Category Archives: gratitude

What Matters Most in Life (When a Fire Alarm and a Typo Became a Messenger)

How do we identify what’s truly important in life? (And why does it matter?)

There are always the quick answers, such as: happiness, family, and health, but these are somewhat theoretically cliché and intangible, however true. It’s getting to the more tangible answers that eludes many of us until we are faced with crisis and/or tragedy.

Last week I went through two unexpected situations which resulted in my having a direct and very clear understanding of what’s important in life (for me, anyway), and I found that there was an underlying message I needed to hear.

When I sat down to write this week’s InspireBytes™ I took note of what the Universe was trying to tell me through these experiences, which turned out to be this:

  1. Know your Self and your core, let the rest fall away.
  2. Slow down, prioritize, and make time for what matters most.

Let these be your guide.

But first, let me tell you what happened.

Early in the week we had a fire alarm in the house. For those of you who have been following along in my life, you know that my father had a stroke almost 10 years ago and is disabled as a result. A fire alarm is no small thing when you are able-bodied, but when you’re disabled, it can create a sense of helplessness and panic. A few years ago I wrote about the fire alarm that went off in my apartment building, and how it clarified for me what mattered most in my life. This was the same, except that now, instead of one animal there were four, and instead of one person there were three, one of whom was incapacitated and wholly dependent on others.

Why the fire alarm went off we don’t know, because there was no fire. No smoke, no flames, no emergency. But in the few moments between the alarm and the assessment, everything became very clear. What you take with you in a crisis or emergency is a cheat sheet to what matters most in your life. For me, it was anything that was breathing (people, animals), followed by a means of escape and shelter (car keys), and communication (cell phone).

The second situation, however, was a bit different:

Later in the week I received my mammogram results. It’s an annual event that, no matter how much I rationalize it, always generates some level of concern during the waiting period. Sadly, I think we all know someone who was “perfectly healthy” who received a life-changing result after their annual exam. It’s this knowledge that creates the background soundtrack of concern or worry until the results are in.

A few years ago, I had a mini-scare that turned out to be just that (thankfully), and have a dear friend who went through that episode with me. I am aware, therefore, that the concern while waiting for results extends beyond the borders of my mind to people who care about me. Once I had the results in hand, which showed no sign of cancer, I felt relief and wanted to share that relief with my friend. In my haste to share the good news of my results, I typed too fast and had a typo.

My typo basically told my friend that the exam had detected cancer. Of course, having been emotionally blindsided, my friend called immediately. I didn’t understand why until the error was pointed out.

I felt truly awful, and though I chuckled for a moment (to relieve the strain of the heartache I had caused someone dear to me), it wasn’t funny. My friend was given an unnecessary blow, and it was all because I rushed.

In that moment, without hesitation, I realized what was most important to me: Life. Health. Friendship. Connection. And … slowing down.

The last year has been such a whirlwind with publishing my first book that I have developed a bit of a habit of either being overly rushed and pressured or somewhat detached and slow – probably to compensate for the stressful times. In fact, much of the last 10-15 years have been the same, for myriad reasons.

So, that was the message I was receiving loud and clear from the Universe: Slow down, focus on what matters, nurture that.

The week before, I had polled my friends about which blog they would prefer to read next, since I had two inside me competing to come out. The first was on Competitive Spirituality (which won), and the second was something I’m working on about Self-Promotion, which is still being finished because something felt off. I now realize what that was for me:

Trying to reconcile the rushed and detached states to arrive at balance; maintaining a sense of Self and presence while still engaging in marketing.

For me, Self-Promotion is about being who you are, not who you think you should be, and trusting in that. But in this noisy world of social media and 24/7 internet, cable and satellite channels, it becomes a gladiator-style arena of “fight to the death.” In this case, it’s the death of your voice, your brand, your presence – your Self. And it’s a shame, really, because there are amazing people out there, doing amazing things, whose voices are being drowned out by those who are louder, bolder, or have more money to put their faces everywhere.

