Hope is the little thing, with wings, that fights for life.
For her, it began when she laced up and stepped purposefully outside her door. It began again and again when she actively chose sunlight over darkness, strength and will over apathy and weakness. Her life looked different when she wrenched open the windows to let some stale air out. When she reached for what she thought she could not have, for what she thought she could not do. When she put in motion a new and contrasting set of actions.
Hope emerged when she decided to fight.
But first, she tackled that thing that haunted and hurt her for so many wasted years. She slayed an awful memory and left it, chopped, in a pile of meaningless pieces behind. That thing she never really talks about. That thing that held her under, that kept her sinking down. Hope was the little thing that churned up the strength she needed to pull herself up and out of a serpent’s mouth. A relentlessly hungry one that almost swallowed her whole.
And she battled that thing that held hands with the awful memory. That thing she did to comfort herself, to calm herself, to placate herself. That thing she did to numb herself, to cover her shame. She said enough is enough already. And she had days filled to the brim with tears and pity. Days upon days of longing to again behave the way she always did, because that way was her normal, and that was what she wanted. She wanted her normal back, even if it was bad for her.
But, moment by moment, inch by inch, mile by mile, she plodded along and made her way. Some days she crawled on the floor, and some days she flew. Some days she sailed along and some days she curled herself into a little ball just to get through. She made small changes, then big changes, which helped her believe. She unfurled her arms and slowly reached for what seemed unreachable, for what she thought she could not achieve.
That’s when she slipped into those pretty running shoes.
Hope grew anew when she laced them up tight, and began to run instead of walk. When she decided, out of the blue one rather motivated day, that she would run, just to the next mailbox, and that would be it. But that wasn’t it, because in that small instant, she made the choice to run toward her life, instead of away from it. When she blindly jumped from the cliff, with no discernible place to land, no plan, no “end game” in sight, she somehow sprouted wings and began to fly.
And when she spoke her hope (her little thing with wings) out loud, it doubled in strength. It grew. She wrote about it and gave it a name. She called it a goal. She put it down on paper, as a promise to herself, and then she boldly shared it with the world.
And there were things that tried to kill hope. That wanted to knock it down. Small things like boredom, and disinterest. Big things like excuses and fatigue. Bigger things like hip pain, twisted ankles, and a sore knee. And the biggest things of all, such as fear and depression and uncertainly. Things that happened in her mind and to her body. A multiplying army of things that told her no.
When she crossed the finish line, she welled up. It was a defining moment. A moment that left before in the dust of her kicking heels, and one that embraced the unknown, wondrous space that comes after. Life, at its very best, is sometimes about defining moments. Moments that simply make us feel real.
And, make no mistake, she also cried because it was so damn hard. And because it took so damn long. Because that last stupid mile almost killed her. For real. She wept for the little girl inside her soul who felt recognized, loved beyond measure, and at peace. The child who felt the light hit her face as cheers entered her ears. She cried from sheer, unabashed happiness.
Because, if you haven’t guessed yet, running a half marathon wasn’t about running at all. It was about becoming the type of person she always thought she could be. A person who did one whole thing, from beginning to end. A person who saw something through. Someone who did something she thought she couldn’t do.
Finishing strong was a changed person – one without a disease. A person no longer ruled by a shameful secret. A person who hit a quiet rock bottom a few years back with a tiny shred of hope left in her heart. Hope that sprouted wings and helped her fight for her life.
And the ones she harbored, those three aching souls who lived within her – they simply let her go. The innocent child, the bulimic girl, and the troubled, unhappy woman released their weakened grasp, at long last, and finally waved goodbye. But first they pushed her across that line. They let her move forward, to that place called after, without them in tow.
She’s allowed to cry about that for at least a few minutes, don’t you think?
Hope begins as a tiny seed of truth. It enters with the light we shed on our dark places. It’s about being scared, but jumping off the cliff anyway. It’s about being uncomfortable, mile after boring mile. It’s about wanting, and learning, and wishing, and doing, and crawling, and sailing as we make our way. It’s about thoughts turned into words turned into actions.
And sometimes it can be about lacing up a pair of pretty running shoes – ones that look a bit like brilliant feathers strapped upon our feet.
It lives inside us when we give it a name.
Hope is the little thing, with wings, that fights for life. It fights for love, and all of our seemingly unreachable dreams, that beckon from above.