Thursday, August 07, 2014


The “Flight or Fight” reflex is one of the basic human survival techniques. But “Fight or Flight” refers primarily to external threats, and there are many traumatic situations in life where the problem is internal and emotional, and “fight” is simply not an option. I’ve had several of these events in my life, and learned each time that while “flight” is indeed often an option, it is seldom a good one. 

I've done major-league running away twice in my life, the first shortly after I turned 30 and ran from Chicago to Los Angeles like a citizen of Pompeii fleeing the eruption—the ash fall in this case being shattered pieces of my psyche. You would think after that experience, I'd have learned my lesson and not repeated it. But there is no rationalizing with a devastated mind and heart.

I did not handle turning 30 well. I'd been in a relationship for several years by that time, but while I am a firm believer in monogamy, it didn't work out that way. Norm, my partner, traveled a great deal, sometimes gone two to three weeks out of a month. And, when I learned the hard way that he was not monogamous while away, I began to stray myself. It reached the point where I couldn't handle the duplicity, or live up to my own moral standards. I broke up with Norm, which hurt him deeply and emotionally devastated me, adding mountains of guilt to my other problems. Finally, I determined that the only way out of the labyrinth was to pick up the pieces of me and get as far away from the situation as I could.

Of course I soon learned, after having done so, the very simple fact that no matter where you go, there you are. And if the problems are within yourself, there's no way to get away from them.

So I spent several years with rolls of Scotch tape and Elmer's Glue putting the pieces of me back together, stumbling through various relationships, always hoping that the next one would be Mr. Right. He never was.

The death of my mother in September of 1970 (1970?? Was there ever such a year as 1970?) was, as I'm sure you can appreciate, one of the worst times of my life. It was as if I had mentally stepped on a land mine. I quit my job, bought a  21-foot Winnebago motor home, and took off in a futile attempt to run away from reality. I was coincidentally in a disastrous relationship at the same time as she was dying, but her illness prevented me from having the time to deal with it. So my buying the Winnebago and taking off was undoubtedly also partly to distance myself from the relationship as well. And, of course, it didn't work.

Thinking on the subject now I suppose there was a third running away, though of a different sort. With the Grim Reaper striding through the gay community in Los Angeles, cutting down friends and acquaintances with a terrifying relentlessness, I began to realize that I could well be next. I was still in a several-year on-again, off-again relationship with Ray—thanks to his alcoholism— but in the off-again periods I'd be out there in the bars. It occurred to me that to run from Los Angeles might be a good idea. If I could take Ray somewhere far, far away from the bar scene, perhaps he could stop drinking. And since I would have no need to look for...well, you know...elsewhere, we might actually find the kind of life I wanted so badly for the both of us.

I think you know me well enough by now to see this as yet another classic example of my refusal to acknowledge the existence of reality. But I sold my home in L.A., moved to Pence, Wisconsin—which could have a mileage marker just outside of town saying "Pence, 2 miles. End of the Earth, 1 mile”—and the rest you can fairly well guess. I brought Ray with me to Pence and we came, when he was sober, as close to the idyllic life as I had hoped for. But he could never stay sober for more than three months, and got in trouble with the law. A judge gave him the choice of returning to L.A. or going to jail. He reluctantly chose to return to L.A. where, within two years, he was dead of AIDS.

Life is not fair. Where we get the idea that it should be is a mystery. Life simply is, and we deal with it the best we can. One thing we cannot do is run from it.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

The survival instinct is a pretty damn powerful thing. Yours served you well because here you still are. Whatever you needed to do to keep you sane somehow managed to work in the end anyway.

We'll be the last ones to stay at this party in life, won't we? But just think of the friends waiting to see us in the next.