And yet, it’s not. It’s not a shame, because it pushes and requires people like me to hold fast to who we are, the work we do, trusting that it is more than enough, that we are more than enough, and to nurture that. And if we do, if we hold true to our Self, and what matters most, I believe that at the end of our lives, we will reflect with gratitude and smile.

So, in the end, a fire alarm and a typo made me realize that what matters most to me is being true to myself, to who I am. It means being more deliberate and intentional in my relationships, my health, and my presence – especially with my Self. This connection is what drives me to keep working, creating, and helping others to re-connect to what matters most to them, to who they are. Too often we have lost touch with that knowing, but hopefully it doesn’t take a crisis to remind us.

Hopefully, we can get back to that by simply slowing down, making time, and re-focusing on that which makes us smile in gratitude and joy.

A Desert Sojourn

Last week I donned my old retailing hat and went to Vegas to help my friend set up trade show booths for his clients. Before I helped people change their lives, I used to be a Buyer and Fashion Stylist. While I’ve left the retail job behind, twice a year I get to be a stylist again by helping my friend. It’s nice to use a different skill set now and then. Refreshing, even.

What’s more refreshing, however, is taking a break from our daily lives in order to do/see/experience something totally new and extraordinary. On this recent trip, we had just such an opportunity.

We found ourselves with a day off in the midst of the chaos, and so we went out of the city and explored the high desert and mountains surrounding the electrified valley. The juxtaposition was somewhat difficult to comprehend. In hindsight, however, I see it as much more symbolic of our lives than not.

On the one hand, we all seem to live busy outward lives, filled with work, family, friends, technology, physical exertion, and mental exhaustion/ (I know I do.) On the other hand, and in almost the same space, we seek out opportunities for calm, ease, and grace, such as walks in nature, meditation, a massage, long talks with old friends, and breathing. (I definitely do.)

This juxtaposition of inner peace and external stress has become almost common in our culture. It’s a balance that is not always easily maintained, however, because there are no firm lines. Whereas, in the desert, the lines are very clear. You know exactly when you are leaving the external chaos behind and entering the calm of nature, and vice versa.

But, because the line is so firmly drawn, it made it even harder for me to transition between the two last week. Going from a heartbreakingly beautiful landscape devoid of noise or human presence directly into the lines at an In-N-Out Burger was overwhelming, at best. As you can imagine, I didn’t last long, and we moved outside to eat, which was somewhat quieter and easier.

So, I guess the bottom line is this: We all live busy externally-focused lives in one way or another, and we all have an internal longing for or knowing of peace and calm. How we transition between the two is where we find opportunities for change, growth, and understanding. And ultimately, it’s where we will find the answers in how to merge the two into one presence, that softens the inherent juxtaposition.

All this from a trip to the desert followed by a burger. 😉

And now…here are some of my favorite pics from our excursion. Truly, if you ever go to Vegas, it’s worth it to spend a little time outside the city limits. You may feel lost in the vast expanse, but I think you’ll find more than you could ever imagine.

Windows of Opportunity

We all have them: windows of opportunity. Often, though, we are looking at them in hindsight with regret, only recognizing their potential once the window has mostly, if not completely, closed.

Why does this happen?
Why don’t we see it, or trust it, when it first opens?

I believe that much of the reason why we don’t jump at the opportunities presented to us is because we simply aren’t ready, and these windows of opportunity arrive in order to help us become more ready over time.

Seeing life in this way instantly turns regret into gratitude. It opens us up to progress, rather than spending our time in process.

When we’re open to progress, we are fine-tuning ourselves through mindfulness and awareness. We’re eliminating the noise of that which no longer serves us in order to make room for the joy of possibility for that which is wholly aligned with our soul.

And that’s when the magic happens.

Once we start shifting our perspective to one of possibility and progress, we allow for more and more windows to open. In fact, we actually start opening them ourselves.

