Monthly Archives: May 2010

Conspicuous Consumption

A week or so ago, I decided to clean out my linen/medicine/toiletry closet. Yes, closet! There are four shelves, each dedicated to a different category – and it was a task. In fact, I only finished two of the shelves: medicine and toiletries. In so doing, I started to realize just how much waste I create in my own life. It was humbling.

To start with, I worked on the medicines, etc. A thorough check of all medicines should be made annually, if not twice a year. Although I’m married to a doctor who views expiration dates as a suggestion, I still feel the need to really go through everything. “It’s not worth getting sick over a few dollars,” is my motto. The medicines part is easy. The decision is simply: “old” or “new.” It’s pretty black and white. Of course it doesn’t change the fact that throwing away a half-used bottle of Tylenol still gives me pangs of guilt. But, I get over it. It’s not worthwhile to anyone anymore, so it’s time to get rid of it.

Toiletries, however, are much much harder. Why is it that I have 7 (seven!) different bottles of shampoo, not including travel-size? Do I really have that much hair? (I like to think I do, or at least I used to!) Furthermore, why is every bottle except one open and partially used? Am I really (really) going to need all of the hotel soaps, travel bottles and miscellaneous lotions I’ve collected over the years? Or, rather, am I ever going to use them? And, finally, why do I own cotton balls when I can’t remember ever using them? But I can’t throw any of this away. Why? Because I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed by the results of years of excess, hoarding and consumption. Additionally, it simply feels wrong to clean out the closet and discard a half-used bottle of lotion, because I forgot I had it and bought a new one. Though everything in me wants a clean start, I can’t bring myself to create more waste. So what do I do? I put it all back, a little more organized, a little tidier – until the Fall, when I will go through it all over again.

How did this happen? Where in my life did I learn to buy, buy, buy? I suppose the advertisers love someone like me. But I’m not alone in my consumption. There are millions more with similar habits. Buying, discarding, replacing – every day. So, how do we stop it? Can we? I don’t actually have the answer to these questions for a global society. What I do know is that I can change. I can opt to not buy another bottle of shampoo until I am on my last bottle. I can choose to change my behaviors and actions and take the time to figure out what I already have that will work – instead of looking to buy something new. Does this mean I am no longer going to be a consumer? No. It means I’m going to be a Conscious Consumer. Buying what I need, and using what I have.

This ‘epiphany’ doesn’t eliminate the guilt I have for years of waste, but it does change my perspective. I’m much more humble and grateful about the many blessings in my life. I appreciate what I have and think creatively about what I need. Life isn’t about having more. It’s about living more. In order to live more, I need to make healthier decisions, for myself, my family, my community and my planet.

In Love and Light,

Martina

Little Black Dress

I recently heard someone use the phrase:

“Being helpful is just control in a party dress.” To begin with, I wished I had come up with that. It’s brilliant: simple, poignant and tangible. Sometimes, when we think we’re helping someone, we’re actually causing more problems. Our intentions are good, but the results aren’t always in line with what we hoped would be the outcome when we decided to get involved.

Then there are those times when our intentions are actually self-serving. We help, not because we can (or need to), but because it makes us feel good – and we’re not necessarily interested in the outcome. We got what we needed out of the situation, and well – the rest is ‘out of our control.’ And then there are those times when we help because we care, but we also have a desired expectation. Furthermore, having an expectation implies a desire to control. This expectation can be a desire for praise for our efforts, or for the person we’re helping to follow our advice because we know best. But do we really?

Does anybody know what’s best for them, better than the person themselves? We need community (family, friends, society) to help us process things, but we don’t’ necessarily need someone doing the work for us. In fact, we never do. Why? Because if someone is helping us do something that we should be doing ourselves, then they are actually hurting us by taking away our opportunity for growth and learning.

I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum. I’ve received help from people who genuinely cared for me and loved me, and I’ve helped people I genuinely care about and love. I have both appreciated and been hurt by these situations. The difference for me came when I finally realized the truth about ‘being helpful.’ To help someone when they ask for help is fine. So, now, I do my best to ask first, “Do you need my help? Or do you just need to talk this out?” The flip side of the coin is that I’ve also gotten better at asking for help, which was a HUGE lesson to learn, but well worth it. Nobody in my circle has to guess anymore about what I need or what I’m feeling. It’s not 100%, but it’s close. I ask for what I need, and I share my feelings openly and honestly. And when I offer my help, I do my best to do so without judgment or expectation.

It’s one of the most important rules in Coaching and working in an industry where people need your help: Guide, don’t lead. When we lead, we take away the opportunity for someone to make their own decisions. We’re essentially pulling them behind us, however passively. When we guide, we are standing next to them, sharing our experience and wisdom, allowing them to make their own decisions.

So – think of how being helpful can also be hurtful in both giving and receiving. Nobody likes unsolicited advice. And, quite frankly, the greatest gift is the one given anonymously. If you’re helping someone because you want to get something out of it – or expect a specific result – then perhaps you’re not helping at all. And a very wise woman once taught me: ‘A wise (wo)man says it once, then walks away.’ She’s wise, because she knows you can lose yourself when you spend too much time trying to help someone else. And then neither of you will be better off.

