I am watching leaves fall from the tree in our backyard, listening to the fish tank hum and churn, holding a cup of coffee. This quiet is a new kind of presence. It was not long ago that silence like this would have bent me from the inside out. Not long ago that I would have writhed and howled at the empty streets outside the front door, the streets with their rough edges and pot holes, with their graveled edges. Today, they stretch in front of me like an invitation, an invitation to breathe and stop reciting to myself the things I think I ought to be doing.
I ran five silver miles yesterday, five miles along silent streets, empty except for occasional construction workers. I learned a long time ago not to fight silence when it comes. That was the hardest winter. 2014. Tennessee. We had three blizzards that year. I cooked a lot and sent letters to my friends. Played the music loud and learned to sit alone on the couch, counting the days until California, counting my breaths, counting the ounces of courage that worked their way up my spine and into my belly. When spring came, I watched the flowers change from the backyard, and Psalms 23 rolled off my breath like honey. I was alright.
I am counting again today. Counting the road names I’ve memorized so I’d take the right turns. Counting my breath as it comes faster and sharper. I keep my eyes down and count the sidewalk lines. Everyone probably thought I’d have a breakdown by now. Maybe I thought I’d have a breakdown by now. You know — big city girl, small city living, dozens of questions, mostly where are all the people and how do I find a job? Everything is full of quiet and waiting. But I have learned to count. Count the light poles and the puddles I’m avoiding. Count the hours in the day. Count the miles. I thought I would only run three. I thought I would be in a different place on Nov. 16.
I ran double that and it did not break me.