Trouble sleeping... midnight-write.
So. Here it is... My son. My love-bug.
It's been a while since I've shared some precious, divine insight from this little dude.
Every once in a while, he just comes out with something, that's so out there. Way out in left field, and at 3.5 years old, I just don't know where he gets it. But I do believe there is a thin veil that separates us from other realities, what some call the spirit world. Different planes, if you will. Dimensions, sure. Whichever. And I believe that children are closer to this magic.
So, this morning, he started talking about babies. Out of the blue. And he told me this:
"Before you were a real baby, you were a pretend baby. You weren't really here yet."
"A pretend baby?" I asked.
"Yes. You were still pretend, you were in the circle, still." My arm hair stands up.
"Uh huh. Actually it's more like a swirly hook, Mom. But before you're a real baby, you're in that big circle, see? Then... you become real again."
"Wow, buddy. I love hearing you talk, do you know that? What a beautiful way you have to see things..." He smiled, laughed, and ran off to zoom his cars around before school, after that. And just as quickly as it started, the conversation was over.
But, wow. Now, the analytical mind can take this apart and turn it into a lot of nothing. As such minds do. But I find it intriguing.
I'm just gonna riff for a minute, bear with me. It's one of those days where things happen like dominoes and say the same thing, over and over, from many sources. And it just itches inside, like you have to mention it, too. Just because. You know? Anyway. It brought all this stuff back up, from when I first started to really delve into energy work, healing, intention, manifesting, etc...
Let's just chat, here:
So, circles. I've always had this vision of the collective consciousness, right? Since I was a teenager. More on that in my next book... but for me, it's like... a galaxy. A... universe, maybe. A giant, swirling spiral of energy imprints. Memories of being, of art, of inspiration, of hope, of fear. Echoes of intangible essence of the endless multitudes, swirling in the cosmic goo, in some plane that we can't access directly, while in these bodies. Yet, when we meditate, when we create art, when we reach those peak and blessed flow states, when the analytical mind shuts off and we lose ourselves in creation... I think we tap into this spiral. This... circle. We channel, we direct energy into art, we understand deeper and deeper truths, we communicate with memories of loved ones. We step into the in-between: a foot in each world. In the middle. Perhaps, that's why they call it... medium. A conduit for energy, in the middle of two worlds.
So, cool. A recap of my view of spirituality and energy.
But to hear my son talk about pre-birth, and being part of the circle? It blew my mind. Back when he first started talking, I asked him for kicks: "what's the meaning of Life?" To which he answered, "circle."
Or...he is just closer to magic, and us? As we age, we grow cynical and creep further away from it.
Who knows. But I thought you'd enjoy the story. The whole thing filled me with some sort of connection and hope and Love. So, I thought I'd share... as I do. I think I'll doze off, now.
xoxo Goodnight, dreamers xoxo
I thought I had come to California looking for horses. That's what drew me out here; the wide open land given to these majestic creatures; throwbacks to a wilder and forgotten west. I swooned for their photos, I fell into them. The wildness that was still in these creatures, the neighing and bucking and kicking and running into the horizon, manes in the wind. Unbridled. Free. Charging mares, leading herds, tending foals. And perhaps I will still find them when that time is right.
But upon landing out here, I was taken by the water, foremost.
The Atlantic shores are beautiful, but for some reason, these waters...the Pacific...are different. The shores she touches. The stories she swallows, the secrets she holds. Oh, these waters hold so much. They have seen and felt so much. And in that, as a whole, as a body of water, a being in its own right... she is that much more calming. It's a powerful, cleansing presence. A deep healing. Not to mention the sheer majestic and aesthetic beauty of the area; it's no wonder writers and artists flock here over the decades. The vistas are unmatchable.
But Steinbeck. I was first hit as I toured Cannery Row, which is now a giant consumer-wonderland. Which is fine. I bought a souvenir or two, some t-shirts for my son. A refrigerator magnet. I'm a sucker for that stuff, within reason. My first day there, as I was walking up and down the streets, weary from a few hours in the car after leaving San Francisco, I snuck around back, behind a closed shop, to the boardwalk. Or pier, whichever. All the chairs were turned upside-down on the tables; this particular deck was empty.
I considered Steinbeck's writing, his growing up in Salinas, and his visits to this very bay and other points along the coast. And the man, the good friend Ed Ricketts, who inspired Doc. His trouble with marriage and relationships, in general. And the water! Oh, it's impressive. Overwhelming.
I had read a little bit about Steinbeck the night before, because someone in San Francisco mentioned that the area was great for writers, being that it's "Steinbeck-land." Now, of course, I knew who he was, I read Of Mice and Men in school. Grapes of Wrath. I did the assigned reading, but never delved fully into the man that he was: his motivations, his sorrows, his dreams.
As I toured the area and the Steinbeck exhibit in Salinas, and as I read more about the man... I felt such heartbreak. Disillusionment. Internal battle. Here was a man who saw great injustices and great stories and he had to get them out. He had to. And they were good stories with great themes. What I found heartbreaking, nearly tragic, was how his novel The Winter of Our Discontent was received and critiqued, as it won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But it was more than that.
