Category Archives: Love

Ownership, Obligation, and Love

The question was never “What can be done?”

The question was always “What can you do?”

Or rather, “What can I do?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respond with Love.

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

12 Years Today – 4,380 Days

I’m glad I’m not French. No offense to the French, I actually love the country, the food, and the people… but twelve years ago on Bastille Day, our lives changed forever. If it were any other normal day, I maybe wouldn’t remember the anniversary (which is a weird thing to say) of my dad’s stroke. But it’s Bastille Day in France, and I remember hearing the Marseillaise on the news in the airport as we waited for our flight from Dallas to Chicago. Now the Marseillaise is forever associated with my father’s stroke (hence, I’m glad I’m not French), which means every July 14th – I remember. Extreme crisis can do that: take one thing and affiliate it with another unrelated thing – forever. I’m just glad it wasn’t pizza.

In the back of my mind, I’m writing a book about this experience, I’ve tentatively called it 4,092 Deaths and Counting. The title is a work in progress, because today is officially 4,380. Four thousand three hundred and eighty mornings of “different.” Of love, of loss, of joy, of heartache, of gratitude, of patience, of frustration, of fear, of anger, of relief, of hope. 4,380 days of being human and living alongside dying. It’s not for the faint-hearted, I can tell you that.

Almost exactly a year ago, dad transitioned to a care facility. So, we’ve now had almost 365 days of a different kind of “different,” one that requires both more and less fortitude. Easier, in some ways, and more challenging in others – overall, though, this doesn’t get easier. I think there was a time when I thought it would. Alas, I was wrong. I wrote about it in an article a few months ago: Trapped Out of Love. (If you haven’t read it – you can read it here.)

For his part, Dad seems to be doing well. He enjoys the activities and commotion at his new residence, something that was sorely lacking here at home. The staff love him and call him “smiley,” because he is always smiling. Some call him “Judge,” because he was a lawyer – which, as you can imagine, he gets a kick out of. Mom goes to visit him several times a week, and I am able to get there every weekend – usually bringing him his favorite contraband in the form of lunch. (The pizza gene is strong!) In nicer weather, we take walks outside where there are ponds and wildlife galore. Dad also really enjoys plane-spotting, as the campus is somewhat in the flight path of two airports. All in all, it’s a simpler life for him, one with a grace and ease that accompanies living in a care facility.

For us, it’s a relief to know he’s being looked after by medical professionals 24/7, while still causing some guilt over not being able to keep him at home. That’s the conundrum of aging and illness, isn’t it? Deciding on what’s best for the patient, as well as what’s best for the family. Often times, those needs don’t match up. And even though he’s not physically at home, he’s still here in some intangible way, every day.

So, each time I think of counting the days, I hear the lyrics from Rent in my mind: “525,600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year… how about love?” I’m pretty certain we’ve measured 12 years in love… alongside all the other emotions that come with the territory. And so, we continue to do so – for how many more days, nobody knows.

Now, perhaps, there’s a reason for the Marseillaise after all, with it’s simple echo of: “Marchons, marchons!” And so we do.

Afternoon walk with Dad on a summer day

My NEW Book of Poetry is HERE!

Infinite In My Heart coverAs a writer, I am always transforming thoughts into words, whether it’s the inspirational wisdom I share regularly in InspireBytes™ or the self-help guidance and teachings that I put into full-length books. (What now..? will be out in November… stay tuned!)

While you may be familiar with my prose (it’s been almost a decade with InspireBytes, so I hope so!), I recently compiled an assortment of poetry that I have written over the years into my first book of poems, lovingly titled: Infinite In My Heart: Poems of Love, Loss, and Hope.

From the back cover:

Who among us hasn’t experienced Love? or Loss? or the great Hope that accompanies every new and wondrous relationship? 

In ‘Infinite In My Heart: Poems of Love, Loss, and Hope’ – her first book of poetry – Martina E. Faulkner has created an emotional journey of reflection. Over the course of several years, she poured her thoughts into poems that stir the soul at the most basic level. Martina’s words share what it means to be human: to love, to lose, and most of all, to return to hope… again and again.

I’m excited to share this work with you. It’s due to be released on May 6th, but you can pre-order the Kindle version now by clicking here, or simply wait until May 6th to order the paperback.

As always, thank you for your continued support and interest in my work – I appreciate it immensely. Enjoy!!

 

 

Hope, Oprah and An Invitation

After last night’s moving speech by Oprah Winfrey at the 75th Golden Globes, I took pause to revisit something I have been writing about and teaching for almost a decade: Hope.

Hope, as Oprah put it, is the one thing every resilient survivor and fighter has in common. Hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for a better society. Hope for a better life. Hope.

