Lost and found

Five years ago this week, I signed up as a volunteer for the Special Olympics Kentucky State Basketball Tournament.

Next weekend, I’m going to be watching a team I coach participate in that tournament.

Four years ago, I was starting to get more involved with the organization – but hadn’t yet found my place. I also jumped in the freezing Ohio River that year for these guys and girls. Brrr.

It wasn’t long after that I met an athlete that got me where I am today with SOKY.

This is Dallas. He’s the first athlete I met/saw numerous times as I got more and more involved at Special Olympics events. He was/is EVERYWHERE. He’s kind of a big deal, you guys. Everyone knows him, everyone loves him.

15036406_10103019811545662_1160774891015075997_n

It was through Dallas I then met his mom, Cathy, the head of the Louisville Royals sports delegation – who heard me mention an interest in softball and brought me on to help coach the summer of the 2015 (which you all may remember as that time in my life that everything fell apart but fell perfectly together).

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve said this before about Special Olympics, but it bears repeating: Have you ever found something you didn’t know you were looking for? Something you didn’t know you needed? That’s this, for me.

In the Spring of 2015, I was the unhappiest I’ve ever been. The highlight of my week was Thursday nights spent keeping the scorebook for SOKY’s basketball leagues at Fern Creek High School. It’s where I ended up talking more to Dallas, and to Cathy, and it’s because of them I am where I am today.

I quit my job that year on June 1 of 2015. Two weeks later, I became a coach for the Royals softball team. Not only was I getting to work with some amazing people, but it took me back to all those summers spent as a kid with my family at the ballpark – playing, umpiring, watching my younger sisters play… it also distracted my from my anxiety about unemployment, which was much-needed. (The distraction. And the unemployment was much-needed, actually. Not the anxiety, though. Never the anxiety).

After that I was talked into coaching football (which is hilarious because I don’t know enough about it to do anything but watch and also I suck at throwing a football). Luckily, the two guys I coached with had that covered so my job was being the sideline mom. I bandaged scrapes, gave hugs and occasionally chased/cuddled our littlest player, Griffin, who was determined to run off in the middle of the game. My presence was very important, obviously.

12072701_10102317612573032_4910128527771013110_n

Then there was basketball. Friends, if I shoot 10 baskets I’m lucky to make 2 of them. So I’m a natural choice to help coach, right? Right. Something worked, though, because our team made it to the state tournament and won gold medals.

Last year was my first time as head coach of anything. I started with softball. And just FYI, head coach can simply mean you get the practice space and do the paperwork. And get dibs on making the lineup if you want. Apparently last year it meant piss off a man who was assisting you by doing nothing more than just existing, but that’s a story for another time. Over a beer.

So many positive things have come out of my time as a coach, though. Almost too many to mention. I’ve made some great friendships with those I’ve coached with – Cathy has become an invaluable part of my life, Gus has been so awesome to coach alongside (the two of us are old pros at this point) and then I’ve also been able to spend more time with my cousin, Aaron, who lived out of town for a long time, but who has joined all of us as a Royals coach.

One of the guys in my youth group helped out during softball season and will be back as a coach this year. Several members of my youth group have volunteered at the state tournaments for basketball and bowling for a few years now. My best friend’s son, who is 13, heard about what I do with SOKY and thought it sounded like a cool way to get Beta Club service hours, and who has since come to a game and three practices and loved it as much as I do.

And that’s just the coach stuff.

I’ve also seen enough athlete moments to make my heart explode.

– Athletes scoring their first basket, run, touchdown.

– Athletes helping each other out – passing a ball to someone younger/who doesn’t always get to score so they can get a chance.

– At skills for softball last year, the entire team cheering for each other as they took turns running the bases as fast as they can.

– The smiles and hugs during and after games win or lose, because they just love to play.

– The encouragement of athletes on other teams.

Special Olympics and those involved – athletes, parents, coaches – have given me so much. More than they’ll ever know. And I cannot imagine life without any of it.

Now please enjoy some pictures. Warning: Your heart might explode.

Advertisements

I did it all for the banana. And the Thanksgiving sides.

The night before, I got nervous.

The morning of, I got real nervous.