John Steinbeck was a highly sensitive man, it would seem. A deep, mysterious, brooding, Piscean artist, who felt that the world was spinning off its rails, losing its morality. He saw the coming of the fifties and sixties and to him it was a breakdown in society and decent values. He felt things deeply. He felt his world crumbling and wanted to write about it. Fight it, perhaps. But at a minimum, provide a chronicle. He went out on the road with his dog, Charley, and wanted to revisit and recapture the America that he once knew, after spending time away, in New York and Long Island. he wanted to see real people, small towns, local bars, not the affluence and facade that he'd been living in.
"I nearly always write - just as I nearly always breathe..." - John Steinbeck
And later, when his novel was shunned so hard, despite praise from others, he put his pen down and never wrote another novel. And to feel that kind of pain and humiliation inside, is just heartbreaking to me. And I could feel how soothing those waters were, and must've been, to him. And to so many.
In reading Travels With Charley, just now, being that I was so taken with the man and his story and his need to see the country... I can't help but reach back and pull some lessons out...or some parallels, at a minimum. It's what I do.
Steinbeck came from a family of Republicans, and changed a bit when he saw more of the world and got out his his hometown. His perspectives on Life changed. When he'd returned home, arguments would ensue:
"Let's just be friendly and loving. No politics tonight." And ten minutes later we would be screaming at each other.
And so it was, and so it still is. Steinbeck knew he was nearing his last days. He felt his world deteriorating. I can't imagine the ache inside. Well, actually, I can. I think so many of us can, which is why he and so many writers like him are so resonant. Particularly now, in this climate, when the world feels divided and torn up, much like it did then. Those of us who truly do feel deeply want to find things to mend; to help that ache. And it's a humanity-sized ache, a global ache. There is a real and dire need to heal someone, something, anything, everything. Or a touch of madness grows in the absence of that longed-for resolution. And in that madness, oh, does distraction blossom. Numb, numb, numb the ache. With a drug, a habit, a spoon, a television, a drink, an over-zealous need to disappear into something other than what is, rather than live a healthy balanced life. And it's not easy, we've all got our things. Hopefully our addictions don't harm and make us ill.
And how did moderation become such a rogue idea?
We seem to be commanded by a world that favors extremes. Extremes in diet, in entertainment, in lifestyles, in just about everything. Nice, easy, simple living has become a lifestyle choice, something that has to be taught and remembered, rather than...just how things are. We have to be told and reminded with blips and beeps and timers and gadgets to relax and breathe and sleep and eat. I get it, John Steinbeck, I get it. The players have changed, the scenery is different, but it's the same game. And now, we have the internet. And do you know how often you're meme'd John? A lot.
I walked the coast again, and thought, in imaginary conversation with this writer I'd become enmeshed and obsessed with...
Despite the flack you got about that one book, John Steinbeck, I mean... wow, man. You did it. Didn't you? Your books are required reading in schools and libraries. Iconic. Champion of writing the proletariat. Great sense of place and giving voice to the everyman. You are part of the canon, good sir. I wish you could've seen it happen, in the flesh.
It's a lazy Sunday.
It rained most of the morning. We stayed in, played with cars, danced to the ukulele, we sang. Threw in some laundry. We ate a quick lunch; leftovers. Don't feel bad, they were delicious. And now we're sitting in the living room. Some sort of golf is on.
And a commentator said something that just...resonated.
They were discussing Dell's $36m contribution to help support recovery efforts down in Houston. They all wore ribbons, for solidarity. #IStandWithTexas And this man spoke, after the razzle-dazzle they had to do (I'm paraphrasing, here, it's not verbatim):
"Americans are amazing. We may seem to have our divisions and difficulties, we seem to be divided on so many issues. But when disaster hits, when things like this happen, we pull together like nothing you've seen. Strings of experience and emotion that resonate within all of us. And tragedy and hardship bind us together."
I found myself agreeing with him. Nodding. "Yes," I said to the television screen, as if it could nod back.
These strings. These things, that bind us together. Even from the golf channel guy, this is just a truth. And a beautiful one.
And I can't help but reminisce; remember those weeks during and after Superstorm Sandy.
The fear, the uncontrollable and unknown that loomed, the anger, the petty violence when the gas ran out. The impatience, just... all the ugly things we saw. But also, the beautiful things we saw in each other. The way we all came together when we needed to. All of my friends that now bicker back and forth on FB about Trump and so on, back then, all equally chipped in and donated and cared and worked to help friends or strangers empty out basements. Provide blankets and gloves and jackets and clothing and soap and toothbrushes and anything else that you could think of...to the closest and hardest hit areas: for us, the Rockaways. The south shore had a lot of damage. Jersey Shore. There was a lot. And it took a while, for sure. I still run into families who haven't quite made it to even, financially, since the storm hit.
But, beyond that...in those moments...the Love that came through in the darkest times.
I began a novel that I've yet to really write, during that storm. When I had done what I could to get some useful goods to the Rockaways, via local friends with big trucks... and I couldn't find anything else to organize within my own space... and there were no more candles to assemble or devices to charge up, driving in circles...
I became still. So still. And how still my little sphere of the world was. Outside.
I was moved to tears when we lost power for days. It was autumn, and after the storm moved out, I sat outside and marveled at the sky. At the neighborhood. Others around were scurrying about, stocking up on water, reading by flashlight, praying together, feeding their neighbors, or anything to just keep warm and busy... but I was awe-struck with the night sky. The Northeast was dark and I couldn't believe how many stars were really up there. They were just pouring down on me, layers upon layers of them, billions of flashes light. They're up there and we just don't see it, beyond the haze of artificial light pollution.
