I have been accused of running, which I find immensely ironic due to my aversion to exercise and all things sweaty. I believe what my friends mean is that I am in a constant state of retreat from myself. I did not possess the insight to figure this out for myself, but I must admit that there is some truth to this.
As a child, I began running not from myself, but from some evils that lurked in my environment. I spent as much time out of the house as possible - at school, with friends, in extracurricular activities, in clubs, at church, anyplace that would find me in the company of safe and wholesome people. I would fantasize about these people being my real family, as if I had somehow been tragically given to the wrong parents at birth.
As a teen, music became my solace. I learned rather accidentally that if I closed my bedroom door and practiced my clarinet, not only would the real-life demons stay away, but I could shut out the demons in my head. I found that I was safer with the instrument than I was in bed at night. I spent an awful lot of time alone with the Ugly Stick. It became a lovely black and silver talisman that went everywhere I went.
In college I hired my first therapist - my voice teacher. She was a great listener. She heard every wrong note, every unsupported tone, every missed consonant. She also had eyes like a hawk. "Stand up straight. Breathe from the diaphragm. Make me believe you." She noticed every worthwhile thing I did, too, and she accepted no less than my best.
From opera training I moved into the world of barbershop. Not as different as some would think. Barbershop introduced me to overtones, and from the first chord I sang with a chorus I knew I would never be the same. A perfectly aligned chord will set every cell in my body on fire. I've since learned that Pythagoras studied this very phenomenon of musical energy and the effect it has on the human body. Of course, many people thought he was crazy. I figure I'm in good company...
Serious singers eventually end up on stage. Performing is a glorious thing. In those moments, I can be anyone I want to be, someone other than myself. I am beautiful and desirable. I am not damaged or broken or flawed. Beware: This form of running is addicting. It gets in your head and in your blood and in your soul. And if you are not careful, you forget who you are altogether.
My counseling buddies Rusty and Connie, astute observers of human behavior that they are, suggest that the reason I fill every moment of my waking life with some sort of demanding activity is that I am running from myself. I pretend to be astounded by this revelation. But of course they are right. Being alone with myself terrifies me. I'll take the stage any day.