Category Archives: relationships

Choose Yourself, Too.

Several years ago, post-divorce, I was in a relationship with someone that was just what I needed. He was a very thoughtful man, who seemed fairly focused on me feeling empowered and independent after years of codependency and identity-loss. At one point, he said to me, “What do you want?… What do you REALLY want?”

Without thinking too much, I blurted out, “I want you to choose me. Every day. And I want to choose you, too.”

At the time, that wasn’t an option for either of us for myriad reasons. And so, as things go, we eventually moved on from our relationship, with respect and understanding, and with a sense of lament for the loss of what could have been.

When I gave that answer, it was a first for me. Never had I defined a relationship that way. But in retrospect, it came as no surprise, considering I had spent more than a decade with someone who chose drugs every day, instead of himself, or me. What was empowering was that it wasn’t about those words we hear all too often when talking about relationships: love, respect, or trust. It was about taking deliberate action to embody those words, those feelings. Choosing. In words, in deeds, in thought – choosing.

Fast forward a few years, and I stumble across Bryan Reeves’ article “Choose her Everyday or Leave Her.” I read his words and I was reminded of that moment years before in which I had intuitively said the same thing. I read Bryan’s words and knew in that moment that this was not just another self-help article. This was a paradigm shift. Bryan writes from the male perspective about this, using his own experience as both teacher and student. From where I sat, as I devoured paragraph after paragraph, I felt my body responding with a “Hell, yes!” and “Finally!”

Bryan was saying what I knew to be truth. He was sharing his own experience in a way that made it tangible, humble, and most of all, accessible. He spoke for me. I could have been the girl in his story – or I could have been Bryan.

Because, just as my ex didn’t choose me every day, I also didn’t choose myself. As a codependent, I chose him. Or rather, I chose helping him or what I thought was helping him. I chose his disease – his battle – over my own well-being, every single day.

For that reason I would add to Bryan’s beautifully crafted piece, and suggest that we include our relationship with ourselves, that we choose our self every day. In learning this, applying it, and now living it almost daily, I know this is the path to joy, love, and peace. For me, this is the path to authentic alignment.

So, choose yourself every day. And if you think you can’t, find a way that you can, or find somebody who can help you learn or remember. Additionally, if you’re in a relationship, choose her or him every day, too. Talk about it – figure out what that means. And if you can’t, then find a way to leave, with mutual respect.

Finally, if you’re interested, Bryan is having a FREE webinar on this topic tonight (10/27/15). You can check it out here and register. He’s not selling anything, as most free webinars do. He’s simply responding to a need, to the resounding response he received as a result of this sharing, and showing up to facilitate more thought, discussion, and growth. And that, my friends, is about passion. And Bryan is certainly full of passion! So, check it out, sign up, and I’ll see you there! Because I’m choosing myself and showing up to listen, share, and learn.

Detaching or Disengaging?

There is “detach with love” and then there is “disengage with compassion.”

You haven’t heard of the second one? That’s because I’ve only recently developed it. Here’s why:

During my years in Al-Anon, where I first heard the phrase, I always struggled with the “detach with love” concept. For some reason it felt difficult for me to access. The idea of loving someone and simultaneously detaching from them felt contradictory.

I tried though. I tried to detach and remain loving. I tried to love and divest myself of the desire for an outcome. I tried to detach from any hope or prayer, while offering love. It didn’t work. Love, by its nature, meant I was invested. Perhaps it would have been easier if it wasn’t my spouse I was trying to detach from. Maybe a distant cousin or acquaintance would have been easier to love without investment. So, I gave it a lot of lip service, but in the end, I could never get my head or heart around the concept of detaching from someone I loved.

Perhaps is semantics. But for me, it mattered.

In the end, I was only able to detach when I turned my love on myself. I suddenly realized the most loving thing I could do was to entirely detach from the sick/addicted person in my life, because it wasn’t loving toward me – or them.

Loving them wasn’t helping them get better, and it was slowly killing me. So, I did the loving thing and loved myself enough to leave. I detached. That was the only time I felt I could detach and be loving simultaneously. The difference was the focus of my love: I was loving myself.

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve come up with a variation on the theme that actually works for me and my clients, with whom I’ve shared this concept.

Disengage with compassion.

