Addicted

I had an idea. (Big surprise, I know…) I should go backpacking. How about someplace remote, beautiful, along the water, Northern Michigan area-ish, just for a few days, before the summer is over. And how about I go alone. The solitary backpacker girl.

Not surprisingly, the idea continued to stick for some time. (Some time being approximately several days.) I haphazardly began to explore this possible adventure, imagining different itineraries into the wild, Googling “best hiking trails in michigan”, and debating whether I would need a sleeping bag.

Then it hit me. A giant wave of concern. Would I be able to survive?

I’m not talking about the physical endurance required and dangers encountered while backpacking. Obviously. I am the ever invincible young adult. Right?

No, I am talking about the fact that a solitaire game of backpacking would mean hiking mile after mile after mile in silence. Setting up camp in silence. Cooking in silence. Packing in silence. More hiking in silence. Repeat the next day. And the day after that. No mp3 player (batteries only last so long), no everyday chit chat (who would I say good morning to?), no debates, heart to hearts, or superficial comments, no Pandora, no online streaming anything, no car radio, nothing. [while I’m at it, I may as well add Facebook to the list. Sure it’s “silent” (unless you’re playing videos), but it practically screams from my laptop “check me! check me!”]

Would I really be able to handle that for an entire trip?

I decided to do the logical thing: a mini-test run. I laced up my electric blue Mizunos, grabbed a stopwatch, and headed out the door. Time for a walk without headphones.
An hour later, I was back. I had survived exercising music free. And actually, it wasn’t all that hard. Here’s the thing: even when I take the headphones off, there’s still plenty of noise going on between my ears. I guess it’s called thinking.

Sure, I think when I am surrounded by noise. Very rarely is it even possible to be in complete silence. (Try and find silence in an everyday place, I dare you.) But there is something different about thinking when you consciously choose to remove noises that we are so, dare I say, addicted to.

I can only truly speak for myself, but based on observation and conversations, I think many share my addiction. In the best interest of the health and sanity of our human community, I have identified eight tell-tale habits of a noise addict. See if any of these apply to you.

  1. Turns on radio, music, or television show within 30 minutes of waking up
  2. Radio is always on while in the car
  3. Cannot be alone with another person for more than fifteen seconds without saying something (or feeling immensely awkward if you don’t)
  4. Does not walk any distance over 50 yards without a) using cell phone, or, b) listening to an mp3 player
  5. Leaves television on for background noise
  6. Proclaims to work better with loud music
  7. Will think to self “I should turn some music on” and then realizes it already is
  8. Is going deaf

In self-defense, these do not all apply to me, all the time, but I think they could, if I let them.

There is something potentially frightening about silence. Left alone with my thoughts, stripped of comforting distractions, I encounter myself. My dreams, my fears, my scattered musings and observations on life. I imagine new ideas, receive inspiration, solve problems, and add lines to my interior narrative. I search, I discover, I listen. For the Vision, the Direction, the Voice.

I don’t always like what I find. And if I find something good, there is a perceived responsibility to do something with it. Good things are never meant to be left unused. So, sometimes, I guess I would rather not look.

Backpacking by myself, through the Northwoods of Michigan, I would have little choice. I could always start singing to myself. Or talking to the animals. Or singing with all the voices of the mountains. Or painting with all the colors of the wind. And diving over waterfalls. Oh wait. That was Disney Pocahontas.

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