Author Archives: Martina

The Gift of All Saints’ Day

On November 1st, with Halloween behind us and the holiday season looming on the horizon, I think All Saints’ Day is the perfect day to pause and reflect. It’s like a reset button for your soul – if you choose to use it.

Recently, I’ve felt a growing urgency to push that button. To reset. To step back. To breathe… To simply hit the ginormous pause button in the sky. (Is there one?)

Pause in the Sky

When we’re on overload – physically, mentally, and emotionally – it also affects us spiritually, whether we’re aware of it or not. And, to me, a day that’s named for all the saints that have come before us is the perfect time to raise our awareness and take a measurement of our wellbeing.

As I was researching All Saints’ Day I came across so many different traditions and celebrations around the world, it lifted my spirit. It’s a testament to the fact that we don’t have to do things in exactly the same way in order to celebrate something universal:connection. We don’t need to believe the same things in order to embrace our faith and spirituality. All Saints’ Day is the perfect example of what it means to remember and connect – and it manifests differently throughout cultures, countries, and communities. How wonderful!

Whether it’s leaving lit candles by the front door in the Philippines or bringing gifts to the graveside for Día de Muertos in Mexico… each tradition has a unique way of reconnecting with their ancestors and remembering those who came before them. It’s this connection, I believe, that gives us the thread we need to live lives outside bubbles of fear and isolation. It’s this thread of connection to the past that allows us to be better creators of our future.

Personally, I found the celebration in Poland to be especially moving. This image I found online (below) truly gave me pause for its glowing beauty – and in that moment of curiosity and reflection, I found myself breathing more deeply again. I found the pause button in the sky from half a world away. Thankfully.

All Saints Day in Gniezno, Poland by Diego Delso; flowers and candles placed to honor deceased relatives (2017)

So, as the season of gratitude and giving is upon us, what better way to welcome it into our lives and hearts than by taking pause and remembering where we come from… who we are in the long line of thread that weaves throughout our individual and collective ancestry.

And, no matter which tradition you embrace, I wish you all a peaceful All Saints’ Day – however you choose to spend it.

 

Where do you belong?

The other day I was thinking about belonging. I had worked with a client who said to me, “I don’t know where I fit in…” To which I replied:

“The question is not where do you fit in… The question is where do you belong.”

It’s so important to feel a sense of belonging. Ideally, we feel like we belong to our families as we are growing up – but I know that’s not true for a lot of people. Then there’s the fellowship of community: neighborhoods, religious institutions, school groups, sports, activities. All of these create opportunities for us to belong to something. To be a part of something. But even then it can be difficult to feel a sense of belonging.

As we go through our adolescent and young adult years, the hope is that we have found a place to belong, at least temporarily, as we figure ourselves out. Unfortunately, I’ve often seen that backfire. Because we don’t figure ourselves out… we figure out where we can fit in, instead.

We take the square peg that we are and over time (or fear) we shave off our corners to try and fit in the round hole. And we’re never whole as long as we do that.

We do our best to “fit in” because we crave belonging. We’re hard-wired to belong to something. It’s in our nature.

Humans are tribal by nature. We have to be – it’s how we survived. We learned to rely on each other and protect the tribe as its own entity. Different members of the tribe learned different skills in order to support the tribe. This is not new to human evolution, nor is it something we grow out of, in my opinion.

Instead, it’s something we’ve worked to overcome, by replacing belonging with “fitting in.” And we’re worse off for it.

So, again, the question is not (and never was): “Where do I fit in?”

The question is (and will always be): “Where do I belong?”

Only when we endeavor to answer that question will we start to heal our trimmed edges and begin to feel at peace within ourselves.

Resiliency and Stability

If you want to know how resilient you truly are… live through a major home renovation.

Ok, I’m kidding… sort of.

I know I’m resilient. I’ve been through a lot worse emotionally, but living at home with no kitchen and no bedroom – my mattress in the floor in another room, and my clothes scattered between a couple drawers, hangers, and bags – has been surprisingly difficult.

Before it all began, I thought “What’s the big deal?” We moved a microwave and refrigerator into the living room and bought a hot plate. I thought it would be easy. Or at least easier. First world problems, I know.

Turns out, it’s not easy for me to live without the stability of routine. And that’s what it all came down to: routine.

Without my bedroom, my entire daily routine has been non-existent. Morning alarms, 3am bathroom runs from drinking too much water too late, and simply where to put my slippers all had to be reconfigured. My routine which allowed me to move through life with some sense of flow was all but obliterated, and I had to create something new – knowing it would be temporary. Yikes!

And then there’s no kitchen. As it turns out, a hot plate is fine, if you have a working sink nearby to clean everything. Otherwise, you run the risk of clogging up the bathroom sink, which is too small and shallow to actually wash dishes. So, there have been a lot of boiled eggs.