I think I went to the bathroom 11 times.

And then I was nervous about being nervous because nervous poops.

This is my life, y’all.

I wore my new running leggings. I congratulated myself for choosing the long-sleeve shirt because it was cold as hell. I got my free shirt. And my number.

img_2797

My friend Jennifer decided the night before to run the race as well, and she was giving me a pep talk. My cousin Anna – my running buddy – got there and we found our places in line. After one more bathroom trip.

I saw a few more friends lining up and silently cursed at/judged the people who were running before we had to run – you know, those people who will do the course before, just because, or will do a few laps around the parking lot to get warmed up. I was praying I’d just finish before the people with the strollers and the old man with the ski pole.

And then we started.

It felt good, at first. And I told myself I’d run as far as I could, then walk, and then run, and it was OK if I walked some, people do that in races.

I made it further than I thought I would before the cold outside air (this is where my training being indoors became an issue) literally took my breath away. I stopped to walk and told Anna to keep going.

“Save yourself!” I said. “I’m gonna screw up your time so badly.”

But she refused to leave. And I love her so much for that.

img_2793

I walked until I’d caught my breath. Then I ran again. And that’s how we did it – walk, run, walk, run, walk, run. My achilles was pulling, I was a full-on mouth breather and I needed Chapstick. I kept apologizing to Anna.

She assured me she did not care about her time, she was doing this with me, start to finish. On our walking breaks we looked at/smiled at/talked about all the dogs running with their owners.

She made note of our distance for me with a smile and kept me going. I saw one of my athletes halfway through and when he and his dad smiled at me and said “Hey Coach!” that was a boost of energy I needed then.

I tried not to look at the time on my Fitbit, reminding myself that this was the first one I’d done in years, the first one I’d actually “TRAINED” for, and any time would be acceptable, because I was doing it.

And when I saw the home stretch, I told myself, and then Anna, that I was going to run the rest of the way, even if I wanted to stop. So I did. Not far from the finish line I saw Jennifer, cheering me on and taking a picture (I was hoping I didn’t look like I felt – which was cold and a little achy). And I kept running through to the finish.

img_2794

My time was under an hour (which is really all I wanted for my first one). And I finished way ahead of the old man with the ski pole. And I immediately felt like crying because I’d actually done it. It didn’t look like I thought it would, but I’d done it.

I’d gotten 10,000 steps in for the day, done 3.1 miles, and was still going to make it home in time for the Dog Show. Oh, and all the food.

I could not have done it without Anna that day. She kept me going, never made me feel bad about stopping to walk, and was by my side from start to finish.

img_2796

I smiled like a goofball because I was so damn proud of myself. I’d set a goal and completed it. And I wasn’t lying on the side of the road in the fetal position (which I’d wanted to do last time I ran a 5K).

I got my banana, posed for some pictures, and smiled all the way back to my car. Later that morning, I looked up other 5Ks in the upcoming months.

2016 was the year I conquered Couch to 5K, and it changed everything.

2017 will be the year I am a RUNNER.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

I do not judge those people who fill the gym on the first few days of January. Yes, it’s harder to find a spot and you may have to wait a minute for the machine you want, but good on them for making a change. And I hope it’s a change that sticks. For all of them. Except that one girl who was on the leg press way too long the other day. Rude.

Y’all that was me not so long ago – me trying out the gym and doing my best to begin a habit that hopefully would last. I made a resolution and stuck/am sticking with it. Just did it early, because as my dad always says, early is on time, but on time is late. I know that doesn’t really apply here but it could. Use your imagination and vast knowledge of metaphors.

When you last heard from me, I was at the beginning of the Couch to 5K running program. I was terrified because I had started (and stopped it) about 6 times previously. However, this time, I had the added benefit of extra energy via finally being on the right medication dosage, so it got less and less daunting the farther I got.

And wouldn’t ya know it, I FINISHED THE DAMN THING.

img_2784

BOOYAH.

And I ran farther than I thought I could.

img_2786

And even got FASTER. Slightly. Some weeks.

img_2787

WHAT THE HELL??!?!