In love and light,

Martina

**LBD image: lanebryant.com; mule image: journalnow.com**

Victim…Victorious!

Are you a victim? I was having a conversation recently with a dear friend, in which the idea of the ‘victim mentality’ came up. As we were talking, it occurred to me that when someone becomes a victim – meaning, someone else has victimized him or her – they often continue to remain a victim, by repeatedly victimizing themselves thereafter. Yup, that’s what I said. Now, nobody would consciously choose this, but unfortunately, I think many of us do. I know I’ve experienced it.

Someone does something wrong to you – you get angry, hurt, resentful, etc. The actual act of the victimization is done. It happened. It’s in the past. But by continually handing over our personal power to the incident (not the perpetrator, the incident), we end up victimizing ourselves over and over again. Eventually, this repeated behavior becomes our story, thereby creating the “victim mentality.” But we don’t have to live that way. We have a choice.

It took me years to understand that I was living a story that was outdated and served no purpose in my life if I wanted to be healthy, happy and strong. I chose to live my life as a victim, because I never reconciled within myself the wrongs that had been done. Reconciling does not mean condoning, nor does it mean forgiving (that’s a topic for another day, entirely!) Reconciling, in this instance, simply meant: allowing myself to feel, and not judge my feelings.

Once I accepted, acknowledged and allowed my feelings to come out – I was free. Free of the incident, and free of the perpetual self-victimization cycle I had created around my own story. With freedom came perspective, and peace.

So, if someone wrongs you in some way, owning your feelings – your anger, hurt, fear, anxiety, frustration, etc. – is a healthy response to the situation. Owning your feelings, expressing them in a healthy way and then making the decision to take back your power by making a different choice makes you Victorious! Nobody wants to feel repeatedly victimized. What’s most important, though, is to assess whether your own mind, and not the original person are victimizing you. Because, if it’s your mind, and you are living a story of victimization and self-pity, then the blessing is YOU have the power to change that. If you want to. It may not be the easiest process, but it is definitely rewarding and worthwhile. Simply asking the question, and answering it honestly, is a big first step.

Therefore, I ask you, which do you choose: Victim or Victorious!

In Love and Light,
Martina

opportunity is knocking

Hello everybody. I recently had an opportunity to have a conversation with an old new friend. I say “old” and “new” because it is someone I have known for a while, but with whom I have become newly acquainted on a different level. What a gift!

During this conversation, we discussed the merits of living a life that is full, honest and healthy. As we were talking, I basically distilled it all down to one simple truth: Everything in our lives is either life-affirming or life-depleting. If you think about it, though it may seem too easy at first, it is the basis on which we make many of our decisions. Now, here’s the catch: when we are “asleep” we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to make these decisions consciously. So, what do I mean by asleep?

You’ve seen it – the person who is so busy they don’t know whether they’re coming or going, but they’re always searching for something. Or the person who is so shut down that you can’t talk to them about much of anything and relate. Or perhaps it’s just the person who is wandering through life, lost, yet putting on the bravado of knowing where they are – just so that they don’t get hurt, or get discovered. Being asleep comes in many forms and fashions, and we were all asleep at one point or another in our lives. As children, we’re wide awake – but we slowly learn to shut down and fall asleep, whether through defensive mechanisms or modeling our parents. And once we wake up, it is still possible to go back to sleep. The Matrix movie captured this so well – take one pill and wake up, take the other and go back to sleep. It’s a choice.

Now, where does that leave us on a daily basis? Well, as we begin to wake up, we sometimes see the wreckage of the decisions we made while we were asleep. It does no good to dwell on these. It only serves to look at them and understand them for what they are: lessons. From there, we can begin to make different choices. We can choose to look at everything in our life as either life-affirming or life-depleting. It really can be that simple. We choose to make it more challenging.

As I was talking with this friend, and several others later in the week, it occurred to me that judgment plays a role in this process as well. Someone eating a doughnut might be looked at as making a life-depleting decision; yet how can anyone know that, other than the person eating the doughnut? It seems obvious that seeing someone take illicit drugs or drink to excess is life-depleting, but perhaps it’s one more stone on their path that they need to step on, in order to wake up fully. Therefore, it could be seen as life-affirming, in the big picture. Judgment, in and of itself, is life-depleting. Always has been, and always will be. So, the bottom line is this: everything we do while we are still asleep we can learn from when we wake up.

The Universe always gives us second chances to learn from our mistakes (or life-depleting decisions). And what a gift that is! Just like my meeting my “old” friend again in a “new” way – life is always offering us opportunities to make a different decision. Opportunities to move forward in a new and life-affirming direction.

So, as you start this new week, what do you choose? Would you prefer to make choices that are life-affirming, or life-depleting? It’s your choice. And each morning, each day, each moment – you get the opportunity to learn, grow and make new decisions that enhance your life and your spirit.

May you all have a blessed, life-affirming week!

In Love and Light,

Martina