by Stella Armstrong
It started with a series of small changes: an extended bout with sniffles, headaches that recurred with more intensity, small chores that piled up, an achy right knee that made movement delicate and deliberate, changes in the usual schedule of things that threw off the familiar rhythm of daily routine. Although I did not want to I had to miss a number of taekwondo sessions because of health and work reasons. I was filled with regret, seeing all that I had worked on to build strength and endurance was being wasted, taking me, as it were, back to zero, and starting over. I missed taekwondo, but dreaded going back. I felt that since I had lost so much of what I had gained, I would not be able to cope within the level where I had been before I stopped attending. It became a tug of war between fear that I would not be able to keep up with the exercises and wanting so badly to be able to continue practicing taekwondo again.
The first time I went back to taekwondo class was fears coming true. I could run but was so out of breath and weak in the knees that I was afraid of toppling over. I was running, true, but was barely running. By the second lap out of four I was just filled with the intense desire to stop and walk over to the bench to sit down. Everyone knew that I had been sick so there were no expectations but a lot of allowance for me to be slack. That was my neither-here-nor-there moment: as I looked at the bench while feeling the weakening in my knees as I ran, I felt the endless moment of being suspended in the middle of seemingly two equal forces. I suddenly realized that tipping the balance all came down to the direction of where my next step would be. Walking toward the bench appeared to be the easier choice, but I also then realized that taking the next step away from the bench would change something in my impasse – I did not exactly know if I had the strength to do it, but I knew that it was important that I walked away from the bench, even if I had to topple over while doing it. I knew I had one good step to give to move me away from the bench, but I was also pretty sure that was all I had. In spite of all that seemed to say that I would fail, that tiny hope inside, that longing to be freed, dared me to take that one step away from the bench. One step, and then another, and then another.
One step away from something is a step nearer toward another, even though it is a little at a time. One step toward life everlasting is a step away from the soul dying, even though it is a little at a time.