As many of you know, one of my favorite movie lines is: “Hope, is all prayer is.” It’s from The Preacher’s Wife (a great remake of the classic The Bishop’s Wife).

Hope is all a prayer is, which is why it’s so powerful. In fact, as I’ve often written about, hope is more powerful than love for one reason:

Hope restores love when fear has taken over.

from my archives…

While Love is the core power of the Universe – the source of creation and evolution – it’s hope that keeps Love alive in the midst of darkness, struggle, fear, and even hatred.

Hope is sustaining.
Hope is inviting.
Hope is restoring.

Hope is an opening back to Love.

I was glad to see Hope take center stage last night… it’s about time. Because when all else fails, when life is at its most dark, there is always – always – a glimmer in the midst of the blackness that lets in the light.

That tiniest of objects is simply: Hope. It’s our job to look for it and embrace it. That single action is what makes everything else possible. 

 

Happy Solstice – a poem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The return of light
Is a day of peace,
Inviting our hearts
To gather and meet.

May we see with new eyes
The truth of the light
May we live with love
And let go of might.

✨Happy Solstice. Peace and blessings. ✨

©2017 Martina E. Faulkner

Life, Death, and a Simple Question

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude. Just yesterday millions of people across the USA came together to share a meal, a tradition, or some sport, all in the name of gratitude. I, myself, gathered with part of my family and created a new tradition as we ate a simple meal together at my father’s nursing home. In many ways, it was more the essence of Thanksgiving for me than it ever had been. It was family, coming together, sharing food, and sharing stories.

For others, this week also brought something new. In the past few days I have had very dear friends unexpectedly lose a parent, while another dear friend extended their family by one.

The timing is not lost on me. This week – a week of gratitude – the cycle of life hit me square in the face.

Even though I have been living with perpetual loss for over 11 years since my father’s massive stroke, I have not had to deal with the permanence of loss. I can still go and hug him, laugh with him, smile with him. My friends who just lost their parent no longer have that privilege – that joy.

So, as I sit tonight and reflect on the miracle of life and the meaning of death, I find my mind wandering to a quote I’ve always liked, but never fully embraced…. until now. Now, it seems to have a deeper meaning.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It’s from the poem ‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, it’s this life – now – that matters, because it’s the one you can embrace. In the wake of death and birth, it seems even more poignant as I remember that time can feel too short, while also being marvelously full of possibility and potential.

With gratitude for a simple family gathering fresh in my mind, it seems a good time to truly answer Mary’s question. And the best answer I can come up with is: Live.

Live in Love.
Live in Hope.
Live in Peace.
Live in Joy.
Live in Play.
Live in Curiosity.
Live in Intimacy.
Live in Laughter.
Live in Connection.
Live in Spirit.

Live.

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‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mutual Admiration Society

I’m a member of MAS: the Mutual Admiration Society, and I wish everyone could feel this way. (Wouldn’t that be a game-changer for our planet?!)

I wrote to a friend and colleague last night and shared a few simple truths as I see it, or my two cents. Nothing earth-shattering, in my opinion, no eloquent words or faux-flatterings… just truth from my observations. She woke up to that email. Then I woke up to this:


And now we have both felt WOW upon starting our days. See? Mutual Admiration Society. And all because we shared the simplest of truths: our experience of each other’s loving presence… which is our true nature, of course.

It doesn’t take special glasses to see it in others. It’s not a “gift” – it’s natural. Everyone can do it. The reason we don’t, I think, is because we’re too busy looking for everything else in what we’re seeing, and preparing ourselves to respond to what we think might be there that we don’t like. We’re always on guard. Or, we’re so focused on maintaining our own facades, that we haven’t reconnected with our own loving nature, so we no longer recognize it in others. Neither one of these scenarios make for a very loving society. Alas.

But I know that can change. How? Because I did it myself, and I’m a stubborn reluctant learner. Or I was. I used to look externally for everything, and I was miserable inside as a result. It took me a while and a lot of hard work to come out the other end of the tunnel, but I did. And frankly, if I can – then I know that anyone else can, too.

So, Mutual Admiration Society — who’s with me?? 😁

Joy, Peace, and Love

Nearly every client I have worked with recently has had the same theme come up:

Joy, Peace, and Love.

As we navigated the various issues they were facing, all of them different, we always arrived at the same end. Each of them are returning to a sense of joy, peace, and love in their lives, and various problems opportunities have been surfacing to help them get there more directly.

So, I sat down to think about what it truly means to live a life of joy, peace, and love… because, as I’ve learned over the years of doing this work:

When the same theme keeps coming up for my clients, I know it’s a message for me too. 

It’s like the Universe is not so subtly tapping me on the shoulder and clearing its throat “Ahem….”

