I left home at a young age. In fact my cousin recently reminded me that I began running away from home at a very young age. As a child I would fill a red bandana with my most precious items and fasten it to a stick over my shoulder like I had seen in the cartoons. I’d climb the ladder to my treefort staying until it got cold enough to force me back inside. Often my parents wouldn’t notice I was gone -or they pretended not notice as that was likely what they thought a good parent should do to not encourage the behavior. It didn’t work, I ran away because I felt unseen and unheard, so a pattern of extreme behavior to get attention was emerging. While in the treefort I’d imagine a world free from parents and rules and fighting. As an adolescent I began to see this pattern emerging in a larger, more global context. People who feel unseen and unheard will try to get their needs met in all manner of ways, some inflict injury to self, while others inflict pain on others. People screaming at each other to close the gap between them to feel heard. In a larger social context people create radical extremist groups to terrorize the oppressor. The old adage hurt people, hurt people comes to mind. A cycle of pain begetting more pain emerges. Our legal system punishes in punitive ways failing to excavate the root cause of the crime. Why is someone stealing? Why have they become violent?
The question then becomes do we know who our oppressor is? How can we know if we are responding to a perceived threat rather than a real threat? What measures can we take to tell the difference between real and perceived threats? What does this work look like on a personal and global scale?
When I left home the final time I joined a commune of young like minded folks. Many like me, escaping their own history and hoping to create something meaningful and radically different than what society was offering. We had our challenges, many of us had yet to process the emotional pain that we brought with us and with little skills to master this pain it was easy to bring that pain into the group dynamic and allow it to richochet off of one another. That said, we got a lot right. We created together, built families together, made music together, birthed our children at home together, we made clothing and built homes together. We ate meals together and fell apart and came back together many times. We learned a lot about ourselves and while many people our age were learning in college, we learned to live in community and off of the land.
I left Hawaii and the community setting a few months after my son was born. I had confidence at that time that I could bring the gifts that I had learned from the group back to my family of origin to heal the original wound from which I came. I felt it was holding me back from realizing my full potential. In the setting of community, I felt valued and honored and therefore rose to meet the challenges I faced. In the setting of the community there were ample opportunities to create and therefore I consumed less and felt more satisfied and whole. This all changed when I came home to Connecticut. When I returned I learned I was too young to be a mother (21) and that my unmarried status was shameful and embarrassing to the family and stigmatized me as an ‘unwanted woman’ in the culture regardless of the truth. I was expected to be dumb for having chosen to bear a child at a young age and was treated as such by almost everyone I encountered. Strangers offered to adopt my child from me, etc. While having created a whole community with friends I was thought to have no skill sets to offer. I felt under valued and unseen again, the original wound re-opened and I had to hold tight to the memory of my worth.