Loving The Mess That Is My Best…Insight from Martha

bless this messI’m always pathetically grateful for January, this blank slate of a month, in which I can resolve to clean up the utter mess I made of the holidays. I always mess up the holidays. Combine my logistical incompetence with the social demands of December, and you have the Hindenburg of social faux pas. I could tell you everything I did wrong last month, but then I’d end up in bed eating the Funyuns of Shame for another week, so let us not speak of it.

Suffice it to say that as 2015 begins, I’m taking stock of my life and realizing that I have messed up virtually everything I’ve ever done for over half a century. News flash: I am never going to do life right.

And yet…

By being my incompetent self, I seem to have weeded out the friends and acquaintances who can’t stand my inadequacies. Each year I’m surrounded by more kind, understanding people who seem willing to love the messes I make.

When neurosurgeon Eben Alexander went into a coma and had one whale of a near-death experience, he received three messages:  “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever,” “You have nothing to fear,” and “There is nothing you can do wrong.”

My New Year’s resolution is first, to do my best in all situations, and second, to stand in the mess that is my best, and remember Alexander’s three messages:  Dearly loved, nothing to fear, no way to get it wrong.

Just contemplating this helps me put down the Funyuns. It makes me suspect that maybe, instead of being here to get things right, we’re here to learn to love the mess that is every human life. If that’s the one thing I get right this year, it just may be enough.

The Benevolent Guide…Insight from Martha

A few days ago, my partner Karen’s beloved father passed away after a long illness. It was a very gradual departure; for weeks, everyone thought that each hour might be Charlie’s last. The days immediately following his passing were unthinkably grueling for Karen and her family, but I’ll say this for imminent death: it clearly differentiates the things that matter from the things that don’t. Being together matters; how we look doesn’t. Love matters; status doesn’t. Having a roof over our heads matters; having a mansion doesn’t. Peace matters so much that by comparison, literally nothing else does.

A few months ago an interviewer asked me, “What are you most grateful for?” and I found myself cheerfully blurting, “Death!” There was a long silence, and then I stammered, “Er, well, it’s nice to think we don’t have to just, you know, keep doing stuff.” The interviewer did not seem to be going there with me. Oh, well, I thought; when I’m dying it won’t matter what she thinks of me. And then I remembered: We’re all dying!

Getting past the fear this creates has been a life’s work for me—a work very much still in progress. But after schlepping away at it for years, I now feel more awe and wonder than dread of death, and the knowledge of its inevitability gives me permission to do more and more of what matters, less and less of what doesn’t. In Africa, where I spent June, I had few possessions, no telephone or email, a very simple schedule. Since returning I’ve given away most of my clothes and set out to minimize things like unnecessary meetings, housework, correspondence, and especially thoughts that distract me from the amazement of being alive for a little while.

Think about whatever you have planned for the next few hours. Would you do this thing if you were currently helping a loved one cross the threshold of death? Will this thing matter to you at all when you’re the one crossing that threshold? If not, stop. Do something that matters in the face of mortality. Living this way makes death a benevolent guide that shows you how to create the best possible life you can have. And doing that brings peace, the peace that matters so much that nothing else can ever compare.

Leaps of Faith…Insight from Martha

Hello from Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, where I’m happily ensconced with several intrepid companions enjoying the African STAR (Self-Transformation Adventure Retreat). When I told an acquaintance that I lead seminars in the African bush, she responded, “Oh, my God, how did you get that job?” The long answer is: 1) This isn’t a read more…

Buddy Up and Giddy Up…Insight from Martha

I’m learning to ride a horse, which is a lot like driving a car, if cars were nervous and unpredictable and expressed their anxiety by leaping suddenly sideways and accelerating uncontrollably whenever the breeze picks up. Also their shock absorbers were made out of jerky. And they bit. So I sit on this huge beast read more…

Freedom From Fear…Insight From Martha

Lately I’ve become thoroughly exasperated with the part of my tiny brain that insists on continuously creating fear. Fear of dying soon. Fear of living too long. Fear of being alone. Fear of being spread out too thin between loved ones. Fear of drought. Fear of flooding. Fear of change. Fear of things staying the read more…