Category Archives: perspective

Christmas Cards in October?

Christmas Cards in October?

Yes, I’m one of those people. I start working on Christmas cards in October. Typically, I’m ordering something around now, though there have been times in the past when I would have already received my order and begun hand-addressing the envelopes. (My list is about 125 people so it takes some time.)

This year, though, I am not sure what I’m doing. Yesterday I browsed through some online card templates; and today, while at Costco, I saw some very pretty boxed card sets. But somehow, it all fell a bit flat.

It’s entirely possible that the dullness is the result of this lull I’m experiencing. A lot of things are falling flat lately, so it’s not just the cards. But the cards truly gave me pause, because it is one of my favorite things about the holidays: giving and receiving cards. It’s a symbolic gesture that says: I’m thinking of you. I love it.

I think that’s why it feels flat. Nothing I’ve seen has sparked that moment of “I’m thinking of you” within me. It actually feels more like an obligation than a joy. And that’s exactly what gave me pause.

When something that has previously carried the spark of creativity, love, and imagination loses its sparkle, it becomes obligation or duty… and there’s no joy in that.

I know that there are times in our lives when both obligation and duty are required, but they truly are limited to the smallest minority – like, maybe 5% or less. The rest of the time, most of our daily lives are ruled by either routine or joy, with routine often in a significant majority. It’s the joy component that most interests me.

How do we make joy out of routine? How do we protect our joy in light of the requirements of routine? Is it truly all about attitude? Choice? Perspective?

You’re probably expecting an answer here – but the truth is: I don’t know. I watch people all around me, every day, going through the motions of life, their heads buried in their phones or computers, or projects, barely looking up to recognize what’s going on around them. It saddens me. I’ve been party to it – still am, sometimes – so I know it’s a difficult pattern to break, especially when we don’t have a motivation to do so. There’s no reward, it seems, to breaking the habit of daily living.

I think that’s the biggest issue facing our society today: this idea of an immediate tangible reward. We’ve gotten to where we can’t tolerate failure, so instead we accept habitual mediocrity. It’s not just coloring within the lines, but allowing someone else to choose all the colors and their placement for us. It’s life without risk… and also without reward.

Which means it’s also a loss of joy. Pure true unabated joy.

When was the last time you laughed so hard your abs hurt? 
Or your heart filled with pure unconditional love and gratitude? 
Or you smiled so deeply that you began to cry? 

These are all expressions of joy. Pure joy.

For me, I will probably send out Christmas cards this year, though I am giving myself wiggle room and might send New Year’s cards instead. Because, if I don’t feel joy in creating and addressing them, I don’t want to send out a message of “obligation” instead of a message of “thinking of you.” As we know, everything carries energy. Even our correspondence. I’d rather wait or skip a year, instead of sending out something just to have done it.

And I think that’s a healthy question we can ask of most everything in our daily lives, don’t you?

xoxo,
Martina

The Slippery Slope of Mockery

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

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

Here’s the original post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is about defending humanity and our civilization.

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

This is where I took issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The simple truth is: it’s not.

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

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

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

Perspective, Fat-Shaming, and Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And…

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

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

People are more than their bodies. #Stopfatshaming

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

Something Old – Something New

June is wedding season, so I thought I’d borrow an old adage in keeping with the times: Something Old – Something New.

“Something OLD” refers to a theme or message that I have shared for many years with my readers and my clients. It’s about belief systems and the various forms they can take in our lives. Often, we don’t realize that we are operating under unchecked belief systems as we make decisions or plans, but we are. It’s when we begin to raise our awareness to these ingrained patterns that we start to set ourselves free of the ones that are holding us back, and we align more deliberately with the ones that support who we are authentically.

Belief systems are not inherently bad. However, it’s the unexamined belief system that can be creating obstacles in your path without you realizing it. Last week, I explored one such belief system in a little bit more detail, which brings me to the “something new.”

“Something NEW” refers to a new format I am starting to embrace to help get my work more broadly into the world: video. Some of us learn better from reading, while others learn better from hearing or seeing, and I needed to honor this truth. I recently completed a marketing course, which I have referred to a couple times in recent weeks, in which I practiced the art of making video to share a message, idea, or topic. Trust me, this wasn’t easy for me – even though I was a drama major in college and spent most of my high school years on the stage. There’s something so immediate about video that makes it more intimate. So, it took some work for me to get to where I felt I was ready to show up and be seen in this manner. And I’m glad I did.

The feedback has already been overwhelmingly positive. Most importantly, I heard exactly what I knew to be true: for many people it was “so much easier” to grasp the concept from watching a 3- or 5-minute video, than it was to read a blog or a chapter in my book. Furthermore, several people told me that the teaching sunk in without them realizing it, as they suddenly discovered that they were more aware of their thought and belief patterns over the days following watching my video. This is the best result I could hope for.

So, with that, I share both of these first videos with you now. I will most definitely be making more, so stay tuned. And if you want to remain in the loop, you can catch all my videos on Facebook, with little snippets being posted on Instagram. And, if you click the “see first” option on my Facebook page you’ll know every time something new appears. Soon enough, I suspect I will set up a YouTube channel to manage all of this content. For now, however, I am keeping it simple.

As for the videos themselves, they’re all about the stories we tell ourselves, and how that can either be a cause for positive change, or a source of self-detrimental behavior. You can watch them here:

Stories: Part 1 (What Happens When We Make Up Stories – and we all do)

Stories: Part 2 (The Genesis of Story)

Perspective Is A Choice (and how it can improve your life)

Lately I’ve been using the hashtag #perspectiveisachoice when posting some updates on social media. It was a phrase that sort of appeared in my lexicon as I shared some challenges I had experienced that resulted in my choosing to think differently.

