Once Upon a Run

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It’s December 1st! Which means, my UnBirthday is approaching. I’d like to reflect on things I’ve experienced and learned since December 13, 2010.

The following very-true-story was originally written on my UnBirthday last December, as I reflected on one of my most favorite years of my life:

It’s December 13th, my 8th unbirthday!!! WOOO! So, let me tell you a story.

*ahem* Once upon a time, around 9-ish weeks ago, on a chilly October evening, I decided to go for a run. I was off to a late start, but it was fine. I was well into my run before I realized… “Wow… it’s getting really dark.” But I told myself, “It’s fine. It’s all fine.”

Well, by the time I turned onto Andy Cox Lane… it was dark. And not just dark… it was pitch black, nothing but a bright moon draped with gray clouds to light my path.

Because, see, Andy Cox Lane is a dirt road with almost no streetlights. I passed one as I turned onto it, and that was it. I was encompassed by darkness. There were no houses. Nothing but shadowy fields stretching along either side of me. I thought of stories of mountain lions coming into town… of a bear that had once been seen on Main Street…

I switched on the flashlight of my phone, lighting up the road in front of me and started running a little faster.

I saw the next streetlight just ahead, casting an ominous glow over the driveway of one of the few houses on the lane. I saw the headlights of a car coming my way. Millions of stories of people being kidnapped and murdered flashed into my brain. I started feeling pretty darn anxious to get to the end of the lane, where there were more streetlights and witnesses. I started running a little faster…

As I passed the house, I saw a small light shining in the field to my right, tucked away in the tall grass. I wondered, “What is that thing? Could it be a cell phone? It looks like a cell phone…” Yet, as I drew closer to it, I could see that it was an odd shape. “Is it some sort of lamp? It’s too dim to be a lamp…”

Then a shadow stirred next to the light. I thought, “Is a farmer working out in the field? It’s a pretty odd time of day to be working out in the field, and with such a dim light…” I started to cross to the opposite side of the road…

But I hadn’t made it halfway when the shadow rose from the grass. I could see by its odd shape that it was no farmer. It had a pale shawl draped around a head as wide as its shoulders. It wavered like a snake eyeing its prey. Under the shawl was…

Nothing.

There was no face. Just a black void.

It started towards me. I let out a yell and jumped a good 10 feet into the air, realizing mid cry-for-help what it was, “AHHHH!!! Llama!!”

It was my friend the llama. I call him Gary. He spits on me when I try to pet him, but I’m sure that’s just his way of saying he likes me.

Boy, the world sure is a scary place when it’s dark. I mean, things get distorted. You can’t see what is right in front of you! On a later run I took *during the day*, I saw what the weird light in the grass had been. It was *my* phone light reflecting off of a discarded beer can. I laughed a lot and felt *preeetty* darn sheepish when I realized that. It’s amazing how your perspective of the world changes… once someone switches on a light.

8-years-and-a-night-ago, I was in a pretty bad way. Metaphorically, I had been running in the dark for so long that I’d lost all hope of rescue, all hope of getting to the end of the lane and reaching the next streetlight. I was battered and broken. My dreams, I felt, had been torn from me, and were gone forever. I had no goals, because every direction looked like a dead end, so what was the point of making any? I was fumbling blindly around in agony and despair. I couldn’t carry the pain any longer and I felt like I was dragging those closest to me down into the dark. So, I’d decided to call it quits on the whole life-thing. I planned it out pretty perfectly. I was done.

But then I thwarted my own plan. I broke down in the middle of the night, tears staining the pages of a journal, as my broken heart bled out the most sincere prayer that I have ever uttered.

And on December 13, 2010, Someone turned on the light.

Though the light wasn’t switched on all at once—it was a little at a time, gradual, like the rising of the sun—it began on that day. And because of that, I am still here. It was the day I got my second chance. Though this year has had many dark, *dark* days, it has been FULL of all-time favorite moments that *never* would’ve happened if I’d given up, as I’d planned to do when I was overwhelmed by despair. I’ve accomplished things I once thought I’d never be able to do. And, most important of all, I had Oliver! My sweet, little Oliver… he wouldn’t be here with me. That knowledge still rattles me. You just never know what beautiful moments lay along the horizon. They are there, if you’ll just hang on a little longer. Trust me, you don’t want to miss them. Please, please hang on.

I just want to tell you, anyone who is in pain and feels like they’re wandering in the dark—*you are not alone*. There is hope! I promise you, it is *not* as hopeless as it sometimes seems. The dark just has a way of feeling endless and making everything awful, but your dreams are indeed at your feet, and you *are* strong enough to reach them. Those scary shadows that you need to face in order to grow, may end up being your best memory-friends (like me panicking over running a half-marathon, or feeling like my body was about to split in two while giving birth).

For me, the source of my light, the light that saves me every single day, is my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am not a perfect person. I’m a mess, actually. But He is everything to me, because when I reached out for help, He rushed to my rescue. I’ve found that light through the Book of Mormon. I have to start off every single day by reading from it. This, combined with prayer, are my strongest, most powerful anti-depressants, because of the Light that comes from them. He is there. His love is perfect and sure. He doesn’t care about your past, how broken or lost you are, your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your demons, how shattered your life might seem, or how unworthy of love you may feel, He just loves you. Always, always. All the time. No matter what. What He cares about is where you’re going, and the amazing, fantastic, world-changing person He *knows* you can become, and THAT is what He wants to help you achieve. And through Him, 100%, you can. There is absolutely no way I could’ve made it as far as I have if it weren’t true. Through Him, there is peace, there is comfort, there is joy and we can be made whole. It’s just the way it is. If it weren’t so, I wouldn’t be here. It’s as simple as that.

Please, keep fighting. Keep trying. Just keep running. If you ever need a shoulder to lean on, or an ear to listen, please know that I am here. You are not alone. I don’t always know what to say, but you need never feel alone.

The end.

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