Category Archives: gift

An Unexpected Treasure – A Story of Crisis, Perspective, and Grace

I don’t want to die today.

That was the thought that was repeating in my head. Coupled with I might die today.

In the past, I have had thoughts of dying. Throughout my life (mostly the angst-ridden teenage years and the codependent marriage years) I had, on more than one occasion, considered dying… thought about my death… about leaving. But I had never thought about not dying. Until two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, I very much thought about not dying… as I lay on a gurney in the ER, clutching my head, squinting my eyes through darkened glasses, and trying to absorb everything that was going on around me, and failing.

There was so much noise from the other cases that were being brought in, a chaotic symphony of movement of the medical staff attending to sprains, falls, and bleeds. And then I heard two people die. One over the phone, and one in a room nearby. I didn’t want to be the third. Everything happens in threes.

I don’t want to die today.

Interestingly, I wasn’t pleading: praying to God to spare me for just another day. Bartering about how much “better” I’d be if I were allowed to live. None of that entered my mind. My only thought was:

I have so much still to do… I can’t die!

With 10 manuscripts in varying forms of completion sitting on a shelf in my office, and another cluster of projects scattered throughout journals and drawers, and no contingency plan for their release – my prevailing thought was: I have too much to do to die.

But the doctors’ eyes told a different story. The nurses were doubling up to work on me to expedite the process (it didn’t work, as they still missed the first IV attempt), and get me to the CT scan. All the while, my mom sat patiently and quietly in a chair watching and listening between texts to family and friends. I suspect a prayer chain was enacted on some level. I know she was sending me Reiki continually, and calling in the angels. I could feel them standing by. Watching.

Then my personal doctor came in. He had been the voice that morning that said, “Get to the ER immediately. I’ll fast track you through. I’m here.”

It was his voice and those words that prompted my first thought of not dying. Up until that point, I hadn’t focused on the severity of the situation. In fact, I had simply thought that if I lay down, everything would be alright. I now know why the statistics for women are what they are. I don’t think we’re “dismissive” of symptoms, but rather, we are hopeful that a nice rest will solve any problem. So, we lie down, or have a cup of tea, instead of asking for help.

Thankfully, on that morning, after about 4+ hours of trying to “lie down” and use ice and heat to relieve my head pain, it was my mom who suggested I call my doctor. So I did.

His office paged him, and when he called me back, he asked what was going on.

“I’m sorry to bug you – it’s probably allergies,” I said.

“Well, there was a pollen bloom yesterday, so maybe, but what are the rest of the details?”

“I don’t know. I woke up at about 4am with a really bad headache-“

He interrupted, “Wait, did the headache wake you up?”

“Yes.”

“That’s not good. What else?”

“I tried to go back to sleep. I assumed maybe I’m dehydrated or it’s allergies. So, I lay down again, but I couldn’t sleep, so, finally around 5:30, I got up and let the dogs out, drank two glasses of water, and put ice on my head.”

“Did it help?”

“No. Not really. Plus it hurts more if I yawn, move, stretch, or cough. So I went back to bed around 7:30, after telling my mom that I needed to lie down and asking her to feed the dogs. I put a heating pad on my neck and head, and that helped a little. I slept for about half an hour. But then it hurt more, and I had to go to the bathroom, and then it really hurt.”

“The pressure makes it worse?”

“Yes, like a sharp throbbing in my head. All over my head. From one ear to the other, wrapped around my head… like a halo. It feels like a halo. The only part that doesn’t hurt is the very back top.”

“Get to the ER immediately. I’ll fast track you through. I’m here.”

What? Why?

“No, I think If I can just rest, I’m sure-“

“Martina, get in the car now and get here. You might have a brain bleed. I’m calling them now. Ok?”

“Ok.” What?!?

So, I called my mom repeatedly (she had gone out to get her hair cut), to no avail. I knew I shouldn’t drive, so I started looking if an Uber was in the vicinity. Not likely in suburbia. So, I called my friend, but she didn’t answer. And then I felt a thought plop into my brain from above: Call the salon.

Thankfully, I heard it and listened. It’s not the first time they’ve helped me. And won’t be the last.

I called the salon, and they passed the phone to my mom. I explained what my doctor said, and she dropped everything and rushed home. Within minutes, I was in the car heading to the ER. Sunglasses on my face, eyes closed, and two hands clutching my head. The drive was horrible.

