Mountain Mama: Give the Gift of Quiet

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There’s a word for ‘people who are in there heads too much’: thinkers.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Sharing quiet time might just be the best gift we can give. The holidays can be a whirlwind of visiting relatives and catching up with loved ones, the days filled with chatter and carols. Sometimes the best way we can make sure we’re present for all the festivities is by taking time out to replenish our souls. It’s easy to feel selfish for turning inward during the holidays, but going for a run, paddle, or ski might just be the best way to sift through our thoughts and digest family drama.

This year, I’m giving the gift of quiet. I’m trying to take note of the people on my list who need a break and carving it out for them, whether it means offering to watch their kids for a few hours or helping out with chores. There’s no better way than a long run to, as T.S. Elliot put it, “prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” If we’re all honest, there’s that one relative that strains our smile. Dealing with family tension can bring out the Grinch in all of us. The opportunity to turn inward gives us a reprieve from the expectations of the season.

When the pace feels too hectic, turn it down a notch. Give yourself permission to amble, stroll, and linger. If your work-out plans involve meeting up with others, don’t worry about filling every silence with chatter. The pressure to start talking with the first stride, have your running partner laughing by the first mile, and ensuring by the time you finish that your friend is wondering where the time went isn’t necessary.

Sometimes the best gift we can give is quiet when we are spending time with our loved ones during the holidays. Running side-by-side in silence can be the best of both worlds – having the companionship of friends sharing the experience with you, but free to be alone with your thoughts. Taking a break from talking offers the gift of listening to the sound of silence, which turns out not to be so quiet after all. Quiet is a catalyst and solitude is responsible for innovations from Van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of personal computers. We live in a society that admires the outgoing and encourages the gregarious, but there’s another way, the way of the quiet, the cerebral, the unassuming.

This season, listen more than you talk. Better yet, give the gift of silence.

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