Love never enters the equation, therefore it’s never called into question whether you love the person or not. It’s not about love; It’s about compassion. And it’s easier to be compassionate when you disengage from the drama-trauma cycle

Disengaging means you can stay in the situation and feel empowered to choose the behaviors you wish to interact with. If they’re unhealthy, or unloving, you can choose to no longer engage them. Furthermore, you can do so with compassion.

Compassion looks like holding space for the other person to do what they’re doing without judgment by you. Compassion looks like holding your own boundaries and respecting theirs. Compassion looks like understanding, without expectation. Compassion doesn’t require you to invest in the other person or the hope that their behavior will change. Compassion helps you to remain neutral during challenging times.

So, if, like me, you have ever gotten stuck with the “push-pull” essence of “detach with love,” I suggest you try disengaging with compassion. You may find the simple word shift empowering.

The Two C’s That Make the Holidays Stressful

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

There’s a difference between saying,

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

See?…. No?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling Stressed?

Stress can be like wind on the surface of water: temporary, changing, and totally outside of our control.

We often feel stressed and anxious because of circumstances in our life that we cannot control or influence. (Usually, actually, we think we can, which contributes to the level of stress we experience.)

Therefore, it’s important to know which type of stress you’re dealing with. In my experience, there are two types:

  • surface stress
  • deep stress

This week, I’m looking at surface level stress, because it’s the one we can deal with most readily, since it’s predominantly external. For that metaphor, let’s liken stress to wind blowing across the surface of a lake, causing ripples. The water deep underneath might be calm and clear, but the surface looks like a hot mess.

It’s this stress that’s truly temporary. Additionally, 9 times out of 10, the key to alleviating this stress is to remember that the vast majority of the water (what’s underneath) is calm and unaffected by the wind.

The wind can be anything from a child’s or boss’ tantrum, to a bad hair day, or traffic, or not having enough milk for your coffee in the morning, or even…

…family, friends, colleagues and social media. Basically, it can be anything external to you.

Like the wind, it’s outside of your control and often has nothing to do with you personally. The key to restoring balance is to understand and remember these three things:

  • the surface is not the story
  • the wind is temporary
  • the calm beneath is the truth

If you can keep these simple ideas in mind, it will help you navigate any stressful (windy) situation with more grace and ease. There’s comfort in knowing that, at your core, everything is okay. In fact, I would argue it’s the best way to live. :)

Speaking to Joy

Recently, I was speaking with a client that is venturing into the online dating world, and this came out of my mouth:

Find someone who speaks to your joy, not your fears.

So often in life we look for a mate who meets certain criteria, because it’s what we think we want or are told we want. We look for things like: successful, attractive, sense of humor, tall, etc. All of these things are great and not necessarily fear-based. But if we scratch beneath the surface just a little bit, they actually are. Here’s why:

All of these criteria are externalized to your joy. Therefore, the criteria themselves are based on some internal fear that you are experiencing for which you want someone else to fill the void. Another way to say that is:

When a desire is based in the energy of lack, rather than joy, we are setting ourselves up for future disappointment.

It’s an idea worth exploring, because nobody (nobody) can fill an internal void. What a partner CAN do, however, is help to expand your existing joy to where you end up filling the void yourself.

That’s what I mean by finding someone who speaks to your joy. Now, what does that look like?

If you think about people (friends, family, etc.) who already exist in your life and make your heart smile when you’re around them… that speaks to your joy. It’s not about external attributes. It’s about recognizing how someone makes you feel.

Therefore, the question isn’t:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do? or
  • How do they look?

The question should always be:

How do I feel when I’m with them?

If you can answer that with a smile, you’re more than halfway there. :)

Taking and Receiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Stages of Love

In my experience, there are three basic stages of Love. And they usually occur in this order:

love agaveBe loving. Simply stated: Love others and love yourself, through your words, thoughts, and actions.

Be lovable. This is not about being cute; it’s about being receptive to love from someone else. Surprisingly, this can be a real challenge for many, but I’m here to say you are 100% WORTHY of love, exaclty as you are.

Be Love. Do 1 and 2.

Ok, so #3 is one of those “wisdom statements” I referred to in an earlier post. It’s simple and true…and somewhat airy. Here’s how to make it accessible:

Let your actions, decisions, words and thoughts come from the space of love inside you. If you embody 1 and 2, you will “Be Love.” In other words, allow the idea of Love as an energy, a thought, a feeling, to guide you in your day. Use it as a barometer against which you measure your decisions. If, for example, something is out of alignment with Love (like gossip, for instance), you have a choice. You can always choose something new, something different. Always.