What’s wrong with me? A brain bleed?!? No, just no.

I had no answers. What I did have was mounting fear. My doctor is conservative and rarely prescribes any medication for me, as he knows I’m conservative too. So, if he says “get to the ER,” something’s wrong. Very wrong.

~~~

I shuffled out of the car into the ER, and leaned against a wall by check-in. I’m asked if I can move out of the way for a wheelchair to pass, and I reply, “Sure, if I can have another wall to lean on.” With that, the attendant grabs a wheelchair for me. In hindsight, I can see just how ill I was. At the time, I just didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.

The nurse takes my name, and I mention that my doctor called ahead. They move me into triage immediately. All my vitals are taken and the first of a series of doctors comes in and asks me to tell the story.

“I was woken up around 4am with a headache-“

They always stop my right there with: “Wait, the headache woke you up? Out of sleep?”

“Yes.”

And with that their face changes and the look of worry/fear/concern grows rapidly.

Apparently, that’s a bad thing, a very bad thing, to be woken up by a headache. But, coupled with the pressure changes from practically any activity, the nausea, and the light sensitivity, suddenly I was the most interesting case in the ER. Or, at least in the top three.

My ex-husband always used to say, “You don’t want to be the most interesting case in the ER. It means something bad is happening.”

I was reminded of that as I was wheeled to a room and a flurry of activity began around me. I couldn’t see straight, and I knew enough to know I was fuzzy, or foggy-brained. I still had my speech (that must be a good sign), but I was slow. Slower than normal. And the pain!!

In all my life I have never experienced pain like this, and it was growing. With each hour that passed, it had gotten worse. It’s the first time in my life when I answered the question: “on a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is it?” with a “10.”

I wanted to take my head off my body and let it drain somewhere. The pressure, the heaviness, the pain were intolerable. And the worst part was that I really wanted to throw up – but I wouldn’t let myself, because I knew that would make the pain worse.

As I lay in the bed having as much conversation as possible with the two nurses working on me, the phrase kept playing over and over again like background music in my mind.

I don’t want to die today.

Always followed by: I have too much I haven’t done yet.

In front of me one nurse was trying to poke my forearm for the IV (“Not there, please, it never works there”), before failing miserably and leaving me with a bruise that resembles Gorbachev’s head. While the other nurse was trying to get a medical history.

“So, you have blood pressure issues.”

“No. I don’t. I never have. My family has a history of them, but I don’t.”

“Ok. So, then you have high blood pressure now.”

“Yes. I do… it seems.” Wouldn’t you, if you thought you might die? Geesh!

And then she comes around to the other arm and finally gets an IV in the top of my hand (the place I told them to go to originally.)

I know my body. I know it very well, and over the years, I have had ample opportunities to know it better. Plus I have a doctor who encourages me to be an advocate for my own health. He has taught me so much since our meeting in 1998. So, I know how to direct people who have never met me. What I haven’t figured out yet is how to get them to listen. Sigh.

During this time, my doctor came in and checked me out. Before saying anything, I reached for his hand. And he simply took mine and held it as he continued in conversation with me and mom. He knew I was scared, and that simple gesture gave me breath.

He reviewed the plan with me, and said we would take it one step at a time. The issue was, of course, fear of a brain bleed. A subarachnoid hemorrhage, to be exact. (Interestingly, Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones had just talked about her SAH in last week’s People magazine, which I read only recently. I had never heard of it before.)

A brain bleed.

A… Brain… Bleed.

Sigh…. Breathe.

That’s another term for a stroke. And in my family, we’re all too familiar with strokes. But how? A stroke? At 47? I mean, I know I’m 47 in calendar years, but I definitely still feel likeI’m in my 30s. A brain bleed.

A BRAIN BLEED!

“I don’t want to die,” I told him.

“Well, that’s why you’re here. So that doesn’t happen.” He has always been very matter-of-fact.

With the IV finally in place, I am rushed to the CT scan through all the very well-lit hallways of the hospital. Thankfully, I kept my sunglasses on. The light sensitivity had worsened along with the pain, and by this point, I started to think that death would be a relief… if only it could be temporary.

The CT scan was quick, but I was still fidgety and agitated, even though I had saline and medicine flowing through my veins. Lying still is not my forté at the best of times. Lying still in pain was virtually impossible. But I practiced my breath and got through it.

Breathe in… 1… 2… 3… 4…

Breathe out… 1… 2… 3… 4…