I’m not complaining actually, even though I’ve definitely had my moments. It’s more a fascination with just how attached I had become to a certain rhythm to my day. And, interestingly, how important that rhythm is to my life.

I have friends who can pick up and travel at a moments notice with only a backpack. I’ve always admired them and wondered if I could do the same. But, secretly, I knew I could not. While I love to travel, I like to do it with a knowing of how I will be spending my nights, and moving through my days.

When I took my first river cruise a few years ago, I loved it. It’s only now that I truly realize why:

All the basic elements I need were provided for. There was stability that underscored everything. This, in turn, gave me freedom. I enjoyed wandering more, because I knew where and when I’d be returning to “home” – and more importantly, how that “home” would be when I returned.

Perhaps not everyone is like me, but this is why I feel it’s so important to know your own barometers – those measurements in life that are unique to you. For me, it’s clear that I need stability and some bit of routine in order to fly and thrive. For you, that might feel uncomfortable and limiting.

What’s great is that while it may seem easy to say that makes us less resilient, it’s simply not true. Knowing what makes you thrive is empowering, not weakening.

So, in a few weeks (hopefully) I’ll be back in my bedroom with a working kitchen. Which means, in a few weeks I’ll be even more appreciative of the stability I need to soar, and will have an opportunity to be even more deliberate about how I reinforce it.

I’d say that’s worth the sleepless nights and random discomfort. How about you?

Choice is a Superpower

Embracing choice is a superpower. When you realize this, everything changes… for the better.

I’ve been working on my next book, which is all about how to actually create positive change in your life in a tangible, actionable way. But the first step to actually creating change is wanting to… making a choice. In fact, choice is the most important step we take throughout our lives on a daily basis. It’s also something we all do rather reflexively and distractedly – if not, unconsciously.

However, when we make choice conscious and realize that we are engaging in decision-making nearly every minute of every day, we are flexing our real muscles. We develop our superpowers, and the quality of our life changes… for the better.

Priorities, Values, and Authenticity

What are your priorities, really?

It’s an honest question, to which we often provide less-than-honest answers. If we were 100% truthful about our actual priorities (the things we actively pursue and attend to), we might not actually like ourselves so much, and fear others might not like us at all. The rub is, of course, the “others” already know your priorities based on your actions, so the only person you’re lying to is yourself.

There are many quotes in the world about being a priority, making something a priority, etc. Here are just a few I dug up:

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” – Mark Twain

Or Maya Angelou’s less passive version: “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

Then there’s this, more pointed version by Laura Vanderkam: “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time,’ try saying ‘It’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”

My favorite, though, is really simple in its delivery, and profound in its meaning:

“Action expresses priorities.” – Gandhi

Ah, leave it to Gandhi to hit home with the truth, in a profoundly neutral way.

What we do is a direct expression of what we prioritize.

So often I’ve heard people say “I can’t do… x, y, or z,” when what they really mean is they don’t want to. (I know, I’ve done it.) “Can’t” feels somehow more palatable, and hopefully less offensive.

The truth is, though, “I can’t” is what we say to make ourselves feel better, and often only we believe it. The people we are saying that to know we’re lying, but they let us do it because they understand. They do it too. Everyone does it. It’s almost a societal ‘norm’ to be deflective in this way. And that’s okay. (Sort of.)

What’s really not okay is when we start to believe the lie ourselves (ie: “I’m too busy” or “I’m unable to”), because then we are living out of integrity and authenticity – living out of alignment with our core values … and that is a really slippery slope.

So, like Laura suggested above, try saying “I’m sorry, but t’s not a priority for me,” or “Thank you, but I’m not interested.” See how it feels to be honest with yourself and someone else, instead of lying about what you’re able (or unable) to do. You might just be surprised at the outcome.

—–

Post-Note: I did this myself recently, when I received yet another (mis-aligned) solicitation for marketing partnership, and instead of ignoring it, or lying and deflecting with “I can’t right now,” I simply replied: “Thank you, I’m not interested. This isn’t a good fit for me.” The response I received in return was kind and genuine: “Thank you for taking the time to let us know. Best wishes.” I get that not everyone will be like that, but it’s nice to know that some people are. And I’d like to think that the more we respond to life with truth and authenticity, the more we invite others to do the same. xo

Ownership, Obligation, and Love

The question was never “What can be done?”

The question was always “What can you do?”

Or rather, “What can I do?”

When I start a session with a new client, I always start with: “How can I help you?” Because it’s a simple truth that we can only do what we can do. If a client said to me, “I need you to tell my partner that they’re wrong so that they understand how much I’m hurting,” my response would be, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that… I can, however, help you with your hurting.”

‘What can I do?’ is answered by what I can do.