I glanced up and down the street. And for a few moments, I was back in time. A past, before electricity. I could see, in my mind's eye, horses tied up and drinking water. A saloon, down the way. Lanterns, instead of streetlights. The scenery and the technology was different, but people...were the same. We're all sort of the same, deep down, at the core of things. Work, rest, eat, sleep, play, love. Repeat.
And in those same moments, I flashed forward. Looking back is easy. But what if our future looked like this? Seeing how a few days' inconvenience had rattled and disturbed people, so deeply, I began to wonder how truly prepared we'd be if we had to take care of ourselves. How dependent we'd become on technology. Our computers, phones, automobiles, all of it. How dependent. How disrupted we'd be.
Anyway. Always the artist...always finding the beautiful moments to boil down and take with me.
But I can't help but think back to how a-light I was, being among people-helping-people. Giving to give, and how that felt. The strength in numbers, the unity, the hope, the bounce-back, the community. It changed me. Naysayers and the dooms-dayers were running in circles with their hands in the air and bibles in their pockets, saying that we had it coming. 2012, this was THE STORM. We were done for. End of days. REPENT. No. Wasn't true then, and it's not now. That's all fear and nonsense and they are very convenient ways to take your money; from my perspective. Weather happens, it's part of life on this planet, but it doesn't target anyone over anyone else. I think most of us understand this simple concept. But then, many didn't, with all the Mayan calendar hullabaloo.
The only real change I'd seen was a change in consciousness. That, I believe in.
I just find myself feeling so invested in what Houston is going through, because we were so close to it, here. it brings a lot back. It's devastating to witness, even if you aren't directly impacted in a big way. To just be close to it, near enough to it, to feel all of that pain, suffering, cold, and fear. It's an ominous sort of can't sleep tonight feeling, that lingers. A wariness. A haunting sadness and grief, for so many. It felt crippling, for days.
I've been there. I remember. But I got by, back then, by doing what I could in my immediate circle. Finding bits of solitude, away from the noise. Finding hope and lightness again.
So many of us wish that we could do more, so we do what we can: we donate goods, we share information, we invest in benefit concerts, we help each other, we pray, we send love and light and peaceful blankets of energetic obliviousness to sleep beneath. We do what we can. It's a lot to feel. It's just, a lot to feel and process at once. But it settles. Water recedes. Economies adjust in some way, and people adjust. Big storms like this leave a huge imprint. They can be tragic and heartbreaking, but also incredibly inspiring, as they bring out the very best of humanity, as they follow their hearts to give and help, however they can.
Because people, in general, love each other. That's the deep-down truth. We just care about each other. And I wish I could do more. But I've done what I can. Donated where I can. And will always continue to. <3
Sending Love and Peace, Texas. xoxo
The Reluctant Muse
he once asked
and i had no answer
i still don't
it wasn't something i sought
not the result of some lonely-night thought
it started with a look,
a moment, a whisper
a handshake, a glimmer
a hint of
new, yet familiar
an astonishment that
men like him
did exist, in this world
an acceptance of all that i learned to
question, deep, within myself
and i had to save it
again and again and again
and i still do
i knew i couldn't write him into my life
but i could write him into the hearts of so many
and light them up
win their hearts
the way he ignited mine
once upon a time
he lives now in my pen
in my heart
in my head
in all the thoughts
that are still left unsaid
and why wouldn't they be?
to imagine you stepping out of the page
at this point
seems quite surreal
another lingering mystery
i never pretend there's a
you and me
but i'm intrigued by you
and all that you see
to speak, i wouldn't know where to start
but to imagine, to write, to sculpt you into art?
this appeals to my heart
and these stories of you
shiver cold and burn hot
i don't know
perhaps you could ask
what if there is no Meaning?
what if we are here, simply to Love?
To relish in what was once an abundant paradise?
what if...we had it all:
rivers, streams, wildlife, waterfalls?
conscious thought to appreciate it all
and to see and connect with each other?
and maybe somewhere,
in the realm of conscious thought,
we began to question and seek.
the seek for meaning, we had to assign meaning
great, grand, unquestionable meaning,
to such simple beauty and abundance.
we had to explain it to ourselves,
a prime reason for existence,
for what was once Heaven on earth.
to be sure, such paradise came with perils:
natural disasters and unexpected events;
the very wrath and ferocity of nature, Herself.
let us always remember that to be natural
is to be both beautiful and serene,
while also being savage and unapologetic.
utmost beauty and Light in contrast
with destruction and darkness.
this is Life. at its most simple, without pretense
and the delicious sugarcoating that we love so much.
the glaze that makes our lives so palatable and sweet,
the desire to magnify the beautiful
and look past the broken and raw and ferocious.
but we had to find meaning,
we had to, and we do still.
and so we created belief.
and then there were divergent beliefs.
this caused conflict.
and hell on Earth,
as humans battled with their beliefs
in their attempts to understand and explain what was given
in such simplicity and ease in Being.
we are here to work and to Love,
to care for ourselves and others,
to nourish and replenish,
to celebrate, to dance, to smile.