Delving into what each of the words mean, I realized that it’s when they’re combined that they encapsulate what it feels like to be both human and divine at the same time. They represent a trinity of sorts, one that serves as the circle containing the duality of our existence. That, of course, is a fancy way of saying that these three things are at the core of our essence, and I’d argue that they are held together with hope.

I think our natural state is one of joy, love and peace. You only need to look at a child playing to realize the truth of this statement. It’s our birthright, though we tend to forget it along the way. There are so many external factors pulling on us and inviting us to forget who we truly are, that by the time we hit 8, 9, or 10 years old (maybe even earlier nowadays), we’ve lost touch with the effortlessness of being.

Then, somewhere later in life (often prompted by a crisis of some sort, or simply sheer exhaustion from trying to keep up with all the external input), we start to long for the days of our youth. It’s easy to say we miss the freedom of play, but I think play is the byproduct of feeling complete in who we are. In other words, when we know ourselves as belonging to joy, peace and love, we can’t help but find it in everything around us…. and life becomes a giant playground. 🙂

My ‘natural state’ is Joy, Peace, and Love. 🙂

The Duality (and my reality) of Bodily Love

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

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

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

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

I’m talking about my body.

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

But it’s more complicated than that.

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

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

My body had changed, and I never noticed it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo,
Martina

Apathy, Indifference and … Hope

Last week I wrote about Hope being the antidote to Fear. But what is the antidote to Hope?

I actually hadn’t thought about this, because I believe Hope is one of those things that is ever-present. Even in the worst circumstances, there seems to be hope. For years, I’ve written about how in the darkest moments you can still find that grain of sand that is Hope… somewhere… glimmering. I believe Hope is the most powerful energy in the Universe, because it’s the only thing that remains constant in even the most awful situations. Hope restores Love when Fear has taken over.

Hope restores love

But does Hope have an Achilles heel?  And if so, what is Hope’s kryptonite?

After more tragedies in the world last week, I saw a friend post a quote on social media, and I had to pause to take it in:

“Apathy and indifference are the nails in the coffin of hope and change.” – Morley

The late Elie Wiesel said something similar:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

I had to really think about this. Are apathy and indifference the poisons that kill Hope? I wanted to write about it on that day in order to really explore my thoughts and beliefs around the topic, but I didn’t. Instead, I allowed it to simmer on a back burner as I processed the depth of its simplicity.

And then I wrote a totally different piece about my personal life and the struggle I have been facing with regard to my father’s stroke on its 10-year anniversary. (You can read it here.) That piece generated a lot of feedback, love, and support. More than I expected. But it wasn’t until I re-read it that I realized I had described the very scenario that I had simmering on a back burner.

When resignation starts to take hold, hope starts to hibernate.

Resignation, in my opinion, is a form of acceptance without choice. It’s forced. Perhaps because it’s forced, it becomes easier to adopt an attitude of indifference. In some ways, indifference can feel protective. But in other ways, it’s the indifference that opens the door to apathy. And yes, now that I’ve let it marinate for a while, I believe apathy is the antidote to Hope.

I think if Hope were in a petri dish and you doused it with indifference, it would weaken, but not dissolve. However, as the indifference grows it becomes apathy, and apathy has the potential to neutralize Hope. Kill it? No. I don’t believe so, because I think Hope is the Tardigrade of the energy world. But arrest it and prevent it from fulfilling its potential? Yes.

Why does this matter?

I think it’s important that we remember the role Hope plays in times of survival. I hold a view of life that we are always living in one of three ways:

Survive
Live
Thrive

When we are in survival mode, Hope is more important than ever. This does not mean that we diminish and trivialize what’s going on around us by optimistically (blindly?) saying “Love will win” whenever tragedy hits.

Rather, it means that we dig down deep into the nitty-gritty darkest recesses of our souls, knowing all the yuck and darkness, and still say: Love will win and then embody what that means. That’s Hope. That’s holding on to Hope, teaching Hope, speaking Hope, and living Hope.

There’s a reason that at the bottom of Pandora’s Box, after all the fear, pestilence, and misery, Hope remained. Hope resides in the darkest places. Hope resides where we need it most, and the only thing that prevents us from accessing it is apathy … turning a blind eye and/or choosing not to care, because it simply hurts too much.

For many of us it has been hurting too much lately. Tragedy, violence, and other senseless acts that go against our nature cause deep emotional wounds in our collective psyche. It’s in these moments that we get to choose how we want to move forward. We can choose Fear which eventually leads to a protective form of apathy, or we can choose Hope. Even when it’s hardest, especially when it’s hardest, I hope we choose Hope.

P.S. If you’ve never heard/seen it before, here’s a great video by an old friend, Shawn Gallaway, on the choice of Love or Fear. May it inspire you.