As we age we undoubtedly learn and come to terms with our own character, good and bad, qualities which we conveniently accept to be beyond our control and entirely in the hands of fate and genetics. Yes we can work on our failings, do a SWAT analysis, get some therapy, eat less meat and join a Zumba class, but ultimately those animal instincts ain’t going anywhere.
I was 25 when I learnt that I am the consummate coward. When it comes to fight or flight, I know which side of the fence I am sprinting away from. This epiphanic moment occurred when back-packing across South America in the mid ’90s. While camping in Venezuela, our group was attacked by a mob of machete-wielding “Bandidos”, an event which truly separated the wimps from the warriors amongst my comrades. The unhesitating fighters of the group confronted these bandana’d brigands with tent poles and camping stoves in the hope that the din of tin and Tupperware would scare them off into the darkness. While these heroes fearlessly protected our right to camp in a retrospectively unideal location in Venezuela, I could be found hiding under an inadequate fold up table, promising myself I would get the next flight home…if I wasn’t raped and pillaged before I had a chance to pack a bag.
Not my finest moment, and I have to say I was a little disappointed in myself to discover that Flight is my default setting. I had always childishly believed we all have some latent superhuman ability which would reveal itself under extreme pressure, but no, Stan Lee left me on the cutting room floor. No pants outside my tights and a jazzy cape for me then.
The Flight is strong with me.
Ok, so running from machetes is acceptable.
I don’t always succumb to the force of the Flight. It’s a strong voice in my head however and one which does need to be dissuaded from donning the Nikes. Not only with physically confrontational situations, but with silly situations and mistakes that everyone makes every day of their lives.
Mistakes at work were always moments where I looked wistfully towards the hills, it sounds ridiculous I know, but my thought process was often something like this: (NB*I’m playing both parts* NB2 *I know how that sounds*)
me: Shit I booked the client’s flight on the wrong day.
Flight me: Pack up, walk out now. We’re leaving.
me. ok. but where?
Flight me: I know a cave in Wales, we can live a simple life with no clients, or money.
me: But I could just change the flight…
Flight me: Then you’ll have to tell your boss and he’ll bollock you for wasting money and that means confrontation and we don’t like confrontation. Much easier just to leave quietly. Grab that stapler on the way out, we’ll need it in the cave.
So you get the idea.
Why am I talking about this now? Because I think I may currently be experiencing the perfect balance of Fight AND Flight simultaneously! A mind-blowing realisation while walking up in the mountains this morning; I have finally run for those long pined-for hills and they are no longer a metaphor, but actual soil under my feet. However I am also fighting. Confused? Me too.
Let’s put this free-falling madness into context. (those who know me can skip this bit). In a nutshell, my marriage broke up just over 6 months ago, a sudden and pretty brutal experience to be fair. The perfect storm of Flight triggering circumstances, show me those hills, I’m a-runnin’!
So I did run, fortunately not to a cave in Wales but to a small town in Spain, with all the qualities that my Flight instinct has always sought out. Escape, peace, hills, and a clean slate. A place where no one knows me. I’m living the introvert’s dream.
Is it running though? I like to think it’s boldly striding in the opposite direction wearing kick-ass biker boots and “flicking the bird” on my way out. Then having a nice sit-down and a cup of tea.
Now the “storming out in a huff” moment has passed and I’m looking around this peaceful place contemplating my existence, I feel like I’ve stopped running and now maybe I’m hiding. Hiding from the real life and responsibility I left behind in London and it won’t be long before I am discovered. Hiding is the subsequent action of Flight is it not? The fold-up table in Venezuela, a small town in Spain?
Now Fight needs to work side by side with Flight, link arms and work together, one team one dream. Forging an alliance to turn this hiding place into a home.
I made it to the hills.
I have my kick-ass biker boots on, and they are really hard to run in.