in our search to create meaning,
we've lost our true purpose.
what Life ought to mean:
Love, effort, abundance, celebration, creation, consolation, connection
what we've created in our time here:
conflict, judgments, illness, imbalance, cruelty, distortion, stagnancy, hatred, greed
we've also created:
progress, growth, art, masterpieces,
bold and unabashed testaments to our collective existence.
we bear witness to our searching hearts,
we provide proof of our existence,
we leave imprints, we plan and calculate memories
in a desperate attempt to scream out that
WE WERE HERE.
but what if there is nothing to fix?
what if this is who we are?
what if... Life... is simply this?
but not just to live
but to dive in deep
and live loudly.
to communicate, freely.
to express, to feel,
to move beyond,
to not conceal,
but to show, to share,
to glow, to be aware
of each other, so gratefully.
and how precious is this?
these strings, these precious things,
these tethers, these threads,
a simple tug, a lonely moment,
travels and connects us
to each other, but really,
back to ourselves.
because to see each other's eyes
and to breathe each other's sighs
above and between the
clenched fists and the cries
is to be Love
to be in connection
to be awakened
to know that we are all in it together
it's not how long Life is,
but it's what we do with it.
perhaps this is the question to ask:
not the why, and wherefore, and how-come
of it all, but the what.
deep into Life.
what are we doing with it?
As many of my readers know, I am a big advocate for anxiety. I've been through it, in every possible manifestation. My mind has entertained every possible reality or un-reality, in my lifetime. So...I know.
I just get it, like that. I'd out-weird you in 3 milliseconds.
That said, I've been paying attention to my own ebbs and flows, lately. Because the point...the meaning... the message in ALL OF THIS... is to keep learning and keep sharing out. When we focus on ourselves, and our small, narrow spot on this hunk of rock, we become overwhelmed and anxious and get stuck. But when we flip it, find the lesson, and share it...we let it cycle through us. In and then out.
I've often wanted to survey people with anxiety and "personality disorders" and look for common denominators. I know straight off how many folks have gifts that they struggle with and it often results in anxiety, depression, cyclic emotions. And there are ongoing debates about this: is it mental or spiritual? Was John of God...a true healer and mystic? Or would the DSM categorize him as mentally ill, and his followers as naive fools? Or do we just not know enough yet about the brain, mind, soul to even guess? This is an ages-old debate, and there is no answer. It's like trying to solve and impossible riddle; God or not? Things that can't be proven or disproven take on a special sheen, an allure of the unknown, they become surrounded with mystique and drama and excitement and worship. Because it engages us in searching. it's delicious, we get to go on a quest. A journey.
I'd also be curious to see how many of us, who struggle with these ways of seeing and being in the world, have been close to death. And this is a part of my new writing project...how a near-death experience can create pathways into new and alien understandings, never before witnessed. And how those moments change us, eternally. And I think true anxiety stems from something so simple: awareness. To be awake, alive and attentive in one's life, is to notice. To notice what is happening all around us, to internalize and empathize and wonder. To associate and try to understand. Always questioning. And such awareness leads to deeper awareness, within. It's a true paradox: because to remain in safety, in the middle, not disturbed by the goings-on of the physical world, is to be disconnected to much of Life. Numb. It's a bit of a bubble-wrap existence. Which sometimes, is needed and preferred, for our own well-being. But on the other side of that, if we venture out...we face those unknowns, which induce fear, anxiety, panic...there's no easy way about it. Unless, you are numb and in the deep-seated routines of our mechanized society, like Cipher...back in The Matrix, enjoying his steak, and are truly oblivious. Ignorance as bliss.
I once saw this psychic, out in Dix Hills, her name was Karen. She was the most in-tune, spot on, detail-driven reader that I'd ever seen. She had a true gift. I do believe, and know, that some of us have true gifts, and now more than ever. Although there are also plenty of enterprising folks who are great actors and will gladly take your money to confirm that yes... you are sad and "your soulmate is coming. Please by the True Love candle for $20 and light it on the full moon." It's an old line and they all use it, because it's such a common plight. Be wary of those. I call them "record-players," because they all repeat each other. They are well-trained and play on insecurities, they can read body language and subtle cues.
Those with true gifts have met and communicate with Spirit and can read subtle energies. They gather clues and symbols from the ether...and steer through the fog to some Truth that resonates with you, that helps you, that validates concern and points you toward a path of healing and growth. True psychics are teachers, sharers, ponderers...they just can't not. They often make money, but they can't not share, or their gifts will literally tear at their psyche propelling them into distress and disorder. Often they have troubled pasts until they come to terms with what they are experiencing. It's really fun when they're skeptics because it turns everything upside-down. Anyway. I greatly admire those true teachers, I've been very, very blessed and humbled to have crossed paths with some who are really out of this world. Selfless, humble, kind, compassionate, and never enabling. Always empowering, even when it's hard. Role-models. Superheroes, in my eyes. Living to teach and inspire and not indulging in nonsense. Which is also teaching; it's leading by example and showing us how to set boundaries. My heart goes out to them, my soul honors them; deep bow, deep bow in gratitude.
