Category Archives: change

Don’t Fix, Listen.

Recently I had to go shopping for some new boots. Hiking boots, to be exact. Now, I wasn’t looking for boots in order to go on some big trek, or, indeed, even to be hiking. I was looking for good hiking boots that I could wear on a regular (almost daily) basis, in order to try to support the possible healing of an injury in my foot. After trying numerous other solutions, and practically exhausting our options, my doctor came up with this idea: If we really stabilize the foot and ankle and give it the space and support to rest, even when in use, it might begin to heal on its own. This is perfectly aligned with what I believe: Space and time create possibility for healing.

So, one afternoon I found myself in the outdoors store, feeling somewhat out of my depth, looking for a new pair of hiking boots that would meet this need. Luckily, the footwear sales associate was a young woman who was pretty knowledgeable about their selection of footwear, which was vast. I say luckily, because what I learned during my 2 hours of experimenting with different boots was that she was the only associate who listened to me and tried to meet my needs. Everyone else wanted to simply fix it.

When I arrived in the shoe section, she was helping a male customer, who upon listening to my conversation with her decided that for the next 30 minutes, he should chime in and tell me ALL the things I should be doing for my foot, as he has had a similar (but not the same), problem for nearly 15 years. I listened, patiently, and repeatedly explained to him that I had, in fact, already tried most of what he was suggesting, without success. He didn’t believe me – because he didn’t hear me. As I continued to try on boots with my sales associate, he continued to offer unsolicited advice based on his experience, without ever actually listening to mine.

If it had stopped there, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post. But it didn’t.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes (and at least 25 pairs of hiking boots!), about 5 other sales associates all decided to come and “help,” without actually helping. Here’s why: not one of them listened. They were all experts in knowing footwear, but they weren’t experts in knowing my foot. Currently, where my foot is concerned, I’m an outlier. I don’t even fall on the spectrum of normal, and so I need to search for solutions that match my needs, not solutions that match a statistic of information.

For some reason, Zoe, the sales associate who helped me throughout, seemed to understand this, and the only reason she did was because she listened.

Toward the end of my shopping experience, after 2 hours and narrowing it down to two pairs, I felt relieved and simultaneously frustrated. I looked at Zoe in appreciation and said, “Thank you.” She replied simply, “You’re welcome.” And I took a deep breath, but then I paused. What was I thanking her for? Obviously, I was thanking her for her help, but it was more than that. I felt grateful to her for listening, for trouble-shooting with me, and for massaging a solution. So, I told her that. And without ceremony, she turned to me and said, “Well, I’m glad. Because that was a lot of mansplaining going on.”

I admit to being shocked and surprised at her response. But as soon as she said it, I agreed. I realized that each additional sales associate (all of them male) as well as the original customer who thought himself helpful had all tried to fix my problem, but none had actually listened to it. Instead, they took the approach that they probably knew better, and offered their solutions, ideas, and unsolicited advice without once asking me a question. I’m not saying their intentions were wrong. I actually think they were trying to be helpful, even though they were anything but. It wasn’t until Zoe confidently and casually named it (she wasn’t being derogatory in her words) that I realized what had truly happened. There was a clear gender divide in the approach to the problem and the solution. There was even a female customer who had been looking for boots at the same time as I was, and upon reflection I can say that her words and actions reinforced my statement about this divide.

Personally, I have never used the phrase “mansplaining,” though I can certainly look back at my life and find ample examples of it. Zoe’s introduction of the word so effortlessly in conversation shows me just how much things are shifting. How much the old paradigms are falling away (often while putting up a fight). And I’m glad. I’m glad for many reasons, but in this instance, I’m glad for one:

If we are to come together more as a society, we need to communicate better.

The first step to communicating is listening. We can’t fix a problem if we haven’t actually listened to what’s wrong. Only then can we tease out the best and most appropriate solution, often through a period of trial and error. Trust me, I didn’t want to try on 25+ pairs of hiking boots (my poor fingers were rubbed raw from the lacing), but I did because I needed to find the best solution available to me. And the only way to do that was to listen. I needed Zoe to listen to me, and then I needed to listen to my body – my feet – as I zeroed in on what felt best.

So, while I wish it weren’t true (I’m ever the optimist), I accept that I was mansplained during my hiking boots excursion. What this means for me is that I will double-down on my listening, in the hopes that I can share, embody, and teach a different way. Or at the very least, I can offer a respite from a society focused on “fixing” as Zoe did for me.

xoxo,
Martina

My NEW boots!

My NEW boots!

The Duality (and my reality) of Bodily Love

It’s a funny thing to be able to feel intense love and gratitude for something, while also feeling a measure of disappointment, sadness and even a little disgust. I’ve only recently stepped into this quagmire of emotion, and I’m finding it rather difficult terrain to navigate.

Over the past few years (well, a lot longer, actually, but let’s just focus on recent history)… over the past few years I have been steadily plodding along on my journey, day after day. A reader who is very dear to me refers to it as my Hero’s Journey, a la Joseph Campbell. I would have to agree. Because on many days, it has taken a hero’s strength to wake up and keep going, especially of late.