To insure I wouldn’t quit this time, a few weeks in I registered for a 5K. My awesome cousin (who had just completed her first half marathon) said she’d do it with me. And so did my best friend (until she fell off her deck and messed up her ankle, but she’s promised me we’ll do one together soon). So there was no backing down. I don’t like to waste money, I was now accountable to two other people, and I was actually (GASP) enjoying my three days a week running on the treadmill at Planet Fitness.

Aside: I realize it may have been more helpful for me (for the 5K anyway) to do my training outdoors. Here’s why I didn’t.

– My schedule didn’t allow for it before dark.

– Nobody that could run with me was on the same schedule so I would have been doing it alone.

– Lone joggers get kidnapped a lot.

– Lone joggers also find dead bodies a lot.

– At least half of my neighborhood is pretty sketch.

– I wanted to learn how to breathe while running first because that was my struggle the last 8 times.

And week by week, I ran farther. Sometimes faster. Sometimes I had to stop in the middle of it to go to the bathroom. Sometimes I was counting down the seconds until I was done. Sometimes I didn’t realize how long I’d been running until the voice prompt told me to stop.

Running, for me, is the ONLY time my brain is completely calm. I guess since my feet are racing my mind cannot. I felt really good. I also felt pain in parts of my body I did not realize could hurt so bad. Namely – my achilles and my IT bands.

There were a handful of days I felt like this as I stepped off the treadmill.

walk

Also this.

leg-day

And little by little, I conquered the program. I got more and more confident about how I’d do the day of the 5K – conveniently the morning of Thanksgiving because ALL THE FOOD.

But that’s a story for another time. Next time.

#tbt, a little early

I cannot believe it’s been a year. I cannot believe how much has changed in that year.

365 days ago, I walked away from a steady paycheck, health insurance and a chance to go to the Derby for free every year (ha), because none of those things were worth me staying in a job I hated.

363 days ago, I became partially employed at what is now my awesome, wonderful, fun full-time job.

You all have heard me talk about that day and that job and what it was doing to me psychologically. For those that haven’t – here’s the post I wrote not long after I left:  On hold.

Today, I went to lunch with five close girl friends, none of whom I would have met (possibly, who really knows though?) were it not for that job I hated. Only one of the six of us still works there, and even she’s a week away from leaving.

As we caught up on our lives and jobs and everything that’s happened since we previously got together, I just kind of sat there and took it all in.

I’ve been bitter about my previous job. Obviously. And, I believe, rightfully so, because of some of the things I went through. But it was never and will never be a total loss of those four years of my life. I got some of the best friends I could ever want from that place (partially because of shared trauma) and all of them are worth every bit of the shit I endured. I cannot imagine my life without them.

One year later. And where am I?

In a much better place. If you’d have told me on this day last year how good things would be a year away? I’d have been skeptical. Because I am was a pessimist.

Not anymore.

A lot can happen in a year. I can’t wait to see what’s to come in the next 365 days.

When you think you’re OK

In the past 9 or 10 months, I have been happier than I can remember being anytime before that. Things are good for me. Good family, good job, good friends, good extracurriculars, I can afford all my bills including cable, etc., etc…

Since I quit my previous job last June, I have tried to keep busy non-stop. As my bff once put it, I was the busiest unemployed person she knew.

And then I became employed again and got even busier.

And I love it. Don’t get me wrong. The nights I sit home with nothing to do – no options of anything, nothing I’ve said no to – are few and far between. And I like it that way.

However, when you have anxiety/depression, that way of life still comes with a catch.

Last week I needed a break. I chose to work from home one day, rather than go into my AWESOME job (and it is so awesome, I’ll tell you all about it soon) with people I love being around, because of anxiety. I needed a day away from people.

You guys, I’m outgoing. I will talk to basically anyone. I am a good time at parties and other celebrations.

Case in point, St. Paddy’s. I have no idea who these people are and also I bought that Captain’s hat I’m wearing (backwards) for $10 because YOLO.

d9044302-cc67-4994-9a68-74e36e17daf9

But you know what I mean. I like being social, I like being outgoing, I am what you would call a people-person.

Until I’m not.

Did you know there’s a thing called an introverted extrovert? I didn’t until the idea was posed to me a couple years ago in therapy. (GOD I LOVE THERAPY).