But Karen... well, she gave me specific dates, she did auto-writing, and everything panned out, perfectly. She wrote down the birthdate of my son...years and years before I met his father. She just saw things. A beautiful soul, one that melded with and changed mine, as some special souls do. And way back when, she also made a comment that always stuck with me: "I see squirrels in the attic. You're sitting there, watching life from the second-story window. You're commenting, and watching, and imagining, and pointing. Packing away your little nuts and berries, for later. You're safe. But you're not really living, are you? You're watching."
Wow. Haunting. For years and years. No more attic windows, I declared.
And writing, well...it's a peculiar thing. To me writing...is like a self-inflicted torture. It's isolating, challenging, heartbreaking, scintillating, exhausting, invigorating, maddening, and yet...it's salvation. It's induced madness, it's breaking your own heart, it's bleeding for art, constantly. And i love it. <sicko
But it does keep me in "the attic." Which is why I always push myself out. A new adventure, a new story, a new enchantment, a new mode of creativity to employ. Something to start the creative fires burning, something to make me feel alive, something to connect me, enliven me, jumpstart me. I'm someone who must feel and live the bits of story before I write them. That doesn't mean Ana was autobiographical, but that certain scenes and moments were flavored with truth, from actual experience. Well, some...Antonio was made up. A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste. :)
And the current project is also inspired by real-life. Lessons that are lived through, painfully, in many cases. It's a bit psychotic, to intentionally hurl myself into lesson-bearing experiences, but I'm learning loads, and at the end of the day, I get to be someone who can lay out some cold, hard truth, from the ground, from the front-lines of Life...to throw it back to those stuck in the mud: Here are some things that work...you're not alone...and you can absolutely get through this. What a gift to even be able to do that. Grateful for every encounter so far, in this Campbell-esque journey, truly. Deeply. I take none of it for granted.
So, one thing I became keenly aware of in my throes of anxiety, a few years back, was the isolation. Having an entire world to fear, a thousand voices, every word a possible threat, and not being able to explain it to anyone. And the disillusionment, which is the killer for so many of us. We idealize and wear our rose-colored glasses, and when those ideals crumble, as they must, we are distraught. Illusions fall, and once again, we are naked and trembling, lost in the void, climbing out of the primordial soup, searching for anything to cling to. That's where that spark inside is found.
And it is there, right there, in that deep pit...where the choice is made. Give up, start the dying process. Become bitter and stagnant and lost in your pain. Or fight. Lost your mind? Make a new one. Reconfigure your life as you would your hard-drive. Defrag and dump what doesn't work, limit interactions and input to those that can lift you up, inspire you, remind you why it's worth it. Environment is key, internal and external. We are amazing, resilient, self-healing machines. As much as I jokingly bash tech, I admit that we, human beings, are incredible, electric machines that work on and with energy. It's all the same, I see that now.
And anxiety can be crippling. It can stop us from living the lives that we want to. But there are ways to reinvent ourselves, find focus, notice and steer away from destructive behavior when we need to, our own or someone else's, and find ourselves back where we should be...within ourselves, present, alert, and ready to experience Life. Committed to the work, which is different for each of us.
And for me, spirituality has been a cornerstone. And it's non-negotiable, it's a reality for me. Religion is not, but spirituality is. It's an undercurrent, a coming-home, a knowledge and wisdom, deep inside, that we're all connected. I've seen it and felt it. That unconditional Love is real, that these connections are real. And that God is Love, and that we can heal with Love. Which is why I have no problems when people get religious around me, because I don't put men in white robes or any of that into my equation. So I don't get turned off, really. Each individual has their own God or figure head in place, to represent that pure Love. God is Love, I might even go so far as to say that God can be... all of us, aligned, in service to each other, for Love. I might say that we, collectively, joined in consciousness, are God, or at the very least, channels for God/Love/Universal energy to flow through. And how often we forget to connect, within. MEDITATE. It starts within.
Love, the most powerful force in the Universe. The most formidable weapon that we have against hate. But don't listen to me, I'm a hippie. Naive. I take kick after kick, live in constant disillusion, and still choose to understand and Love people that don't understand me. And that's fine. I don't do it to get it back, I do it because the world needs it. Because when we send out those tendrils of hope, compassion, understanding, when we resonate and acknowledge, a new world is born, leaving its new inhabitants changed...hopefully for the better. I believe in waves and ripples, I believe that energy is contagious, I believe that it's never a mistake to genuinely care for someone and wish for their best.
And it doesn't always work, because...anxiety, all around. We're brilliant on our own, wrapped in our art and our safe spaces. And then we interact. Enter variables. It's become an act of courage and bravery to be the first one to consider perspective, and choose empathy. To put down the shield, to lower our guards and say...hey... it's all good. We're cool. Go do you. Nothing but Love, here. And yes, it's exhausting and confusing and trying and sometimes, we make mistakes. And there are times we need mile-high barriers because not everyone means us well.
Because we are also human and fallible. And we get nervous and confused and we overthink and get further and further away from those little kids inside of us that just want to play, and we put up these walls to push people back and away from us, because we just don't know if we can trust them. Because Life is hard, and things suck, and we grow weary. That happens. Oh well. But I still Love. Like one of those inflatable dolls that you punch and it bounces back, smiling like a dope. < yeah, me. Let me try this again, I know I'll get it right this time. But not forever, I know when to let go and move along. And we're just not compatible with everyone. (I'm like a fungus though, I grow on people. :) Just give it time...)
