Category Archives: gratitude

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

Showered by Grace

What is it about Grace that we can have a thousand different definitions, from a thousand different people, and yet somehow we can all be saying the same thing?

For me, writing my piece for 365 Moments of Grace became an exercise in gratitude. When I began, I was unsure where my words would take me, but I was certain that wherever I ended up I would feel better for it, and I did. Before submitting my work to the book, I vetted it with a couple of friends. What I found interesting was that one of my friends’ replies went something like this: “Oh, honey, I am so sorry…”

I was startled by her words, because I had felt only gratitude for my experience in the shower. Even then, as it was happening, I felt grateful for the peace it brought me. I think that’s because it was fueled by Grace. Grace transformed my despair into something greater.

“Grace is a power that comes in and transforms a moment to something better.”
–Carolyn Myss

So, without further ado, for those of you who have not purchased the book yet, I would like to share my Moment of Grace with you here, knowing that there are 364 more stories within its pages that are similar, and yet wholly distinct. This magical book is filled with over 250 voices sharing their stories of Moments of Grace, all saying something different, and yet, somehow, all saying something similar.

Finally, as I geared up for the book’s launch, I tried to describe and define Grace for a friend. I wrote: Sometimes Grace is that still small point of breath, where nothing is needed and everything is possible.

grace

I’d amend it today to say that what’s needed, in fact, is Grace, though it’s rarely ever identified. In our deepest moments of despair we rarely have the ability to ask for what we truly need. And in those moments when Grace is needed most – it always seems to show up.

xoxo


 

Showered by Grace
by Martina E. Faulkner

Years ago, as I started my journey through the refiner’s fire, I was brought to my knees at a most inopportune time: I was in the middle of my morning shower.

While lathering up my hair, I found myself overwhelmed by grief, pain, and tears. My journey of shedding layers of imperceptible veneers had begun, and it was painful. Unexpectedly, with a mountain of bubbles on my head, I fell to my knees, sobbing.

Crumpled on the shower floor, with water pouring over my skin but not cleansing any part of me, I couldn’t utter a word. I silently wailed as my tears mixed with the stream of soap and water from above. I could barely breathe. Immobilized, I watched in awe as my hands reached up.

Like a child drawing on a foggy winter window, my fingers knew what to do when I had lost any semblance of presence in myself. They wrote on the shower wall:

Help.

A single word inscribed in the mist was my call for assistance.

The effort it took humbled me further. As the water began to cool, with the bubbles all but gone and my shoulders hunched forward in a semi-fetal position, I felt a calm fall over me.

My mind began to settle as my heart returned to a steady rhythm. My tears, though still flowing were a gentle trickle instead of a torrent. As I started breathing more deeply and steadily, I noticed my pain had eased.

My cry – my plea for help – had resulted in a warm embrace in the most unlikely of places. Mixed with the water from the shower, my tears had become diluted, free to flow out and away from me. I felt held.

I still use the shower wall to send messages to what I now refer to as my spiritual team. Whether they are messages of gratitude or renewed requests for assistance, there’s a knowing that comes almost instantly the moment my fingers begin to glide across the steamy glass.

©2016 Martina E. Faulkner

showered by grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

P.S. Fore more information on 365 Moments of Grace, or to order your own copy, click here

Check out a few other co-author blogs about the book using these links for yesterday, today, and tomorrow:

July 4: Julia Van Der Sluys and Lore Raymond
July 5: Julie Jones
July 6: Catherine M LaubMarva Collins-Bush and Nicole Levac

My Story of Grace

I am so excited to share this news with you. 365 Moments of Grace is out TODAY and I’m a Contributing Author! In its pages, I have shared my personal story of Grace – how I found it, what it means to me, and how it’s ever-present in my life…even when I forget. Like last week.

I took last week off from writing a blog, because I was overwhelemed by the recent tragedies in our world. My system simply needed a little R&R to reboot. While I was resting, I started writing about what I was experiencing, thinking, and feeling. As I wrote, I was reminded of the importance of grace in our lives, especially when everything seems to be unraveling. So, the timing of this book couldn’t be more perfectly aligned. (I’ll be sharing what I wrote in an upcoming blog, too.)

As such, I’m so happy to share this book with you! As a contributing author, you’ll see that this is a collaborative work, and I think it’s ingenious.

365 Moments of Grace is a daily devotional created around a central idea (grace) with over 250 authors sharing their stories and wisdom. Most devotionals have a theme and a single voice, which sometimes can feel repetitive. In our book, each voice is unique, which gives a much broader perspective to the topic. Awesome!

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I hope you find this book to be a wonderful source of calm and grace in your year ahead. And frankly, I hope you consider purchasing it today – because we would love to be ranked as a “bestseller” on our launch day, a title that can be shared among all the contributing authors. (Until I reach that status on my own – which I know is just around the corner – it would be lovely to reach it as part of a collaborative soulful effort.) 

If you’d like to support us in reaching our “bestselling” status, and more importantly, to add a wonderful inspirational book to your bookshelf, please buy your copy today, by using this link. This link is personal to me, and will actually support me as one of the authors (albeit a teeny-tiny percentage), which would be additionally awesome, and greatly appreciated. Feel free to share it with your friends and family too. Of course, you can purchase the book at any time, and an e-book should be coming out in a couple of months, too.

As always, I appreciate your support, thoughtfulness, and encouragement on this journey of mine, as I keep writing and helping others through theirs.

xoxo,
Martina

P.S. There are over 100 (!) Bonus Gifts available from various authors when you purchase the book, including my very own hand-drawn mandala on Grace. Check them out, here.

The Secret to a Happy Life: A Life Manual

This picture came across my newsfeed yesterday. I’m sure it’s not new to many of you, but it was new to me.

I saw it, read it, and paused. And then I said, “Yes. That’s what I’ve done – that’s all I knew to do sometimes.”

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There were days of cursing, years of crying, and lots of fighting within myself sometimes. It wasn’t always pretty. In fact, it often wasn’t pretty.

I battled depression, anxiety, loneliness, being overworked, underpaid, and in an isolating, often loveless, marriage. And I refused to let it get to me – so I stayed. Longer than I should have perhaps, but as long as I did. Until one day I left.

In my life, my short 44 years, I’ve seen and experienced a fair amount of tragedy, illness, and challenges – and when I fell down, I got up. Sometimes it’s almost instant, and sometimes it’s days or weeks, but eventually, I get up. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

Paulo Coelho has a quote about the secret of life: Fall down seven times, get up eight. I think this is what resilience is. In the face of adversity, challenges, obstacles, tragedy, and illness, the secret to success – to living – is to get back up. Whether it’s 5 seconds, 5 hours, or 5 days later…. we get back up.

Sometimes we need support from others to help us find our feet again, but nobody stands for us, nobody can. All anyone can do is stand beside us and remind us that we have feet and legs, and if needed, they can demonstrate how it’s done.

In my life, I’ve been lucky enough to have people who stood patiently for years beside me as I stood, fell, stood, fell, and stood again. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts anyone can give us: their presence. I am grateful every day for those that continue to stand beside me, and allow me to stand beside them.

Perhaps, then, that’s the real secret to a happy life: To stand on our own, together.

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.

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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.