You see, I am at what feels like a landmark in my life. It’s one of those markers on the side of the road denoting an event in history. Only time will tell if it’s a giant bronze statue or a simple plaque. From where I stand today, it feels more like the 10-foot metal kind.

If you read my last blog about triggers being gifts, you will know that I have recently been triggered into addressing some unseen, unacknowledged places within me that I have yet to adequately deal with. In some ways I thought I had, but the truth is, I was only ready to read about them on the menu, not dive in with fork in hand and really consume them. But it seems I must be ready now, because… Voilà! Here they are!

I’m talking about my body.

If you haven’t met me in person, you might not be aware that I am overweight. Actually, I hate that phrase, because I’m not “over” anything. I’m simply in a state where my outsides don’t match my insides. But I get it. I get that we have standards and statistics that we use as information to help us adjust our sails and change direction. So, my body is bigger than the standardized version of someone my height. I actually prefer to say that I am fat. Or, rather, that I have more fat than I would like to have. I think that’s the most accurate statement for me: I have more fat than I would like to have.

But it’s more complicated than that.

I was never a thin child. I always carried a little extra “baby fat” on my body and was always a very curvy girl. I was athletic, too, but curvy. I had a classic “figure 8” body – and I still do, actually. My body was voluptuous, strong, flexible, and round in all the right places. In retrospect, my body was something to be proud of. Of course, I didn’t know that at 16, but time does a wonderful thing for us: it allows us to know and see truth.

Anyhow, sometimes I look back at that younger version of me with wistful longing and wish for that body again. Not because it was smaller, but because it was stronger (though the smaller did make life easier). Instead, I look in the mirror and see a body that is less strong, less flexible, and larger than it used to be. And that’s where the quagmire begins… because I love my body, but it’s not a body that I actually recognize.

My body had changed, and I never noticed it.

Over the course of my marriage, I steadily gained in excess of 60-70 pounds. I actually stopped using the scale so I’m not even sure what I topped out at, but I know it was at least 60. It could have been 70, or even 75. I’m writing about all of this now for an upcoming book, so I won’t go into all of the details. The bottom line is that I was married to an addict, I became a quintessential codependent, and our relationship was stressful and strained for the vast majority of our time together. As a result, I lost myself. I lost who I was, and in many ways stopped living. That’s not to say that it didn’t have some happy and good times. It is to say that it took a toll on my emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health.

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I left that relationship six years ago. Since then, I have worked diligently on restoring and repairing the damage that was done – the damage that I unconsciously allowed and contributed to. I have come out stronger, happier, more aligned and authentic than I could have ever imagined. I have become the woman that I am, that I always was, that I had lost sight of. I have reclaimed myself in every way… but one. And (even though I have already lost about 10-15 pounds) I have the physical evidence to remind me daily.

This is what’s truly fascinating to me, why I wrote that I think “it’s a funny thing to be able to feel intense love and gratitude for something, while also feeling a measure of disappointment, sadness and even a little disgust.” It’s the duality of emotion that I feel for my body that has me wandering through the foggy bogs.

I can honestly say that I love myself. My body is strong, resilient, and cherished. Why? Because it survived. A couple of years ago I spontaneously referred to my extra fat as “emotional scar tissue” from my marriage. I couldn’t have been more accurate. My fat is proof that I survived. It’s proof that I am resilient and strong, and I cherish my body because of that.

At the same time, my body is not as strong as it once was. The extra fat has put a strain on my joints and made it more difficult to exercise. My stamina is not what it once was. Everything is just a little bit harder. It doesn’t help that I injured my foot, too, which makes even walking a challenge. But I keep trying. I keep fighting, and I will continue to fight until my outsides match my insides in a way that I recognize. (And, thankfully, I have a heck of a good team of wellness professionals helping me along the way.)

I’m writing about all this now, because I’ve been triggered from conversations with a friend. I’ve been triggered to explore how I truly feel about my body. As a result, what I realized this past weekend was that I hadn’t yet grieved. I hadn’t fully grieved for the loss of health that I experienced during my marriage, nor have I grieved for my self. Because… I did this. I did this to myself. I couldn’t tell you how, as I was not eating excessively or even poorly during that time, but I can tell you that I did it. Some of my doctors have blamed cortisol from the chronic stress I experienced for over a decade. It’s possible. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I can stand in front of a mirror and know in my heart that I am a total rock star who is strong and capable, while also looking at myself with sadness and hurt. I know that I am sexy, vibrant, and beautiful, while also knowing that I am unhappy with and would like to change what I see. I can hold space for both to be true. Until the day in which the grief has transitioned into greater love, the grief is part of my daily experience. The sadness and hurt – the disappointment – is part of my daily experience, just as the celebration, love and acceptance is. The process by which things change is only known after they have, and so I can only do my best to show up each day and allow for whatever comes… knowing that it’s okay to love my body, while also working to change it.

xoxo,
Martina

The Surprising Gift of Triggers

I’ve recently been having conversations with a friend that are proving triggersome. (Is that even a word? Ah well, it is now.) Basically, the sharing and exploration of ideas, dreams, and desires is bringing up a decent amount of triggers for me – triggers that I didn’t necessarily expect, though probably knew were there, lurking behind some vision board somewhere. In other words, though delightful, they are also somewhat challenging at times.

