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New Year's End...A New Way to See It

By Sarah Garrecht Gassen

This has been one of those years I can’t wait put up the fresh new calendar and start over – 2014 has been a difficult year.

I knew it would be a year of loss. Audrey, our beloved wienerdog, had cancer and she was winding down. And my Gram, who turned 98 in June, was winding down, too, and was in hospice care.

We had to say goodbye to Audrey a few days before Halloween. Gram died about a week or so later. Friends’ losses and troubles hit hard, too.

All these things are part of life. The hard comes with the good. But, as the world saw, there are way worse things that can happen – and many did this year.

So you see, I’ve been ready to turn the page on 2104. Start over. Be done. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people. It could be worse – it can always be worse – but I’ve been looking forward to New Year’s more than usual.

When John Woolf saw me walking across the room at ProActive a few days before Christmas and said, “You’ve had a quite a year!” I nodded. It has been quite a year. And not in a good way, I thought.

Then I took a beat.

I’ve found over the months at ProActive that I need to keep my mind and senses open to what John says. To ask for clarification. To ask him to expand. Not because he doesn’t make sense, but because there’s more to what he’s saying than just the words. And I want to catch it all.

Wait, what do you mean?

Walking, the 5k, working with Eric on getting fit – all that stuff! John was enthusiastic. He was undeniable.

John probably didn’t know about losing Audrey and Gram, or the rest. I started to say “But…” and that’s as far as I got.

You know what?

It has been quite a year.

I started the year lurching back and forth, side to side. I can now walk forward, smoothly, remembering to swing my arms. A measurable and noticeable difference. I feel connected to the Earth, solid on two feet. I can feel my prosthetic foot in a way I couldn’t a year ago.

I work out with Eric twice a week. I am strong. I can lift the heavy bag of dog food into my cart at Costco without a problem. By spring maybe I’ll be able to maneuver the big bag of top soil into the car trunk without dropping it.

My friend Suzi, husband Tim, John Woolf and I walked a 5k on Nov. 8 – the farthest distance I’ve ever (intentionally) walked. I was last but I finished, and that’s all I care about. Team Galumph did it. We’re figuring out our next goal now.

When Suzi and I started walking together about a year ago we made it maybe a quarter mile and were justifiably proud of ourselves. This morning? We walked two miles on the Rillito River path using hiking poles for extra exertion.

I no longer have weigh the feasibility of an outing by how close I can park to the event. I can walk a mile and it’s not a big deal any more.

So yeah, it’s been quite a year.

There have been losses. Everyone experiences loss.  

The trick is to not let what, and who, we miss overtake the steps forward that we make.  

Happy New Year.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen is a journalist living in Tucson.