Author Archives: Martina

12 Years Today – 4,380 Days

I’m glad I’m not French. No offense to the French, I actually love the country, the food, and the people… but twelve years ago on Bastille Day, our lives changed forever. If it were any other normal day, I maybe wouldn’t remember the anniversary (which is a weird thing to say) of my dad’s stroke. But it’s Bastille Day in France, and I remember hearing the Marseillaise on the news in the airport as we waited for our flight from Dallas to Chicago. Now the Marseillaise is forever associated with my father’s stroke (hence, I’m glad I’m not French), which means every July 14th – I remember. Extreme crisis can do that: take one thing and affiliate it with another unrelated thing – forever. I’m just glad it wasn’t pizza.

In the back of my mind, I’m writing a book about this experience, I’ve tentatively called it 4,092 Deaths and Counting. The title is a work in progress, because today is officially 4,380. Four thousand three hundred and eighty mornings of “different.” Of love, of loss, of joy, of heartache, of gratitude, of patience, of frustration, of fear, of anger, of relief, of hope. 4,380 days of being human and living alongside dying. It’s not for the faint-hearted, I can tell you that.

Almost exactly a year ago, dad transitioned to a care facility. So, we’ve now had almost 365 days of a different kind of “different,” one that requires both more and less fortitude. Easier, in some ways, and more challenging in others – overall, though, this doesn’t get easier. I think there was a time when I thought it would. Alas, I was wrong. I wrote about it in an article a few months ago: Trapped Out of Love. (If you haven’t read it – you can read it here.)

For his part, Dad seems to be doing well. He enjoys the activities and commotion at his new residence, something that was sorely lacking here at home. The staff love him and call him “smiley,” because he is always smiling. Some call him “Judge,” because he was a lawyer – which, as you can imagine, he gets a kick out of. Mom goes to visit him several times a week, and I am able to get there every weekend – usually bringing him his favorite contraband in the form of lunch. (The pizza gene is strong!) In nicer weather, we take walks outside where there are ponds and wildlife galore. Dad also really enjoys plane-spotting, as the campus is somewhat in the flight path of two airports. All in all, it’s a simpler life for him, one with a grace and ease that accompanies living in a care facility.

For us, it’s a relief to know he’s being looked after by medical professionals 24/7, while still causing some guilt over not being able to keep him at home. That’s the conundrum of aging and illness, isn’t it? Deciding on what’s best for the patient, as well as what’s best for the family. Often times, those needs don’t match up. And even though he’s not physically at home, he’s still here in some intangible way, every day.

So, each time I think of counting the days, I hear the lyrics from Rent in my mind: “525,600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year… how about love?” I’m pretty certain we’ve measured 12 years in love… alongside all the other emotions that come with the territory. And so, we continue to do so – for how many more days, nobody knows.

Now, perhaps, there’s a reason for the Marseillaise after all, with it’s simple echo of: “Marchons, marchons!” And so we do.

Afternoon walk with Dad on a summer day

Three Days (a writer’s journey)

In three days, I wrote close to 38,000 words.

In three days, I navigated the white water of words pouring forth at a pace that was near manic.

In three days, I became exhausted (and it didn’t help that I wasn’t sleeping well for reasons unrelated).

In three days, my writer’s boat capsized, and I felt I was drowning in the jumbled web of words that spilled out over 72 hours.

It took three days for me to release the pressure of the book that had built up inside me over months. The dam had burst, and after three days, the water shifted from a torrent to a lull.

I found myself looking around, unsure of what to do and where to begin anew. I considered tossing it all aside, walking away, shutting down. I questioned my worth, and the worth of my work and words. And then I reached out to a friend.

In three days, I manically wrote (for better and worse), and then I stopped. In three minutes my friend helped to refocus the most important element of any writing, of my writing: truth.

It took three days for me to run, fall, scrape my knee, and stand up again. And it took a friend to help treat the wound, so that I could walk forward.

I now have three days left of my writing escape at my friends’ house, and in three days I will write from a place of calm, of confidence, and of focused truth.

The word count doesn’t matter. It’s a false trophy in the writing world. What matters is the words themselves… and the energy behind them.

Every writing is a journey of discovery, even when you’re writing about something you know intimately. Because every piece of writing is a creation. It’s the process of giving birth to something that will have a life of its own. A long life, if you’re lucky.