Gratitude and Abundance

This week it’s Thanksgiving here in America. It’s a time to gather with friends and family and share food, laughter, and companionship. It’s a time to make new memories while reminiscing about old favorites. It’s a time to give thanks for all that we have. 

Gratitude, as a concept, is not new. In addition to Thanksgiving – a day set aside for giving thanks – we’ve been hearing about the practice of gratitude for years. However, gratitude seems to have gone mainstream when Oprah created a national endeavor to bring gratitude into our everyday lives through the gratitude journal.

But what does gratitude do? Why do we practice giving thanks? What does it mean to be grateful?

Somewhere early in my journey I learned a phrase: “Fear can’t live in a grateful heart.” When there was fear, the antidote was gratitude.

If you read my post last week, you’ll know that I believe the antidote to fear is Hope, actually. So, where does gratitude come in? Well, Gratitude, in my opinion, is the action that represents Hope. It’s something active that we can do, that keeps fear at bay and invites Hope back into our lives, ultimately leading us back to Love.

It seems to me, therefore, that Gratitude invites Abundance.

gratitude-pumpkns

Through the practice of expressing and truly feeling grateful for what we have, we are opening our hearts and our lives to more. More joy, more love, more peace, more hope…more abundance.

So, this week especially, as we share our joy and give thanks for each other, for what we have, and for who we are, we invite gratitude into our hearts. In giving thanks, we are enacting Hope. Hope for the future. Hope for each other. Hope for the globe.

Which leads me to ask: What if..? What if we practiced gratitude every day of the year?

For my part, I am grateful for so many things, every single day, one of which is you. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Thank you for reading my words and sharing them. Thank you for showing up, being here, and for being you.

xoxo,
Martina

 

The Importance of Tools

One of the things I focus on in my work is the importance of helping my clients expand their toolbox. In fact, I’m always doing so myself. Having an extensive toolbox is a cornerstone to growth, in my opinion. So, when I recently read some work by other coaches/writers suggesting that we shouldn’t listen to others, and only listen to ourselves, I got concerned. Here’s why:

We all need tools on our journey. Everything you learn along the way that propels you to your next lesson is a tool, regardless of where it comes from. To not listen to others is to deny yourself the gift of others’ wisdom and experience. It limits your toolbox. Tools are what strengthen your connection to your inner knowing and voice, and provide for your growth. These tools are what allow us to progress.

Similarly, we all need teachers – someone to say “Hey, this worked for me, and now I’m sharing it with you.” You’ll know when it’s someone to listen to, or someone to walk away from. A good teacher will help you strengthen your voice, not silence it.

Therefore, to dismiss tools and/or teachers as a vehicle of silence is to do yourself a disservice. Nobody came to their inner knowing, their connection with Source, without learning along the way and filling their toolbox, often from exposure to others’ voices and experience. Nobody.

Not every tool is right for you, that’s for certain, but every tool has its purpose: to help each of us, in our turn, as we continue to elevate our consciousness and ascend on our path in our vibration; to reconnect with our Self and Source.

I believe each teacher along the way is a steward; there to shepherd you through whatever pasture you find yourself in. No one teacher is THE teacher. Everyone is there to share and help each other along the way. As Ram Dass said, “we are all just walking each other home.”

I get concerned when I read other thought leaders either dismissing the importance of tools/teachers or encouraging the use of ONE tool above all others. Neither is the path to Self. The path back to that power, that inner knowing, that connectedness, is paved with everything you pick up along the way. Nobody can tell you what to pick up, but the offering is what matters. It’s there to support you in your journey, not withhold you or provide obstacles for you. If it is doing either, it’s not the best for you, right now.

I agree entirely that the ultimate goal is inner knowing and connectedness, and therefore an ultimate independence from tools and teachers. This is the goal, whether it’s a reality is another question. Think of it this way: even the Dalai Lama meditates, and meditation is a tool.