It basically means you are outgoing AF, but to recharge your batteries, you actually need to be alone, rather than around all of those people you normally love to be around. Weird, right?

In my case, it apparently makes itself known that it’s time for a reboot when I just get grumpy for no reason until getting out of bed one day seems like a bad idea, no matter how great things may be. Oh and in addition to the random grumpiness (for no reason), there’s also the BLINDING fear that because everything’s so great right now, soon it won’t be. That other shoe will drop. That’s anxiety and depression for you… Welcome.

I am 100% grateful that I am able to recognize this need in myself to take a breather, because many don’t. I am 1,000% percent grateful that I was able to text my boss (who understood and supported me) and tell her exactly what was going on rather than fake an illness or maintenance appointment or some crap (which I would have had to do at my last job, because that job was the reason I stayed home. Eventually the PTSD from it will subside. I hope).

And by the next day, I felt better. I felt like me again. Ready to take on the world and all that.

(Aside..ish) I recently read the amazing Jenny Lawson’s second book, Furiously Happy. I highly recommend it because I about peed my pants at least 5 times from laughing. And I also recommend it if you want to understand the person you love with anxiety and/or depression or to feel like you’re not alone because she articulates it so much better than I can.

Even on the days I want to be alone, I’m still not alone. And neither are you. And that knowledge is so helpful. You will get through it. I did.

One Hundred and Eighty

A week from today marks three months since I quit my job and everything changed.

Before June 1, 2015..I couldn’t tell you the last time I was legitimately, not-faking-it, seriously happy. I mean, y’all know. You’ve read this blog. How many times have I talked about my depression and anxiety and the toll it was taking on me?

(Answer: Three or four, I think).

Friends, I write to you from the other side…. and it is amazing.

Disclaimer: I’m not “cured” of depression and anxiety. That doesn’t happen. Nor do I want it to. It’s part of who I am and I’ve learned how to live with it.

The thing is.. now? It’s the most under control I’ve ever had it.

It’s ridiculous almost, how much one bad thing in one part of your life can take hold of the rest of it and completely bring you down. And I fully believe that one thing was that job.

So much has happened since the day I walked out of that office and breathed a huge sigh of relief because I never had to return to it. And now, I’m going to catch you up on (almost all of) it.

First of all, I only really had a week in there where I wasn’t sure what I would do. It was that first week after I quit, and it ended up serving as a little vacation, as much as you can call it that. I slept in a few days, but mostly I spent it trying to figure out my next move. Plus I went to that interview within two hours of quitting (that didn’t end up panning out but softened the blow of freaking out about income until I heard back haha).

Luckily, within the second week, I had not one but two amazing friends who stepped up and offered me things to do part-time. I’ve thanked them both about 100 times but probably will continue to, because they saved me a ton of stress in this interim. One of those jobs potentially could end up becoming full-time and I would take it in a heartbeat, because I’ve loved what I’ve been doing for them.

Not long after that, I got a three-day-a-week baby-sitting job through a friend of a friend. And then recently, I got a couple more regular baby-sitting gigs.

I got a part-time job running social media for probably my favorite restaurant in the city.

And soon, I will start work with one of my athletes from Special Olympics as a CLS worker, helping get him out of the house and involved in the community, working with him on budgeting and getting to appointments, finding employment and going back to school and just spending time with him.

I have said at least five times that I am basically Kirk from Gilmore Girls – which if you don’t get, I’m sorry, but this video should help some.

There’s been a little stress about the job and about money off and on, but I’ve managed to get every bill paid, even if they were a little late once.

I’ve gotten by, cutting back on things I don’t need while not becoming a hermit. I have paid much more attention to any signs I see about earning money — during a particularly stressful week, I saw a couple lost dog signs in my neighborhood offering rewards and thought about dedicating a few days to nothing but finding those dogs because that made all the sense. And money.

Here’s the thing though. That stress? Nothing compared to the stress I felt when I was at a job that made more than enough to pay my bills. Weird how that works.

What else… I have gotten a ton of stuff done for youth group-related events because I finally have time to work ahead. I got to go on a week-long trip with them to Montreat, which I am so grateful for because of the impact it had on every single one of us who attended.