What is a trigger? Well, it’s something that can blind-side you and almost always causes a reaction much greater than the stimulus itself. I liken it to poking the bear. One poke in just the right spot might awaken it and turn it into a crazy raving animal. The reaction outweighs the stimulus.

In all my years of traveling on this journey of mine, I can safely say that I’ve never welcomed the pokes… until now. Now, something has shifted, and I see the triggers as little gifts. I see them as opportunities to address and release (or properly catalog) something that needed attention, something that was unknowingly holding me back from being my whole self more consistently.

It’s a different approach that I am enjoying discovering and playing with. On the one hand, rather than just being triggered, I am also aware of the triggers, which actually makes the trigger less powerful. It also splits my attention between that of witness and main character, which is intriguing and leads to a tiny bit of a fog sometimes as I navigate the new terrain, but is pretty cool to walk through. And on the other hand, I find myself feeling excited for the shift and the change that I know is in progress, and so I am more tolerant of the ebbs and flows of thought, emotion, and questions that are arising. In short, I am finding that I am more peaceful and compassionate with myself, while also feeling curious about what’s going on.

The result is that it’s allowing me to engage in these discussions with my friend from a different place. A healthier, stronger, more curious place, because I don’t have any specific attachment to anything. I don’t have an agenda other than to be open to the change in me that these interactions – these triggers – are manifesting.

There is an old saying that people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and I believe that to be mostly true. (I think everyone is in our life for a reason). I think some folks move in and out of our lives seasonally, like stitches in clothing; while others run alongside us for lifetimes like sidewalks across a road. Both are worthwhile, and both can trigger us at different points – hence, both have their reasons. We just don’t always know what the reason is.

For me, these conversations are a gift, because they’re allowing me to create awareness to things that needed my attention. So, I don’t mind being triggered. It means I’ve been given an opportunity to let go of something that no longer serves me. It also means I’m creating an opportunity to live more fully, deeply, and with greater joy, passion, and meaning. The definition of ‘win-win.’

xoxo,
Martina

The Gift of Triggers

Do Something… Anything.

Who here has seen the Harry Potter films? There’s this one scene early in the series when Harry, Ron and Hermione are trapped in the bathroom with a mountain troll. The troll has Harry dangling by the legs and Harry yells to Ron, “Do something!”

Ron replies, “What?!?”

Harry, even louder, “… ANYTHING!”

As I sat to write this week’s blog, that scene and those voices – those words – kept repeating in my head, like an album of old with a stuck needle.

Do something… Anything.

It’s really simple, isn’t it? And yet – sometimes it can be so hard to just get going with the “anything.”

As I continue to lay the groundwork and pull together all the pieces for the follow-up book to What if..?, I believe more and more that “anything” is exactly the answer to most of life’s quandaries. Why? Because “anything” creates movement, and movement leads to flow. Every time.

I’m living a perfect example of this right now. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve been trying to navigate whether or not to change it. It’s been a weekly endeavor for over 7 years now (with one hiatus during grad school), and I have lost a bit of the spark with writing it. I don’t think it’s that I don’t want to do it – quite the opposite. I love writing it. I think it’s that I’m in a bit of a resetting and restoring period in my life, and so sometimes writing isn’t a priority. In fact, it’s rarely been a priority of late, because it feels like effort.

I am grateful that I can say that everything I have published up until this current period has been effortless. It’s been all part of the flow. I sit down, I feel inspired, and I type. Rarely has it been a struggle. But lately, I’ve been missing that sort of creative flow in my life, and yet I knew that writing wouldn’t restore it. So, what did I do?

I listened to Harry and did “anything.”

My “anything” actually looked like art. I picked up my pen and my sketch pad, and I began to draw. I allowed myself 5 minutes a day of just sketching or drawing whatever came out. And it’s been marvelous. Plus, it hasn’t always remained at 5 minutes, which is evidence that the flow is returning. I can also say that I’ve taken an interest in cooking again and experimenting with combinations and flavors.

This is what it means to “get in the flow.” The flow is non-goal-oriented, non-specific, and non-judgmental. It simply is. And when it’s moving, it encourages more movement. This is exactly why “anything” works to restore flow. And it doesn’t have to be something “big” or “important” either. 5 minutes a day of just sketching is certainly not life-changing.

And yet….

And yet it is. It is because it’s a path back to a flow state, in small increments made with deliberate intent to simply get something – anything – moving. Which is actually what change is all about: small deliberate steps, taken incrementally, over time.

