The Running Away That Never Happened

I learned to seek something that had a sense of purpose, I will never stop seeking but I have stopped hiding.

I did not like my life very much, I don’t know why. There was this feeling inside that nothing was right and that I was not good enough. My life was good, in many ways. I was comfortable at home and my parents allowed me to do much of what I liked. The problem was that I didn’t know what I liked. I did not feel able to make the decisions on what to do and where to go. I felt like I was missing some essential piece of knowledge. So I looked for it.

This is a unique and powerful book. It is a record of a series of conversations with Christopher Howard on masculinity, sex, addiction and relationships. In them both Chris and myself opened ourselves up in a very personal and revealing way. We held nothing back and explored what it is to be men.

After looking, last week, at my physical imperfection, I can turn to the mental imperfections that plagued me for years. The knowledge that there was something wrong with my body, percolated through to my mind. It told me that the imperfection was written through me like the name in a piece of rock. I related so little to other boys of my age that I had no reference for what was happening to me.

Everyone in our house was busy, no-one had time for me. Dad was at work most of the time and when he came home he was tired, so mum kept us away from him. Mum was out doing things or busy with the food and the house, or she was looking after dad. My two brothers had there own ‘stuff’ to do and their own issues to deal with. As I was the third of three boys everyone assumed I would know how to live. Unfortunately I did not come blessed with that knowledge.

I became used to playing on my own. I don’t even remember what I used to play at, time just disappeared—on my own. I became involved in riding my bike, or bikes, as it became. Building and re-building my bikes filled the empty moments, not that I was good at it, I improvised most of the time. I rode the bikes to bits, beating along rough paths and crashing through the local brooks. This obsession didn’t go anywhere, it was something to do.

I actually ran away, once. It was only down the road but it seemed to fill a deep seated need in me. I couldn’t even do that in a serious way. The things I remember packing into my rucksack were a packet of sugar and some Monopoly money. I know… that seems weird… and thinking back it was weird. I walked off down the road, to find a new freedom, I suppose. What happened? I have no idea. I have this memory of it happening and nothing more. I know I didn’t get far, and In suspect that was more out of fear than inadequacy.

That was the last time I 'ran' away, unlike my brother who continued doing it even into adult life. He had issues, ones that he never resolved. But this story is about me…

I would hide in my room, agonising about what to do. I never got anywhere with it and never understood what I wanted. This was when I started seeking… seeking something. In a recent article I said,

In my life I have been a seeker. As a teenager I sought a spiritual answer to an unknown question. I tried to understand where to look for the answer. What did I want? Why was I even looking? In the different approaches I tried, from Christianity to Yoga, I found many ideas to pursue, but no solutions.

For me looking back, I find this interesting. I knew I was looking for answers, but I had not discovered yet what the questions were. I knew there were questions about my life, “why I was here?”, “what I was doing?” But I could not formulate them. As I said in the first section of this story,

Of course, I started without any understanding of this. I did not know who I was, where I came from or why I was here. On this journey, most of the steps I have forgotten. But their ghosts roam around my brain and keep me awake at night. It is time to lay them to rest and let my soul fly.

The answer would have been to read and study to find first the questions and then the answers. I was too discomforted even to go down that road. I read and studied, but not with enough direction. I had feelings, and bought books, but did not seem to have the energy to pursue them. The truth was that I found no mentor to help me along the road. There was no-one who understood me and could guide me to where I needed to go.

♦◊♦

I went to school a distance away from my home. There were only limited buses back home in the evening, so I used to go to the Central Library in Manchester after school and ‘study’. Not much studying happened, nothing much at all happened. I have little memory of what I did, and little inclination to remember. The advantage of this arrangement was that I spent little time at home. I hid away, there, in the library. I hid from my family and I hid from myself.

I thought that the idea of what I would find, if I dug too much, scared me. I sensed that what I would find would be that I was nothing and that I had no purpose. There was no reason for me to feel that, other than my shyness and inability to connect with other people. I came out of myself so infrequently that I never learned how to do it. I never understood that it was something I could enjoy and even excel at. I know that now, although, even now, I shy away from people.

Once I left school I ran away for good, but that is for later.

I could think that this period of my life was a waste of time. I do wonder what it was all for, why I was there at all. But I realise that it was an essential part of my learning. I learned to question my life and not fall back on accepting what it was. I learned to seek something better, something that had a sense of purpose in it. I am still there, although now I have more focus and more awareness. I will never stop seeking but I have learned to stop hiding.

Later in life I became more extrovert and more courageous. I became adept at leading groups of people, at chairing committees. I found the strength to step forward and put my head on the line for what I thought. That all started after I left home.

In the next section I will talk about how my father beat me into submission, not physically but intellectually, and emotionally. I had to escape this to start growing, and how I grew.

This article was previously published on ‘The Good Men Project’

Image Credit: Flickr/火火 馬 (Creative Commons)


Other Posts comprising the book, 'Embers of Illumination'


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