I moved to Spring Hill just over 7 years ago (can’t believe it’s been that long!) and have more or less been running the same few morning routes since then. I started with an out-and-back on a country road by my house. Every once in a while (when it wasn’t dark) I would venture onto a connected loop instead that gave me the same amount of mileage. This is also the road where I drive to capture the sunset when it is particularly noteworthy. When I moved ¼ mile from a house into my townhome a few years ago, I switched to that loop almost exclusively, plus a little in the middle, to get the same distance. When it’s dark, I just carry a light and the route is now familiar enough that it doesn’t bother me anymore. Days that I feel inspired or have a little extra time, I can tack on extra distance in a couple different ways. Days that I stay in bed too long, I cut out the middle section so I can at least get a few miles before work. But for the most part, when running alone, I’ve stepped out the front door, turned right out of my street and left out of the neighborhood onto the main road before hitting the country roads.
Until last week.
The bridge on that connected road is out, so I’ve had to improvise my regular route. I reverted to the original out-and-back, with some extra distance on either end so I can get my desired mileage. But let’s face it; out-and-back gets kind of old. So one Saturday, I decided to turn right instead of left out of my neighborhood. It was a road I had ventured onto before when first finding routes, and later at times when I needed extra miles or with someone else, but very rarely. That Saturday I discovered that going all the way to where the road t’s off is exactly the amount of mileage I usually try to get. It’s nice because I don’t have to go on the main road, especially when it’s dark and everyone is on their way to work. And as a single girl running solo, while I tend not to let myself think about such things, it’s more open and less sketchy.
So when I rolled out of bed the following Monday for my pre-dawn run, I decided to take that route again … and was treated to one of the most breathtaking sunrises I had seen in quite some time.
I don’t usually run with my phone, but when I can tell the sunrise will be awesome I strap it on instead of just the ipod. Very quickly it occurred to me, “I never would have experienced this if I had been on my regular route.” You see, when on that route, the sun is at my back, or hidden, for much of it. There have been times that I will grab my phone and can snap a few pics at a few points along the way, but this way I was able to experience the sunrise in nearly all of its glorious entirety.
And isn’t life just like that? We get set in our routines. The familiar. We stay in relationships because they are what we know. They may not be the strongest or healthiest, but we find ways to not let it bother us. We try not to think about it. We make little tweaks here and there - carry a light, add on, take off - as necessary, but rarely do big changes happen by choice. Sometimes it takes a bridge being out for us to discover what we’ve been missing. Sometimes it takes major life events or being dropped by a friend altogether to open up new opportunities that we never would have considered otherwise.
Well it took a long while, but the new bridge was finally completed, though there was still a sign that said Road Closed. One early morning I decided to venture back to my regular route and check out the status. While it seemed fine, it was so dark that I knew it wasn’t wise to trek across without being able to fully see. I came back another day in full sunlight and could tell that, despite the road still being closed to through traffic, it was now safe to run across. It was nice to be back on those familiar roads, especially because it allowed for some longer runs, but I have continued to run on my new route most often. Finally the road was completely open yet again. It could withstand the weight of not only light foot traffic, but heavy cars and trucks as well. And finally I could drive to my sunset spot again.
Just because a bridge goes out doesn’t mean the road will stay closed forever, but it takes a lot of long, hard work to completely tear down what was broken and rebuild it to withstand time and trial. The same bridge had already been closed for repairs a while back. I was still able to run across, but it was not safe for vehicle traffic. The fix was not permanent, however, and the much longer, complete process was still eventually necessary.
And so it is with relationships. Just because a friendship becomes damaged for a season does not mean that it will be permanently broken. At the first signs of damage, efforts can be made to repair. But sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes things must be torn down completely before they can be rebuilt. The road to that friendship - to what is comfortable and familiar - must be made inaccessible for a time. You will get to experience things that you never would have otherwise. You will have time for different people and new opportunities. When the bridge is finally rebuilt, it can be tempting to rush back across with the full weight of before. But don’t do so blindly. Allow for light to be shed on the situation. Allow for things to settle into place. Once the road has been reopened, don’t forget the new things you’ve learned. Don’t rely on the sunset road when there are still sunrises waiting to be experienced.
But most importantly, don’t give up hope that your bridges can be rebuilt.