In Good Company

 

Independence Day afforded me some time to reflect on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness this morning, as I set out to run the trails.  Much like a pilot has a pre-flight checklist, I have a pre-run checklist that I go through prior to each trail run.  Trail shoes?  Check!  Water bottle? Check!  Keys? Check!  Id?  Check!  iPod?  Checked out!

Apparently, my iPod passed away at some point after last weekend’s trail run, but I did not discover its music-less body until I grabbed it during my pre-run check.  It has accompanied me on countless runs, and I always have counted on it to fill my ears and soul with music that both inspires me and calms me.  After futile attempts to revive it, I had to accept the undeniable fact that another one of my old school companions was gone.

As my denial gave way to the reality of the situation, I was unsure what to do.  I had no old or new school understudy waiting in the wings to take its place, because I was loyal to it until the bitter end.  I have never run without musical accompaniment, so, I momentarily considered scrubbing the trail run in favor of an indoor workout.  As I surveyed the sky, though, I knew that I had to take full advantage of the sunshine and blue skies before the clouds and rain returned.

When I arrived at the start of the trails, I automatically reached for my iPod to start it up, but of course, it wasn’t there.  Like an amputated appendage, I still felt its presence in the midst of its absence.  I looked at the woods that awaited me and felt its familiar pull.  So, begrudgingly, off I went.  It was just me, myself, and I, literally, not the De La Soul version or any other version for that matter.

Almost as soon as I could feel the earth beneath my feet, I forgot about my deceased iPod and the music that died along with it, and I settled into my run.  As I ran, I found my mind alternating between being the blank slate that I fail to achieve when I attempt to meditate and an intersection of thoughts about the past, present, and future peacefully coexisting.  The only sounds that permeated the relative silence were birds tweeting and crickets chirping, with the occasional faint sound of a car or siren in the distance.  I ran in near solitude, except for a stray mountain biker or fellow trail runner.  It was blissful.

This seemingly insignificant trail run without my music took on greater significance at the midway point, when I was splattered with sweat and mud in the middle of a dirt path.  I had been thinking about nothing in particular when it suddenly occurred to me that I no longer needed music to drown out the non-stop chatter that took up residence in my head for the better part of the past decade.  The anxiety and depression that also had been my constant companions on and off of the trails had picked up stakes awhile ago, only returning for brief visits now.  I no longer was running away from myself and no longer needed to distract myself from painful thoughts and emotions.  Slowly and subtly, I had been healing and growing happier and more content, and that realization became loud and clear in the quiet and solitude along the trails today.

As I exited this space that is so very sacred to me, I also realized that I had not missed my music after all.  It turns out that I was in very good company, my own.  While I am not ready to forgo a replacement for my iPod for all future trail runs, I am ready, from time to time, to enjoy the silence, both in the literal sense and in the form of Depeche Mode’s song of the same name.

That’s another story . . .

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