For me 2012 was a year of endings and loss.
In the spring of this year I lived through the end of my 12-year relationship and spent many weeks and months following grieving the loss of love, of who I thought I was, of a way of life I lived and of plans I had made for the future.
It was a year in which several career paths I enthusiastically and confidently embarked upon led to dead ends. Those kinds of full-stops — especially when they are unexpected — are jarring and difficult at the best of times, but when there are disappointments and hardships weighing down others aspects of your life, they seem particularly cruel.
And now the year has closed for me with the end of a chapter in my family’s history. My maternal grandfather, John Mihoren, passed away on November 20. His death, following my grandmother Ana’s nearly two years ago means that this is the first holiday season in which I won’t have at least one of my beloved grandparents in my life. My grandpa would have turned 90 on December 24, and the celebration of his birth was always woven tightly into my family’s observance of Christmas Eve. He lived a long and full life, and he was ready to say goodbye to his earth-bound days, but his absence will be felt so keenly this year, it will take form as a presence that will walk with us throughout the day.
These endings have left me living a reality that sometimes feels overwhelming and frightening. I work full time in publishing while trying to give the best life possible to Tilda, the exuberant two-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador retriever/border collie mix that my ex and I adopted and who has remained with me. One thing is clear about her: if she lived on a farm, she would be a tireless working dog. I manage to fit in four hours of daily physical exercise and mental stimulation for her, which — as evidenced by the long periods of silence here at Nostrovia! — leaves me little time for some of the things I used to do regularly. Writing and weeknight social events in particular have fallen by the wayside.
When I’m not feeling overly taxed by the demands of work and responsible, engaged pet-parenting of my particular little beast, I often feel frightened. Frightened that this is it, that this is how my life will look forever, that there will never be anyone else to love me but my dog. When someone leaves you, especially after 12 years, it can be hard not to feel as if you are walking around at all times with a sign that says “Worthless Loser” blinking on and off over your head.
By nature I am inward-looking and serious. This year has given me more than enough reason to hide, to dwell on the wounds, to march behind a banner of bitterness, anger, and resentment. Those who know me well know that I can easily brood in the darkness when it descends.
I find myself in an unexpected place at the end of 2012. I first noticed it in the fall, around October. I looked around and saw a whole lot of unfamiliar terrain.
To start, I hardly recognize the body I now inhabit. Soon after I was living on my own, I started running regularly with Tilda, an attempt to tire her out a little more thoroughly than the usual post-work walks and dog park excursions do. I had already lost quite a bit of weight simply from her walking schedule, but running changed everything.
The numbers alone are impressive. I’ve lost 40 pounds and 4 dress sizes since adopting Tilda. But even more remarkable is how I feel. For the first time in a long time — maybe ever — I feel like I’m living inside every inch of my skin. On the trail I feel lean, strong, capable, and, on some days, invincible. I run mostly without headphones now, as my mind crackles. It craves the chance to blow open, to merge with the trees and leaves around me, the sticks and stones under my feet. I watch for Tilda up ahead or listen for her behind me, racing up the path to catch me after she’s stopped to sniff out something interesting. We trot along companionably as the river burbles alongside us, as the birds call overhead, and as the squirrels race for cover (she’s all hunter when it comes to small furry creatures). We become part of what is around us.
Suddenly, distances that once seemed a pipe dream are not only attainable but also routine. Ten kilometres? It’s now my minimum distance for a long run on the weekend. I originally put a half marathon on my life list. I’ll be running that half marathon in May 2013, a warm-up to the full marathon I’m training to run in October 2013.
As that goal of completing a marathon took shape, I realized what running had done for me: It helped me break through. It urged me to overcome limitations I had placed on myself. It helped me take pain and turn it into progress. It made me believe that I had more to give and could actually give it. It helped me dream bigger dreams.
That drive, motivation, and optimism has spilled over into the rest of my life. Rather than staying stuck in loss, I look around each day and name one thing I am grateful for, especially the things that I didn’t or couldn’t have when I was coupled with my ex. Rather than being defeated by the career blocks, I’m looking them straight in the eye and accepting their challenge to find the doors that are open because theirs are closed. Finding love again? Hoo boy. It’s a scary prospect, but for the first time since the split, I’m able to see that I have a lot to offer and that I am willing to receive what someone with values and vision that dovetail my own has to share with me.
Oh, I still have my days. I had one last week, in fact, when I shook my fist at the sky and teared up at my desk at lunch because I was tired of trying and it felt easier to give in to defeat than to keep the light of hope aloft. An immeasurably kind gesture of a colleague reminded me of how incredibly far I’ve come and that challenges are just part of the journey.
And so I find myself entering 2013 believing that anything is possible. In April of this year I looked in the mirror and saw a 39-year-old whose life was falling apart. I never expected to be here, eight months later and less than two months away from my 40th birthday feeling that opportunities abound. Not everything I try will work. Not everything I undertake will end in success. But the important thing is this steadfast belief that something will.
I’m not sure what this plan means for Nostrovia! I certainly miss my time here. Given that I write in long format, I’ve never been a frequent blogger, but I’ve missed posting in regular, if sparse, intervals this year. In some form or another I will continue writing, as that’s what I am at my core — a writer. But I may not restrict my storytelling to food exclusively any more. Or perhaps I will find a way, like my writing idol Kate Christensen, to intertwine stories of food and life so tightly that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
No matter what happens in this space in the future, I wanted to write here one more time in 2012 and share with you what has been this year for me. It began and ended in places I didn’t expect. I believe it will give way to a 2013 filled with things I haven’t yet dared to dream.