Is there any more glorious phrase? When you're kid, there is nothing more redeeming than the coveted 'do over'. Isn't it blessed relief when things don’t count, when you get that trial run to figure it out without anyone looking or keeping score? Think of high school and the exam you KNOW you bombed, and the teacher announcing that the scores weren’t what she expected so there will be a retest? Is there any sweeter bliss? You get a pass, a chance to do it right this time… Often we think If only life were so generous, so forgiving and believe that it isn’t. But more often than not, it is. We read about them daily: the addict who has found new life in recovery, the high school sweethearts who rediscover their long-ago love at a 50th reunion, the rat-race career hound who changes jobs and finds meaning and purpose in teaching or helping others, the profoundly depressed person who claws herself to the light and embraces life with new vigor and hope. Second chances abound, if we are lucky enough to recognize them, grab them, and hold them close: second chances at life, at love, at doing it right, at fill-in-the-blank. It’s that ‘Lazarus moment”, that sweet moment of ecstasy at discovering your ultimate point of do over. Do you have one? Can you pinpoint it? Some have the epiphany, the profound moment that changes the life. For others, it is in the act of atonement that they find their second life. For the most of us, that moment is much more subtle, and that first step is discovered in looking back. It doesn’t matter that hindsight provides the clarity.
When you think about it, is the moment given as much as created, taken? That sublime do over is there for anyone to seize. It comes from a tiny ember that lives in all of us although too-often deprived of light and oxygen from fear and life experience. This thing? HOPE.
Hope lives in all of us – we are born with it. Through the course of life, childlike precociousness is tempered by the fear of experience that becomes adult wariness. That fire that burns deep inside each of us is – if not extinguished – tamed by the oxygen-deprivation of life experience. The ember keeps burning, it’s there, whispering in our ears, begging to be fed.
I was a runner in my early through late teens. I lived it, breathed it, ate it, drank it, slept it. I measured my seasons by ‘cross country’, ‘indoor track’, ‘outdoor track’, and ‘summer track’. Those were my seasons, the ebb and flow of my life. The sport was the barometer, the science by which I ate, rested, and worked. It filled the empty space between waking, school and dinner. It metastasized in my summers so that days were spent not at a pool slathered in sunscreen or shopping at a mall but at a track running intervals timed with absolute precision. My days were measured in hours:minutes:seconds. Then there was injury, followed by ennui, reinforced by marriage, job, and children. My seasons took on a much different tone, color, pace. I buried my running career and moved on down the life.
For me, running wasn’t the ‘do over’ itself as it was the route to the ‘do over’. It created the ability to believe in something bigger than my life, to expand the boundaries of what I believed was possible, the opportunity to push beyond the colloquially acceptable. But at a more gut-level, it extended beyond running to life, work, motherhood, family. It gave me the stamina and courage to change what was fundamentally broken, to break through the wall of inertia, and to charge through life with vigor and determination. Running didn’t make me a better person; hope did. My hope was expressed through the simple exercise of believing I could go one more step, one more block, one more mile. And while my natural impatience was tempered and humbled by the distances I ran, the confidence to overcome my perceived shortcomings were shored up in the belief and hope that maybe – just maybe – if I dared to believe in something well beyond what I thought possible, the trickle down would be contentment, clarity, and happiness. And when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, I looked at the bright blue sky and thanked the heavens for having had the courage to throw down the gauntlet, to challenge the distance and not bow to fatigue, pain, or disbelief.
Grab hope wherever you find it. Be it a tiny, flickering ember or the white hot blaze of realization, capture it, harness it, take the leap of faith and believe. If you want that second chance,don’t wait for it to surface: mine it, find it, make it happen. That is the essence of hope: it exists on the tiniest sliver of faith, desire, and childlike belief in the simple ability to dare to try, to take that first step. Hope rarely dies, doesn't have a shelf life, and to sustain it requires very little but the smallest idea of a dream. The dream of something different: to break the addiction, to find love, to claw out of the dark toward the light, to believe in something bigger than oneself. Hope is the best of all things.
Run with all grace and audacity.