From my own experience, and knowing that I am human, I am certainly incredibly grateful for my extensive toolbox and the extraordinary stewards I have met along the way. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am. Their guidance helped me find strength in my voice, in my Self.

Furthermore, because I am human, I know that life will get messy sometimes. I take great comfort in knowing that I have a toolbox that I have built, that can support me through challenges and create opportunities. And if you think you don’t have a toolbox of your own, I beg to differ. Here are just a few of the tools that I have available to me at a moment’s notice. I suspect you have some of the same:

Breath
Art
Reading
Walking
Playing with my dog
Workshops
Holistic doctor
Trusted friends
Manifesting
Affirmations
Supplements
Water
Music

Without tools and teachers in your life, your path to connectedness would not be possible. There is no magic teleport that will take you from your humanity to your divinity without at least a few lessons along the way – no teleport other than bodily death and the transition to spirit. Tools make the journey. Teachers provide companionship along the way.

So, if you come across tools and teachers that share their wisdom with you, feel grateful, stop, take a seat, and listen. If it’s for you, you will know. If it’s not for you, you will know. Then you can exercise your free will and power of choice to move on to the next.

Finally, tools are there to help you co-create with Source, and there is nothing more powerful than that. So, frankly, why wouldn’t you use tools?

Meeting Slim

I don’t know Slim. I met him briefly, over lunch. He sat at the table next to us along the Pacific Coast Highway. PCH, as I’ve learned.

Slim is a sailor. Not the uniform-wearing, salute as you walk by sort, but a sea-faring coastal traveler. He said he was 50.

He sat down next to us to eat his sandwich and fries as we waited patiently for a taxi that would never come. Slim was kind, friendly, and talkative. His eyes danced.

Brown like a puppy’s but weathered around the edges as a good sailor’s ought to be, though with a distinct sense of something unknown about them. Slim smiled with his eyes. In between bites of basil and olive oil basted French bread filled with brie and salami, lettuce and tomato, Slim and I started talking.

Slim is a vagabond. A hobo. A traveler.

The images that have always traversed my mind at the sound of those three words – vagabond, hobo, traveler – have never been compassionate ones. I see dusty old men, with leathered skin, unshaven and uninterested in life. Lost, alone and searching for a place to never belong. I see miles worn beneath their feet, born only by the emptiness of time that seems to be ever present, yet always eludes them.

Vagabond, hobo, traveler.

Perhaps these are a spectrum of the same person – the person who lives in the present more than any other on earth, yet seems to always be out of sync with the moment in some ethereal way.

Slim was at the traveler end of the spectrum. A coastal traveler. Someone who has made a decision to pursue his dream and make his life his own. Someone we all have a tendency to read about with envy, but when it comes down to it, know in our hearts that we are happier in the safety and sanctity of our own homes, surrounded by our jobs, possessions and unrealized dreams.

Dreams that we know we will rarely, if ever, actualize. Out of fear, perhaps. Or love. Love of comfort, love of the known, love of stability.

Slim is stable. You could see it in his face. He knows who he is and where he’s going. His road map is a simple one, flexible in its actualization, but clear in its definition. He’s going to sail the coasts of the United States. Bit by bit, as he is able. His story isn’t unique. Many others have done it, I’m sure. Many others will. His dream is one he shares, even though he pursues it alone.

Slim, however, had a story to tell, and due to one taxi company’s inefficiency, I was lucky enough to hear it.

At some point in his life, Slim owned businesses. What they were, or where, is anyone’s guess. He owned them. He worked and did his best. He struggled, was successful, struggled more, but all the while he worked. He lived the way many of us live, though not all. He had that one element of instability we like to optimistically label “entrepreneurialism.”

Slim created his businesses, worked for others, worked for himself, worked and worked until he did something else. For half a decade he participated in the big apple’s daily routine of working and living amidst concrete and steel towers.

Get up, get ready, work.

Then, maybe, 12 hours later you go out and eat something with someone and fall back into the arms of your pigeon-hole nest at the top of the concrete block. To rest your body and your mind for a small semblance of time before

Get up, get ready, work.

