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Channeling Josie

Have you ever seen Never Been Kissed? That moment Josie’s brother tells her to yell out, “I’m not Josie Grossie anymore!” It’s this changing moment. She lets go of her past and who she once was. Sure, she may have been a mess in the past but there comes a time you have to let that go and scream out “I’m not going to be that way anymore!” It isn’t easy, because nothing ever is. Even during the movie when Josie is going through her transformation she still struggles and faces challenges. Ultimately though, we can conquer our past struggles and move on with pride. We can accept that’s how we were in the past but be ready to start a new chapter. I’m tired of being held back by this mental/physical block. If I want to move forward, I need to conquer this beast.

What is this beast? My house. Sometimes things get so overwhelming, I don’t even know where to begin to fix it. Little by little, life got a bit crazy, a bit crazier, and then all out chaotic for a while. Put busy kids in the mix with pregnancy, then a newborn baby with your busy kids, and a few other significant life events over the course of a summer and before you know it, you look around and your house is a complete catastrophe. Ok, honesty check: it’s always been this way, not just this summer. It feels like total unrest in my life. I can never feel fully relaxed because nothing is where it should be. Something has to change.

I’ve hit the point that I just need to get my act together. I also realize there is no sense in beating myself up over the past and all the craziness that happened. It’s part of life, and life was insane for a while, but now it is time to reclaim my life and get things organized. I’m tired of beating myself up over a stressful home, or feeling too embarrassed to dare ask anyone to come inside my house. No, I shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks, but it isn’t a source of pride either. I look at myself and think, goodness, I’m 30+ years old and still have no idea how to keep a house under control. One of these days I’d like to have a home I can proudly invite people to visit. I can walk in and have that relaxed feeling in each room. I’m not asking for Better Homes & Gardens, because, let’s face it, I have three kids and pets. However, I would like to feel like I can ask someone to come inside without a sense of panic either.

I’ve tried different ways of taking care of it, for example, cleaning the majorly used areas, trying to find one little spot to focus on, or trying FlyLady. Nothing seems to stick. I get stuck and hit a mental roadblock. I’m trying a new strategy now: one room at a time, and starting at one spot and working my way around. Top to bottom. I’m even making notes in a notebook of what I did, and what else I can do next time I may have forgotten. Maybe my new notebook of writing things down makes me feel more accountable. I see something on paper, I see the date I did that and know what I need to do next. It may be a bit extreme, but I’m desperate to try anything new.

So far, I’ve conquered my master bedroom, kitchen, living room, and I’m about half way through the kids playroom. My goal today is to have their playroom finished. Each room that is completed gives me a huge sense of accomplishment. Right now I can finally walk into my bedroom and actually feel relaxed. I can sit in my living room and kick my feet up and enjoy a movie (except for the occasional Nerf gun I still find). Even though the play room is only half way complete, Adam is already playing in it more. I’m sure he and Elijah feel the same way I do about the chaotic rooms.  Now, when they walk in, it is like a sigh of relief. Well, almost since their room isn’t completely done. In just over a week, we are leaving for a trip to Virginia for 10 days. Ideally, I would like to have everything complete and an entire house I can walk through and feel relaxed. Truthfully, I have no clue if that will happen before we go. I can only hope my momentum keeps going when I get back.

I want a sense of accomplishment. It feels like this always holds me back. I can never fully relax because I always think something else needs to be done. I’ll never sit down and write or type something because there is no place to clear my thoughts without guilt.  My mind may be a chaotic mess sometimes (or a lot of times), but I need somewhere that my surroundings aren’t like my brain. Then I can mentally dish out everything on my mind. I recently read in the book “A Year of Writing Dangerously” that a writer needs a space that is their own. A space that is like their safe haven to release all their thoughts. As they say, “You’re courting the muse,” so I need to make it look good, or more importantly, I need to feel good. This is a constant struggle that always holds me back and I’m tired of it. I’m ready make not only my work space a sacred space, but my entire house a sacred space.

I could choose to keep this little secret that I have no idea how to remain in control of my own house, but that isn’t being honest with myself. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? I don’t need to create a false image for everyone because I know there are tons of others on the same road as me. There is a sense of comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I also know I need someway to hold myself accountable. Admitting this is a way of holding myself accountable. Using a notebook system is forcing me to be accountable for my actions. I’m ready to yell out “I’m not Josie Grossie anymore!”

Fear

There is a quote from John Steinbeck I find that speaks directly to my soul…

I suffer as always from the fear of putting down the first line. It is amazing the terrors, the magics, the prayers, the straitening, shyness that assail one.

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Once I fall off the bandwagon, it feels impossible for me to catch up.  I let all the fears get into my head.  When thinking of Inside Out, you can say “Fear” takes over the control panel of my brain and prevents me from producing any further work.  I stop dead in my tracks. Shyness seizes me and I refuse to push myself any further.  All the negativity comes out and I’m constantly questioning, “Why do I want to do this?” “Who is going to care?” “Wait, why do I care who this is for?” “Why can’t I get my brain to focus?” And before we know it, months have gone by and that fear Steinbeck speaks of has completely taken over. Once fear takes over, the pressure to find the words makes me completely Frozen. Think of Elsa as her coronation party turns into a disaster.

