Stop Signs

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A stop sign I discovered while roaming New Hampshire last weekend! And SARA DR! 

Stop signs are the bane of my existence. I will literally drive five miles out of my way to reach a destination rather than take the direct route just to avoid stops signs. Red lights too! Call it a case of inertia – A Sara in motion stays in motion.

Perhaps that explains why the past three months have tried my sanity. Three months ago a decision was made that opened my eyes to my own tragic state of comfortably dying. Like the frog placed in lukewarm water in a pot, which is then brought slowly to a boil on the stovetop, my soul did not perceive the danger of being boiled to death for the past three years. Until life took the pot of water I’ve been swimming around in and dumped it out! So here I am, shivering, wet, and mildly terrified at living life outside the safe confines of the pot. For the first few weeks I would lay awake for hours at night, paralyzed by one thought. “I can’t believe I have to start over.” The tone of this thought took on various shades of sadness, rage and fear.

Until something shifted. I woke up one morning with a new thought forming in my head. “Sara, you GET to start over!”  Wait, this is a blessing? Wait, I’m free to hop away and shake off what was killing me! FREE!

So I packed up my car and headed Northeast, just as I did at 21 when I left Buffalo to interview for a job in Albany after being turned down for the dream gig of my youth in Peterborough, NH. And 18 years later I am still entertaining those dreams of living free in New Hampshire. Establishing that state of rugged mountains, clear lakes and rural roads as a simple home base for all my adventures. Actually I am well past entertaining that idea… I am heading down that rural road with every ounce of my heart. At least for job interviews!

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It’s a stunning backroad so far, lined with pine trees and occasionally unpaved. No problem, I love dirt roads! But who littered my scenic route with these damn stop signs?! I am free and in motion at last, and have no intention of stopping. I have been camped out at an intersection for way too long, living (but not truly) in the shadow of a stop sign. I hung my hat on that stop sign, misinterpreting those four letters to mean I should STOP permanently, rather than STOP until it was safe to GO!

On such a blue sky day I can see vividly where I want to be. So I am hopping impatiently in place at this stop sign and that red light, unable to suppress my heart’s inertia. “Hey God, give me the green light!” I shout.  Yet there’s a balance to be learned, much like the balance required to prop yourself up at at a stop sign when you’re out riding and you don’t want to unclip from your bike pedals.

So I find myself a student of balance, and patience too. Because this ain’t no straight shot. Intersections are not meant to blow through! Often they are crossroads that require we turn off the main route, kick up the gravel and take the road less traveled.

And I am learning that the stop sign is not an awkwardly shaped, impossibly locked door! The stop sign is there to promote a safer journey for me and everyone I share the roads with. It is there to pace me when my heart wants to throw itself entirely into the arms of everything it’s been drawn to for SO long, no matter how much time passes. And especially because so much time has passed! I’m finally free, so let’s get this show on the backroad already!

Let’s take on ultra-sized dreams! Life is short, so why do a 5k when I can do an Ironman? And why wait two years to do an Ironman when I can do it NOW (or in the near future)?! Why? Because there’s an ebb and flow to all of this. In sport and in life, this hot nonsense of either setting up shop at a stop sign or launching myself at reckless speeds across the next intersection has got to, well… STOP!

My heart’s bend toward the extreme is the reason I’m either sidelined, nursing an injured limb or banged up heart, or I’m immersed completely in chasing some epic dream at an unreasonable pace. So I am learning to trust that God has put some stop signs in place between myself and Sara Dr. to ensure I arrive in one piece!

Rather than kick down the stop sign, offended by the idea that I should be interrupted mid-excursion, I resolve to be open! To build one mile on the next, nurturing strength and endurance at conversation pace, rather than rushing recklessly ahead!

Those four letters do not comprise a curse word. STOP is more like a blessing than a curse! A rare opportunity to absorb the scenery, possibly even exchange a few words with a fellow traveler… And discover a kindred spirit! The STOP sign is an invitation to be in the present, and reflect on who I am becoming along the way to where I am going.

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