In… and out… In… and out… Four counts every time. And it helped. Before I knew it, I was done and wheeled back to the hallway to await transport.

As I lay on my mobile bed in a sterile hallway, another patient was resting a few feet away. She was elderly and had two nurses with her. While their conversation centered on their respective work schedules and vacations, one of them never let go of this woman’s hand.

Her old, wrinkly, spotted hand, worn thin from age, held fast to the plump and soft one connected to her nurse, just like my own had done a few minutes ago with my doctor. In every other respect, she seemed all but dead – except for this single gesture. Her raised hand, clutching tightly to another human being.

I imagined she was scared, even though she couldn’t speak it. I felt that she was lonely, even though she was surrounded by people caring for her. And then I asked the angels to come be with her, to make her less lonely and afraid. And for the briefest of moments, I forgot that I might be dying. I forgot that I was in pain.

When they wheeled her away, I sent my blessings with her. And as I write this, I wonder about her and hope she is well. May she be blessed. As I have been blessed and am always blessed. Even in pain. Even in fear.

While my fear was only about to get worse, for a brief moment I had been gifted a respite. And I was grateful.

And with that I was wheeled through the same bright hallways back to my “room” where my mother was waiting. They gave me more IV medicines, and turned down the lights. When combined with what I had just experienced with the other patient in the hallway, I started to feel a sense of peace, and I closed my eyes and allowed my body to breathe itself.

I might die today, and … ok.

I’m not sure how long I was resting before my ER doctor came in to give me the CT results.

“There’s good news and bad news. The good news is, the CT scan was clear,” he said, as I sighed audibly. “The bad news is…. You were outside the window for the CT scan to be definitive.”

“What?” I caught my breath, “What does that mean?”

“There is a 6-hour window in which we can use the CT scan as a definitive diagnostic tool. You were just outside that window at about 7.5 hours.”

“And…?”

“It means…. We need to do a lumbar puncture to be sure.”

Great! So, not only might I die today, I could end up paralyzed too. Or instead. Or wait… What?!

My head was swirling in a a thousand directions. All the meds they had given me suddenly stopped working, and I was alert and in pain and unable to take in what he had just said. I had been resting, hopeful, quiet, and now the noise and cacophony of the ER were like uninvited visitors at my bedside.

“A lumbar puncture?,” I stared him in the eye. “I don’t want to.”

“Yes, a spinal tap – to rule out any blood in the brain. With your family history-“

I cut him off. “I know. I know the history…. But, a spinal tap? Here? When? How? Why?” I had so many questions, none of which would have the answer that I wanted.

“Because we have to be able to rule this out.” His look betrayed his calm voice. The fear that I was still bleeding somewhere in my brain was clearly a possibility.

I’m a trained therapist, I know about ruling things out. I know how this works, and I know they were doing their best for me. I also knew they were scared. For all their training, the doctors’ eyes betrayed them. Every time I looked them in the eye, the worry and fear was palpable. They were scared, and they needed answers themselves to know what to do next. And the clock was literally ticking on the wall.

“I guess, if I have to – but I have questions. I’m not one of those patients that doesn’t want to know. I want to know. Everything. A to Z, every step, every reason, what to expect. I do better that way.”

He proceeded to explain it all to me, step by step, as I had requested, and at the end, I had two final questions. “You’re going to do this highly sensitive procedure here, in this room, with all this noise and commotion all around us in the ER?”

“I’m trained to tune that all out. It will be fine.”

“Ok, but what about me tuning it out? I could barely lay still for the CT scan, and that was only a few minutes, this is longer and I have to be more still, especially with more severe consequences…”

“I will give you something for that. You will be relaxed, and we will guide you through everything. There will be a few of us in the room helping you.”

I took a deep breath, and asked one more thing, “And you’re sure you have to do this?”

“We have to rule out a brain bleed, and this is the only way,” he paused. (For effect? I don’t know, but it worked.) “Martina, this is serious.”

As if I didn’t already know that.

“Ok.”

“Ok.” He got up and quickly left the room to prepare for the next step. He was a man on a mission. Thankfully, he was true to his word and he filled my IV with a very relaxing cocktail. It was the best I had felt in eight hours. At least for a little while. Once I had to start participating in the procedure, I was anything but comfortable.

As I sat there hunched over a table, trying to extend my back into a deep curve, I prayed. Again, there were no pleading prayers, begging for mercy. Instead, there were commanding words, as if I were directing a roster of volunteers… or, perhaps, commanding an army.

