Saturday, January 12, 2013

A New Year

It's a new year. Yes, 2013 is newly upon us, but it's also a new year for me, as I turned 27 yesterday. This is the time of year when I take a little time to reflect on the past year and think about what I'd like to happen in the future. To that end, I made a vision board.

I got the idea for a vision board from a blog I read, Woulda Coulda Shoulda. She made a collage out of magazines, and I liked the idea of having something to help focus my thoughts and desires. I brought home some old issues of magazines from work (perks of working in a reception area), and I spend some time paging through them and cutting out whatever caught my eye. When I assembled my collage, I used a few pictures from calenders to get started, then I just started adding things. I have a mix of pictures that I liked--things I thought were pretty or fun or just me--and words or phrases that encompassed the direction in which I'd like my life to head. Here's a picture (click for a larger version):

There is one thing that I purposely did not put on the collage, although it's still sort of a goal of this year. Boyfriend. I thought about it, but I didn't want to make it into something that I check off a to-do list. At my birthday party, however, my friends asked what one thing I'd like to happen in this next year. I thought about it, trying to decide how honest or serious to be, and I decided to just go for it. "I'd like to go on a date," I said.

I have never been on a date. I have hung out with guys who are friends, but I have never been on a real, actual, maybe-this-will-turn-into-something-romantic-down-the-line date. At this point in my life, I don't want to go on a date just to finally say I have. I can't picture myself as much of a casual dater. I have been giving a lot of thought lately to what I can do to get closer to my dream of marriage and kids. My counselor suggested that maybe I should start being more flirty with guys, like maybe post on a guy I admire's Facebook wall. One day I was on Facebook, staring at the profile of a guy I know, but I couldn't think of anything to say. Somehow writing "My therapist told me to post something flirty on your wall" didn't seem like it would get me many dates, so I just chuckled and moved on to something else. After a week of trying to figure out how to be flirty, I decided it's just not me. Neither is online dating. I sort of tried it, but my heart just wasn't in it.

The past few years I've been working steadily on becoming a better me. Because, as Andy Stanley puts it, "Am I the person the person I'm looking for is looking for?" And really, that's what my collage is about. Yes, I want to get married. But what if I don't? I still want to be a better person, a more whole, healthy person. I want to work through my inner demons, I want to enjoy my life and fill it with joy. I want a romantic relationship, but I don't want to put my life on hold in the meantime, nor do I want my happiness to revolve around my relationship status. It's really hard sometimes, especially on the days when loneliness creeps in. Whether or not I find love in 2013, however, I want to find joy and peace in my life. I want to learn to love myself, learn to love my friends, learn more about God's love, and maybe, just maybe, I'll find a little romance along the way.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Is Normal, Anyway?

I think I have a mouse. I haven't seen one, but tonight I have heard two short squeaks that make me think there is one somewhere in my closet. I was immediately filled with dread, feeling like I just can't handle this. Because at my last apartment, I caught over 40 mice in less than two years. It was horrendous. And this weekend, when I pulled a wooden spoon out of my drawer and found two tiny bugs on my hand, I tried really hard not to freak out. Because at my last apartment, I had a horrible roach infestation for the last two months I lived there (yes, my last apartment building was not a happy place by the time I left). When I see signs of some pest in my living space, I start to panic, because I've seen what happens when they take over. What I try to remember is that it's probably normal to have a few pests now and then. 40 mice? Not normal. 1 or 2 a year, especially when it's cold? Probably normal, though not fun. A few bugs now and then? Normal. I mean, we always had ants in the summer growing up, and I never freaked out like I did with the roaches. In the southern states, it's weird if you DON'T have a bug guy to treat you for various pests.

It's so hard to keep an objective view of what normal is when you're in the midst of something. I remember clearly that I didn't think anything of the roaches at first, just figuring it was summer and it was typical to have some bugs. But then I realized they were roaches, and that there were a ton of them, and all of a sudden it felt so overwhelming. It crept up on me. I can't even remember which mouse it was when I went from "this is annoying" to "this is ridiculous" to "this is NOT right." You get in survival mode, and when you're focusing on surviving, it can be really hard to gauge where you are. When I was first diagnosed with depression, I was relieved to have someone tell me that it was NOT normal to feel as awful as I did for so long. I sort of knew that, but I had felt that way for so long and just kept pushing through that I really wasn't sure sometimes. I should have known something was up a lot sooner, when my grades started to suffer. For me, it was not normal to have learning be so difficult. It was like a flip switched, and all of a sudden I felt stupid in school. I would stare at a computer screen for hours, having no idea what to write for papers.

I think this is one of the reasons it's so important to have close friends. We all need to have people who know us intimately, people who can tell us when they start to see us veering off the path. I think having accountability like this can help ward off certain problems with habitual sins before we get far down that path. For example, if you are the sort to drink alcohol rarely or only moderately, if your friends see you start to drink frequently and heavily they can say something. It could be so easy to justify it to yourself. After all, don't we see on TV and in the movies that college and even high school students do it all the time? Don't we sometimes see grown adults being functional alcoholics presented as somewhat normal? We need people in our real life to give us perspective, to be honest with us. It's not easy. If you don't have a relationship built on trust and mutual friendship, it can be really easy to feel judged and get defensive. If you're hearing this kind of truth from someone you don't know well, it can be easy to say "What do they know, anyway?" and ignore the truth in what they spoke.

I have a friend who lives across the country, and we contact each other about once a week for some accountability stuff. We have a few specific things, but it's nice just to know I can be honest about everything. She's a safe space for me. And when I've been doing things that I'm not comfortable sharing with her, that's a really good barometer of whether or not I should be doing them. Because if I know she won't be happy to hear it, I know I shouldn't be doing it. We've talked about all sorts of things, and it goes both ways. We've also struggled with some of the same things, which helps with the whole not feeling judged thing.

It's a new year. I'm not big on making New Year's Resolutions, but I do like to look back and reflect a bit on the previous year. 2012 was filled with apartment/pest drama, but otherwise it really was a pretty good year. I've made some wonderful friends in that time, I've done a lot of things that I loved. I got to see some amazing shows, I read a lot of books, and I laughed a lot. I'm really happy to realize that my normal has shifted to a place that is mostly contentment and thankfulness. I'm so thankful for my job, my church, my friends, my family. I'm thankful that depression isn't my daily normal, even though I struggle with it sometimes. I'm thankful for fresh starts and forgiveness. I'm thankful that normal can change for the better, that there is always a bend in the road. Who knows what exciting things lie beyond?