Anyway, I'd rather walk through Life knowing and appreciating this magic, this force, that connects and drives us. If its all in our heads, why choose to live in a self-created hell? No, not for me. Not anymore. I allow myself to flow in and out and experience different ways of being, to gather perspectives. I will take any hardship or challenge and spin it around and try...try... to make something beautiful with it. Sometimes we can't. But I always try, first. Gullible? Maybe. But determined to spread Love and sincerity and wide-open humiliating heart-sharing wherever I can. Because we need it. I've wanted to rebuild the world in Love since high school. Finally, all these years later, it feels like the world is catching up. Or...I'd just been in the wrong places and didn't see or feel it. Environment.
Many think that being spiritual, is being religious. Believing in a God-head, following a set of rituals, and all the rest. Not so. True spirituality is found in our humanity. In compassion, kindness, altruism, loving attention, forgiveness. Seeing the best in people and urging them on. Planting seeds of hope and encouragement, to combat the negativity that surrounds us. Choosing to hold the torch...the lamp... beside the golden door. To illuminate the path. To support, without harm. To acknowledge, to appreciate. To understand. And this is huge. I think one thing that an anxious, deep-thinking mind craves, more than anything, is understanding. That moment of: I see you, I get you, you're not nuts, I think that stuff too. Lots of people do. You're not alone, in there. There is a huge clan of us that see the world differently and take in the world in different ways. We're all weird and squirrely. And we're all in it together. <3
So, I'm finally getting around to telling this story:
Her name is Ilana Limoni. She's a local library patron, a sweet soul, and a woman with a lifetime of stories and...art. If you Google her name you might find some blogs about her needlework. She's devoted endless hours to scripture (The Torah) and to visualizing and creating her masterpieces, which are wall-panel sized creations of epic scope.
She showed us (a co-worker and I) to the table where she prepared lunch: a simple German potato salad, with peas, pickles (yum), eggs...it was delicious and light. Served on romaine leaves with cherry tomatoes. Lovely.
Later, she showed us around. At first, the jaded control freak inside me started to rumble..."we have to get back to work, we punch a time clock!" Raaaaa... shush, I said to myself. Surrender...
The more we gazed, the more transfixed I became. She showed us her easel, her worktable, where she conceptualized each piece, the images, the Hebrew characters that would tell the stories that she wanted to convey. So many of the epic parables that we grew up with in the West, these grand and lasting stories: the stone tablets, Moses parting the Red Sea and the Exodus...the detail was impeccable and her devotion was touching and astounding. This woman is a true artist. A slow, deliberate, meticulous, and deeply inspired artist. A master at her craft. Some of these pieces should be in a museum of some kind.
In the other rooms, were some non-religious pieces. She offered some of her pieces to my co-worker and I. (I should mention that we help her get books and have known this woman for quite some time, there's a friendship here. It's not normal for us to visit the homes of our patrons.) Anyway. I saw this piece, the one pictured above, and I was smitten. Drawn in. Women and changing seasons? Um....yes, please. Oh my Goddess! Me, up and down. I loved it and I was grateful to accept it. It will hang in my bedroom.
The experience blew me away. Here was a woman that I spoke to on the phone, she asked after my son, often gave generous gifts on his behalf...and behind closed doors...she is this artist. I was blown away.
How often...do we take people for granted? Not knowing what happens in their daily lives, what and who they are, in their private time. What might they truly think and ponder, what might they be creating. What gifts lay hidden, beneath the surface.
"See the Light in others, and treat them as if that's all you see..." - Wayne Dyer
I always say that each of us has some special gift, maybe more than one, if we're truly blessed. And something happens. If we're not raised in an environment that supports free expression and exploration of the Self, we often stuff these gifts down, where they become hidden. Pushed and shoved into a box, smaller and smaller until they're barely noticeable. Because sometimes, it just hurts too much to feel the desire to create and the inner knowing of more, with no freedom to pursue such things. So, we get into school and we're expected to conform. To fit. To quiet our inner impulses to see the world differently and spit it back out; digested and reformed into the way that we see it and understand it. We're dissuaded from a path that might foster growth and the celebration of our gifts and creativity by those who were wrapped in their own fears and ideas of Life. And so another cycle continues...go to school, memorize facts, don't question anyone, and then get out and exhaust yourself making money for someone else, savoring the weekends, longing for those getaways. And becoming dependent on a cyclic system that keeps us in one place. Work, eat, sleep, spend. Etc...
And in the "rat race" as they call it, in this blind stupor, this routine, that we've become accustomed to living in, day in and day out...we lose that...spark. That thing, that tingle that sets us on fire, from within. That thing that connects us, so deeply, to something bigger, something vast, something unseen and magical and powerful and passionate. That thing that makes our eyes open just a bit wider and the hairs on our necks stand up. That makes our heart beat just a bit faster, at the idea of being able to pour ourselves into it, uninterrupted. That thing that pulses, deep, deep inside, and we just know that others are waiting for it, that only we can shape it in our particular way, and share it. The thing that we can lose ourselves in, lose time in, and find ourselves in after a matter of deconstruction. Our...art. And it doesn't have to be visual art. I'm talking about song, dance, sculpture, writing, poetry, painting, speaking, film, photography...needlework. Anything, really. Anyone who can imagine a thing and pull that idea from the ether and manifest it, into physical form, in the present....is an artist. A creator. A force of all that is natural and vital and primal and pure.