So, the next time you’re feeling stuck just remember Harry, Ron and Hermione in the bathroom, and do anything. “Anything” will always lead you forward.

xoxo,
Martina

P.S. Here are two of my recent sketches. I have posted a few on Instagram, if you want to see more. :)

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I’m sorry… Thank you. (a love letter to my body)

For those of you who know me, you know that I have spent the better part of the last 15 years working on my health and wellness. It’s a journey, a journey that never ends, so we might as well settle in and enjoy it along the way, right? It’s taken me the better part of a decade to realize that truth. And, it’s also taken me longer than a decade to shift my focus from the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health to the physical.

For me, the physical is the “final frontier,” so to speak, of my wellness boot camp. I’ve gone head first into the other three, but always kept the physical at bay. Why? Oh, I could give you so many reasons, but the bottom line is: it wasn’t time – I wasn’t ready. I certainly did many things along the way to improve my physical health, but few of them took hold, or worked, or mattered enough, actually, to make lasting change. Plus, the spiritual, emotional, and mental frontiers were simply easier for me to understand and apply successfully. And, truth be told, I somewhat assumed that if I focused on those, the physical would just fall into place.

Alas, it’s not that easy. Not for me, at least.

So, here I am, finally in a place where I have been deliberately and diligently addressing the physical aspects of my health for the better part of  the last 1-2 years. I have an amazing team of wellness professionals helping me meander through the various bits of information, and it’s been a lot of trial and error, the results of which have been, at times, discouraging. There have been days when I have literally decided to “resign myself to my fate” of not being as physically healthy as I would wish. Of course, I know this isn’t true, but I’m human and vulnerable to the array of emotions that arise from feeling the struggle.

And then, a couple of weeks ago my dear wise friend, Kate (@wisdomofone), posted this quote on her social media:

14114770_10153736997641466_5172646785627773202_o-2It’s a quote from starting, by Nayyirah Waheed.

It gave me pause – as all good things do. It was a new approach that I hadn’t heard before. What I knew previously was echoed in one of the first few comments, which suggested that instead of saying sorry, we should say thank you. We *should* align with the energy of gratitude when dealing with our physical health. It’s a common message these days, touted by every spiritual thought leader, guru, author, and teacher: Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude… the cure all.

Yes, but… But there was something about this quote that tugged at my emotions and made me sit a little taller.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition… why can’t we do both? Say “sorry” and “thank you?” And what happens if we do?

If our physical health has been suffering (at our own hand, or otherwise), it seems to me that it would make sense to BOTH apologize AND say thank you. It seems to me that the most powerful approach to wellness includes an acknowledgment of our responsibility as well as an opening up to possibility. The minute I read this exchange on social media, I knew that was what I, myself, needed. I needed to humbly kneel before my own vessel and apologize, asking for forgiveness while also embracing it with genuine gratitude and joy for all it has done for me throughout my transgressions, whether conscious or unconscious.

And with that, I wrote this note to my body:

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I’m sorry for the way I treated you when I didn’t know better.
I’m sorry for the way I treated you when I knew better.
I’m sorry for when I didn’t make you a priority.
I’m sorry for when I let others treat you poorly.
I’m sorry for when I ignored your messages.
I’m sorry for taking you for granted.
I’m sorry for not loving you enough.
I’m sorry for not loving you more.
I’m sorry for not loving you.

Thank you for taking care of me when…

… I treated you poorly.
… I allowed others to treat you poorly.
… I didn’t make you a priority.
… I didn’t listen to your messages.
… I took you for granted.
… I didn’t love you.

And perhaps that’s how we should look at all the aspects of our health: By taking ownership for our role in the patterns we have created (consciously or not) and apologizing, then expressing gratitude for what’s worked. And maybe, hopefully, this can be a model that we can take out into the world with our other meaningful relationships.

xoxo,
Martina

Permission to Let Go

I missed writing a blog last week – did you notice? Several of you did and reached out to check that everything is ok (thank you). And if you didn’t notice, that’s totally ok, because I didn’t notice either.

Sometime during the afternoon on Tuesday I had the realization that it WAS Tuesday, and I had totally missed writing for the week. I think it had entered my mind sometime over the weekend prior, but I wasn’t in the mood or in a place to sit down and write, so I didn’t. Then Tuesday morning came and went, and I had no notice of it. I actually thought it was Monday.

When I finally realized that I had missed the weekly blog, I responded rather differently than I would have expected. I said to myself, “Oops. Oh well…” and that was it.

Let me back up though. The reason I would have expected more of a reaction is because many years ago I made a commitment to myself to always write every week, and to do so in a way that would benefit others. This weekly ritual was designed to be both an offering (it is always free), and a habit to reinforce my creative process. There have been very few occasions in which I stopped writing weekly – the main one being my time in graduate school. For the most part, however, I haven’t missed a week in over seven years (barring that graduate school period). So, why didn’t it bother me?

