You Run Away: Musings on a Song

“You Run Away”

Barenaked Ladies, 2010

Single (also on All In Good Time album)

EMI Records

3:54

This song came out shortly after Steven Page left the Barenaked Ladies, and I always thought Ed Robertson was singing about that rift: 

You run away

Maybe it’s about his kids; I don’t know. The song’s mine now.

When I first heard it, I was writing a novel that had garnered me an exciting mentorship. I thought this was going to be the beginning of something great, and the song melded with the themes of my book. I played it on repeat while I wrote. There was a lot of running in the book: a small amount of physical running and a whole marathon of emotional running. 

I did my best, but it wasn’t enough. 

Both my sister and husband run. I’ve watched multiple races and cheered them on in crowds of people that thicken near the finish line. The metaphor comparing marathons, sprints, and races to writing has been overused. The song says more about running than a tired trope ought to. There are choices. There is growth.

My novel is in a bin on a shelf above my desk. 

I made a mess, who doesn’t.

I can see it now: the bin just above my computer screen. I’ve written many other things. I’m still writing many other things. I can’t figure out what exactly it is the novel needs, or if it’s doing what it is supposed to do, or if I have it in me to fix it the way it needs to be fixed. It’s not something to cry about. It’s not something to lie about.

Yesterday, I was reading and came across a snippet of information that reminded me of Ivan, one of my characters. The novel is not running away from me. It stays right here, hovering above my monitor, stabilized by a piece of wood and steel supports. I wrote down what I needed for Ivan and slipped the note on top of the stack of manuscript pages.

Hold a mirror shoulder-high. When you’re older, look you in the eye. 

The song doesn’t play much on the streaming service I listen to. Once in a while, I plug my phone into the speaker and the song pops up and starts playing from my digital library. The song isn’t particularly upbeat, or even the sort of song the Barenaked Ladies is known for. They didn’t play it at the last concert I went to. Every time, Ed Robertson’s voice takes me back to the same space:

You run away. You could turn and stay. 

I choose to stay. I can’t give up and won’t because I hear this song and the sounds crash over me like the words did when I first wrote them.