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In true Elsa fashion, I ran from it all. I let fear take over and ran away from any confrontation.

Sometimes though, there is power and strength in solitude. There is a certain growth and acceptance you find when you are alone.  Following the Frozen example, Elsa finds the strength to be herself when she is alone.  She becomes stronger and accepts who she is.  The same goes for me at this point.  I’ve been running away from my calling for months. Maybe even years.  However, I’ve also found a way to accept it, and accept myself, and bring myself right back here again.  I have some special people in my life who helped me do this, whether they realize it or not.  Like my own personal Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff. My own personal flurry!

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Life isn’t always fine and dandy.  At times it feels there is this expectation that we can only share the happy and amazing going on.  Sharing the struggles and the mundane are frowned upon (at least in our own minds it is).  I know for me personally, I put this mental pressure on myself that everything I ever do or write must be some sort of profound piece, it  must be happy, and full of wisdom. I let perfectionism get in the way of my tasks (thanks for helping me recognize that, FlyLady).  Now is the time to stop, however. I’m through running away. I’m through hiding my emotions. I’ve accepted the mundane.  I’ve accepted the struggles.  I’ve accepted the simple.  I’ve accepted this is something I need to do for me. Not anyone else. I find my inner peace in the writing world and now I’m ready to resurface.  I’m tired of shutting out the world and beginning to understand that sometimes you have to let people in the dark hidden places of your life to help reconnect to your passions.

I’m learning to accept myself. This is a lifetime struggle I’m sure everyone faces. I am ready to accept doing this all for me because I find confidence and a sacredness in writing.  Our lives are not always perfect, it’s not always thrilling, but this outlet of writing is a crucial piece of who I am, and I am tired of burying it inside of me pretending it does not exist.  I’m ready to start singing “Let It Go” and yell out “the past is the past!”  There is always time for a fresh start.  I’m ready to share myself and my thoughts.  I’m ready to be me. I’m ready to let my nerd show. I’m ready to share my passions, my struggles, the frustrations, the happy, the creative, the mundane; to share me.

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I’m ready to write.

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So long summer

It’s a bit cliche – the typical farewell to summer.  Quite frankly, I don’t care how cliche it is, it gives me something to talk about right now.  There are always these stories of kids or teens growing so much over a summer vacation.  Firsts of this and that; growing and changing.  You never hear how adults may feel such a transformation over the summer.

It may not even be fair to say anyone transformed over the summer.  There was a lot of reflection in it for me mixed with a lot of family time.  All this was way overdue.  I marked early on in the summer, sharing on this site, my new plans going forward.  Then I remained quiet.  Constantly, I would come sit at the computer to attempt some thoughtful post to write about and nothing came. I would just sit here and stare for a while, type a sentence or two, and then just throw in the towel.  Instead, I moved inward to myself and took up old fashioned pen and paper.  I documented anything going on in my mind, in the privacy of a journal, instead of displaying it to the world.  This summer was sort of like a quiet retreat for my mind. As August rolled around, I knew I needed a deadline of when I could feel safe opening back up to the writing world.  End of summer seemed perfect.

I enjoyed summer as it should be enjoyed – with family.  I haven’t spent a summer with my family in quite a few years.  It was the best. I attended nearly every activity the kids are involved in mixed with multiple trips to Disneyland with our annual passes, and even a week+ visit with my sister.  In my mind, I told the outside world: Forget you all, this is about myself and my family.

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It was incredibly refreshing.  The time of introverted reflection marked a time of growing and changing for myself.  So often we just push our feelings aside without question.  Some days, I may not feel a clear direction of what life is going to do – and that’s probably a good thing.  If there is anything I’ve figured out in life so far is create Plan A, Plan B, through Plan M because you never know what changes may come and you just have to go with it.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t even fully ready to sit down and write this afternoon/evening/night (because that is how long it has taken me to write a ~500 word post), but since Plan A didn’t work of sitting and writing in one session, I went to Plan B – take all night if I have to.  I’ve given myself the freedom tonight to just ramble and write straight prose.  Sometimes I need to let my thoughts just be thrown out there and I’ll worry about piecing it all together later.  Sort of like a big puzzle.  It’s time to just throw those little thoughts out there and pick up one piece at a time, study it, figure out where it goes, and then move to the next piece.

I feel renewed and ready to move forward.  Even though I’m not exactly sure where forward is leading just yet, I’m ready for my journey.  I’m ready for a new routine and ready to take some control.

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Decide what you want.

