Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This Little Light of Mine

We know that when God closes one door, He opens another. However, this mentality can leave us feeling uneasy in the moment and can be extremely daunting in foresight; it is always much more appreciated and pleasantly stated in hindsight. Upon the prognosis of my foot tendinitis a few weeks ago, I knew God was closing the door I had tried to prop open, in what I had come to refer to as a faithful failure. I accepted that my big running goals were not to be accomplished this spring, and that this injury was nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, it may have been a bit foolish to chase after an intense goal following almost a year on the sideline from my fibula injury. However, after a strong comeback with very little training this fall, it was worth the attempt even if it ended in failure. And a failure it was. So, without much focus on what could have been, I accepted this failure as a closed door and began searching for the door God inevitably had open and ready for me. 

Although I accepted moving on and knew my injury was only temporary, I definitely felt quite a loss putting my running goals behind me. The thing about running is it’s never “just” about the running for me. While some may run for the simple sake of running, I run with purpose. I set goals, I make smart plans, and I work hard every day. But more than that, running is my therapy. It helps me unwind. It is my teacher. It helps me make sense of life and who I am. Although I was beyond grateful that I could still cross train with my injury, I wasn’t getting the fulfillment from it quite like I do through running. I needed to find fulfillment elsewhere. I needed to find a running substitute. So, I started searching. 

The more searching I did, the more lost I felt. I searched tirelessly to find different ways I could take on new challenges and push myself to move forward, and despite all of my best efforts nothing was connecting with me. As one who is a self-proclaimed "perpetual challenge seeker and overachiever," no risk or opportunity gave me that “right” gut feeling. After some serious life hardships over the past year, I owed it to myself to do something great, just for me, but I just couldn’t seem to find the right place to put myself. The void I felt inside was tremendous, and my anxiety to fill it was getting worse with each potential idea that came my way. To give some perspective of where my head was during this time, I would literally watch an entire tv show for an hour, and finish with the realization that I had in fact been so entangled in my own thoughts throughout the show that I missed the entire episode! The content of the shows I was attempting to watch is largely to blame (the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunions are certainly entertaining but not exactly intellectually stimulating), however my anxiety was the true culprit. I decided at that point that moving forward with any person, place, or thing was meaningless. I didn’t know where I was going or what I wanted. I need to slow down, and just “live” for a little. I forced myself to focus on all the blessings in my life each day and to leave it at that. 

And with this mentality, on a cloudy, chilly April Saturday morning that would have been ideal running conditions, I sat on my couch and drank coffee before my nephews’ soccer game. In that moment, just out of curiosity, I decided to Google, “trips to take by yourself.” After a few Google searches, and some recommendations from BusinessInsider.com, I found the trip of a life time: A “European Discovery.” Seven countries. 14 days. Geared specifically for people who are between the ages of 18-35 who want to see the world.  As I looked through the itinerary, I finally felt that “right” feeling in my gut; the perfect opportunity I was looking for! The connection was there, and in that moment, regardless of how spontaneous it had been, it suddenly became something I had to do. I sent the link to a well-traveled friend of mine, talked it through with my sister and brother, and the response was unanimous: GO! I didn’t want to be too impulsive, so I gave myself some time. I went to church on Sunday night and prayed on it, and left feeling almost a magnetic pull to do it. In fact, Van Halen’s “Right Now” came on the radio as I drove home; I took that as my sign! By Monday afternoon, I had spoken with a travel agent and my flight to London was booked for June!

Words cannot describe my anticipation for this trip. The adventures. Seeing and experiencing different cultures and languages. All the food! Meeting people from around the world. Seeing the Pope’s house! Stepping out of my comfort zone. Flirting with authentic Italian men! Opening up new doors. All the places, things, and feelings I can’t even imagine! Finding myself! Over the past few months with the hardships I’ve dealt with, most of my smiles were out of kindness for other people. In fact, I had to focus so much on staying logical, and had to veer away from emotion, to get through many days. But just the thought of this trip has helped redirect my focus. It has helped me connect with my emotions again; I smile because I’m happy on the inside! It has helped remind me how quickly something wonderful can happen, and has helped me appreciate how truly amazing life can be! Most importantly, it has helped me see that when God closes one door, He opens another. But, the truth is, even when we accept the doors that have closed in our lives, the open doors can be really hard to find. To find those doors, we need light, not just so we can find them, but also so we can make our way through. There’s a Chinese Proverb that says, “It’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.”  I love this proverb for many reasons, as it perfectly encapsulates my philosophy on life. But, I would like to take that proverb a step further: I truly believe that God has given each and every one of us that light. No matter the darkness in our midst, if we dig deep enough, we can find the light within ourselves. And once we find that light and let it shine, the doors He has opened will appear, we will be able to make our way through, and we can live the GREAT life He has planned for us. Just imagine what our world would be if we all let the light within us shine?!?! It would be bright. It would be beautiful. It would be SO WONDERFUL. 

After four weeks in the boot, and a total of seven weeks without running, my orthopedic gave me the “go ahead, RUN!” at my appointment in mid-May. However, after I told him about my trip, he retracted his initial thoughts and told me that the risk of being stuck in a boot in Europe was not worth it. I could not have agreed with him more, and therefore will not be running until the end of June, or possibly early July. However, my running date may be further extended as Europe is not the only big event on the agenda this summer! I am beyond blessed that I have additional summer travel plans, and will be going to the Outer Banks with some of my family in the middle of July! With that said, the Chicago Marathon may be out of reach for this fall. The earliest I can start training will be August, and after five months without running, let alone training, I’m not sure I’ll be ready to take on 26.2 miles with any sort of quality. And that’s okay. I love running, more specifically running with purpose, aka training, but I fully recognize my body’s limitations. I know that I won’t be able to train forever, however, I believe that, God willing, I still have some big goals to accomplish in the future before my running door permanently closes. I don't have to accomplish those big goals this year; all will happen when the timing is right. As for right now, I am going to embrace the new doors that have opened for me! I am SO beyond grateful for all of the opportunity I have in front of me this summer, and I’m going to put all of my plans into God’s hands, for now and for whatever the future is destined to be. I’m going to work to keep that light shining from within and let it guide my steps moving forward. I’m going follow my heart, keep things in life simple…and just LIVE!

Happy 5k season, everyone! Let that light shine from within, run hard, and HAVE FUN! Hope to see you all out there in the Fall!

<3 MP

Our Lake Erie, in our town: CLE! <3