Everybody has unique gifts, and everybody can use their talents to do something and be impactful. Unfortunately, a lot of the time we focus on trying to be like other people by imitating their gifts, or trying to make our own less noticeable. But if everybody did the same thing, there would be no impact. No change. No progress. No understanding. No growth. No empathy. No hope. … No Love.

What matters the most is being who you are, bringing who you are to the table, and then acting from that place. Knowing who you are, what you can do, and doing it is one of the greatest affirmations in the universe. It’s a way of taking ownership for who you are, why you’re here, and what you’re willing to do to contribute… and creating a path to Love.

Just the other day, I was thinking about my own gifts and how I wish to take ownership differently going forward. I had a great conversation with a dear friend (and gifted healer), and realized a lot of my desire for change was mired in conflating ownership with obligation (aka: externalized responsibility). I cannot be responsible for things that aren’t mine to be responsible for. I may think I should do it, but the bottom line will always be about whether I can. If it’s not in my wheelhouse – meaning, it’s not aligned with my own gifts, path, and capabilities – then I really have to let it go. Otherwise, I’ll expend a lot of energy for little or no outcome.

Ownership is different. Taking ownership is about claiming my place in this world, as I am, doing what I can do – not feeling responsible for others’ journeys, but sharing the road together. Ownership is standing unapologetically in my boots, for better or worse, and being. Being the best, most loving version of myself that I can be, in everything I do.

My friend reminded me of the importance of remembering the power of Love throughout this journey. Love of self, love for others, and capital-L Love. Love supports change and growth more than almost anything else. This means that Love is absolutely necessary in ownership, whereas obligation (especially externalized responsibility) usually involves some measure of fear.

So, in the end, when we look at the question “What can I do?” the answer should always be:

Respond with Love.

And the Universe emphasized that simple, yet important, truth when shortly after my call with my friend I parked next to a car that had this exact bumper sticker. I love how that works, don’t you?

Complaining Doesn’t Create Change

You can either change or stay the same, but you can’t do both. And if you want to create change in your life – if you want something to change – you have to become a participant in making it happen. 

Harsh words? Perhaps. But that doesn’t make them less true. And trust me, it’s not as if I think change is easy. It’s not. Change can feel hard, and very few people are actually good at it across the board. We all have at least one thing that seems harder to change than others. (I’m no exception.)

In reality though, change isn’t actually hard, even though it often feels that way. What makes it hard is when we add emotional weight to the process. This is what happens when we want to “have our cake and eat it too.” In other words, when we want change, but we don’t want to have to work for it.

You can’t create change by simply wanting it and doing nothing to make it happen. It doesn’t work that way. Change requires decision and then action. These are doing words, not being words. You can’t be your way into changing something.

All too often we readily complain (as I’ve done myself) that “nothing is changing,” or “nothing is getting better.” When I hear a client say this, the immediate question I ask is: What have you done to make it happen? (Which is often met with a scowl or grimace.)

The thing is, so many of us want things to change, yet we’re also too tired/angry/resentful/lazy/scared/upset/frustrated/sad (or numerous other emotions) to do anything about it. Either that, or we’re caught up in some form of victimhood and martyrdom that allows us to feel like we’re entitled to complain endlessly without actually engaging in bettering our own lives. Yikes!

The concept is really simple, though: If you want something to change, you have to do something to create that change. 

  • If you’re feeling sad, depressed, pitiable – do something.
  • If you’re feeling angry, scared, frustrated – do something.
  • If you’re feeling resentful, tired, lazy – do something.

No matter what you’re feeling, if you don’t like it – you have to do something to change it. Take a walk, call a friend, eat a different diet. The list of things you can do to create positive change in your life is virtually endless.

On the flip side, there’s only one proven way you can guarantee that nothing changes, and that’s to continue to complain while doing nothing. In fact, not only will things stay the same, they’ll actually get worse. There is no level of “maintenance” that includes complaining and/or inactivity. None.

So, if you are tired, frustrated, or upset about how things are in your life – you absolutely have the power to change it… by making a different choice and doing something that changes your situation. It all begins with you. Even if it feels difficult or challenging (or even overwhelming) it is worth it, because the alternative is doing nothing – which is a guarantee that things will get worse. And who wants that?

Change doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, there’s an easy way to approach change that I’m writing about in my new book (to be published early 2019). In the meantime, just do one thing – one thing – differently. There’s hope in action. Give yourself the gift of possibility, by taking action in your life. 

Legal, Ethical, Moral – They’re Not The Same

My father was a lawyer, and a damn good one, at that. He spent the majority of his career practicing corporate law, which meant he had an opportunity to educate people around him who otherwise wouldn’t have had a lot of access to all things law.

When I was a lot younger, maybe in my early teens, I remember once saying to my dad, “…but it’s totally legal,” about some topic or other. He took the opportunity to teach me what that really means when I’m saying it.

