The pavement on the rural road was riddled with cracks, and at first that’s what I thought it was … a sinuous gap stretched before me like a finish line. I had ten more minutes left on my Memorial Day weekend run, and I was deep into that hypnotic running trance.

My feet lifted and fell, lifted and fell. Thoughts rose and receded; Katy Perry’s “Roar” scrolled through my mind. It was my story, after all – the story of a girl who loses her voice then gets it back.

“I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess … “

Sweat poured down my arms, but it felt right. Given the health issues I’d faced over the past few years, having energy to run felt amazing. I loved everything from the heat on my face to the lyrics I said aloud:

“You hear my voice, your hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake the ground … “

My feet approached the crack in the center of the road. I was a couple of yards away when the jolts of recognition came.

That. Is. A. Snake.

Sneakers: stilled. Mind: frozen.

But on a deeper level, I was more fascinated than fearful.

Wow. Aside from the mortal terror, it really is beautiful, I thought. It was enormous, a deep brown color with circular black bands. The snake turned its head a little to the right.

Oh God! My mind was freaking out. But my heart was oddly touched by the gesture. The snake’s movements didn’t seem predatory, but peaceful. I could have sworn that when it turned its head, it almost … smiled.

Once I’d gotten a good look, I did the practical thing and “panic moonwalked” backwards, a la Nick from New Girl. Yet as I raced home, I didn’t feel so much threatened as blessed.


Why am I telling you this story? Because how we choose to see the world matters. If we choose to see peril and threat, we’ll find them. And if we choose to see peace and goodness underlying it all, we’ll find them too.

I’m not saying that there are no dangers in this world. Of course there are. There are terrible crimes and heartbreaking tragedies. It’s not my intention to minimize any of them.

Rather, it is my intention to trust the small voice inside that says, “All of this is happening FOR you, even the things you cannot make sense of. All of it is FOR you, not against you.”

In Dr. Eben Alexander’s book The Map of Heaven, he talks about how “subatomic particles … are constantly moving in and out of existence.” He uses this appear/disappear phenomenon as a metaphor for how meaning vanishes and returns, vanishes and returns.

Even though it’s hard when meaning goes missing on this level of existence, we can trust that meaning is NOT lost. We can feel our grief and our pain, but beneath those feelings, we can also hold to a steady joy.

In Dr. Alexander’s words: “When we know that the meaning is there even when it seems most absent – then joy … can become a constant undertone of our lives, no matter what is happening.”

When I come up against mysteries I don’t understand, I wonder if they might be the universe saying, “Hello, sweet girl. I love you,” in a language I’m still learning. So instead of freaking out and blaming myself (my old default!), I consider a different translation.

When I saw the snake on the road, I had a choice. I could have seen it as evidence that the world is a scary place, that I shouldn’t go for solo runs, or that I’m stupid for not seeing the danger sooner. I could have castigated myself and made it mean all kinds of hurtful things.

Instead, I thought of my close friend Tammy, who loves snakes. I wondered if the sighting was a cosmic wink from her.

I considered how the encounter confirmed my intuitive sense that the snake meant me no harm. (After the run, my in-laws helped me to identify it as a non-venomous rat snake.)

And finally, I thought about the “Roar” lyrics I’d been reciting before I saw the snake. Later, my coach told me that the snake symbolizes transformation, speaking your truth, and stepping into your power.

Realizing that, I could almost hear the Universe laughing: “I loved what you were singing, so I sent you the snake as a gift. There were no lions on hand in rural Alabama at the time.”

If you have a hard time seeing the challenges of your life as opportunities, then you are not alone. All of us are students in this same school, and we need each other to learn these lessons.

We discover deeper meanings in the context of relationship. I couldn’t have seen the snake differently without supportive relationships that expand my sense of the possible.

Today is my birthday, and I’m grateful to share it with you. If you’d like to offer a gift, leave a comment below and tell me about a moment when you found meaning.

Tell me about a time that you saw those layers of possibility, a time that might have been very tough but that ultimately strengthened your faith in goodness.

Thank you in advance for inspiring me today.

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