Some practical questions you can ask yourself as you choose to Be Love:

  • Is this thought coming from a loving space?
    (If not, where is it coming from? Fear? Anger? Hurt? – How can you change it?)
  • Does this action/decision support my intention of being loving and lovable?
    To myself? To others? (<– see what I did there? Put yourself first.)
  • What is the loving thing to do in this situation?

Life can be hard. Life can be a struggle. This is not about being perfect. If, for example, you “mess up” and say something out of fear or hurt (or exhaustion), love yourself back into alignment by apologizing, or making a different choice the next time, or whatever you think would be a more loving response than what you did. (I speak from experience here.)

This is all about engaging in the process and allowing yourself to make different choices, being more open to a life filled with Love, both giving and receiving it. Because Love is the essence behind everything you are, and everything you desire (not to mention: creativity, prosperity, and joy!).

Champions at Heart

“You don’t need a man, Liz. You need a champion.” – Eat, Pray, Love

I always liked that line, because it hits me. Right there. You know the place: That space between your heart and your throat where you can physically feel your dreams? Yeah, there. But why?

Let’s pause to look at this for a moment, because it’s actually true. We each need a champion. First, let’s define “champion.”photo 1

Among other things, a champion is a “warrior or fighter” according to Merriam-Webster. It’s also a verb: to champion means “to protect or fight for.” Let’s explore the latter, because although Javier Bardem uses the noun in the movie, I believe his true intention (or sub-dialogue) was the meaning behind the verb. So let’s go there!

When we’re children, we seem to have champions all around us. Sometimes it’s our friends or our parents. Sometimes it’s our teachers or siblings. It’s people who hold us up, hold us accountable, teach and lead us. They are there for us when things get stormy as well as when things are calm and sunny. At face value, champions are the “winners.” Looking deeper, champions are those wonderful individuals who value and respect us as individuals ourselves and who inspire us to be our best self, without asking anything in return.

Usually, I would say that all we need is to be our own champion. We do. However, it’s not “all” we need. We need each other, and we each need a champion: That one person in our life, at that one moment, who supports and protects us – who holds us up (or helps us up) when we need it most. It’s the person who makes us laugh or lets us cry – without judgment or expectation – because they know it’s what we need at that moment. It may not be the same person every time. In fact, it probably isn’t.

I know who my champions are, even though they’d probably hate that title. 😉 They’re the ones who help me to be who I am every day, by supporting, challenging and encouraging me to show up for myself. Sometimes I forget they’re there though, and then I’m reminded by something seemingly small. Perhaps something so small that they don’t realize that they just donned a cape for me and became my champion in that one moment, and it made all the difference.

So, today – it’s a simple reminder to say thank you. Thank you to all the wonderful “champions” out there holding us up, helping us out, laughing with us, and reminding us of who we are, and what we can become. Perhaps, too, it’s a reminder that maybe we’re also wearing a cape for someone and don’t even know it. How wonderful!

In the end, I think that’s why that line hits me: Feeling supported and loved is an amazing gift; Feeling championed? That’s love on a whole new level.

Soul Mates

Years ago – ok, 13 years ago – I was talking with a friend of my mom’s who was guiding me on some ‘life’ questions I had, and during the conversation, I said, “I want to meet my soul mate.” Her wry response? “Are you sure?” “Yes – why wouldn’t I be?!?”

Here’s what I thought: I thought that you meet your soul mate, you get married, and you live happily ever after. And I guess, in looking at the BIG picture that’s totally true. But in the day-to-day of it all, well, it sometimes feels like a cruel joke. Why? Because our true soul mates are the people who are meant to bring us our greatest lessons. Which means they bring us our biggest challenges and force us to look in the mirror at who we are, where we are and how we are. They reflect back to us all our immeasurable beauty, as well as all of our greatest defects.

It goes on. Each soul usually has more than one soul mate. It all depends on where you are in your life when you meet the one that crosses your path whether you’re ready to face the litany of lessons you agreed to bring to each other. This, of course, does not mean that it gets easier with another soul mate if you choose to leave the one you’re with – in fact, quite the reverse. It compounds the lessons you have chosen to learn in this lifetime. Hence my support for the idea: “work, don’t walk.” But I digress.