Not only did it not bother me, I saw it as an opportunity to reflect on the reasons for writing and the plan for the future. I started asking whether it was realistic for me to write a weekly blog when I am working on 3-4 books at the same time? Do people really read it or want it? Is it adding value?

All of these things, and more, came streaming in and out of my mind. In the end, however, I returned to the original premise of the blog, which is:

  • To make an offering
  • To maintain a creative flow

Those two things still hold true today, and are more important to me than ever. And yet, I also realized the importance of letting go of any judgment or self-criticism that would have had me reacting a differently than I did. I’m very happy with my response, because it shows that I have developed a level of self-compassion and patience that I didn’t have previously. It’s evidence of the fact that I am living more form a flow-state than a struggle-state (even though it often feels like struggle on the outside). My response shows me that my inner seas are calm and smooth sailing, and that is worth more than anything.

So, I have made the decision to continue to write weekly – though I will allow myself the flexibility of posting on a different day, sometime between Monday and Friday in any given week. Flexibility is a key component of flow, and will allow me to adjust my sails a bit and see what happens.

And I think that’s the most important thing we can learn in life, isn’t it? How to respond to ourselves with kindness, compassion and flexibility, so that we can raise our awareness and assess whether changes need to be made from a place of inner calm. Well, at least that’s where it is for me, today. And for that, I am grateful that I missed writing last week. it gave me the perfect opportunity to pause, take a step back, and move forward with more compassion, awareness, and alignment.

xoxo,
Martina

The Slippery Slope of Mockery

This week, I’m dipping my toe in politics (Gasp! I know, right?) based on a FB post I wrote last week in response to the Donald Trump statues. It’s actually not really a political post though, as I identify as an Independent (so don’t worry, and please read on, because I think it’s important, and I think you’ll like what you read.)

It’s perhaps from that non-partisan perspective that I can better see things that show up as red flags. In response to my post, I heard from friends on both sides of the fence (fiercely loyal Republicans and Democrats alike), and both agreed wholeheartedly with what I wrote, which caused me to pause and reflect on what’s truly going on, if two opposing sides can agree.

Here’s the original post.

So…can I just chime in for a second… Because this is funny and all, and it’s always a good joke to poke fun at someone we find insufferable, right? But… if it were the other way around, if naked Hillary statues were placed around the country, would it be as funny? Or would we be outraged? Because if it wouldn’t be funny to you, then maybe this is not actually funny.

I just want to make a tiny reminder that double standards are the breeding ground for things like racism and privilege. Just something to think about from the social worker in me. Thank you.

Followed by this, in the comments during an ongoing discussion:

The downfall of this election will not be (I fear) who wins or loses, it will be the American people more divided than ever. No matter which candidate wins, we all lose. Spreading division is a sure fire way to create the lowest morale and systemic emotional illness, from which it will take years to recover – which then means that neither candidate will win, because they will inherit an emotionally diseased country, of their own making. PS: It’s called the UNITED states, and they/we are making it the DIVIDED states.

Discussion ensued, and I started to see the pattern that initially gave me pause. Basically, the act of publicly degrading another human being feels like a violation of our core for the majority of people, regardless of party politics. Why? Because it is.

It’s a simple truth actually. If we witness someone acting out negatively toward another human being, we either a) become enraged, or b) become sensitized to it, and ultimately accept more “bad” behavior. How we then choose to act is dependent upon our initial reaction.

I had a real-life “example” in grad school with a friend when we were sitting in a coffee shop watching a mother disciplining her child, rather cruelly but without physical abuse. It was that very fine line of what is acceptable and what is not as a society. It lasted less than a minute, and neither of us wanted to step in, but both of us were angered and upset as we sat dumbfounded trying to figure out what to do. What was “right?”

Of course, we couldn’t come up with an acceptable answer, but our awareness had been heightened by the experience and ensuing discussion, which, for me, resulted in a greater sensitivity to seeing the forest from the trees. That basically means that when I see something go from individual to systemic a HUGE red flag rises in my mind’s eye, and that’s exactly what happened last week.

Back to the Trump statues. Let me be clear that I don’t agree with the divisiveness and hatred that Donald Trump has espoused this past year, so this article isn’t about defending Trump. Nor is this article about condoning Hillary, as the Democrats have historically also been responsible for divisiveness and mud-slinging. Neither party is innocent of this type of debasing behavior.

This article is about defending humanity and our civilization.

In one comment on the statues, it was suggested that it was “okay” to mock Trump with the statues because satire has always been a part of politics, and it’s our right. In another the mockery was justified as “deserving” because of Trump’s words over the past year.

This is where I took issue.

At what point does mockery become a threat to society? At what point do we stop and say, “no.” to that sort of behavior? This is where we have to guard against the slipper slope of mockery. Where I suggested the statues went too far for myriad reasons.