I have become about 5 times more involved in Special Olympics, which I’ll discuss in another post soon.

A friend from elementary/high school got in touch with me early on this summer to join a group that focuses on accountability with getting healthier. It’s proved an awesome motivation for me and I can’t thank her enough. I have regularly hit up the gym, so much so that I need new workout clothes because mine fall off me. I’m not really a fan of my current situation, holding up my workout pants while I run, but it’s a damn good problem to have.

Everyone notices a difference in me overall. I was miserable before and it wasn’t hidden. At least 3 friends have said how much better I am to be around these days and I agree. I am happier to be around myself too.

The other night someone asked “So how are you? Are you ok?” And I said, with no sarcasm or irony or anything – “I am the happiest I have been in a very long time.” And I meant it.

As of June 2, 2015, I was venturing into the unknown, more excited than scared. I had no clue where any of it would lead. But going into it with the attitude that I would be OK and I would get better has made all the difference, because that’s what has happened.

I can’t say it enough, or really even in the right way I don’t think, but the support and love I’ve gotten since I made that decision almost 3 months ago have helped me maintain this new (old) way of living and looking at things. I am very blessed to have the friends and family I do.

Besides those that love me helping me in basically every way they could, keeping busy has been most helpful in preventing me from sliding into the sadness that could have come out of that decision June 1. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t have something to do that is either helping pay my bills or making me happy or both. And it’s usually both. Crazy, right?

When I wrote about my decision on Facebook, it got almost 200 likes and a ridiculous amount of comments. ALL of them supportive. One that stuck out especially to me was from a good friend’s mother: “You will be surprised where you are lead. It will be awesome.”

I was and it is. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.

The land of lost sunglasses, chapstick and tiny hats?

There were a few things I knew I’d find in the process of cleaning out my bedroom closet.

• Clothes I haven’t worn since I moved in last May

• This tiny hat hair clip I bought for New Years 2015 and will never wear again

• Every newspaper clipping of mine since the beginning of college

• Approximately 9,130 partially used chapsticks.

• Four pairs of sunglasses

I was close. Found all of the above, though the number of partially used chapsticks was closer to 8. But the 9,000 number makes for a better lead. #journalism

And there were three pairs of sunglasses. Damn.

See here’s the thing. I get sunglasses and chapstick – apparently at the same time, because I have about the same amount of each. Then I use/wear them all of about 2 days. Then they’re lost in the abyss. And by abyss, I apparently mean my closet.

Too many apparentlys in that sentence. Soon I’m gonna sound like this kid.

As part of my first month of the Me Project, I eased on in and spent a couple hours last weekend going through my bedroom closet. It wasn’t out of control, as you can see by these pics…

But I knew I had shit in there I didn’t need that was just taking up space and it made me anxious. And if you know me in the slightest, you know this girl doesn’t need any more anxiety in her life.

I started with clothes.

Note on my clothes. I am not fashional. I am working on it though, so I used that as motivation to get rid of some of the stuff I was questionable on.

IMG_2556 IMG_2559 IMG_2557

The shelves weren’t bad, but I do have every color of the rainbow as far as tissue paper goes because I kept buying it thinking I was out. In reality it was all hiding in the corner of my bedroom closet. Where I do all my present wrapping.

I filled two entire garbage bags with trash, including some clothes with holes in them or that I didn’t even want to inflict on the nice people shopping at Goodwill (I’m looking at you, high school marching band wind suit with giant coffee stain on the inside).

I even wound up with an entire trash bag full of clothes to give to Goodwill. And I got to organize my clothes by type. BECAUSE I AM A FREAK OF NATURE.

IMG_2560

I realize this all may not be that interesting to you all, because I didn’t find anything too crazy (but the guest bedroom closet is still to come, and that’s where the magic’s gonna happen).

And in return for you making it this far, please enjoy these photos of my best friend, Ashley, with some of the treasures she found in her closet clean-out. She got motivated by my first post and tackled it last weekend. And I for one am really happy she still has those bright white Basic Editions from her Patti Mayonnaise costume.

unnamed-3 unnamed-2 unnamed-1

After the clothes were properly, obsessively put up and the shelves cleaned off, it was time for the binders.

