In the fall of 2013, I ran the New York City Marathon, the seventeenth I’ve completed to date. At the start line atop the Verrazano Bridge, I made a pact with myself. I wasn’t going to watch my Garmin religiously to ensure I qualified for Boston. Instead, I would run fast when I felt good, slow down when I didn’t. Most importantly, I was going to soak up the scenery of the five boroughs, give high fives to spectators, sing out loud and revel in my accomplishment when I crossed the finish line.
That race turned out to be symbolic of my entire 2014.
I have written three books and blogged for several years about living a healthy lifestyle – from the perspective of eating well, exercising and pursuing life passions. Last year, however, confronting divorce, these three conditions didn’t always bring about good health and happiness.
Like a marathon, the year was filled with ups and downs. There were miles when I felt great, others when I was climbing heartbreak hill. Over and over and over again. I didn’t have a “Garmin watch” to keep me on track; in fact, much of the experience was like running blindfolded, trusting I would make the right turns to stay on course.
Beginning a new life can feel incredibly empowering at times. Buying a new home and making it mine was clearly a highlight. I figured out how to fix toilets, hang cabinet doors, put together bed frames and replace electrical outlets. I am now an expert at using the electric drill and can build a beautiful fire that glows all night.
I am supporting myself financially through rewarding work. Successfully juggling a custody and travel schedule. I even get up at 5:30 on weekdays to make time for my beloved boot camp. It has been fun to meet and date kind men.
However, starting over can also be incredibly daunting and painful. Nothing compares to the sadness of seeing less than 100% of my child. His beautiful smile and joyful laugh make life worth living, and it feels like part of me is missing when he’s away. Almost a year later, on those dreadful transition days, I spend most of my hours in tears.
There are other emotions harder to describe – a combination of remorse, sadness, loss and yes, bitterness and resentment. I have a high tolerance for pain and can conquer the mind game of marathons to perfection, but these sentiments have been new to me. I gave up writing in my blog last winter because I lost my creativity somewhere in the first 10K of our separation. I was blessed with lots of happy genes at birth, but being depressed, however temporary, is pretty darn awful.
Like crowds that inspire along the marathon course, my friends and family have lifted me in ways I never thought imaginable. They have listened to me whine and complain, wiped my tears away, boosted my confidence and offered wonderful advice. They’ve had wine with me, hiked with me and pushed those dreadful weights across the gym floor with me.
They have been beside me every step along the way, giving me life like those screaming fans through Central Park.
Throughout this marathon, I have hit the wall more times than I’d like to acknowledge, yet I persevere. The terrain has been downright grueling, but I have learned a lot about myself along the way. I have discovered strength in moments of weakness and depended on faith to guide me through. This experience has taught me a lot about the significance of emotional and mental health – in addition to physical health.
On that cool and windy day in NYC, I ran one of my fastest marathon times in twenty years. The speed of this marathon, however, is far slower than I’d anticipated. It has been nearly a year, and the finish line is not yet in view. But I had the courage to get off the starting block, and I know when I hit the tape, I’ll emerge a stronger, happier, healthier person.