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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

-- Robert Frost--

The darkest evening of the year is the times in our lives that are long and lonely passages, which lead us to better understand who we really are. Promises that we have made interrupt the spells of anxieties and fears on these Winter Solstices. The long journey to fulfill grand promises becomes the point of exit from this haunting night, and it is through that exit point that we know what matters to us.

If I am to make a self-portrait, I want to make an honest one, one that tells about the parts of myself that only I know. I want you to see as I do just for a moment. There is an expression that the eyes are the window to the soul; yet eyes deceive like pools of water that capture reflections. It is our promises that tell more about who we truly are. There is a distinct difference between our obligations that we carry out, and our promises. Our promises are what we have actively committed ourselves to no matter how great that challenge may become. There is something almost foolish about a promise, because one never really knows how difficult it may be to carry out with the unforeseen events that the future may bring.

I have run many marathons in my life, some metaphorical, four that were 26.2 miles of running. In the marathon as in life, there comes a point where the distance becomes too great, and the most reasonable thing to do is to give up; but that’s not what happens. In spite of the pain, isolation, and exhaustion, there is still a promise that must be kept, to finish what was started. Olympic Marathoner Deena Kastor says, “Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us.” There is truth to that, but I also believe that the promises that we keep greatly define who we are, revealing what we choose to hold on to in spite of all odds.

Over the miles and over the years, I have strived to keep the promise to myself to remain optimistic; a simple, but daunting task. Almost everyone who knows me knows that I am an optimistic person, but I don’t think they realize how hard I work at it. My mind can be seduced into negative thinking, but in those dark nights in the woods I remind myself:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

I have stumbled at times, skinning the knee of my promise on cynicism, which delights in inflicting itself upon us in times of tragedy or failure. I bandage up my optimism and continue on this foot-race of life; by the next mile marker my resolve will be strengthened. I choose not be hardened.

My fellow runner, I find this foot race to be very difficult too, but I promised myself I would enjoy the miles ahead even when the path is steep and rocky.

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