The five years came and went, and Slim decided to move on.

Somewhere along the way Slim found himself in France for a year. As a cyclist he found it easy to live and work in the country that supported the world’s most famous cycle race. What he did there I didn’t understand. It seemed he enjoyed his time, and found his livelihood in the cycling industry enough to sustain him for 12 months before returning home.

Home.

Home is where Slim uncovered his dream and took it out of the night sky and placed it directly in the path of the sun.

For years he worked to restore a sailboat in Oregon. In order to sustain himself, he worked on other boats simultaneously. Day in and day out, Slim labored over the little details, working his well-worn fingers into the heart and soul of his craft. By his side, a loyal companion: Oscar.

Oscar was rescued. A mix of chocolate softness and German precision. Part Labrador and part Pointer, Oscar was a gregarious and outgoing friend who knew how to work the system to his benefit.

When Slim’s friend showed up, pockets always full of little treats, Oscar would wag and smile. A treat would be his reward. Very quickly, however, Oscar learned to snub the treat by placing it on the ground in front of him and begin wagging and smiling again.

After 5 or 6 treats had gathered at his feet, the kind friend would inform Oscar that there were ‘no more’ at which point Oscar would devour his nest egg of biscuits he had safely guarded on the ground.

Oscar knew his way around people. Slim said as much as he told me about him. His smile extending all the way from his lips to his eyebrows. Oscar, it seems, was his best friend.

Together, the two friends would sail the coasts of America.

After several years of restoration and savings, the two were ready to set off on their journey. Slim had it all planned. They would sail down the coast from Oregon to California, where they would winter together, working odd jobs to make the money to sail back up, past Oregon and on to Vancouver and the Charlotte Islands, before turning around and sailing back to California for another winter.

After wintering in California and raising the requisite funds to continue on their journey, again working odd jobs, Oscar and Slim would tow their craft to Corpus Christie to set off once more together. Slim had his dream all planned out. He had planned for everything. Well, almost everything.

Last fall, the two wanderers set off together ready to take on the world, when the unthinkable happened.

In an unexpected moment off the coast of northern California, the weather turned. In the blink of an eye, the seas got rough, and Slim had to scramble to shift his sails. Unsteady and scared, Oscar clamored to go below deck. It was then that Slim made an irreversible decision. Slim removed Oscar’s harness in order to allow him to go below.

The weather continued to ramp up and Slim did his best to maintain their path and direction. He scampered all over he deck, correcting this, fixing that, as he managed to keep the boat steady through the roughest moments. At one point the boat pitched severely, and Slim rushed to correct it. After a few minutes he settled everything down, and looked for Oscar.

Oscar was gone.

In that sudden pitch, it seems, Oscar was tossed overboard. Unknowingly, and unable to do anything even if he knew, Slim’s best friend was gone. Disappeared. And Slim had to sail on.

Sail on.

Sail on.

At this point in the conversation, though Slim’s eyes were still smiling, there was a sadness behind them. I realized then that was what I had first seen when I felt there was something missing. My heart lurched forward, and I found myself choking up ever so slightly.

Oscar. Gone. Disappeared.

I imagined Oscar’s last moments, and I felt the anxiety and fear creep up in my heart. Panic.

Panic.

Doggie paddling.

Panting.

Fear.

More paddling.

Gone.

I couldn’t help but feel the depth to which these best friends had experienced this loss. And I knew I could barely touch it. That what I had felt in the nano-second of understanding was only a fraction of what they both experienced in the moment of terror, and for Slim on many nights since.

And he sailed on.

He had to sail on.

His eyes were still smiling as he talked about his adventures and his plans. He smiled as he remembered Oscar and told me how he had known how to work the system to get as many treats as possible. He smiled as he shared with me that he cried thinking of him, even just last night.

Slim’s eyes smiled.

Because he was sailing on.