The responding comment suggested that this was not a time to take the “high road,” to which I wrote:

…for me it’s not about “the high road” – it’s about focusing on the bigger picture, which is that this type of behavior fuels more of this type of behavior, and if I condone it in one, I must condone it in all. No reason justifies it. That would be like saying, a person who was abused is ok to then abuse others. It’s not. It never is. It might explain why someone has abused someone else (as it often does), but it doesn’t make it ok on any level. Not for me, at least.

….And into that very dangerous ground we tread. The minute we can start rationalizing and justifying demoralizing behavior, we are losing. As a society and as humanity.

…If we start segregating people based on this thinking (they deserved it) we have reverted as a collective. Who is to be judge and jury? It’s all subjective. And the loser is always society.

The discussion ended there. Though a few days later, a friend had shared similar thoughts to my original post on her own timeline, and she received backlash. Again, those who would justify or rationalize (two major red flags, as I described in my book What if..?) the demoralizing statues as “deserving” voiced their opinions. My friend, courageously suggested that kindness should begin to rule our words – especially politically – to which one of her friends suggested civility, at least. I chimed in again:

…it’s more than kindness – it’s civility. But for me, it’s more than that – it’s humanity and civilization. As we lose our sensitivity to unacceptable behavior – that behavior becomes the “norm” and the threshold is moved. It’s one of the most slippery slopes we have actually, and if we don’t stem the tide, it will become a tsunami. And then all of humanity, civilization, loses. We ALL lose, regardless of party allegiance. I’m in the camp that we are already losing, but not in the camp of “beyond hope” for systemic change. But it has to start somewhere, and ideally it has to be bookended – from both above and below. Those in power, and those that elected them, both have to change how it’s done. Both have to have a fierce no-tolerance policy for degradation.

You see, historically (and even currently) I have always aligned with the policy of laissez-faire, or “let it do” (aka: let go). I don’t believe any one person has a right to impose their beliefs on any other person, myself included. I wish to be free to explore my beliefs, my thinking, my studying and change my mind/actions/presence accordingly. And I want the same for everyone else. Where beliefs overlap, I want those individuals to be able to form community and fellowship, celebrating the overlap and the joy in connection. This is my ideal society.

Overall, I think we have been living this way in America for a long time. It’s not perfect, but it has functioned, mostly well. The reason it functioned, I think, is because the majority had adopted a civil and moral code of conduct that was unwritten, but understood. Therefore, when I see the system sliding away from that invisible moral code and crossing a threshold into transforming unacceptable behavior into the “norm,” I get concerned. Red flags rise everywhere, and it becomes time to speak up and speak out against this type of behavior.

I think if you asked most citizens of this country if they believed in basic human rights, and the desire to be free to think as they choose without having their beliefs imposed upon, they would agree. Nobody wants to be scorned. Nobody wants to be shamed. Nobody wants to be mocked, ridiculed, or degraded. I doubt you would find one person willing to subject themselves to such behavior. Why then, do we do it to others?

Why is it ok to mock, shame, scorn and degrade another human being, when we don’t want it for ourselves?

The simple truth is: it’s not.

It’s not okay, and it never will be okay – but the more we do it, see it, witness it without speaking up, the more acceptable and “okay” it becomes through progressive rationalization, or desensitization. And that’s what we witnessed last week with the statues.

Yes, politics and satire have always been bedfellows to an extent, but at what point have we crossed the line from satire into degradation? At what point do we draw the line and choose to reverse the problems this type of behavior has created?

I would argue that that point is now, and it’s up to all of us to simply say “no, I don’t accept that behavior,” when we see it, and then offer a different way. The important distinction is to comment on the behavior, not the person. Behavior is something that can be changed. It’s not a statement about a person (ie: “I don’t accept that person,” which is problematic for myriad reasons), it’s a statement about something a person has done. That can then lead to discussion, relation, and connection – which ultimately leads to positive change for all.

Feeling Gratitude or Giving Thanks

Back to the shower for this week’s inspiration (I just love how the water amplifies everything for me and makes the flow so much easier).

So, last week I was in the shower after having a really good chat with a friend, and feeling an immense gratitude. I started to write on my glass shower wall (as I do):

I am grateful for…

And I paused.

I had a whole list of things to feel grateful for, and yet, it somehow wasn’t coming forth. It felt restrained, which meant it was time to step back and listen as I lathered up my hair with a new shampoo.

It wasn’t long before something started to shift within my mind, and my hand instinctively went to the wall once more:

Thank you…

I suddenly felt a charge running through me that surpassed anything I had felt previously. It was like gratitude on steroids.

Thank you.

Thank you for…

And I continued with my list. Once I finished I took a deep breath and reflected on what had just happened.

“Thank you…” is an ACT of gratitude; while “I’m grateful for…” is a STATEMENT of gratitude. Both are wonderful expressions of gratitude, but the former carries with it the vibration of action, which is thought manifested, and therefore infinitely more powerful. Very cool.

gratitude as act

Honestly, in looking back at all the times I tried to keep a gratitude journal and failed, I think I have finally hit on the reason why:

When something is passive for me, I tend to dabble with my toes in the water. When something is active for me, I tend to dive in and swim.

