2022, that’s a wrap!

The power of journaling

My first journal entry was in September 2007. I started keeping a journal as a way to express my feelings. It was a rough year because of my parent’s divorce and losing our house. And I kept up with journaling because, as a naturally introverted person, I didn’t share much with friends or family. There are things I can tease out only with pen and paper. So journalling became a ritual. I’m glad to report that the ritual is alive and well over 15 years – and four journals – later.

This particular journal – which chronicles my life from 2018-2022 – has some of the hardest moments of my life.

Of course my other journals were riddled with classic teenage and young adult worries and insecurities but that’s all typical: Divorce sucks, university is hard, when will I be in my first relationship, living abroad is cool, yay I’m finally a teacher, etc. When you’ve accomplished all the external things, achieved all you’ve worked towards, what comes next? Great question, right?

My first entry in this journal was November 2018. And my life would never be the same again. I fell in love. Like, really in love. Nothing I’ve felt for any other man compares. And he loved me too. Our love permeates almost every page of this journal because it was with me in all my moments: from the joyous to the grief-stricken and everything in between.

It deeply changed me. I could no longer go back to being the old me and that was scary.

The old me was the only one I ever knew. So, I had a lot of inner work to do to figure out what kind of human I wanted to become. And that’s what this journal chronicles. But 2022 was a particularly beautiful year.

The end of 2021 saw me saying goodbye to the greatest love of my life. I couldn’t go through the rollercoaster of emotions anymore. For my own mental well-being, I needed to permanently shut that door. With him out of the picture the goal was to focus on me. I was dedicated more than ever to healing and moving on.

The catalyst for my healing this year? My puppy.

One of my good friends got a puppy around Christmas and said her puppy was essential to her healing. I remembered that in May 2021 I had put my name on a two-year waitlist for a puppy. So in early January, after my friend told me about her healing thanks to her puppy, I contacted the breeder to see if two years was still the timeline. She told me no, it could be early Summer or Autumn but she wouldn’t know until the Spring litter is born.

Well, now I was super excited that I could be a dog mom in a few months! I manifested so much over those winter months. I bought a name tag – it was the only thing I allowed myself to buy – and I would hold it in my hand and manifest, “Millie, whenever you’re ready to come to me, I’m ready for you”, then I’d put the name tag on my desk so it was always visible.

Since I was getting an active breed, I needed to get used to long walks in all weather. So, that frigid and snowy January, I started going for hour-long walks. I would put on four layers of clothing and come, hail or shine, tired or not, I’d walk. Walking every day for about an hour became another healing ritual I was committed to.

I told myself: If you want a dog, you need to prove you deserve this responsibility.

So on days where I didn’t feel like it, I’d remember that as a dog owner, I’d have no choice so this was practice for those days. Millie helped me commit to something that was good for my physical and mental well-being. After a bit, I wasn’t walking for Millie anymore, I was walking for myself. I also started eating healthier and doing strength training. I shed some pounds and felt the strongest I’d ever felt. Millie was already healing me and she hadn’t even been born yet!

Now that I was physically in a better position to care for a dog, there was the issue of work. My commute was 2 hours. In early Spring, I realized that I couldn’t leave Millie alone for 10 hours a day. That wouldn’t be fair. So, I decided to resign from my school board, where I had a permanent position and eight years of seniority, in favour of the school board where I lived. I wanted a much shorter commute. The goal was to work within 5km of my home. I wanted a much better work-life balance. I was leaving the financial stability and taking a massive leap of faith. But I knew in my soul it was the right decision to make. I wasn’t doing this for Millie; I was doing it for myself.

I wanted to live my beliefs: Never let fear around money be the thing that holds you back from doing what’s best for you. It’s only money after all. When I made the decision to leave my permanent teaching position, I knew what I was giving up, and I gave it up happily and confidently. I knew the Universe would have my back.

This was huge personal growth. And something I never would’ve done pre-2018.