In other words, through these frustrating situations, I consciously chose to remember grace and gratitude, which made the events less frustrating. My awareness was raised to the point of acceptance and understanding, which then allowed me to remove myself from the situation emotionally, and regain my power from a position of neutrality. As you know, I believe neutrality is the most powerful tool in your toolbox.

That being said, as I wrote about and shared my anecdotes of frustration from a place of perspective, I found myself immersed in peace. It was as if I could empathize with the circumstances, but my emotions weren’t held hostage by them. It was from that space that the hashtag was born.

Once I wrote the words, however, it cemented home the truth and reality of the statement:

Perspective is a choice.

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It is always within our control to shift our perspective. In fact, we do it often without much consciousness at all. Which prompts me to wonder what would happen if we consciously chose to shift our perspective, especially when we’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. The small act of consciously choosing our perspective could make quite a difference in the overall quality of our lives. I know it is for me.

Are you Intense?

Are you Intense?

This is a question I’ve asked myself, mainly because I already know the answer: I can be.

It all began after a series of different meetings I had with my doc over a couple of months. During one of the earlier sessions he had said to me, “You’re intense, and you need to be with someone who not only understands, but appreciates that in you.” I listened.

Am I intense? I can be.

Fast forward a few months and at another session he said in passing, “I couldn’t live with you.”

Ouch.

It wasn’t meant to hurt, or to be a barb, but it did. (And don’t worry, there’s no discussion of anything remotely unethical going on.) It hurt, because I found myself not measuring up to some random externalized standard that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Of course, that’s the truth of what happened, but in the moment I didn’t have access to that absolute truth, I just knew that it stung a little. Subsequently, I found myself asking, “What’s wrong with me?” and “Am I not livable?” Which ultimately evolved to “Am I not lovable?” And finally, the mac daddy of them all: “Am I destined to be alone?”

I suspect it took only about 5 seconds to go from his statement to the fear of being alone. It’s a well-worn path that is very easily navigated. Almost effortlessly, in fact. But here’s the beautiful thing: because I have done my work, because I have spent years forging through the dark tunnel and excavating the debris that was forming obstacles to my life, and because I have raised my awareness to the habit of negative self-talk, it took about another 5 seconds for me to access the truth behind his statement.

Just because HE couldn’t live with me does not mean that NOBODY can.

And there it was. Truth. Absolute truth. And it allowed me to go even further, which was like flipping through the most wonderful album of memories and joy you’ve ever created. Once I acknowledged that his external measurement had nothing to do with my self-worth, I was able to explore why he might feel that way, and that’s when it occurred to me: He only knows 30% of me. Perhaps more, maybe less, but 30% feels like a good number.

The fact is that he only knows that which I present to him, and since he’s my doc, I present my problems. He’s my “expert” for helping me sort through that which I cannot do alone. Therefore, it stands to reason that he couldn’t live with me (and finds me intense), because he only knows that side of me. He knows the percentage that is seeking assistance or a safe place to vent. While I suspect he might have inklings of the other 70%, it has been a rare occasion when I have presented it to him.

This got me thinking: What IS the other 70%? Here’s where that lovely virtual photo album of memories came into play. I suddenly found myself immersed in the joy of being me. It was decadent, blissful, and loving. It looked a bit like this:

  • He doesn’t see me dancing in the rain, or laughing so hard that I fall off the bed.
  • He doesn’t see me when I’m the image of bliss immersed up to my neck in a hot bubble bath, or how I get teary eyed during a commercial for animal rescue.
  • He doesn’t see the me that giggles at sexual innuendos like a school girl, secretly hiding my wry smile because I actually know what’s being talked about and the sheer pleasure it can bring.
  • He doesn’t see me singing like a dork while I dance in my car to my favorite song.
  • He doesn’t see me baking something for a friend that’s hurt, or taking pictures of butterflies on my daily walk.
  • He doesn’t see me when I’m so immersed in writing that hours can go by without my noticing it, and the smile on my face becomes semi-permanent.
  • He doesn’t see me talk to strangers and offer them a smile, or as I hug my dog during one of his seizures late at night.
  • He doesn’t see… me.

He doesn’t see the me that I know. Which means: he doesn’t know me. Well, not all of me.

He doesn’t know all this, because he’s not meant to. This is the breadth and depth of me, and it’s still only a glimpse. He knows the me that needs his expertise and his help. The me that comes to him feeling broken or worn down by life, in search of a tincture of assistance and support. And that’s the me he should be seeing, because it’s the me that he knows in relation to himself.

I was then reminded of an old saying that I often share about how we go through life comparing our insides to other people’s outsides. It will never match up. And this is true for almost everybody we come across in life. There are very few (if any) people that we share 100% of ourselves with. Every interaction falls somewhere on the spectrum from 1-99%, and I’d argue that most daily interactions fall somewhere between 1-35%.

People show us, and share with us, what they’re comfortable with, and we receive and share in return what we’re comfortable with. I would suspect that we are sharing about 30% of ourselves with the outside world at any given moment. And how we receive that is directly affected by our relationship to that person. That means that if I am your sibling, I will be receiving what you are showing very differently than if I were your boss, or your employee. We see and know people in relation to who we are to each other, and people only know what we choose to show them.

Which brings me back to the idea of being intense. I can be.

Actually, I think we all can be. And just as I can be intense, I can be light-hearted and soft. It’s part of the full spectrum of who I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Then, just a few days ago, I read this piece by Kate Rose on Elephant Journal, and it summed up my notion of intensity so perfectly I wanted to share. Intensity is not something to be ashamed of or dialed down – it’s something to be celebrated. And when it’s admired and supported it can fuel almost anything, including (and especially) Love.