You guys, I have a disgusting amount of binders. BUT THEY ARE SO USEFUL. I have binders for work, two for youth group (that I separated out from one giant one and it made me insanely happy). And probably 10 just filled with my clips from working at the various newspapers over the years. Because I want to have them someday, if and when print goes extinct like some people think. Also because I’m a narcissist. (One of those statements is a lie. I’ll let you guess which one).

unnamed

There they are. Also included – the binders full of things I didn’t want to throw away for whatever reason. Cards from various years’ birthdays and graduations and stuff, wedding invitations and whatnot.

Plus things I should never throw out like these signs and notes made for me in high school, toooooootally not during class or anything, ever.

IMG_2564 IMG_2563 IMG_2562

Oh and there was this time when I was immature and got this hat because it said Peckers. And also because the guy I liked was called that and I thought it was cute and funny and I should not have admitted that out loud….

IMG_2561

But who am I kidding – I still am immature and think it’s funny that it says Peckers and I would wear it but it got all gross.

Next up is the guest bedroom, which I’ll likely tackle after Derby, because I’ve got company in town next week and also this is Louisville and EVERYTHING stops for Derby.

Have you all done any major cleanups lately? How’d it make you feel?

I know for me, going into that closet now is definitely less stressful because I’m not staring directly at the row of shirts I don’t wear anymore.

Lesson one from this project: It’s the little things.

Closets, closets everywhere

You know that episode of Friends where Chandler finds Monica’s messy closet? She’s so annoyingly clean and organized in every other part of her life but she has this one closet in their apartment just full of crap that spills out as soon as he gets it open.

Here’s a clip if you live under a rock and have not watched one of the greatest television shows of our time and also because there’s never really a bad time to reference Friends.

I guess I kinda sorta have that. My problem is, I have multiple closets. I would also venture to say here that my car counts more in this situation because as clean as my house is, my car always looks like absolute crap – a fact which one or more of my youth group kiddos likes to remind me of/remark on each time they have to ride in it somewhere.

Every so often – usually after an episode of Hoarders, as I’ve mentioned before, but also when I start looking for something and get distracted – I’ll clean out some stuff in my place. Moving helped some, but not enough. (“I swear, I’ll probably need this someday,” she says about her notes from the Astronomy class she got a C in in college.)

Basically, my move from my apartment to a pod/my parents basement should have been a catalyst for some sort of big purge of shit I never needed in the first place or hadn’t touched since the previous move. But the beauty of a pod is – throw all that useless shit in there and you don’t have to see/think about it until you get to the new place and put it in a new closet or storage area. So…that’s what I did.

My condo is clean. And stays that way 94 percent of the time. But the closets are a different story. And it’s not even that they’re packed full and I can’t open them and stuff spills out and I throw something in and slam the door so there’s not an avalanche. There’s some semblance of organization at least. Stuff is in boxes. Or crates. Or giant rubbermaid containers. Or a purse I haven’t used since ’06.

And what bothers me is that I know it’s there. I don’t have so much that I’ll find buried treasures (at least I don’t think so, but hey, fingers crossed), but I have enough to sometimes think about it being in there in disarray and get a little stressed.

ALLLLLL of this to say, in terms of cleanness and de-cluttering in my life – my closets need work. So that’s where I’ll start for my first month of my project. Cleaning out/up my closets. (Cue Eminem..I’m sorry Mama…)

Phase 1 starts this weekend with some work on my bedroom closet, because it’s the smallest and easiest and I already basically did the entry-way closet but will have to go back after depending on how much space I create other places. And I’m going to clean out my dresser and nightstands.

Sounds riveting, eh?

The plan is to toss some clothes I haven’t worn since I moved in last May – and by toss I mean donate – and create some semblance of order in there. Not that it will stay that way, necessarily, but right now I’ve got dresses mixed in with winter clothes mixed in with T-shirts I don’t wear… And I’ll organize and clean off the shelves I’ve got in there.

