Personal Growth: My Answer to Depression (or Why I’m Doing 52 Goals in 52 Weeks)

It’s been more than a year since I got the phone call from the doctor’s office. “We’re sorry, but it is Cancer- we need you to come back in for more tests.” Great. Just what I needed in the midst of a failing marriage and money problems and increasing frustration with my life. The C-word. It hit me like a wrecking ball. And that wrecking ball swung and knocked down all the support I thought I had in my life. Eventually, I told everyone I was fine. Just a blip on the radar, no big deal. I was NOT fine.

About six months later, I was sitting on my couch falling in love with Pinterest when I started seeing a lot of motivational quotes about how working out empowered people to take control of their health and their lives and gave them a healthy outlet for their depression and anxiety. So I started running. And then I accidentally signed up for a marathon. (That’s a story for another day.) And as anyone who knows me will tell you, I spent the next seven or eight months of my life on a crazy personal journey where running was an outlet during my separation and some really dark times in my life. Eventually I used it as an outlet to express my love for the people around me by dedicating each mile to someone I loved or someone who inspired me. In the end, that’s the only thing that kept my legs moving: “Uncle Alfred, Grandma, Beth, Dad, Nana, Nathan, Jeremy, Jason, Heather, Cameron, Ellianna, Rod, Ashley, PTK, The Kerrs, Kevin, Scott, Jacob, Papa Jim, Mama, Russ, Jonathan… Uncle Alfred, Grandma, Beth, Dad…” And so it went for the last two miles. But I did it!!!

So about a month before my marathon, I had the hardest day of my life so far. I knew the marathon experience was coming to a close, and still had a lot of crazy hard things in my life to deal with. I started grasping for some kind of personal growth to throw myself into, something to keep busy, something to make me reach a goal and stand on my own two feet, something to empower me the way the marathon did. My counselor also told me around the same time that I needed to swear off relationships for a year. He looked me right in the eye and practically begged me to consider it. With only two exceptions, that’s something I could certainly choose to do. No new relationships of a romantic nature for a year, got it. But now what? Sit around for a year wishing I had someone to hold me at night and tell me everything was going to be ok? No, that won’t work.

And so, this project was born. 52 weeks without dating. 52 projects/bucket list items to keep myself busy. And here we are. So here’s how it works:

1) I’m not accepting any new dates at this time. Sorry, but if we go watch a movie or eat dinner together it’s as FRIENDS. You are NOT the exception to the rule. There are only two exceptions to the rule: my soon-to-be-ex-husband, and this one other guy who is currently unavailable. He knows who he is, you don’t have to wonder if it’s you. It’s not. You are completely, solidly, totally in the friendzone. Don’t like it? There’s the door.

2) I am, however, wide open for developing new friendships. Men, women, old, young, single, taken, it really doesn’t matter! I’m an extrovert and a very affectionate person, so the more people I have in my life to share it all with, the better! I’m focusing more on female relationships, because I have been lacking on these in my life. And you should all know, I have a bottle of wine, a whole box of nail polish, and a wide variety of face masks on standby for girl time any time you want to come over and dish, or gush, or just have a friend around for a while. I know what it’s like to be bitterly lonely, and my friends should always know they don’t have to feel that way. You can come over to my messy, cozy apartment any time and not be alone for a while. I’m that kind of friend. For reals.

3) These 52 things are subject to change, as my goals in life change. This is a list of things I would like to accomplish from my current perspective, and on nights when I get lonely or bored or sad or downright depressed, I have this list to go to and say “Hey, brain- let’s not wallow. Let’s work on this goal so we can check it off our list.” Maybe I won’t finish them all, maybe I will. It’s not about punishing myself if I don’t manage to do it all. It’s about taking this time to somehow improve my life through personal development. Deal with it.

I’ll post as I finish goals, and I may post about the ones I’m currently working on. I might even publish the whole list. We’ll see how it goes. The main thing is to document why I’m starting this blog, which incidentally is one of my goals. 🙂

Goal #4: Start a blog (completed 3/22/2015)

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The Gift: The Importance of Expressing Yourself

I’ve had a lot of time recently to contemplate my relationship with my estranged husband. I have several theories on where things went wrong, but I don’t like to dwell on the past- I like to move towards the future. So I found myself thinking a lot about what that means. I desire to be loved more than anything else- especially by the people I love. But I can’t change how anyone else thinks or feels about me… I can only be myself and love others deeply and unconditionally.

So I decided to give my husband a gift: a labor of love, a reminder of all the good times, an expression of unconditional commitment. And thus I found myself wandering Hobby Lobby in search of something like that when I found…. *drumroll* ….the scrapbook aisle. It was perfect… I could make something to express myself that he could hold onto and look at forever. And if he couldn’t appreciate it, I knew my young son would someday.

When the scrapbook idea solidified in my head, I immediately thought of the love story in the Pixar movie “UP” and that became my theme. After all, I’ve loved my husband since we met, our life together has been an amazing adventure everyday, and I wanted him to see the last page and know in his heart that I loved him, and I enjoyed our years together, and I want him to be happy.

So here it is!