Shifting my gratitude from a statement to an act made it palpable, tangible and accessible – and it imbued me with a sense of empowered appreciation that I hadn’t felt previously. In other words, it changed everything. The shift was immediate, deep, and carried over into all of my days since.

Being in gratitude is the easiest and fastest way I know to stay in the flow of life and to stay present. Practicing gratitude as action instead of statement, makes it even easier.

Perspective, Fat-Shaming, and Truth

Well, this week I’m getting more personal. It’s a blog, though, isn’t it – so, in many ways it’s about being personal. For over seven years I have shared my thoughts and perspective on myriad things, usually from a place of having vetted the topic through many many filters of experience, knowledge, and teachings. This week, I’m getting a bit more personal, and you’ll see why when you read what I have to say.

Many of you know me and/or know much of my story. Many of you don’t. Either way, you’ll get a glimpse into how I became who I am today from this week’s piece. I hope you enjoy it, and if you’ve experienced anything similar for any reason – know you are not alone. (For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may have already seen this as a post earlier this week.)

I just made the mistake of reading the comments on a beautiful story of a discriminated segment of the population standing proud and doing something that goes against stigma… And the majority of comments were horrible. I had hoped that they wouldn’t be on such a lovely piece. I was wrong.

It made me pause and think. I haven’t mentioned what “segment” this is. Did you have an idea in your head when reading my above paragraph? What if I’m referring to disabled individuals? Or African-Americans? Or LGBT? What if I’m referring to the elderly, or the poor? To immigrants?

I’ve seen many posts in recent times about all of these groups doing something against the stigma, and the majority of comments have been “you go girl!” or “well done,” or even “about time!” But because I’m NOT speaking about any of these or similar groups, I see a different trend in the commentary.

Would it surprise you to know I’m speaking about plus-sized women? More specifically, Plus-sized women dancers who have more flexibility and strength in their bodies than many other people on the planet? And still…they are demeaned as nothing more than a number on a scale, or a size on a label.

These strong women are dancing beautifully, breaking a stereotype and a stigma, and attacked for doing so. They are called “fat” and “obese” and told that they shouldn’t be dancing because it “glorifies” being fat, when they should be hiding it away and working harder to be thin. (Because “thin” = “healthy” apparently.)

This makes me mad. Nobody – NOBODY – has a right to judge another. Unless you can walk in the other person’s shoes, you simply don’t know (and you can’t, and even if you could, there’s still no place to judge). If these comments were directed at any other discriminated population, the perpetrators would be called “racist” and “bigots.” But for some reason it’s still ok to fat-shame. An entire segment of the population is routinely put down (negated, attacked, dismissed, shamed) because of their appearance and the social stigma attached to it, and it’s simply wrong.

I speak from experience on this. I’ve been thin(ner), and I’ve been fat. I currently carry an extra 60lbs of ’emotional scar tissue’ from my marriage. But I’m alive. It’s increasingly harder for me to shift the weight, but I’m working on it with a team of experts. And I’m alive. Unless you’ve walked in my shoes, you have no right to judge me and how I look – and yet…I’ve been judged. I’ve received comments, and stares, and messages (unsolicited offerings of advice and help), because people “care” for me or (in actuality) are uncomfortable with my weight. Well, luckily, they don’t have to be the one carrying it.

And I smile and nod in “appreciation” because it’s easier that way. It’s easier to seem grateful for the thoughtful/less suggestions than it is to say, “f**k off!” And I build a story around it: “…but I’m alive,” to justify others’ discomfort at my appearance.

Well, no more. I’m tired. I’m tired of being looked at as ‘lesser-than’ because I have a ‘bit-more’ than others. Because here’s the truth of the matter:

I’m fat. I gained 60lbs during a (mostly) dysfunctional marriage, and I’m having a hard time getting it off, because of an injury. But…I’m alive. In the last year of my marriage I was certain I wouldn’t be for long, either at my own hand, or his. So, I’m alive, and I’m fat. And I have some health concerns that I am working on with professionals – (mostly the result of my silly toe that stopped bending – the rest of me is healthy by the numbers). And I’ve had relationships since my divorce with (attractive/slim) men – should I not have, because I’m fat? Because I’ve been told that, too. Yes.

And…

And I’m SO MUCH MORE than all of that. It’s just one ~ one ~ piece of my story. A story that is always evolving and growing, and includes:

I’m alive. I survived. I’m beautiful, smart, funny, creative, and strong. I’m fat and flexible, happy and whole. I’m intuitive and blessed, grateful and living my life with purpose and passion – I’m living, because I’m alive, and I survived. And I’m everything I ever was and will yet be, because of that.

People are more than their bodies. #Stopfatshaming

Post-Note: Unless we learn to regularly take perspective, how can we invite compassion into our lives, or expect it from others? The key to creating change in humanity includes this very crucial first step: taking perspective.