“I call on the angels of wisdom, of healing, of stability, of medicine, of guidance, and of peace to be here now. I call on God to be here now. I call on Jesus and Mary Magdalene to be here now. Let your hands guide the doctor’s hands. Be his eyes and his guidance. Make the path clear and easy. Make this process effortless and clean. Make it peaceful and quick. Be here now.”

I repeated words like that over and over in my head for 20 minutes, as they prepped everything. And then the time came, and I was asked to remain still and simply breathe. With my back as curved as I could get it, I called on the angels of stillness and invited them into the room. Then I closed my eyes and breathed.

Breathe in… 1… 2… 3… 4…

Breathe out… 1… 2… 3… 4…

I did nothing but breathe as the doctor behind me explained every step, while the doctor in front of me encouraged and supported me through the process. As a team, they were exactly what I needed. And they got the tap they needed.

With the “priceless sample” sitting on a table in my room, I was told to lie on my back for the next hour, as you’re supposed to do after a spinal tap. With all the meds coursing through my veins, and the after-effects of the intensity of the moment, it was the best rest I had had the entire time. Everything combined had given my body some space to simply relax. The headache wasn’t as bad, though it was still above a 5 on the scale, and somehow I had decided I wasn’t going to die. Even if the spinal tap came back with blood – I decided I wasn’t going to die. And that was that.

In the end, it was a successful tap. In fact, I found out a day later that it was considered a “champagne tap” – which means it was as clean as it could possibly be, without even hitting a blood vessel on the way in. My doctor said it was as if everything was moved out of the way. Thank you, God, angels, Jesus and MM. I love you.

So, the tap was clean, which meant everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. Sort of. They knew I wasn’t having a bleed, but they didn’t know why I was having the pain and symptoms.

To make matters worse, there is something called a rebound headache from the spinal tap, which started to kick in about an hour and a half after. So, my level 5 headache began climbing again. I was not out of the woods, I was simply no longer stuck in quicksand surrounded by man-eating beasts. This all meant I wasn’t going to die. At least not from a stroke or brain bleed. Not that day. But I still needed help.

With the head pain now reclassified, I was given new prescriptions to fill, and eventually discharged from the ER. I went home to lie down, have something to eat (which I hadn’t done since the evening before), and rest. Ice was my new best friend, along with a trio of medicines.

I saw my doctor the next day, and we reviewed everything. It turns out the CT scan showed a problem. There was gray matter around my highest cervical vertebrae that possibly represented a muscle spasm or other issue in my neck. So, the decision was made to treat me based on that data.

It’s been two weeks, and I still have a headache every day. The lowest it gets is a 1-2 on the scale, but it still spikes to a 6 or 7. Over the weekend it climbed back to an 8, and was the worst it’s been since the initial event. Consistently, it’s probably a 3 or 4. Given what I went through, a 3 is tolerable. While I’m foggy-brained and slower than I’d like, it will be a while before I reclaim “normal.” Movement is difficult at times, and I still have anxiety about a recurrence, but all in all – I’m ok. And I will be ok. And that’s ok.

Why?

Because this event has given me the greatest gift possible: perspective. I am seeing things differently now. I am making different decisions. My priorities have shifted. Almost dying (or thinking you’re going to die) has a tendency to do that to a person, I think.

While I can’t say that I was a workaholic, or had misaligned priorities, I can say that I hadn’t been tending to my life the best that I can. I haven’t been as deliberate as I would like to be, or can be. And that is changing now.

While I was familiar with thinking about dying in the past, I had never actually faced the possibility of death, and subsequently thought about not dying. Shifting perspective in this way has created an opportunity inside of me to create differently, and I’m not going to squander it. I’m not willing to squander it.

There is nothing more important to me than living this life that I’ve been given, in the best way I know how, living out my dharma – or purpose – with integrity of intent, authenticity, joy, and hope. I think many people who have witnessed my journey would say that’s what I’ve been doing, and they wouldn’t be wrong.

But from where I sit now, I can see that it feels more like I’ve been dabbling in it, not actually embracing, doing, and running with it. Almost dying, or thinking I might die, has been an unexpected treasure on the journey.

The next step – other than healing – is to resolve to find the courage to live that purpose out loud, as I’m meant to. I have a feeling I will. I just need a little time to bring all the pieces of me along. A little time to heal and restore. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