I went through three days of labor, only to find that the true birthing will be in nurturing this new work into creation, slowly, calmly, and peacefully… for however many days to come

It’s never boring, being a writer. At least there’s that. 🙂

The Importance of Simple Pleasures

Like many people I know, over the last month I have felt emotionally inundated with one shocking headline story after another. My sympathetic nervous system felt under attack, and I needed to do something about it. It’s the old “oxygen mask” rule of taking care of yourself before assisting others, because otherwise, you’re no good to anyone.

So, one day, I decided to snap a pic of my silly face enjoying some olives… because they made me so happy! They were a new discovery at my local grocery store, and they were DELICIOUS!! So, I took a picture. Then another, and I found myself laughing and smiling and, most importantly, emotionally lifted. I shared it with friends, and they, too, smiled at my goofiness. I hashtagged it #simplepleasures and didn’t think about it again.

Original Post: With everything going on in the world it’s SO IMPORTANT to find little joys. And today, I did! My local grocery store has THE BEST olives!! #simplepleasuresmakelifebetter #iloveagoodolive

Then, a couple of days later, another small thing made me wonderfully happy: A new pair of fun earrings, and I thought: Hmm…. there’s something here. So I wrote another post, played around with a fun new photo app, and shared it.

Original Post: Remember my post about simple pleasures making life better (or some days, just bearable)? Well, the other day it was olives… whereas tonight it’s shiny new baubles!! What do we think?! I LOVE them! They’re like glistening mandala ornaments for my ears. <3

And with that, I started doing a daily #simplepleasures post for about a week just to see what would happen. What I noticed was that I was pausing more and taking better note of my daily life. I watched insects crawl and fly around on flowers, I listened to rain on the roof at night, and I sipped my tea more consciously, rather than guzzling down the morning caffeine.

While the world continued to spiral all around me, I felt more grounded and better able to remain emotionally-balanced. Subsequently, I also felt more more discerning about where I focused my energy and time. And that’s what’s important here: we have to be discerning about where we focus our attention.

With everything vying for some piece of our time or focus, it’s increasingly more and more important to be thoughtful and deliberate about how we move through our days. While our news stations seem to primarily focus on the “bad” things that are happening (see my “PS” below), it becomes increasingly more important for us to take pause in our lives and identify the good things. An awareness practice, like #simplepleasures, is a perfect example of how to do this.

Here are the rest of my week’s posts using the #simplepleasures hashtag. I invite you to try this out for yourself. Make a game out of it with friends and family. It doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the “bad” that’s going on in the world; it means that you’re choosing to keep yourself healthy, grounded and balanced, in order to be able to create positive change with more energy and focus. That’s a win-win, in my book.

(PS: Seriously though, if you’re not sure what I’m talking about with needing to be more discerning about watching the news, try this: try not actively watching the news and instead sit in a room nearby listening in order to count the number of “bad” things they share as compared to the “good” things. I’ve done this. It’s even worse than you might imagine.)

 

Thoughts On Suicide

This morning, I learned of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. On Tuesday, I learned of Kate Spade’s suicide. Over the past week, I have also had friends lose loved ones and acquaintances, some of natural causes, but a surprising number to suicide. In fact, the majority, sadly.

Thankfully, because I am surrounded by social workers and other thoughtful people on social media, there have been many posts about mental health, coupled with the suicide hotline number.

Not surprisingly, as I read through some of the comments on the celebrity deaths, there were people who chose to speak out without compassion… or understanding. They couldn’t fathom how somebody who “had it all” (aka: wealth and fame) should be mourned for being “stupid enough” to take their own lives. One even said, “boo hoo… not!” *sigh*

But here’s the simple truth about suicide:

One of our most basic and primal drives (in fact, it might be THE most basic and primal drive we have) is self-preservation. It’s biologically hard-wired into us. It’s hard-wired into every living thing in nature to survive.

Therefore, for someone to complete a suicide they would have to override the most basic biological drive they have. How bad do things have to be for them to do this? Pretty bad.

Overriding self-preservation has nothing to do with wealth or fame, nothing to do with gender, age, race, faith, or any other superficial “category” we assign to other human beings. To think that any of those “things” should be enough to protect someone is ridiculous, because none of them compare to the most primal drive we have: self-preservation.

As I mourn the loss of a person whose work I truly enjoyed, my heart aches more for the friends who are mourning the loss of family and loved ones. It’s often said that “suicide is never the answer.” But unless you have been in their shoes, living with something so dark that you can override your most basic need, I don’t think we should judge. I think we should only offer them love that their souls may heal and be free, and surround those left behind with strength and grace. 💖

The ‘One Size Fits All’ Myth

Life is not “one size fits all.” It never has been, and never will be… thankfully. Our health, our bodies, our faith (to name a few) – they’re all beautifully individual and unique, as they were meant to be, despite Madison Avenue’s best efforts to convince us otherwise.