I found this cover on Etsy and fell in love!
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I did this page entirely by hand (except for the balloons- those are confetti I found).
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It’s hard to believe we used to be so young and skinny!
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The page on the left is so touching because two of the three main photos are the way we looked at each other at our wedding. Exactly what I never want to forget.
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First year of marriage… the honeymoon phase! Lol
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More married adventures!
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These are the photos we took right after we found out we were pregnant. Our last photos together as a kid-free couple! 🙂
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“You are our greatest adventure!” ❤
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Great moments in the midst of hard times.
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Some of our favorite moments as a family. ❤
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“Unconditional love.” “My hero” ❤
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It was hard to know exactly what to say here. I just left it open for whatever might happen in the future.
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This is the first time since my International campaign that I spent so much time and effort expressing something straight out of my soul, and I love how it turned out. It’s imperfect, but it says what I needed to say in a tangible way.

And for those who might be curious, I gave this to my husband for Valentines Day and it speaks volumes that he really appreciated it. He gets it: he knows how much heart and soul I put into the book and exactly what I was trying to say. Did it fix everything like a magic wand? No. Did it give me a healthy way to show him love? Yes. Mission accomplished.

In Defense of Valentine’s Day

A quick rundown on my romantic history:
I’m a twenty-something woman who has been married for almost 6 years. My spouse and I are currently separated after several years of rocky relations. I have been very lucky in love… I have never been cheated on or abused, and the boys/men I have been serious with were all really good men with really great intentions. I love deeply, and I still love my spouse very much. That being said, this post is NOT written from an “everything is perfect for me, what are YOU complaining about?” perspective. 🙂

There is always a lot of chatter this time of year hating on Valentine’s Day, and I just want to respond to the three things I see complained about the most:

1) This holiday is way too commercialized. Stop giving Hallmark and Tipton Hurst your money for no good reason!
2) I’m single, and I’m tired of having a constant reminder of that splashed in my face around literally every corner in Walmart!
3) What is the point? You’re supposed to tell your loved one that you love them every single day, so this date is POINTLESS in a real, healthy relationship.

And so I give you: my defense of Valentine’s Day!

1) “Commercialized!” I’ll try to keep my more snarky comments to myself, which will make this relatively short… commercialization is not always bad. Do you farm your own food, sew your own clothes, and fix all your own plumbing, electrical, and vehicle issues? Commercialization is related to specialization… Hallmark and Tipton Hurst specialize in helping you tell your significant other you love them, and that’s not bad! And if you’re not convinced, that’s OK too… even bad guys have their place in the world…

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In other news, a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese may be “commercialized”, but do you see kids complaining? No. Why? BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME!!! Quit worrying about who is profiting from your love if it makes you happy. They charge you to go to the ER and have your broken arm set in a cast (and they make a profit) but does it benefit you to go? Yes… so go, silly!

2) “I’m single!” I mean this in the nicest way possible but… so what??? Think of this like you would think of seeing 20 whole aisles of Hanukkah stuff at Walmart around the holidays… it doesn’t really apply to you, but if you’re drawn in by all the pretty sparkly things then walk down the aisle, pick up piece of Hanukkah candy, and enjoy it! Or if you find that offensive or sad because you can’t be Jewish, avoid the Hanukkah aisle. Right? Right.

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What’s wrong with being single anyway? Some of you have the most kick-a** lives ever without having a Significant Other in the picture, but when you see hearts and flowers you get mopey. Dude, YOU’RE AWESOME! Maybe the last one was a jerk, or maybe you were the jerk, or maybe you just don’t need anybody in your life right now… that’s OK! You’re still awesome! So buy yourself some ridiculously expensive chocolate, plunk some flowers down on your desk at work because they’re pretty and you like them, and go on being AWESOME. Srsly.

3) “Pointless!” Oh honey, you are either very very lucky, or very very naive. I would argue that Valentine’s Day is the most important holiday for married couples, especially the ones who have been married for a while. In most relationships, as we progress along we no longer have the extreme interdependence of young love… we become parents, we start careers, we develop overly expensive hobbies like target shooting or scrap-booking (guilty, and GUILTY!), and it is so easy to lose touch. Your average married couple with kids gets to spend maybe 15 minutes together a day alone, and that’s usually spent either talking, planning, ranting, making out, or folding laundry together (in no particular order). Some of us have to schedule time together if we want it because that involves an elaborate process of getting a babysitter, child-/babysitter-proofing the house, making the plans/reservations, etc. Heck, some of us have to keep a calendar and hang it over the bed to remind ourselves it’s time to invest in some quality naked time.

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So is it that hard to believe that some of us look forward to Valentine’s Day as a beacon of annual romancing? Sometimes we get so busy we completely forget to really convey just how much we care about each other until the reminders are literally hitting us in the face (thank you, random balloons at Walmart… why are you even inflated yet? I’ve still got 2 weeks to shop for this!). Does that mean we aren’t committed or loving? No… it means we are busy human beings who need an occasional reminder to stop, look our loved ones in the eye, and say “Hey! Don’t forget I love you.” which is something we all need to hear from time to time, even if it is commercialized, overly ostentatious, and thought up by rich Hallmark executives. 🙂

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