For me, I know I have married one of my soul mates in this lifetime. He has brought me more opportunities for growth, understanding and love than I ever expected, or believed I could handle. It has not been easy, but I asked for it. I clearly stated to the Universe that I was ready, and to bring it on! And boy did they ever! And I’ve never been more grateful. Despite the challenges and lessons, I am now able to look at the bigger picture and see the absolute perfection of being with my soul mate. It has allowed me to become who I am. The conscious awareness of that statement is not lost on me. It’s profound. Because I took the step to be with my soul mate, and not run away when things got tough, I have given myself the opportunity to return to my natural state of being: which is love.

Now you might be saying, ‘That’s nice, Martina, but what does all this mean for me?’ Here’s my thought on that: I’ve spoken with tons of people over the years who are searching for happiness in another person. They have said, “I want to find my soul mate,” because they feel certain that their soul mate will complete them and bring them happiness. In many respects, that’s true. But not without doing the work themselves. Our soul mate doesn’t complete us by being half of a whole. Our soul mate completes us by creating opportunities for us to become whole ourselves.

Unfortunately, all too often we find the work to be too difficult, painful or otherwise challenging, and so we walk away. We say, “it wasn’t meant to be.” But that’s just it – it WAS meant to be. It was meant to be, because it was an opportunity for you to return to your natural state of being. It was an opportunity to find that happiness and wholeness inside yourself and not in another person. Our soul mates simply help us get back to the work. They remind us to get back on the path in order to find that joy in who we are. But when we’re hurting it’s not always easy to see it that way – and we often project our fears and pain onto the one person who is actually there to help us the most.

So, what happens when you run into another soul mate during this lifetime while you’re still with one? Nothing. Nothing has to happen, because there are always agreements in place to honor one another’s path. Besides, who says a relationship with a soul mate needs to be romantic? It’s the relationship that matters. Why can’t it be siblings or a friendship? A friendship still allows for the great discoveries and growth to occur, albeit in a different capacity than we usually think about when referring to ‘soul mates.’ Moreover, the fact that you may have, and meet, more than one soul mate in a lifetime does not diminish any current relationship. It’s just about looking at things in the big picture, in order to understand the smaller things a little bit better.

Now when someone says to me, “I’m ready to find my soul mate,” I pause, smile and say, “I’m so happy for you,” — because everything changes from here.

In Love and Light,

Martina

Happy Anniversary

This week, I get a little more personal….I hope you enjoy this new voice.

11 years ago last night, I got married. I had just turned 27, and I thought I knew everything. Well, if not “everything” I certainly thought I knew a lot. With my parents, relatives, and friends’ parents as models, marriage seemed like an answer to all my prayers: Life with my soulmate. Yay! What could be better?!?

Turns out, a lot. A lot could be better, and a lot could be worse. When I made the commitment to marry, I made it blindly; and I think we have to in some respects. Marriage is one of the only (if not THE only) partnerships in which there is no definition within the contract. No assigning of roles and responsibilities, prior to signing the bottom line. Marriage is a commitment made in faith. Pure and simple. It is made with a belief in hope, faith and love. Not many people tell you how much work it is. Perhaps if they did there would be fewer marriages — then again, perhaps there would be less divorce, too.

In looking back on eleven years since making that commitment before friends, family and God…I feel confident enough to finally say that I knew nothing, and what I know today, more than anything is that marriage takes a commitment to several things. First and foremost, however, it takes commitment to yourself. Something I had never actively considered before. But now I have learned that without that commitment to myself, I couldn’t possibly begin to understand what it means to commit to someone else. Nor could I grasp the depth and breadth of work it would take to unite two independent and individual souls, with different yet similar goals.

And yet, knowing what I know now – I wouldn’t change a thing. My marriage, my relationship with my soulmate, has brought me more opportunities to know myself and learn about myself than I think I ever would have had otherwise. It is one thing to stand naked in front of yourself. It’s quite another to stand naked and see yourself through someone else’s eyes. All the beauty and flaws become more apparent. All the defects and tresured gifts become clearer. By allowing myself to be known by someone else, to be raw and vulnerable, I have given myself the greatest gift imaginable: the gift of understanding and knowing who I am.

So, 11 years later, I find that my marriage is measurable in so many ways, but perhaps the greatest is in my relationship with myself. At 27, I knew only what it meant to commit to someone else – and even that was romanticized to some extent. At 38, I know what it means to quietly, peacefully, and humbly commit to myself. Would I have learned this without getting married? Perhaps. But why look back in wonder, when I can look at the present with gratitude.

Therefore, I say: Happy Anniversary…..to me!!


With Love and Light,
Martina