The Two Words That Changed My Outlook on Life
“I think it’s time to get up now…”
Those two powerful words “GET…UP” spoken matter-of-factly-but-with-a-loving voice by my father as a form of loving motivation, have become my empowerment mantra and a game changer for my outlook on life.
Back in May, I had been in bed for weeks. If you saw me on the TODAY Show hosting segments or selling my brand on QVC, these were the only times I left my bed. My sister-in-law would set up the segments for me as I was barely eating and just couldn’t find the energy. It took every bit of strength I had to shower, get dressed, do my hair/makeup, and prepare. The pandemic was winning. My uncle, who is now home and slowly recovering thankfully, had been on a ventilator for two and a half months with Covid-19 and the outlook at the time was extremely bleak. My three full-time jobs were all being done from my basement and there was so much unknown. My new show (that I had just launched right before the pandemic) was put on indefinite hold. For the first time in fifteen years, I had given up my apartment in New York City and to top it all off…my engagement just ended.
The last time I wrote for The Sunday Paper I wrote about my fairytale. This time I’m writing about life after the fairytale…about getting up and moving on when what you-think-is-your-happy-ending…isn’t. It is about turning the page, writing the next chapter and moving forward (even when the thought of getting up is insurmountable.)
Family is the number one priority in my life. When the lockdown started, I had my parents, brother, and sister-in-law, Hara, quarantined with me in my Long Island home—a home I had bought on my 40th birthday that I worked my entire adult life to buy. I felt like if they were in my four walls, I could protect them and they would all be safe. But I felt hopeless. The year was a mess. I always knew life had challenging chapters, but it seemed like everything was upside down. I was always the person to look for silver linings and bright spots, and now I just couldn’t find them. I do not know one person who has not been affected in some traumatic way this year: sickness, loss of a loved one, job-losses, heartbreak. This has truly been a life-changing year for everyone and I’m hoping that by sharing our stories, we can all find support and inspiration.
One year ago I was working twenty-hour days, some weeks seven-days-a-week, and I was traveling all the time. Between the TODAY Show in New York, numerous visits a week to QVC in Philly, and my work as a Knicks Broadcaster at the games—I was all over the place. Literally and figuratively. I didn’t celebrate the victories and I didn’t mourn the failures. I was constantly rushing…too fast…too all over the place. My friends would always say, “how are you always everywhere?” They would see me on QVC in the middle of the night selling my products and then live on the TODAY Show the next morning. My career was thriving, but I needed to slow down. I had just launched a show with NBC called, “Shop the Stars.” It was focused on pioneering a new platform of television combining the talk show format with shopping. I had been dreaming about bringing this show to life for a decade. I literally had mugs made before the show was even sold. I have always believed in the “if-you-build-it-it-will-come” strategy. But overnight…everything changed.
I have always measured success in terms of how happy I am. I now realize, deep down, I wasn’t really happy, just very distracted by the constant movement. Something needed to change.
The pandemic has served as a “strainer” for me in so many ways. Things that are supposed to be in your life remain, and what is not, goes. I believe energetically we are given what we can handle. I have learned to live in the moment, feel heartbreak and sit with it, look for the bright spots (because they are always there), stay in on a Friday night with absolutely no FOMO (fear of missing out), and most of all—find gratitude for all that I have.
A month ago, one of my closest friend’s mother passed away. It was sudden. We spoke every morning after it happened and one day I shared what my father said to me: I said, just “GET UP.” That is all you have to do. I cannot pretend to imagine the heartbreak of losing a parent (as I am typing this, even talking about it, I have tears running down my face), but I knew my friend needed a push. Every morning since then, my girlfriend texts me, “I’m UP!” And now she moves on with her day—often with tears, but she’s up…living…doing the best that she can. And right now, all we can ask of ourselves, is to do the best we can.
Since hearing my dad’s words, I have not only “gotten up” every day, I have pivoted and decided I am not going to let this pandemic win. Although things are not what I envisioned, I am living a “new normal” and being my own best friend. Instead of designing blazers, I have turned my attention to loungewear. I came out with face masks, hand sanitizer, and created packing cubes—all from my home. My new show “Shop the Stars” is on hold, but I came up with a way to host a similar show from home. The past few months, I have been working with an incredible team from TODAY producing a two hour shopping show from home (for all you Steals and Deals fans it streams tomorrow on Peacock at 9amET.) It was definitely a challenge putting on a production during the pandemic. Masks, temperature checks, keeping socially distant…the whole process was a challenge. My family served as co-hosts, we Skyped our celebrity interviews, and we surprised a deserving family with an early holiday surprise. It was different…because now everything is different. I am so proud of what we put together.
I am hoping my dad’s words can help you too. This Thanksgiving week, I am grateful for my uncle’s recovery (he actually called us from the gym yesterday!), my brother’s beautiful new wife, the ability to be able to pivot professionally, and most of all for my family’s health. Life is messy, but it is also filled with pretty incredible chapters. I believe we are all the directors of our own movies. We get to choose the characters, the storyline, the adventures. And although we can’t predict the twists and turns, we can control our reactions to them.
I read a quote the other day and it said something like, “let’s put the turkey in the oven, light the tree, open some presents…and call it a year.” I laughed and thought, since that can’t happen right now, I’ll just listen to what my father has taught me. I hope you’ll join me to kick off this Thanksgiving by GETTING UP—and thanking the people who motivate you to do so. And, just for the record, I still believe in fairytales…they are my favorite kind of stories.
Don’t miss “Peacock Presents: Holiday Steals and Deals with Jill Martin” on Monday, November 23rd at 9am ET in the TODAY All Day channel on Peacock and check out all the deals on Today.com/deals.
This essay was featured in the November 22, 2020 edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper publishes News and Views that Rise Above the Noise and Inspires Hearts and Minds. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.