Now a dishwasher in a small French café, Slim is spending his winter in the warm climate of Southern California. Living simply aboard his boat – his home with Oscar – as he plans the routes he will take to live out his dream of sailing the coasts of America.

Once an entrepreneur running his own businesses, Slim is now an entrepreneur of his life. Designing, directing and dedicating his work and play to his dream. Slim sails on. And, as I’d like to imagine, Oscar sits beside him at night, wagging his tail, as Slim continues to plan his dream.

In the end, Slim said, he realized he didn’t have great resources for any retirement, which meant he’d have to be working for most of the rest of his life. He thought it would be better to get going on doing something he had always dreamed of while he knew he could still do it. Even without his best friend by his side, he is doing exactly what he set out to do. Moment by moment. Nautical mile, by nautical mile.

I heard him speak and I knew there was wisdom in there for many, if not all, if we were willing to listen. I also knew how rare it was to meet someone like Slim. Someone who heard his own drummer and decided to listen. Someone who tragically lost his best friend and continues to smile. Someone who has sailed through storms and plans to sail on, though he knows there are more ahead.

It was only in saying goodbye that I asked his name. He shook my hand, smiled, and said, “Slim.”

So, what do you say to a stranger who has lost his best friend, spoken of tragedy and dreams, and inspired you to live your own life differently, all in the matter of an hour while waiting for a taxi that never showed? It seems the best thing to say is “thank you.” So I did.

Thank you for sharing your story with me, Slim. Thank you.

The Two C’s That Make the Holidays Stressful

One of the reasons we have so many arguments and disagreements with family during the holidays is because we engage in the practice of Competing and Comparing. Here’s what I’m talking about…

There’s a difference between saying,

“I make my potatoes differently,” and “I make my potatoes differently.”

See?…. No?

Yeah, it’s not obvious is it, not without tone and inflection – which is to say, not without intention. It’s the exact same phrase, nothing more than an observation perhaps, but the intention changes everything. But…

A passing observation is rarely passing if it’s speckled with comparison and competition.

If an external value system is placed on the item in question (potatoes), then comparison is immediately included in the intention (“different” becomes “better”). Comparison is better or worse. Once we have attached a value to it, it opens the door for competition, which internalizes the comparison. (aka: I’m better because my potatoes are better.) Whoa! And therein lies the problem, because it can be said or received either way. We don’t control how others receive our statements, of course, but we can certainly control how we say them.

So, how do you navigate the holiday season with less stress, arguing and disagreement? Raise your awareness to Comparison and Competition, and choose something different.

Sub-text, second-level dialogue, and assumptions are all fodder for Comparison and Competition. Once we engage in either we create opportunity for disagreement and argument, hurt feelings and frustration. So, it’s easy to see why the holidays can be fraught with strife for so many as families gather together to celebrate. Keeping the two C’s in check can lead to more enjoyable holidays together now and in the future.

Finally, when in doubt, it’s best to choose gratitude. Regardless of how the potatoes are made, a simple “Thank you for making the potatoes” goes a lot further than any passing observation ever could (even if Aunt Bernie’s potato recipe is awesome). There’s little room for disagreement when gratitude is shared.

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.

Where the Grass is Greener

This week I struggled with something to write about. Call it Mercury Retrograde, or call it fatigue, either way I came up with nothing. It happens. Then I saw this quote on a friend’s FB page:

The grass is greener where you water it.

It wasn’t attributed to any one person directly, and I feel like I’ve heard it before, though I’m not sure where. Then I was reminded of something I read from an interview with Isla Fisher in the American Way magazine. She said:

“…I’m super happy with my life the way it is. The grass doesn’t look greener.”
(I have loved that idea ever since I first read it.)

So, what is this obsession we have with “the grass is greener” concept? Is it greener? Ever? Or is it that we have learned to live life from a basis of comparison? Which, in turn means, we will never be satisfied?

I’ve explored this idea of “never enough” off and on for years, both formally and informally. The bottom line truth that I know for certain is that nobody ever wins in the comparison game.

