Springtime is here. Sunny, wet, full of energy and hope. Yesterday, I donned my new Spring-coloured hoodie and set out for a run/walk on a popular local trail, dry and smoothly-paved, inviting and pleasant. As I progressed along the sunny trail, the occasional puddle popped up in my path, but I didn’t mind. The puddles were easy to sidestep and dodging them was fun and invigorating.
As the trail progressed, however, the puddles became bigger and more numerous until finally I encountered a puddle so large it completely obstructed the path. I was stopped in my tracks and wondered: is this a sign to turn back, or should I find a way around this big puddle not knowing what lies ahead?
While I pondered, my running companion scouted out a bypass through some trees and before we knew it that big puddle was behind us. But it wasn’t long before we were faced with even more puddles, so inconveniently placed that they could only be avoided by jumping off the trail and running along a muddy bank. Mud seeped through my shoes, into my socks and between my toes.
I started to resent the puddles for forcing me into an even worse situation than I’d been in before, and I found myself wondering if I would have been better off just going through the puddles instead. After all, my feet were going to end up wet either way, but now they were wet and dirty. Sigh.
Nevertheless I kept moving forward, only slightly comforted by the fact that I didn’t think my feet could get any wetter than they already were. That’s when I turned a corner and discovered the path was changing yet again. If I wanted to continue on, I would be trudging over snow in my wet running shoes with cold muddy feet inside of them.
Once again, I stopped and wondered: is it time to turn back? But I really didn’t want to. I had already come so far, and I really wanted to get to that long wooden bridge with the quiet lookout over the peaceful frozen lake, a soothing spot that would warm my heart (if not my frozen toes).
So that’s what I did. I slipped and stomped across the snow until finally I was standing on the bridge, admiring the different shades of colour in the ice below, and instantly all of the obstacles I had passed along the path didn’t seem so bad at all. In fact, somehow they made the reward of that solitary spot even sweeter.
That evening, I thought about how my journey that day mirrored my journey through life. Life can feel so effortless and pleasant when the path is clean and dry, but we just don’t know when those puddles are going to pop up, how big they’re going to be, and how muddy we’re going to get trying to sidestep them. Sometimes we need a friend (or running companion) to help us get around the really big ones. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves it’s better to keep moving forward than to turn back – there is peace beyond the puddles.
There’s a saying: “the only way out is through”. Whenever I’ve tried to sidestep grief, much like puddles, I’ve always ended up muddier and worse off than if I’d just worked through it. Sometimes there’s just no way to avoid getting wet.
So here I am. I am grieving, but this time I’m choosing to run through the puddles instead of trying to avoid them. And I know that eventually I will get to that serene lookout – whatever that will look like for me – and it will feel just a little sweeter knowing I got there despite all the puddles that popped up in my path. And I won’t mind that my feet are a little wet, at least this time they won’t be muddy too.