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The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want. -Ben Stein

I have spent the last three years toying with this idea: decide what you want.  No, probably my whole life.  I come from a family of teachers, and I was adamant against becoming a teacher.  My plan was to go a different path, try the corporate world and be someone different.  While I learned a lot, and made some great friends, it was not what I wanted out of life.  People find it funny when I say, “Retail was destroying my soul.”  If you don’t catch yourself, retail can easily eat away at your heart, happiness, and sincerity.  Customers berate you day in and day out, leaving the retail employee angry and bitter by the end of the day.  Before you know it, years have gone by and you wonder, “Why am I miserable?”  Well, probably because you spent the last three years dealing with people who think you are no better than the ant on the ground.  I take that back, many think the ant on the ground is better than you.  Truthfully, it is going to take me the next few years to complete damage control on my mind and heart.  While I know retail works great for some, it is not who I am.  Being a cog in the corporate machine is not what I want out of life.

Then the real question appears: what DO you want out of life?

In May, I had surgery on my foot.  That forced me to go out on short term disability, and moreover, it forced me to sit.  Those who know me, or the “Hughes side” of my family at that, know it is possible for us to just sit.  When we sit, we think; when we think, our minds start whirling with ideas.  Ideas upon ideas upon ideas…  It finally gave me time to actually reflect on everything.  I had time to spend with my family and really think about what has been happening the past three years.

Three years ago, I was at the end of my English degree program – only a few months away from my Bachelors.  As with anyone nearing the end of their degree program, they have high hopes and dreams of what they will become.  We are told “your degree will take you anywhere!”  Somewhere along the way, you think this degree is your golden ticket to the Willy Wonka Factory of Jobs.  I just hand over my golden ticket and the door is opened to anywhere you want to go.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  I am certainly not knocking my degree, but I was becoming rudely aware that (a) the job market sucks, and (b) many companies just don’t care about your educational background.  What they want is someone who will just do the job.  They want someone who will not question them and follow their every whim.  My grand scheme of going to a retail corporation and proving myself to be worthy of moving up the corporate ladder to a company writing job was squashed.  To top it off, now my resume looks like all I did was just retail.  While any of us can tell you it is so much more than ringing out a product, your resume says “just retail.”  When I spent time trying to finding myself, and what I really wanted to do, the inability of mixing corporate retail with my dreams became all too real.  That leads the emotions back to the beginning of this post: bitterness and misery.

Once this awareness hits, knowing I cannot mix the two, I realize I am carrying this heavy decision on my shoulders.  Again: what do you want out of life?  So, I told myself.  I didn’t hold anything back.  I didn’t let myself forget those dreams.  I didn’t let negativity stand in my way.  I searched deep down and asked, Marlana, what do you want?  I screamed inside my head, “I want to write! I want to edit.  I want to read. … I want to write.”  Dating back to elementary school, I had this recurring dream of becoming a writer.  I continued to bury those dreams, telling myself it will never work.  As I’ve grown, I realized it isn’t just about writing.  It is the whole field of writing that I love.  The reading, the writing, the editing, it all fulfills me.  A little bit of that weight was lifted off my shoulders now that I answered my own deeply personal question.  However, the big decision came: what now?

I realized what I want, now I had to figure out how to pursue it.  I know I need help, which is why I  have decided to pursue a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing.  Oh, and I resigned.  I cut the umbilical cord of a retail job, put in to be a sub instructional aide in some of the local school districts, and have started grad school hunting.   This mini journey of mine has lead me here, to this site.  I need a space to get back in the flow of writing.  I am certain the beginning of this site won’t be pretty.  Once I finished my degree in January 2012, my writing turned mostly to corporate emails.  Even though I’ve lost my way from time to time, I always end back here: writing.  It never fails.  If only I listened to myself, but I also know I would have never met some of the people I’ve met, and gained the life experiences I have.  Sometimes it takes stepping away to truly appreciate what you have.  It took stepping away for me to recognize my recurring dream.  It took soul searching to “decide what you want”.  Now I’ve decided; now it is time to get motivated, work hard, and go for it.

More than ten years ago, a mentor and friend of mine wrote a note to me inside my graduation gift: the book Oh, the Places You’ll Go!  I think the gift itself was the message written inside that I’ve cherished for 11 years, the end of which says: “Keep your eyes on the future and pursue your dreams.”   To wrap up this post, I walked to my bookshelf and pulled this book down intending to use the last two sentences in the story.  It is funny how things work out when you decide what you want, what your dreams are, that suddenly the signs are everywhere to pursue those dreams.  Things that have been there in your life day in and day out, in a book I’ve read to my children easily 600 times (not exaggerating!), and when you take a moment to stop and reflect, you’ll see the writing on the wall (or book), and the love and support just pouring out from everyone around you.  The universe just gave me a huge shove in the right direction.  If there was even the slightest sliver of doubt in the decisions I have made, it is certainly annihilated now.  My first time sitting down to work toward my new/old goals and dreams, my “new job,”  and then inspiration hits me at every angle.  I feel confident.  I feel fantastic.

In the words of Dr. Seuss…

Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

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