Because at our core, beneath the busyness and struggle and complaint and rushing back and forth, beneath the bills and obligations and appointments and people-pleasing and noise...we are creators. Way back, before industrialization, before becoming so "civilized," human beings had a psycho-spiritual connection with their home...our planet. And we celebrated the Sun and Moon, the tides, the stars...oh, the stars. The Gods, in the Heavens. The elements: Fire, Water, Air, Earth...plus, the all-encompassing Spirit, the energy that holds us all together ...made up all that is Life.
"Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else." - Leonardo DaVinci
We are amazing creatures simmering with all sorts of potential to feel, hear, and see our world and everything, everyone in it...with the eyes of God, with the eyes of Creation, itself. It's already within us, sometimes deep, so deep, that we forget. Sometimes it takes a shaking, of sorts, a vigorous change of perspective, a world flipped upside down...in order to find that spark. An awakening. A reckoning, a moment of realization, that yes! Yes! There is more, I am more!
You are. We are. All of us. And being there, sitting with people, and living in a way that encourages them to explore, within, and look for that spark? Is becoming a life's quest and purpose for me, in and of itself.
I remember when driving back from my failed Boston adventure with my father (the historian), and the epic conversations we had. Remembering...as a species...how much we've created. In the history of the human being. Look around you. At anything. At the device in your hands, right now. Once upon a time? Sand, maybe.
Imagine a world, raw and vast and teeming with unimaginable dangers and beauty at every turn. Unexplored. Brand new. Raw materials, only. Earth. Water. Air. Fire. Fire meant heat. Heat could alchemize and transform things. We could melt things, cook things, change things at a molecular level. Imagine having to take sand, mud, water...and create all the synthetics and materials that you'd need to build an iPhone. With a microchip, to make it work. And an unbreakable rumble-cover. And the cute little decals on the back. Could you possibly fathom how to do that? With a handful of dirt? No. Unlikely. We're too far removed from our innate capacity to create new things out of raw materials and inspired ideas.
We're too busy. Buried beneath sound, clutter, routines, and obligations. We've forgotten who we really are.
I don't expect anyone to duck out of society and abandon everything that they know and love, to go live a la Lennie and George, "off the fat of the land." But I will say, that carving out time to hear ourselves? To allow new ideas and inspiration to bubble forth? To allow time for crafting, creating, inventing, theorizing...creating time, for the New? Is life-changing. Even the thought. Even entertaining and holding that thought, "I will create time alone, and allow my Self...to take the floor. I will spend time with just me, for me. And see what happens." Just in that declaration, you are making a choice. And that choice creates a ripple that tells the rest of You, that this is important. And all the little beings and systems and ideas and energy that make up You...begin to get to work, in creating that time for you. Sometimes, even that, just making Time...is a first step. And it's huge.
And it's absolutely worth taking. You are worth that time. And i'm sure, I know, that beneath everything that you believe about who you must be and how you must show up, there is a magic within you that wants to express something. Something that no one else, not one of us, can. Not how you can, because it's yours. Alone. And the more we let it out, the more rises up, and wants out...too. Choosing to honor your creativity sets a new standard for how You do You. It builds momentum. And you get to step out there on that ledge, over and again, a new journey, each time.
More and more alive, each time. Until that nearly damp still smoldering ember becomes a burning flame, that can light up all of humanity, eventually. I believe this. I believe it truly is contagious. And I believe we are underway, toward a new way of being in this world. Awakened, alight, alive, inspired, compassionate, honest. Toward a collective good, an evolving populace, that will raise up all of us, into a thriving future. Not an unbalanced utopia, but a balanced and healthy world, that represents the best of all of our divergent ideas. Brought together, for a greater good, that serves all of humanity.
Big dreams, yes.
Where clean waters have the freedom to flow and nourish, wherever they meander. With towering, cleansing trees and greens and lush forests, to filter and heal our outdoor spaces. With restored and nourished soil, that grows vibrant living food, in a way that makes sense, for all of us. For all of us. It's a huge planet. There is enough. If we can start to shift how we live on it. And these are the waves that we see, toward focus of the Self. Energy imprint, healthy lifestyles, knowledge of Self and less co-dependence, compassion, caring, and a desire to serve in some way. A longing, a deep-seated need to uplift for the greater good. And it's loaded, for sure. Because we are so divided, with the remnants of old ideas that don't serve anymore. Not where we're going.
It's epic, really.
There is me. And then my family. Friends. Community. Town, State. And somehow...we've all jumped to a worldview, a global village. While countries deteriorate and fight, within. Something is missing. We need to focus on our countries, so that each limb of this current working (?) surface-built system called Life on Earth can flourish and heal, even as we heal, underneath all of that. Healing in the physical, in real-time, at the country level, and then participating, together, at a global level, will help usher in a healthy and sustainable global village faster than depending on individuals, even working collaboratively. We must all work on multiple levels, not just in energy, not just on the ground. It's both. Together. The connective energetic tissue and the physical manifestations that lead us in body and daily living. It's both.