Money was always a hot topic in my family. There was constant anxiety and stress around not having enough. So it’s no surprise that I struggle with this “scarcity” mentality. I haven’t rid myself of that mentality, but I’ve come a loooooong way. So this was a big deal.

April 2nd, I found out, I was getting Millie! The litter had 9 puppies (the second time in 15 years the breeder ever had a litter so big) and I was ECSTATIC. How do humans wait almost 10 months before meeting their baby, I have no idea. New puppy and unknown job prospects?! My life was really changing!

The only person I wanted to share all this with, the person I knew would get it, the person I knew would say, “I support you 1000% and am so happy and excited for you”, was the person I thought about every single day—the love of my life. When I firmly and irrevocably shut the door to him, I thought I would move on. I thought time would make me think of him less and make me confident in my decision to end things. But that confirmation – that feeling of rightness I got in my gut when I gave up my job – didn’t exist when it came to him. He was there, all the time, in everything I did, just as he was on all the pages of my journal since 2018.

In late April, I was told to reach out to him. It was evening. I was turning off lights, getting ready for bed, not even sad or thinking of him when a voice from my heart, so clear it felt like someone was speaking to me in my apartment, told me to call him. And I did. Reconnecting was so bittersweet; a heart wrenching gift. To reconnect with someone you’ve lost is not a chance everyone gets, nor is it a choice everyone makes. Losing him felt like becoming widowed and speaking to him again was a gift I wouldn’t get if I were actually widowed. Widows don’t get that choice or chance, where I got both.

And even though it was hard to hear that he made decisions that prevent him from being with me, I am still so incredibly grateful for the chance to speak with him. And as I knew he would be, he was incredibly happy, proud and supportive.

Millie came in late Spring, and I was busy being a new dog mom. Thankfully, she slept through the night right away, so sleep deprivation was not an obstacle. But training her required infinite patience (something I lack). I learned so much about the commitment, time, patience and love it takes to work for something you want. All things that are good for our physical and mental well-being require all those things. The money and time invested in Millie were worth it. The frustration and tears I shed were also worth it. I had been preparing for Millie for months, but I couldn’t prepare for how much work it would take nor how much I would come to love her. Of course, I knew I would love her, but I wasn’t prepared for the depth of what I came to feel.

When you want something – be it a pet, baby, self-love, partner, or a fulfilling career – you can never truly be prepared for all that is required. It’s not only rainbows and sunshine. There are some damn hard moments in there, too. Only recently, have people in my life been candid about how hard motherhood/relationships/self-love/job fulfillment are. When I was growing up, no one ever showed their vulnerability. No one talked about how hard ________ can be, how much change you go through. There was real shame over not feeling happy or grateful all the time. Yes, you will love moments. You’ll get glimpses of how easy it can be.

But oftentimes love, relationships, job fulfillment require you to work at it, to work on yourself.

It requires you to shed your old ideas and evolve. And that work is arduous, long and painful. It sometimes feels like running uphill through molasses with shin splints. But 2022 has taught me that it is always worth it. There will be high highs and low lows. Moments where you don’t know if you can keep going, moments of regret, great joy and equally incredible frustration, moments where you laugh so hard you cry and moments where you cry so hard because the grief is unbearable.

In some moments, love takes no work at all; it flows so freely it takes your breath away or brings tears to your eyes.

And in other moments, it still takes your breath away or brings tears to your eyes because it feels like the hardest work of all. This past year taught me that all the moments, no matter how they feel, are a gift. I’m grateful for what they’ve all taught me about life, love and myself. I’m so grateful for this year of growth and evolution.

I know I said the catalyst for change this year was my puppy, but really, it was the love of my life. He was the catalyst for many big shifts over the past 4 years of my life. Without him, I wouldn’t be here, sitting in front of the journal I just finished, feeling extremely grateful for the challenges of the past 365 days. I wouldn’t be as proud as I am, in awe of who I’m choosing to become. I’m really excited to be entering 2023 with a continued feeling of gratitude and immense love. I cannot wait to see what this new year has in store for me.

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