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The Phoenix

I grew up loving mythology.  My favorite stories were of the Greek gods, goddesses, and heroes.  I loved learning about the belief systems of the ancients of all cultures.  One of the stories that I particularly loved, and still do, was the story of the phoenix.  You are probably familiar with this story if for no other reason than there was a phoenix in one of the Harry Potter movies.  The phoenix was a bird who lived for a certain life cycle (either 500 or 1000 years) and then, at the end of its life, would burst into flames and be reduced to ash before being reborn from the ashes to live a new life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately. Hope for me is that belief that things can be better, that redemption, that resurrection can happen.  Hope is that even when I’m reduced to ashes, something beautiful can be formed from those ashes.

Life is going well for me (with the occasional hiccup – see last week’s Portland race recap) 🙂  In the words of One Republic, “what’s there to complain about?”  One of the quiet realizations that I’ve had over the past 8 months is that I am kind of an optimist.  I wouldn’t have guessed that given the rather fatalistic environment from which I came, but surprisingly enough, I find myself believing the best and hoping for the best.  I was shocked 🙂

I came across a Latin proverb the other day, “dum spiro, spero.” It means “while I breathe, I hope.”  I really connected with that.  It’s that idea that hope is something so integral to me that it’s like breathing.  I don’t stop breathing, even when I have a bad breath.  I don’t stop hoping, even if hope seems lost, even if the world looks like ashes around me.  And hoping isn’t to say that I sit on my hands and hope for something to happen.  Hope is the fuel that makes me bolder.  It’s the engine that drives my dreams and goals.

It’s a hard thing sometimes.  I think it’s a simple thing, but not an easy thing.  Hope by definition can’t see the end.  It’s the belief that what you can’t see isn’t going to defeat you or overwhelm you.  It’s the belief that even from the ashes, something amazing, beautiful, profound, and life changing can arise.  It’s a stubborn thing too.  Hope keeps on even when everything else says to just give up.  It can be a little annoying at times, especially for a pragmatist like me.  My head says to find another course, that the path is blocked, but my heart and my hope won’t let me.  I guess maybe that’s part of why I didn’t quit on my race last weekend.  Maybe there was that fundamental hope and faith that the next mile would be better than the last.  I can look out now from where I am in my life and know that the next chapter can be great.  It will be great.  I know it like I know the sun will rise.  Again, that’s not to say I’m not happy with where I am, but I know that what comes next will be even better.

I can relate to the pain that the phoenix must feel when it’s reduced to ash.  I’ve made no secret of the pain I’ve gone through over the past year or so (and extending beyond that).  That is the past.  The ashes, the pain, the mistakes I’ve made don’t define me.  They aren’t who I am.  The hope is that there is something amazing coming (and in part already here).  From those ashes, anything is possible.

What will come?  I don’t know.  I know it will be beautiful.  I have high hopes 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. July 20, 2011 at 5:46 am

    Great post Mike! Hope will sustain us!

  2. July 29, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Glad you have the right attitude to pull off a phoenix-like comeback man. You’ll be back at it, and look back that this time in your life and laugh that you ever had any doubt.

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