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

Getting Real (the real truth behind playing small)

I didn’t have anything to write for this week. I thought I did, but I’m still processing that piece with my mentor. It was longer, and I needed some feedback on whether it was too long for this weekly venue. (I’ve been a little mired in thought.)

I suppose I’m not surprised this has come up. Last week I started a 3-week workshop on being authentic in marketing. It’s about showing up and allowing yourself to be seen as you are. Exactly as you are. (Yikes!)

I’m not surprised that I found this workshop challenging at times; however, I was shocked by what I found surprising.

Firstly, let me say how difficult I find self-promotion to be. In a world where it seems to be rampant, I prefer to sit back, just be who I am, doing what I do, and trusting that the audience/clients/readers who need me will find me. While I don’t think that’s untrue, I also know that it’s not actually being in service of my gifts, or the Universe, to not make it easy(ier) for people to find me.

During the first week of the workshop, we were prompted to make mini-videos about our perceived weaknesses and strengths. We were invited to “get real” in a safe space, in order to normalize and even neutralize our perceptions of self. I thought my surprise would come from just doing videos, or talking about what physical attributes made me feel disempowered – but actually, all that was fine. In fact, it was empowering in a way.

It was only when it came time to discuss my spiritual gifts – my talents, abilities, and presence – that I was shocked by what happened next. I collapsed emotionally, because I had an ‘A-Ha! moment’ – an awareness that I could no longer deny.

On the one hand, I LOVE who I am. I love what I do, and what my soul’s purpose is. I cannot express enough how much I love my path and my journey. I intend to help many thousands, if not millions of people through my work. On the other hand, I hate anything to do with self-promotion, because it’s all so… noisy.

But then it hit me:

By not engaging in (aligned) self-promotion in order to be accessible, I am disavowing my gifts. I am essentially thumbing my nose at the Universe.

“Oh God! What have I done?”

It felt awful. This realization sent me reeling into a massive state of guilt, fear, shame, doubt, and anger and frustration. I reached out to two trusted friends and began the process of wading through the feelings, thoughts, and beliefs surrounding this situation – this realization.

I know now that I need a better plan. I need to find a method that is both aligned with who I am (aka: not noisy) and allows me to be seen fully for who I am, and what I’m here to do – my contributions to the world.

Before last week, I was content to play small, because it was “anti-noisy.” It almost felt altruistic. It’s easy to stay safe and small when you’re against something obnoxious. It’s much harder to do when you realize that by doing so, you’ve actually been going against something even greater. In fact, it was heart-breaking.

So, while I don’t know what all this means yet or how it will unfold, I know one thing is for certain: playing small disavows our gifts, which then disavows the Universe. It would be like someone handing you the winning lottery ticket, and you replying with, “No, no, I’m good…” It simply doesn’t make sense. And yet, we all seem to do it at some point in our lives.

Whether you are an artist, a lawyer, a teacher, a social worker, a parent, a spouse, or anything else you might be – if you’re playing small in your role, you are disavowing the gifts that have been given to you. You’re tossing them aside and taking them for granted. I know. It’s what I’ve been doing. Hurts to say, but I titled this post “Getting Real” for a reason.

So, now I’m off to plan my roadmap to greatness, away from playing small and into a space in which I am embracing my gifts and all the potential that has been given me. A place in which I am visible, accessible, and living my life’s purpose. I don’t know what this map looks like yet, I just know that it’s time to start heading out, deliberately, and in alignment with who I am. (Still don’t plan to be “noisy.”)

And I invite you to do the same. If you’re playing small, and your heart wants you to go big – maybe it’s time to create your own roadmap. And maybe we’ll cross paths on our respective journeys and journey along together for a while. Until then…

xoxo

Taking and Receiving

Did you know there’s a difference between ‘giving and receiving’ and ‘giving and taking’…?

The former draws on an infinite supply of love. It can never be exhausted. The sheer essence of gift and gratitude during the exchange multiplies the energy of both the giver and receiver exponentially, infinitely.

The latter, ‘giving and taking,’ depletes. Both giver and receiver are weakened for it. The essence of greed, imposition, and lack exhibited by the taker removes the exchange from source energy, thereby exhausting the giver.

The difference on the surface may seem like semantics. Underneath, however, the chasm is vast and not bridgeable by any span. There is a solution: the giver in the latter scenario stops giving,

