Last week, as I pushed my freshly charged headphones into my ears for my pre-work run and began plodding down the stairs of my apartment complex I heard the dreaded, “battery low” followed shortly by a “power off.” I hadn’t even started my running app yet! And so my morning began with my begrudging decision to run sans music.
I’ve written about this many times and I’ve had this realization more times than I can count—the realization that sometimes it is nice to have a totally undistracted run. The realization usually includes empty promises to run once a month or even once a week with nothing playing in my ears.
But, tale as old as time, the next time I lace up my shoes, you best believe I have a playlist on.
And still. Wasn’t it nice to have a chance to uncover that lesson again?
Wasn’t it nice to wake up with the neighborhood and hear the steady tap, tap, tap of the solo man on the basketball court dribbling and practicing free throws? Or to hear the giddy conversations of small children lining up outside the doors of their school? Or the soft coo of a pigeon. The brakes of the city bus. The deep gulps I took to refill my lungs. Reminders that we are alive.
There’s a quote I read somewhere once about receiving the same lessons over and over again until you learn what you need to learn. And while the idea of a quick morning run without headphones doesn’t feel particularly profound, I wonder if there is not still a moral of the story I haven’t heard.
Perhaps there is some wisdom to be taken like “listen intently to the world around you” or “be fully present in every moment.”
And while that’s all fine and well, I’ve run three times since then and each time I have brought music and each time I have not regretted it. Each time I have basked in it.
So rather, I wonder if the true message is something about not allowing yourself to do what you think you should do or what others think you should do. Sometimes it is nice to go for a run with nothing but your thoughts. But boy when your thoughts are loud, sometimes that would be nearly impossible. And sometimes, you just really want to listen to a new album or podcast and if you’re going to be pounding pavement for an hour, why not listen then?
All this is to say, trust that you know what you need. Music. A podcast. The sound of your own feet hitting the concrete. And more importantly, know that you needn’t justify this decision to anyone. And perhaps most important, gift yourself the flexibility of knowing that this can and will change day by day, sometimes hour by hour.
You are not a static being meant to be locked into a decision you made when you were 13. You are allowed to be a full, rich, dynamic character. Imagine the field day your favorite author would have writing your introduction. The swirling contradictions of your heart played out through pages and chapters and stories and life. Life. Life.
Give yourself permission to be what you are today. Give yourself permission to question that tomorrow. Give yourself permission to love yesterday. Give yourself permission to fight for the weekend. Give yourself permission to challenge your own understanding. To dance without music. To live without a script. To run however you please.