Whether you are comparing misery (ie: my loss is greater than yours) or wealth and acquisitions (there is ALWAYS somebody who has more than you, or something you don’t have) or bodies (body satisfaction underlies many of our self-esteem challenges and issues of self-worth), nobody wins in the comparison game. Nobody.

In fact, the only way to WIN the game is to choose to not play at all. So, what does that look like?

Well, in some ways, it looks like the two quotes I shared above. Many thought leaders and spiritual teachers talk about acceptance, gratitude, and mindfulness. (Heck, I’m one of them!) But those words can be idealistic and amorphous, and can also create opportunities for the comparison habit to edge it’s way back in (ie: I must not be grateful enough, because s/he looks so much happier than I am). So, even though they are helpful to understand, they’re not always active or directive behaviors you can engage in and put into practice. So, what can you actually do?

Here’s one idea:

When the words should, could, would, enough, more, better, and/or worse (as well as “when” and “if”) enter your thoughts or statements – take pause. Take pause long enough to assess whether you are making a statement of comparison. Are you comparing yourself or your situation to someone else’s or some societal standard? Are you comparing someone else’s behavior to your own? If so, stop. Stop right there, because you won’t win. Not winning looks like: frustration, anger, jealousy, envy, sadness, despair, and desperation, to name a few. And nobody wants that.

Stopping is the first step. The second step is engaging in a positive practice to replace the habit of comparison. This involves identifying what brings you joy, such as: I love my house. Or if that’s too big: I love my bed. Or my garden. Or my feet. Or my nose. Or my dog. Or my brain. Or my….life. You get the idea.

So, the next time you think the ‘grass is greener’ somewhere else, take pause, double-check your words, and then look around you. Then perhaps you can see whether or not the grass you’re standing on is green, because it probably is. Green is green, and comparison is a game of shades that turns something lovely into something invisible, and sometimes harmful.

Remembering and Reflecting

Yesterday was Memorial Day here in the USA. Historically, for me that has meant a day off of work, perhaps a barbecue with family and/or friends, and maybe some fireworks somewhere. When I was younger there might have been a parade. It was festive, relaxing, and fun.

This Memorial Day, I decided to sit down and really reflect on what it means to me to remember the service men and women of this country. I began by searching my memory banks of family and friends for all the people I know who have gone into service. It turns out the list was a lot longer than I originally thought it would be.

It starts with my grandfather, who was a member of the cavalry. I actually still have his belt from that time, stored away in my keepsake trunk. It’s dry and tattered, and I love it. He was a good man, who did his best by his family, and I loved his laugh.

Beyond my grandfather, I have cousins, friends, friends of friends, ex-boyfriends, former classmates, and other relatives who have signed up to serve at one time or another. It seems that at most stages of my life I’ve known someone who has served my country. What a remarkable thing, considering the draft was eliminated shortly after I was born.

I then reflected on a couple of these people in particular, and how I feel about their decision to sign up for such an unknowable endeavor. You see, the thing is, when you sign up for service, if something happens, you go. It’s not optional. You can’t suddenly decide you don’t want to be in a war, tired and hungry, scared and homesick. You go. Whether you feel ready or not, whether you want to or not, whether you agree with it or not – you go.

And that’s what struck me the most when I truly sat down to think about the decision to join the armed forces. The sacrifice is not only in the loss of life that we hear about with each operation, but it’s in the willingness to sign up without any guarantee of what that ultimately means. There is no way to know that when you enlist there won’t be a war the following day. You can hope there isn’t, but there’s no promise. There’s only the promise you have made on the day you decided to serve: that you will go, no matter what. And that, to me, is what’s most extraordinary.

I can’t think of any other decision that is so filled with faith and hope. To agree to do something, without truly knowing what that may entail, is the greatest leap of faith I can imagine. For that reason (and so many more) I sit in awe and deep gratitude for those who have made the decision to serve their country. Thank you. xo