Background: The base I live on is in the middle of a Canadian version of the American Top Gun competition (Exercise Maple Flag) and we have air force personnel from many different countries living with us for about 2 months while the competition ensues.
Well, this is just one of those moments where the universe makes you go 'huh?' ~tilting head & squinching up my nose~ On my outdoor pack-run this morning an American Sgt-Maj (called a First Sgt I believe he said the equivalent of a Cdn Sgt-Maj) saddles on up next to me and drops his pace to catch mine. He was not out of breath from doing this either though I'd say he would have had to really stretch it out to catch me! When I left there was no one coming to the trail and I was 3km out when he caught me.
"I've been watching you run this past two weeks and the look on your face made me want to find out why you're doing it" he explained.
At his words I looked out at the long rows of rusted mental relics that sat crumpled in my mind. I know that they are now mostly a picture and not my reality, but still they lurk and lumber in my waking shadow. His querry was so much deeper than the words he used. Or perhaps it wasn't and I was simply in a place that required my truths to finally spill out onto my running path. Quiet tears began rolling down my cheeks at his words, and this response, at one time, was this soldier's worst nightmare. I said nothing. I hadn't even given him more than a polite nod by this point when he had gained my ground. In spite of my tears and apparent rudeness, he just ran beside me content to wait patiently for my answer. About 500 meters down the path I said: "I'm just not ready to let go sgt-maj," to which he nodded as though he were standing beside me in my junk yard, surveying the broken down, rusted out pieces splayed before us.
How is it that he knew I hadn't simply meant not ready to let go of the military or hell, not ready to take out the garbage for that matter?!
We ran the whole course together. I quietly cried for most of it. But his presence made my pack almost invisible in it's weight. I realized that the reason I run with a pack is because it is a physical manifestation of the burden of my memories. This just hits me as I think about my answer to Running Chick in an earlier "comment block." With him beside, quietly accepting and acknowledging my filthy, sprawling junk yard, the weight seemed diminished. His validation took the weight out of my junk. No one will bother you about the dreadful garbage pit you live in if they see you working very hard to clean it up right? But if they don't mind being in your dump and came only to see you, well, you needn't tire yourself out looking like a responsible garbage dump owner trying to rid the world of your yard's dreadful pestilence.
When we returned to the sports centre I introduced myself by name and said "thank you" with the most truth I have ever used to utter those words. What I meant was thank you for shouldering my junk yard sgt-maj, thank you for validating my 'place' and thank you for not needing to fill the air with all those things that mean nothing.
Do you believe in angels? I do. Do you think that running without my sgt-maj, as my blog title boasts, was a phrase conjured from relief to be free of a uniform or duty? It wasn't. I loved my uniform, my sgt-majs and my duty. Though there is much needed freedom and space for me now to grow, I long for the image of what it was I expected to be while clad in green and saluting my flag.