself.
I can be confused, not have the answers, cry if I want to. It is a little oasis in my life, where I can rest from all of my assigned and self-imposed masks and roles, wash off the “hair and makeup,” put down the costume, take off the corset and relax into being myself.
I did return home after India. Or I should say, I returned to my family. Because what writing helped me understand is that my home is within me. That I am enough. That I do not need other people or things to define me. I no longer expect them to make me happy and fulfilled. As I learn my needs and remember what makes me happy, I realize that I am perfectly capable of taking care of these things on my own.
I started writing as a way to rebel and release anger and poison.
Now, writing is nourishment. Not only to me, but to others, because through it I can share everything I have learned along the way.
Author: Galina Singer
Image: Movie screenshot
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren