Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Life Ends - How it Should Change Us

A dear friend of mine just lost her second round battling cancer on March 27th.  More than that, however, our world lost the presence of one of the most positive, encouraging spirits I have ever met.

In all her roles, Amy led fitness classes, but I met her when our children were attending Elementary school.  She had a fierce, powerful presence that was a bit intimidating when I first saw her, but when I made a comment and we started our first conversation, I immediately knew that she was an amazing being that I simply HAD to have in my life.

Moving school districts, I was not able to see Amy frequently, but social media kept us in touch.  We never "got together" nearly enough, yet, the times I was able to spend with her - even if they were moments - were always inspiring.  My heart is aching that I will not be able to share any more time on this planet with her, and I am unbelievably sad that I cannot be in Illinois to say a farewell to her and offer any support to her family.

The fact that there are billions of us roaming around this planet and that I am so blessed to know so many incredible individuals truly blows my mind sometimes.  My dad asked me on the phone last night if I miss Illinois... I miss the people.  I miss the community.  I miss seeing so many lovable faces and having so many fantastic talks.

But it also makes me feel lucky.  There is a bit of every friendship that I carry with me, that makes me the unique person that I am and continue to aspire to be.  I only wish we had more time to spend together - and time is not guaranteed to any of us.   It feels cliche to echo the "make the most of today, it could be your last" comments that most people voice after losing someone they love.  But it is true - death reminds us that we are still alive.  Most of us get into sort of a panic that we need to spend every possible moment while we are here making our lives grand and doing what we can to make the lives of others even better than that!

Sadness fades as people ease back into routines.  I do, however, feel it's a little different for me right now, being 1,000 miles from so many people that have my heart.  I hope it makes me different anyway.  I want it to change me and help me appreciate every day a bit more.

Amy's spirit is one of the encouragements I had when I finally decided to go for it and obtain certification as a dance fitness instructor this year.  There will always be a piece of her inspiration with me when I share my SHiNE classes.  It will help me have courage to keep doing things out of my comfort zone, and her compassion will show through me as I encourage others.  Life can go on... just in a different form.

May the Force be with you, Amy.  You will always be a true hero.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Always Challenges - Nothing is Easy

"If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you."  Road blocks and hurdles.  My life.  I'm sure most people have struggles, but honestly, I question why nothing is ever easy for me.  Ever.

From moving to a new city, achieving my certification as a dance fitness instructor, having a medical procedure done... I am constantly accepting that nothing goes as I plan or how I perceive it should.  It's taken quite a while, but I am learning that it's all part of the process.  My process anyway.  Accepting it and letting go of the outcomes... it's difficult, but I know that I have gotten better about it.  I think because I cannot control life, I developed the passion for planning events.

While continuing to face challenges and persevere is my goal and the messages I want to share, I admit that it gets tiring.  And old.  I have too many "why the hell can't things just happen?" moments.  Since I don't want to write about those, I have started, edited and scrapped Post after Post the last couple months.  Then, we watched the animated film called "Inside Out" this past weekend.

The realization that sadness and joy are partners really hit me.  Rather than focus on the obstacles, look at the steps taken for achievements.  They go together.  If things are meant to be, it will work out how it's supposed to in the end.  And if not, it was a lesson.  While I don't like to complain and I resist negativity as much as I can, my feelings of helplessness and despair do give me depth as a person.  Discouragement is something we should all be able to relate to.  While some of my friends seem to have easier lives than others, we all have our disappointments and hardships.  It's how we as humans connect.  True friendships share the hard times, and that helps them celebrate the joys even more.

Life is not simple, and finding glimmers of hope can seem impossible at times.  But darkness is required for us to enjoy light... and we need to be comfortable with both.   On my "Continuing" path, (, I do want to share that the constant resilience is the most difficult part for me.  I have challenges, and they help change me... so they will keep coming, and I will keep learning.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Affirmations and Perspective

Affirmations are statements that we can repeat to ourselves that can redirect our perspective, which is our attitude and outlook on our lives.

There are so many negative people, and unfortunately, more are being created every day.  Poor souls that just want to bring you down and make you feel inferior.  It is difficult for me to remember that this behavior is so much more about "them" than it is about me.  It is challenging for me to not take things personally and back up to see the bigger picture.

I am so blessed with a tremendous support team.  I am loved and cared for and encouraged by so many amazing, talented people.  I need to remember to give those people the megaphones and redirect my attention away from the doubters and haters - even when the loudest one happens to be me.

It is very easy for me to allow the negativity to pull me down and to focus on all that is going wrong or areas of my life that feel completely out of my control.  Thankfully, I have the glimmer of words spoken to me or written to me that live in my memory.  Devoting my attention to those reminders and absorbing them as much as possible truly helps me rise above the struggles and just keep going.

Amplifying the positive statements and pulling them into the spotlight helps me to continue to be my best and push to be even better.  I've worked too hard on myself to quit and give up... and I owe it to all those I adore and treasure to keep inspiring them as they encourage me.  Low moments make me vulnerable, but rising back up helps me to be courageous, which is the goal after all.  Out of the comfort zone.  Evolving.  It isn't easy - which is why most people don't want to do it. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How Badly Do You Want it?

Over the past year, I have endured many new tests.  Just like most people, I have faced barriers and challenges my entire life, but the magnitude of what I have faced and what I have accomplished (specifically since March 2017) has been pretty incredible.
When knowing Chad would not find a new job in Peoria, Illinois, at the time, I didn't know when he would be moving, what I would have to do on my own, or how it would affect our lives.  When I decided to put myself out there to see if I could relocate to a more artistic market, during interviews, I had to picture myself in a new city, a new environment, and eventually, a completely new industry (if law and government can be categorized as "industry").
Nothing has ever come easily to me, and no one has ever handed me anything.  I have worked my best to accomplish everything I have received.  I suffer self-doubt; my negative self-talk is deafening; the image I hold of myself is beyond disappointing, but I find ways to still fight for what I want.
Yet, somehow, I am still surprised when I face barriers against goals.  Maybe it's part of my process - to reach that moment when my head tells me, "you know you aren't good enough for this.  Who in the world did you think you were fooling?"
But I keep pushing.  I attended my first "Sexy Stiletto" dance class and went ahead and joined the group for the video promo.  I achieved my certification as a Dance Fitness Instructor this weekend.  I am sharing all this -  whether anyone gives a shit to read it or not - I am being brave enough to post it, share it, and keep it real. 
Today on Facebook, there was a statement shared in a group by a beautiful young woman who is just ready to die.  She doesn't feel she has anything to contribute anymore, and, while she doesn't intend to take her own life, she has sunk to such a low that death seems her only consolation.  I don't have the answers for her - I don't even have the answers for you or for myself.  However, I do know that we are all on this planet for a reason.  We may never comprehend why, but I think it's our job to do what we can for one another.  It might be as simple as a smile when you make eye contact with a stranger, a quick text to a friend, or an invitation to someone to get out and "do something" and actually follow through.  Or you can lead in a supervisory position, be a mentor, or inspire some people to dance in a fitness class... maybe all the above.
I don't know my purpose.  But if I can inspire anyone - any one person - to try something new or dance without care or share feelings when they feel they are all alone, I will feel I have succeeded.  Thank you for your support.  Let's dance.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why We Continue: Seek the Benefits

I didn't move from Peoria because I was unhappy.  I adore my friends, I enjoyed my job, I loved being a "Dunlap Mom," I appreciated networking with the Peoria Chamber of Commerce, I was so excited to perform for The Peoria Ballet.  I sought to relocate to Austin for my husband to find work and provide my daughter more opportunities for her future.

And now, almost five months after leaving everyone I love, here we are in Texas.  My husband still is not employed, and my daughter isn't allowed to audition for the high school dance team until next November due to their strange policies.  Too often, I question what I have done.

There are still benefits from the major changes, though.  I have learned so much about myself.  Regardless of the set backs I suffered and the always-present self-doubt, I have succeeded over so many challenges that I have surprised myself.  Being new to the city, I have already met some incredible people and started some terrific friendships.  In a new position, I have slowly learned more about law, legal aid, hurricane disasters and Texans than I thought possible.

Thanks to social media, I am able to keep in touch with my friends and get to know new ones.  I have joined a private group of women all new to Austin, which is helpful to not feel alone in the transition.  Making such a huge change in your life is frightening and intimidating... but giving up and retreating home is terrifying to me in an entirely different way.  Growing and changing isn't easy.  If it were simple, anyone could do it at any time.

I don't have many regrets in my life.  Most are actually things I didn't have the courage to do.  And I don't regret moving to Austin.  Everyone has doubts, and as long as a lesson is presented, learning is a gift, which can sometimes be painful.  I am not one to give up - like, ever.  I move on, but I don't give up.  Not only am I continuously encouraged by some very dear friends (y'all know who you are!), but I am also getting motivated to achieve some new goals in the new year. 

It's a struggle - some days are a lot more difficult than others, but I am getting seriously inspired by all that is possible in 2018 and on!  "That which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger!" 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Defining a Dream: aspiration, goal, aim

When I moved to Austin in August, I had a mission.  Creating a Facebook page, I documented my challenges, reflected on my goals, endured sorrow, felt happiness...  While I have learned a lot about myself, I also know I still have a long way to go.

The fact that has hit me the past couple weeks, however, is that I can't articulate any dreams or aspirations.  Aside from developing self-worth with a hope to end up liking myself, I don't have any goals that I would label with that word.

For years, I was able to perform my "dream job" as an event planning coordinator... but my career path was altered for income needs.  As I evolve in my abilities and talents, I am completely clueless as to what is next, if anything, when it comes to my employment.  Most of my jobs have just, sort of, happened.  In fact, most things in my life have just happened when I had the least expectations.  I haven't had those experiences of "going for it" and landing a dream gig or a perfect home.  My favorite roles, either took years to work out or were just incredibly difficult to finally happen.  Others that I yearned for just never panned out.

Establishing new steps the past few years has become holistic for me.  I have had to put myself out there, but not get my hopes up and be quite autonomous about the outcomes of job applications, interviews and places to live.  Throughout it all, I would remind myself not to become excited at the possibilities because of the chances of being selected are always unknown.

Yet, I feel I need - and should - have a drive to accomplish more than "figuring myself out" or "finding out who I am."  I do understand though, that what I am doing IS an incredible challenge.  It is continuing to be a big commitment to keep at it. 

Sometimes I am excited, while others, I just feel lost and powerless.  Which, I guess, is life.  "When nothing is certain, anything is possible."  I just need to establish a few fluid goals and perhaps my "dream" will show itself when it's time.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Final Changes

I am now officially a Texan.  I no longer have an address in Illinois.  My car has TX license plates, and I received my new Driver License in the mail this week at my newest Austin address.

Finality.  An irreversible ending.  There really is no going back.

When I think about all that has happened over the past three and a half months, I am overwhelmed.  In just fifteen weeks, I have enjoyed and suffered so much change.  From living in a house, moving into a studio, being forced to buy a new car, and settling in a two-bedroom apartment, I have learned new tasks at a new job and been able to meet pretty cool people.  Visiting so many places, I have experienced amazing food, fantastic drinks and interesting conversations with people.  A few fun nights dancing.  A hurricane weekend.  And I have been drained of so much money.  So. Much. Money.

But all of life comes with a cost, right?  Spend money to make money.  You can't take it with you.  Life is a journey - or a roller coaster... or a journey on a roller coaster.  We have all these quotes and philosophy, and when real shit happens - when you sell your home of over eight years: where you pictured your daughter graduating high school, the place where you celebrated so many awesome times with friends, yet a place of disappointments, loss and despair - it makes you think.

Where am I supposed to be?  What the hell am I supposed to be doing?  Am I happy?  Will I be happy?  What exactly IS happy?

I will continue to miss my hometown, my friends, my family, and my life.  At least, the life I had and where I thought I could go.  In August, I left all of it behind for new opportunities, lessons and adventures.  It has not been easy.  "Marni's Shit Show" entries were just highlights - no one was in it with me every single day.  I was alone.  Surviving with the goal of thriving, I am proud that I made it through everything.

Every day, I have had lessons to learn and re-learn when necessary.  Every week, I assessed the pros and cons of my accomplishments.  Every moment, I have been aware of my capabilities and my independence.  And I coached myself to push and get through it all.

So, with the completion of the sale of a house on Orchard Lane in Peoria, I am sad, but ready for the next phase(s).  I honestly have no idea what is in store in 2018, let alone the next few years, but I do know, 100%, that I can take life's challenges and I will come out on top.  If perspective has taught me anything, at least I'll be in a pretty good head-space.  I hope y'all will be there with me to laugh at the ridiculousness of my path and to toast to all the hurdles I have cleared.  Love to you all.