I recently bought a hamper for my closet to use instead of the laundry basket I’ve had, and due to an error in ordering ended up with two – one of which now holds my shoes so I don’t have to see them on the floor. That alone has helped it look a little cleaner in there but there’s still work to be done.

I’ll post before, during and after pics next week, and keep track of any treasures I find. But the fact that I’m getting excited about the plan to clean and organize my room makes me feel like this was a good way to start my project. Ease in, as it were.

And since I’m giving myself a month, I’m going to have to get moving on the other parts of my place that need some work too.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

31: The Year of Happiness (or something like that)

If you’ve read this blog…ever…you know that me and happiness go back and forth. I continuously try for it and have gotten so much closer in the past few years in so many ways. So, for a while, people kept telling me “You need to read this book, the Happiness Project.” Never one to shy away from a good book suggestion, I finally gave it a try about a month ago.

I knew the premise – a woman took a year and month by month, she tried to do different things (and in some cases cut out different things) to try and make herself happier.

As a writer, I didn’t really like the book, because of her writing style. She’s a former lawyer, and it read at times like a lawsuit. Small tangent: Yes, I know what those read like because I used to have to read them at times as a part of my job at a community newspaper. JARGON CITY.

And then there was the month where she mentioned in passing that she was trying to curb her habit of eating a spoonful of brown sugar out of the jar whenever she passed it in the kitchen. WTF.

Anyways. Criticisms of the writing aside, I loved the idea. Each month, she was taking a different aspect of her life and focusing on it and how she could be happier in it. One month it was family, so she focused on creating good memories with her kids and new traditions and taking time to slow down and enjoy her time with them. Another month was work, and she made the promise to herself of a certain amount of writing a day. She also planned to write a book in a month – so she did.

The basic principles were there. I wanted to do it. I didn’t wanna copy it completely, but there was so much I could learn and apply on my own. And by doing it on my blog, I would have the opportunity to hopefully communicate with others who may be doing the same or who could give ideas and feedback.

Plus there’s the fact that I need this right now. Maybe more than before. I recently made the heart-wrenching decision to find a new home for my sweet puppy, because it’s what is best for him, though it won’t make saying goodbye any easier. I also recently made the decision to talk to my doctor about my medicine and making a change. My therapist – who I will somehow name a child after one day – and I have had some discussions and think this may help things even more with my moods and anxieties and depression. (I’m not going down in dosage again, it’s not that. Just FYI.)

So I need a distraction. I need a project. I need something.

As for a start date? What better than a birthday? Today I turn 31. (ACK). So why not make 31 the year of my own Happiness Project?

I don’t have it all mapped out yet, but I have started a bit of a list. (Go ahead, act surprised even though I know you’re not.)

But here’s the premise. Each month I focus on something different. The whole month I work on that and that alone. It may be something I only have to do once. It may be something I continue to do throughout the year as I add in the different months and their goals. I currently have 9 ideas for the project and have known since I finished the book which one I would start with.

The way it will work? At the beginning I’ll announce the focus and why. That month, I’ll do different things in that vein. We will see if it makes me happier, but as I’m writing this entry I’m coming to the realization that it’s not even so much about happiness, it’s about focusing on me, something I really don’t do and when I do I don’t do it well. (Drink every time I say focus in this post and you’re too hammered to read this sentence.)

Throughout the month, though, I’ll keep you updated of the progress and of what I’m doing to accomplish that month’s goals. At the end of the month we’ll see what changes/differences if any, it’s made.

And the first month starts today.

I didn’t wanna jump in TOO crazy-like, because turning 31 is a lot to process on it’s own (I’m OLD), but the first month I knew needed to be about cleaning up.

ME PROJECT, MONTH #1: Cleaning up, decluttering and dehoarding

I’m not messy. And I’m definitely not a hoarder. But when I moved last year? Boxes would come in I hadn’t seen or touched since I moved into my last place. So did I need what was in them? Probably not. Yet several are sitting in my guest bedroom closet, just kind of taunting me. Not that I have, like, other stuff to put in there, really, but I know for a fact in there right now are most of my folders from classes from college. WHY? Don’t tell A&E about me, guys.