Where we have found overlap and commonality, we have created fellowship or community. But those communities survive (and thrive) not because of our similarities, but because of our differences.

Unfortunately, so many industries are built up (and thrive) on this notion of convincing us that we are all meant to be the same, or “within normal limits.” [That’s actually a term used in medicine: WNL, and that’s what it stands for. But the internal joke among medical professionals is that it can also mean: “we never looked.” Sigh.]

We strive for “normal” because it’s what we’re told we should be. Normal height and weight, normal mental health, normal eating habits, normal exercise routine, normal grades (which, interestingly, translates to “above average”).

But what if you don’t fit into the “normal” categories you’re inundated with on a daily basis (and most of us don’t, in one way or another)? What if your genetics, DNA, pant size, skin type, or blood type don’t follow the guidelines for “normal?” What do you do then?

Well, if you buy into the paradigm of “normal” or “one size fits all” thinking, you begin to bend over backwards to become anything that fits the mold. Unfortunately.

Because humanity is anything but “one size.” It’s not meant to be. Just like no tigers have the exact same stripes, humans are meant to be as diverse as possible, with as many expressions and combinations we can have. We’re meant to flourish and grow, ever-expanding… exponentially. In fact, the only “normal” thing about being human is being unique.

Being uniquely you is what creates the diversity that allows communities to thrive. If everyone were a doctor, we’d fail. If everyone were a teacher, an artist, a banker – we’d fail. We need each person to be who they are… to be the cog in the wheel they are meant to be, and there’s nothing “normal” or “one-size-fits-all” about that. Being unique is healthy, striving for sameness is not.

More importantly, it’s the very nature of the Universe to be expansive, to continually be changing and growing. (Look at evolution!) So, to subscribe to a notion that promotes sameness is to go against the very nature of our being, and makes life so much harder. And who wants that? Yuk!

The connections we create in our overlap is what makes the journey more rewarding. When you find someone who loves the same things you do, you celebrate and form a bond. Hooray!But it’s the differences we get to experience in one another that actually makes us human.

The Importance of Gratitude

I still write “Thank You” notes. By hand. And put them in the post. Not for everything, but for a lot of things. People ask me why, and it’s because I believe saying “Thank You” is one of the most important things we can do to support and grow our relationships – both professional and personal.

When I worked in fundraising, we were taught that we needed to “thank” our donors or volunteers seven times. This didn’t mean that we said “thank you” seven times (or sent seven thank you notes – yikes!), but that in some way we expressed gratitude seven times between when they made their gift or volunteered their time until the next time they would do so.

For some people this may seem excessive, but for others it’s just the right amount. Wherever you land on the spectrum, what matters is that we have an understanding of why it’s important to say thank you.

Thank you

Firstly, simply acknowledging receipt is important. In this day and age of electronic gifting, it’s not always possible to know if someone received your gift (or message). So, we need to acknowledge receipt, and saying thank you is the easiest way to do that. It’s very embarrassing to be on the giving side of things and have to call someone to see if they received something we sent. It’s one of my least favorite things, to be honest, and I’ve had to do it more often than not.

Secondly, it’s important to express gratitude for the gifts in our life. There’s a simple truth that states: what we give, we get. Many spiritual thought leaders have taught this over the years, and it’s true. You get what you give. When we are grateful, and express our gratitude, we are actually inviting more blessings into our life. (There’s a reason we call it “giving thanks.”)

Now, we don’t give in order to receive, but it’s all part of the flow. You can’t escape it. So, if you are receiving and not giving in return, you will eventually stop receiving. (Nobody likes giving to people who don’t say thank you. Hint hint.)

In truth, saying “thank you” is more than the simple act implies. It’s about expressing appreciation and gratitude for someone else’s actions, actions that were born of thought… and that thought was of you. So, say thank you. It’s important.

 

When “Tomorrow” Never Comes

You always think you have more tomorrows, until suddenly yesterday’s “tomorrow” never comes.

tomorrow never comes quote

My sweet bird passed away yesterday (May 16, 2018). I am broken-hearted. She was with me for 17 years, 10 of which she was my closest companion during difficult times. She was my first “child” and loved to be kissed on the head. I kissed her goodbye last night, and cried. Today was the first day I haven’t heard her chirp in the morning when she heard me come downstairs. Nothing can prepare us for loss, no matter what or who it is we are losing.