This may seem harsh, but indeed it is the most compassionate action for both parties. Here’s why:

While there is a giver, the taker will always take. In other words, as long as the taker has something to take there is no incentive for change. In many circumstances takers have a rotation of givers that they exhaust in turn.

Until they are without a single giver, there is no impetus for the taker to modify their behavior. The circuit of givers enable the taker to continue in their existing behavior. Stopping the exchange is what ultimately empowers them to change, should they choose to. Hence… compassion.

Compassion looks like empowerment and feels like kindness. There is nothing kind or empowering about taking, or giving to a taker.

Conversely, giving to a receiver and receiving looks and feels like love, in all its purity: unconditional, hope-filled, joyous, and peaceful. Love.

Friends

Friend [frend] –noun; 1) a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard; 2) a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter; 3) a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile.

Yikes – “a person who is not hostile.” Really? I don’t think I’d include that in my definition of the word friend. Would you? But it’s a question that is worth asking. How do you define a friend?

We have so many friends in our lives that fill myriad roles. There are those that we can call when we want to go out for all-night dancing, and those that we call when we want to chill in a coffee shop or living room for hours discussing the many facets of our lives and the lives of others. There are even those who we simply like to jog or bike with. And then there’s everything in between. There’s a saying I think many of you are familiar with: People come into our lives for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime.

Our friends can pretty much be categorized in this way. Some are always in our lives, others come and go, as they are needed – or we are needed. And still others are passing through our lives like trains in a station. And the best thing is – it’s always perfect.

I was recently reminded of the perfection of friendship, and I am filled with gratitude for this loving reminder. In high school and college I referred to my friends as my family. And just like families, relationships grow, change and evolve over time. Nobody is in the same place at the same time, especially as we grow older. When we’re younger, we’re pretty much going through many of the rites of passage together. But as we get older our challenges and experiences become more varied. We may not always understand one another as well as we once did – and that can, at times, feel disheartening. But it’s natural (and perfect) in its own emotional complexity. The beauty of friendship – and having friends with different backgrounds and experiences – is that we almost always have someone to call on for the different events in our life, which is the greatest blessing. And often times, we don’t even need to pick up the phone, because our friends know when to reach out to us when we need them. How great is that!?

Now here’s a question: How good of a friend are you to yourself? Do you regularly sit down with yourself and chill in a coffee house, or go biking, or go dancing? What about calling on yourself as your own best friend in times of despair or difficulty, or celebrating with yourself when you’ve achieved something? I know many of us don’t do this on a regular basis. We don’t make “dates” with our Self. I also know many of us don’t know how to do this, because we haven’t necessarily been taught that we can be our own friend. A “friend” is, by definition, “another person” – someone else.

But I’d like to challenge that idea. I would like everyone to take a look at themselves today, whether passing by a store window or looking in the mirror, and when you do I’d like you to say hello to your closest confidante, your bosom buddy – your new best friend. Why? Because there are times in our lives when we need to know that we can truly be alone, truly rely on ourselves, and truly be alright just as we are.

Friends are a blessing. They are a gift in our lives – one that can be nurtured, cultivated, and treasured. And, if we are blessed, we will always have our friends with us in one way or another. But sometimes life doesn’t go as we planned, and it is also a blessing to know that you can be your own best friend. That you can take a walk alone in the woods, or sit in a movie theatre or coffee shop by yourself, and know that you are with the best company in the world: you.

As I mentioned, this week I was reminded of the blessings of friendship, and I am so grateful. In writing this, I had planned only to discuss the gift of that reminder; but I detoured, and was also reminded of the joy of knowing that I am also my own friend. The peace and comfort that comes with that realization is immeasurable. So, I’ve received two huge reminders this week – and I share them now with you. My wish for you is that you will always be surrounded by your friends, you will always be open to new friendships, and your list of friends always includes You.

In Love and Light,

Martina