Small tangent again: Is that show on anymore? I guess not. They brought Intervention back, though, so maybe there’s hope. Also anytime I watch that show it just makes me wanna throw out EVERYTHING. Also vomit.

I also need to admit I got a slight head-start on this month in a way. I have a ridiculous amount of T-shirts from college (because sorority and also free shit). They’ve been sitting in my dresser/closet/giant Rubbermaid container for the 9 years since I graduated just collecting dust, basically. I wasn’t going to throw them out or donate them because the sorority shirts at least, did mean something. And I spent a lot of cash on ‘em.

Luckily, a good friend’s mom quilts and makes blankets and is a pro. She’d just made my friend a T-shirt quilt out of her old lacrosse shirts and I asked her to do the same for my shirts and she luckily, thankfully, agreed. The Rubbermaid container full of shirts is no longer taking up space in my front hall closet and I’ll have an awesome new blanket soon that means something special.

I have a couple of other things in mind to do, but I’ll save those for later posts and update you on my progress as I go.

Have some ideas for my project? Are you doing your own? What’d you think of the Happiness Project book? Do you eat a spoonful of brown sugar every time you pass it in your kitchen?

Oh. And Happy Birthday to Me, I suppose.

A little less medicated

Once upon a time I thought I was crazy. Then (like 5 years ago) I saw a therapist and realized that my boss at the time was the crazy one and if I WASN’T letting that little devil (seriously, she is really short and is the devil incarnate) bother me then yes, I had some problems. Oh, and I’d had an underlying chemical imbalance for pretty much my entire life that made things that much harder.

Good news: I was still crazy, but not because of what I thought or as bad as I thought.

Let me say here that everyone is a little crazy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Because there are people that love you for and in spite of it and if you haven’t found them you’re doing it wrong.

Anyways, so I found out my chemicals were off. And after a few months of excessive amounts of talking to a professional in these sorts of things, we came up with a plan. I’d continue to see her to talk about how to cope with the feelings I’d get about how everything sucked and I wasn’t good enough and other peoples’ bad moods were because of me, but also we’d try a little bit of medication, just to see.

And it worked alright at first, and then it didn’t. There were still days I didn’t want to get out of bed (too many of them, in fact) and though I had every reason in the world to be happy, I was nowhere close.

What they sometimes don’t mention – at least I didn’t know about it – about depression is that it can get worse before it gets better. And it did. Both. It got worse, and we upped the meds and then it got better.

Part of that I credit to the medication. It balanced me out, knocked me upright again, pretty much got rid of any and all depression I was having (even though it still lurks there from time to time, its much quieter and doesn’t visit nearly as often anymore) and moved me right on into anxiety.

Ohhhhh, anxiety. That nasty bitch. It’s been harder to shake than the depression was, but we’re working on it. And by we, I don’t mean me and the other personalities or voices in my head (I said crazy, but not like, real crazy, y’all). I mean me and my therapist, a new one I’ve had for a couple years now. She’s amazing and wonderful and done so much for me and I found her through the Internet and I highly recommend she be everyone’s therapist. That’s how much I love her. And with her help and all I’ve learned from my time with her, I felt good enough to make a decision about the future of my mental health.

I’m working my way off the meds.

I saw my physician last month, and decided to cut the dosage of the antidepressant I take in half, slowly, hopefully, weaning myself off of it completely before the end of this year.

It wasn’t a quick decision, or one I came to lightly. In fact, I was anxious. Anxious about giving up the medicine that helps you deal with anxiety. There’s a joke in there somewhere.

But I’m in an entirely different place than I was back then – when I started to get help for these feelings I’d had forever. Then I didn’t know that it was OK to be sad and anxious and it may not be my fault at all. I might just be wired that way.

I don’t credit medication for getting me here – it just made the trip a little easier.

But these days I am happier, more relaxed, less worrisome about trivial things that would have knocked me on my ass five years ago. And I’m more confident in myself and my ability to handle things that I thought this plan – this slowly working my way off of chemical help – was worth a shot.

Funny enough, the last day of my former dosage? Was the day I made an offer on a condo, that I then didn’t end up getting. Yeah it sucked, but I’m surprisingly fine. And I’ll be fine. And soon, hopefully, medication free.