“Legal” is not something to aspire to. It’s not a high bar. In fact, as he said, “It’s the lowest acceptable form of human behavior.” It’s one step away from illegal, which is criminal.

To say you’re “legally compliant” doesn’t actually say much. It’s not a badge of honor to wear or something to be proud of. Because the simple truth is:

“Legal” is not ethical.
“Legal” is not moral.

Acting “within the law” is doing just enough to not be criminal… today. Because laws are subjective and made by people in power, they change with the times. They are a moving bar. Not too long ago, there were a lot of “legal” things that today would seem abhorrent (slavery, child labor, women as property, domestic violence, etc.)

Legal is not the same as ethical.
Legal is not the same as moral.

I thank God every day for my father teaching me that concept at such a young age, because it shifted my perspective. Instead of thinking of being “legally compliant” as the high-water mark, I came to see being ethical and having a moral compass as the high-water marks and the law as the lowest acceptable form of behavior in which I could ever engage.

Where I see a problem lurking in today’s world is that a lot of people and companies do the reverse. They give themselves gold stars and accolades for simply doing the minimum: acting in accordance with the law. (Just one step lower and they would all be criminals.) And they set ethics and morality as something up in the stars, nice to look at but impossible to reach, so they rarely try. *sigh*

Those stars, however, are not very far away. They’re within reach of everybody, because to me, being ethical means being human and having compassion, making decisions from a place of empathy, equity, and understanding. And a moral compass is about making the deliberate decision to behave ethically.

So, the next time someone tells you they were “acting legally” or “in accordance with the law” – it might be worth it to dig a little deeper and find out what they really mean, because they’re not saying very much if they use those words.

How to BE a Writer

Being creative is a gift we all have. Finding out what that means is part of the journey. Writer, artist, chef, painter, designer, teacher, engineer… there is a bit of creativity in everything we do. Even doctors have to be creative sometimes, in order to get to positive outcomes.

Typically, though, we think of “being creative” in association with artists. Artists run the gamut from visual arts to music to writing, with a whole lot in between. Recently, I was speaking with a client who loves to write, but was getting hung up on her writing. It’s not her day job, but it’s part of her work, and she had a specific story to tell that simply wasn’t going anywhere.

Sigh… I can relate.

It was then that it occurred to me that she wasn’t hung up on the writing, she was hung up on “being a writer.” Because when we claim something that feels big, we also have a tendency to put it on a pedestal. Subsequently, it is no longer a passion-fueled hobby or daily endeavor, but something that is now just-out-of-reach. It’s something to either a) strive for, or b) uphold. Yikes! Where’s the fun and creativity in that?

Alas, our creativity then has a tendency to go by the wayside, because we’re striving to be a label instead of simple being creative.

In my own experience, the best words I’ve ever written came when I wasn’t trying to write. They were simply there, and I captured them, much like catching fireflies on a summer evening. However, when I’ve forced myself to sit down and “be a writer” – boy is that sometimes a struggle. More often than not, it results in my stepping away and abandoning whatever it is that I started.

You see, I’ve learned that being creative – being an artist – is more about being yourself, than anything else. Just being.

Being present.
Being open.
Being honest.
Being raw.
Being real.
Being free.
Being true.
Being.

What I’ve learned is that when I try to be something, I’m actually limiting myself.

So, as I said to my client the other day:

When you’re trying to be a “writer,” you limit your writing. Storytelling is not about being something; storytelling is about being.

It’s All About You (even when it isn’t)

If you think something you read online is about you, it probably is – even if it isn’t.

Let me explain.

Over the weekend, I posted some words about truth and wisdom. Then this morning, I shared how incongruent it is to preach light (or truth) and spread anything fear-based. And then I got some push back. A few people were courageous enough (I truly respect their courage for actually asking) to reach out and ask me if what I had written was about them.

The short answer was “no.”

But the long answer is… “probably.”

Because if you read something online that someone else wrote, and you get a twinge in your gut or mind that it might be about you, even if it’s not… then it probably is – because you are feeling something. You are feeling the message in the words, and it’s prompting you to call your own actions into question. So, even if it wasn’t written with you in mind – if you’re feeling it, then yes, it’s about you. 

More importantly, it’s within you, and has nothing to do with the other person (like me, or anyone else writing and sharing stuff). They’re simply the mirror or message that you need in that moment. For both the positive empowering stuff, and the twinge-y kind of stuff that gives us pause and makes us angry, resentful, or curious to ask the question.

The bottom line is simple: We’re all on a journey of our own making, and yet, we’re also walking this path together. It’s a duality of truth that feels contradictory, and is anything but. So, if someone shares something that prompts something in you, it’s an opportunity… a gift. It’s a chance for you to modify your path slightly, as we journey together. Cool, huh?