My one wish is that I hadn’t said “tomorrow” as much as I did.RIP Sprout

 

Sour Grapes Make Bad Wine

Sour Grapes Quote

I was talking with a friend the other day, and we were both sharing similar stories of what happened when we had announced something successful in our lives. The common denominator after each announcement? We both “lost” followers/friends on online platforms.

*sigh*

Why do we do this? It takes a certain amount of thought and a deliberate action to “unfollow” or “unfriend” someone, and when it’s done in response to that person sharing some happy news, it simply causes me to shake my head in wonder.

But we’re human, right? We feel things and we get reactionary. I know I do. I do my best not to, and it’s definitely not my immediate “go-to” anymore, but sometimes it still happens. And when it does, I actually recoil myself and take a minute to pause, breathe, and reframe whatever is going on in my head – which is usually a story (hint: It’s always a story), as in:

That person doesn’t like me.
I’m not good enough.
There isn’t enough to go around.
They’re stealing my share.

Actually, I had a conversation a long time ago with someone who told me that somebody famous had “stolen her story,” which to her was her identity. In truth, it was both of their identities in some way, but because the famous person had said it first on an international stage, this person in front of me was convinced that she could never share her story, because there wasn’t room for her anymore. How sad.

That one conversation has stayed with me for years. I imagine it will stay with me forever. Why? Because it’s a tangible example of what happens when we live a life from a place of lack and fear, instead of a place of abundance and possibility. No two stories are exactly the same, however similar they may sound. The main difference is that no two people would share their stories in exactly the same way, which is what makes each person on the planet unique: their voice. It’s when you think otherwise that you leave room for resentment and envy to plant seeds.

Which brings me back to my original statement: Sour grapes make bad wine. 

When we approach someone else’s success or uniqueness with envy, resentment, frustration, or even anger, we are turning ourselves into sour grapes. And nobody likes that. Furthermore, when sour grapes are added into the barrel of life, they taint the wine, and nobody likes that. Eventually what happens is people start to exclude us, because they simply don’t want to be around something so bitter.

The flip side is also true, and for me it’s what I focus on. If someone is going to unfriend, unfollow, or even talk badly about me or my work – I can now choose to happily let them go, because I don’t want their sour grapes tainting my delicious barrel of wine. While the initial realization may sting a bit (again, we’re all human, and it obviously takes effort to unfollow someone), the truth is the best the balm I could ever imagine. And then I can find gratitude that they have removed themselves and self-identified as someone that doesn’t blend well with what I’m offering.

Or, to put it another way, as my friend Jen Pastiloff says: Instead of getting caught up in who doesn’t like you, get caught up in who does. 

Ahh… what sweet wine that is!

We Teach Expectations

One of the simplest truths came up again today when talking with a client: We teach people what to expect of us.

We teach expectationsIf you’re always willing to give, you teach people to expect that you will always give. And then when you don’t… watch out! They often get mad, and/or take offense.

Likewise, if you’re always taking, you teach people around you to expect that you won’t contribute, and eventually, they choose not to be around you.

Because nobody likes a one-way relationship. Right?

Expectations are the quicksand we were always told to fear in our youth. They catch us unaware and all too quickly snare us while slowly taking us under. And just like quicksand, we often need external assistance to help us get back on our feet.

My NEW Book of Poetry is HERE!

Infinite In My Heart coverAs a writer, I am always transforming thoughts into words, whether it’s the inspirational wisdom I share regularly in InspireBytes™ or the self-help guidance and teachings that I put into full-length books. (What now..? will be out in November… stay tuned!)

While you may be familiar with my prose (it’s been almost a decade with InspireBytes, so I hope so!), I recently compiled an assortment of poetry that I have written over the years into my first book of poems, lovingly titled: Infinite In My Heart: Poems of Love, Loss, and Hope.

From the back cover:

Who among us hasn’t experienced Love? or Loss? or the great Hope that accompanies every new and wondrous relationship? 

In ‘Infinite In My Heart: Poems of Love, Loss, and Hope’ – her first book of poetry – Martina E. Faulkner has created an emotional journey of reflection. Over the course of several years, she poured her thoughts into poems that stir the soul at the most basic level. Martina’s words share what it means to be human: to love, to lose, and most of all, to return to hope… again and again.

I’m excited to share this work with you. It’s due to be released on May 6th, but you can pre-order the Kindle version now by clicking here, or simply wait until May 6th to order the paperback.

As always, thank you for your continued support and interest in my work – I appreciate it immensely. Enjoy!!