Look At Your Wake

How many of us struggle with feeling “good enough” or staying motivated to keep going when we face a seemingly long array of obstacles? I know I’m not alone when I share this thought. Not only have I seen it in my clients and colleagues, but I’ve also witnessed it in my personal life among friends and family. It’s that feeling of looking forward to the next rung on the ladder, and finding the motivation within to keep going, keep striving, keep climbing, as we look ahead at those who have already “done it” – whatever “it” is.

For me, I am just coming off my first year as a published author, and my seventh year as a certified life coach, not to mention all the other things in between. I look at other people in my industry who have “succeeded” and I wonder why I haven’t reached the same level of success as they have…or appear to have. (<– always a good reminder.)

There are many answers to this, of course, but the two most obvious are:

  • They’ve been doing it a LOT longer than I have (in many cases around 2 decades for the authors/speakers I admire the most), and
  • They’ve had a LOT of help to get where they are.

So, first, let me say that I have had wonderful help with my first book and its subsequent tour, as well as various other projects I’ve created. Additionally, I know I’m successful in what I do and have done, which I am especially reminded of when I receive unexpected messages of gratitude for my work. (Thank you, again, by the way, I love hearing from you!) My challenge has been in making it scalable, which is a new focus for me this fall. But what I’m talking about goes deeper. It’s more than that.

When someone has a fire burning in their belly to walk the path they’ve been given, it can sometimes be frustrating when the path seems slow or strewn with obstacles. Part of the reason for that is because we are always looking ahead. Guilty as charged.

As a Visionary, it’s my job to constantly be flying between the forest and the trees, to understand the ever-changing perspective and digest it in a meaningful way. As a Writer and Coach, it’s my job to then relate that information in an accessible and actionable manner. This is my path, and I love and accept it. It means that I am always looking around, assessing and monitoring the universal energies and shifts I see to understand what they mean for humanity, from both a divine and human perspective. As I’ve said before, I write from my soul to understand my humanity. It’s from this space that I then help people to (re)connect and understand their souls (and their humanity) better. It’s cool work, and I love it.

And… I’m human. Sometimes I get lost in it. I get mired in the feeling of not being good enough, because I’m

  1. looking at the others who have done it
  2. trying to figure out how they did it, then
  3. going back to my work to do it, meeting an obstacle, and again
  4. looking at the others who have done it… and the cycle continues.

Until, one day, at 39,000 feet in the air, I was given the key to breaking the cycle.

Last week I spent 38 hours trying to get home. I was in Virginia flying with my family back to the Midwest, and everything was canceled or delayed. Everything. We handled it rather graciously I think, as we never lost our humor or kindness throughout the ordeal. In the end, it would have been faster to drive, but there were a lot of logistical issues, so we stayed the course and finally made it home about 26 hours after our original ETA.

On the final flight home my humor was beginning to wane, so I chose to meditate a bit. I put on some good music, plugged myself into my headphones, and started to breathe.

Previously, I have mentioned that showers have been one of the easiest places I have ever found in which to receive clear messages from Spirit. Well, it turns out that 39,000 feet, surrounded by strangers, inside a metal tube was surprisingly easy too.

As I breathed, I felt myself drop into a deeply relaxed state, and then the images and visions started coming, followed by the words. There was a lot of information for me (I hadn’t actively “connected” in almost 2 weeks – yikes), and I allowed myself to be present to it all, knowing I wouldn’t “remember” it all but that I would ingest it all. One thing stood out, however, and I burned it into my mind’s eye, because of its simplicity and power.

“Look at Your Wake.”

In that moment, I was meditating on the future (asking questions and receiving guidance on how to move forward), and I started to feel a wee bit overwhelmed in my breath. Then I heard those words.

Look at Your Wake.

In my vision, I energetically turned around from where I was standing and saw my wake behind me. It trailed off into infinity like a peacock tail of golden white stardust. It was breathtaking. Humbling. And then my heart filled with gratitude, awe, and love, and any sense of frustration or overwhelm dissipated immediately.

You see, many of us spend so much time striving ahead that we forget to pause, look behind us, and honor what we’ve already done. The lives we’ve touched. The art we’ve created. The joy we’ve given. The love we’ve shared. It’s all there. Every last instance of that which we’ve created is in our wake. Some of it we know about and a lot of it we don’t. Looking at our wake is the key to breaking the cycle of frustration and overwhelm when we are feeling ‘lesser than’ or unmotivated. Looking at our wake keeps us grounded in who we are, what we’re doing, and why.

I took it a step further, too. As I reveled in my vision of a shimmering wake, I remembered that I had a fire in me to keep moving forward. It was then that I wrote this:

To make ripples of change – to create a wake – keep moving forward.

look at your wake

It’s true, and especially helpful when we are feeling stuck, discouraged or overwhelmed. If we wish to create positive change in the world, or in our lives, it’s not about the milestones – it’s about the movement between the milestones. The milestones allow us to pause and look back at our wake and smile, which then recharges us for what lies ahead on our journeys.

xoxo,
Martina