Running away again

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[I originally posted this on Facebook; I've disabled comments here because I don't think I can cope with them over here on my blog, but if you really need to comment you can find me on Facebook or elsewhere]

I've run away several times in my life.

The very first time was as a teenager; I don't even recall exactly what it was that triggered it, I think it was anxiety over a compulsory school camp that I didn't want to attend. I didn't have a plan, I didn't even have any real intention to actually run away for real, I just felt like I was trapped and needed to escape / lash out somehow. "Running away" amounted to declaring my intent, leaving the house, hiding somewhere nearby while everyone frantically searched for me, and eventually returning a few hours later once I had calmed down a bit. Of course, at the time, I wasn't really capable of fully understanding the situation; I didn't understand the destructive mental paths that lead to being unable to cope, I didn't really care how much emotional stress I was causing to others, and I didn't realise that had I been able to communicate better about how I was feeling, I could probably have dealt with things much better. In short: I was wrong to run away this time. Then again, I was just a teenager, so I think I can be forgiven for failing at those things.

Later on in life, running away took on a more sophisticated form. Once I gained sufficient control over my life (both in the legal and the financial sense), I took steps to cut certain people out of it. I have few regrets about the process (which was staggered, not something I did all at once); some relationships and interactions are simply not healthy or beneficial for the parties involved, and not having to deal with the constant stress of those interactions definitely improved my mental health and my life in general by quite a bit. In short: I think I was right to run away this time. But in the end, it was still running away; I couldn't cope with the situation, so I chose not to cope with it.

And now…recent events surrounding the 2016 US elections are slowly producing that rising sense of panic and inability to cope again. The elections themselves are not the trigger; rather, it is the conversations they have sparked which has lead me to realise certain things about relatives, acquaintainces, and friends. As most of you probably know, I'm no stranger to intellectual debate / conflict; this isn't about that. I can quite happily handle interactions with someone I disagree with on politics, economics, or what have you; most of the time, I'm happy to discuss / argue the matter for hours, unpacking our disagreement into differences in assumptions vs. differences in reasoning, and ending with a better understanding of both sides even if my mind remains unchanged.

But this is different: this is a conflict over whether or not we should care about other people. Caring about other people is something I learned as an incontrovertible truth from childhood, not a selective privilege to be extended to only some and not others. I now realise that many around me do not feel the same way; they feel that some people are not deserving of their care, for whatever reason, and…I don't know how to deal with this.

I feel like running away this time would be a mistake, that I need to stay and engage with these people, attempt to change their minds; but I have no idea how to do this, and I fear the poisoning of either my own mind, or my relationships, as a result of this. I fear that to maintain these relationships as-is, with no condemnation, will result in sending the message that I support something I do not. I fear that such condemnation would inevitably lead to the destruction of those relationships anyway, accomplishing nothing good in the end. I fear that by running away, I am losing the opportunity to do something about all of this. I feel guilty because of my fear; there are others who do not even have the option of running away, others who are the direct target of the uncaring and the hatred, rather than mere bystanders who can leave at any other time. How much worse must their fear be than mine?

And so here I am, trapped in a seemingly endless mental loop, afraid to run and afraid not to run.