As Sakata gets underway, Zahari’s cast comes off and he begins physical therapy, Shai’s football trip, book projects, music projects, dance and yoga…this article rings true more now than ever. This article was first published in artlife magazine but I thought I’d post it here as well:).
Flight is an essential anthropological instinct that goes back to the earliest human beings. The ability to protect oneself in response to present or pending danger is linked with the desire to survive, evolve and continue the cycle of life. Millennia later, there are no dinosaurs to outrun and no mammoths to hunt but the instinctual desire to avoid stressful situations is still an essential part of the human reality and shapes our day-to-day existence in more ways than one would like to admit.
The need to escape is not gender specific or solely work-related but a mechanism that allows us to either deny or acknowledge that a problem exists. During the denial or acceptance process of the stressful condition the escaper consciously makes an effort to neutralize or eliminate the problem for a brief moment in time through physical or mental avoidance.
The Hungry Dinosaur
Sometimes life’s mounting pressures are comparable to a savage dinosaur running hungrily towards us. We imagine ourselves as leprechaun-size Neanderthals as the ground below our bare feet begins to quake. The dry earth crackles and our eyes grow bright with fear. As the unruly noise stomps closer and closer towards us, fear grips our entire being as the very earth we stand on feels unstable.
Suddenly the trees nearby begin to rustle violently and we realize that this could be the end of life as we know it. Our feet begin to kick up dust without consent while we run with arms flailing wildly into a nearby safe cave. We know that eventually we will have to come out of hiding and face the grave beast but for now, inside this cool haven, we are safe.
The look of the modern cave has changed in appearance over the millennia. Today’s caverns are no longer jagged rocks with a dark, hollow interior and small-mouth opening that contain lively pictograph inscriptions. Spas, virtual games, Disney World, nightclubs, movie theatres, alcohol, hallucinogens, television, bug spray, air conditioning, junk food … the list could go on. These are the caves that have been invented for the modern, evolved, human when life feels unsafe. We know that soon we will need to come out of hiding and face whatever stressors we left outside but at least for now, we are safe.
Escape of the Neanderthal Mom
Every month, I engage myself in writing for the Mom’s Corner Column. I’ve written about my over-obsession with playing classical music for my son while in utero, the stress of cooking for the holidays, internal conversations during play dates and my lack of energy to manage my two young children while baby food globules drip from the ceiling. The funniest thing about all of these articles is that when they were written exaggeration was unnecessary. I smile cheekily when I imagine the usual coffee drinkers reading my articles as humorous fiction.
What I failed to mention during these written depictions of my life is that with every subsequent mom event the need to escape from the mounting pressures of life grew substantially. I love my family and kids but sometimes, especially in the early days, I found almost unknowingly that my feet began to run without my consent even though there wasn’t a dinosaur to outrun or a mammoth to hunt. Suddenly, I’d find myself dashing down the road with arms flailing wildly and sweat pouring down my face and into my eyes. Some would call this exercise but I knew better.
At other times the running was metaphorical. The kids knew that chocolate was only for adults. This was the slogan that I created as an attempt to consume the majority of sweets that dared to enter into my house. “Mommy’s throwing up because she’s sick” my oldest child innocently told my mother-in-law one morning after a night of neo-teenagerism. My feet were once again running off without my consent. Perhaps I should’ve chosen the spa treatment instead?
Feeling helpless and powerful at the same time for my growing need to escape and my growing knack for creating escape routes for myself, I decided that I needed to locate a safe pictograph-like cave before the raptor was in sight. I could decide to where or if my feet would run and thereby choose my response to the stressor before it arrived. Perhaps I had evolved or perhaps I had maladapted to a variety of coping mechanisms? Either way, my desire to persist through the jungle of life was robust and if I could help it, the cycle of life would continue.
By Joanne Ball-Burgess