Just my thoughts, of course. But I do know that it's all connected. We don't get to skip things because they're hard. The hard is where the work is. it is my wish to work toward rehabilitating and uplifting the American Dream, in a way that is reverent and respectful, of this land's first people. I don't think we did it right the first time. I think our current leadership is a huge wake-up call to get our shit together. To restore the values, ideals, freedoms, creative pursuits and inventions...that came with a New Frontier. This land is great one, for many reasons. Regardless of who is in charge, I LOVE this country. I love the initial idea of it: a land free of persecution, where new and emerging ideas could flourish. The United States of America, was in and of itself, an idea, brought into being my rebels and visionary thinkers. Bells ringing? And it's still a good one, if we could fix what we broke when we first got started. And we broke a lot of stuff, we stole from people, we hurt people. We just did it wrong. All around. I just want us to do our part, in trying to get it right. For our children's children. And our planet. That's all. No biggie, really. <3
I woke up this morning still sleepy, having stayed up too late writing, as I do sometimes.
I would've slept later, but in remembering a dentist appointment that I had, I did my thing and rushed out the door. I had "cleaning, 10 am," in my planner. I was ushered right in, no problem. I sat down.
"So, you're here for a filling..."
Gulp. Uh, no...? "No, I'm not, I'm getting a cleaning, I thought it was a cleaning." I'm prepared for a cleaning!
"No, it's a filling. You had a cleaning last month."
Gulp again. The mind, the mind...the inner dialogue beings...
I'm not prepared. I'm not ready for this, I was counting on it being something else. This isn't what I thought, what is happening? This is all silently, mind you. On the outside, was, "hey, whatever, I knew I made an appointment for sumthin, haha...no worries..." Inner turmoil continues. Novocain. Jaw tightness. Pressure, drilling, numbness, not being able to eat... I haven't even had coffee yet!? Shut up brain, shut up.
And so it went for a minute or so, until the dentist and assistant started their weird conversation about Tiger Woods and all kinds of other weirdness. It began with a chat about Father's Day, and how my Pops likes to zone out in his chair and just watch the Open. All day. Golf, golf, golf. Then we went into Tiger. And behavior, and addiction, and cheating, and Hollywood and affairs, and the otherworldliness that celebrity-lifestyle can bring. It was starting to circle the drain for a bit, but the conversation shifted, quickly. In every conversation, every interaction, there will be whisper of deep truth, almost as if from the universe to you...if you listen. You have to wait for it, listen for it, but always something poignant and meaningful and worthy of exploration will pop out. And it's usually accompanied by a momentary shift in perspective. That rare glimpse when we jump into another's shoes.
Doc said, "although, I can't imagine...being so much the center of attention, not knowing what people truly want you for. For the fame, the connections, the money, the places they can take you... or are they being loved for who they truly are, the person beneath the image?"
Wow...right? Deep thoughts on the dentist chair, while the novocain set in. I can't imagine the challenges in identity, and how important it must be to stay grounded, and know who you are, who you can trust. I'm not excusing Tiger Woods' behavior, for even a minute, but rather...appreciating the environment in which celebrities and phenoms live. Life under a lens. I can mosey in and out of a movie theater, no problem, no one cares. If I were Tiger? Nope. Spotted, chased, hunted, reported on, judged, scrutinized. It must be quite a challenge today, taking the celebrity route. I can imagine it would be quite lonely, at times. Here's me! (Not really though, that's my image...) So the real person is tucked away and saved for friends, family, trusted folks. It's a kind of schizophrenia, it seems, if you've got to be on or off in different environments, am I me, or the real me? Goodness. It can't be easy.
But this is changing a little. I feel that as humans, regardless of celebrity status, wealth, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs...that we are all learning to respect, understand, and know each other, moving ahead with kindness and compassion in our hearts, and speaking our truths, with reverence. Balancing rationality and emotion. Nurturing wholeness and authenticity. Healing together, as a world, as a people. Wave by wave. Ripple by ripple. I can absolutely tell you that it's a real thing that is happening. A transformation in the way we communicate, feel, empathize. I'm awed to able to witness and experience it. What a magical moment to get to live in.
So, back to the chair. The conversation got lighter, we cracked some jokes, and we laughed. And in that moment, letting the experience be what it was, rather than what I planned for, I released the anxiety about it. This is what they talk about, when they say, surrender. Giving over to what is. In doing so, the thoughts swirling around in our heads...just poof! Evaporate. As we step into the new moment, fully.
So, in a world full of unknowns, often uncontrollable circumstances, and all the rest...can we... truly prepare for experience? We can make plans, we can rehearse, we can idealize, we can imagine...but really, it's only in the showing up and surrendering to the moment, letting it be what it is, that we get to be fully present in any experience, leaving expectations at the door. It's those tendencies to revert back inside, into the mind, to analyze, mull over, calculate, emote frustration...and repeat, cycling over and over in receptive haze, until we work ourselves into just...wretchedness. This is where we hide from realities. Instead of simply...opening our eyes, diving into the moment, accepting what it is, and living in it.
Hello lovers, searchers, fighters, hiders, seekers, friends...readers:
I may ramble a bit, today. Here's why. In the vein of "keeping up with writing," I'd been doing Morning Pages, a la Julia Cameron. And it's great. Gets the funk out, clears the pipes, information and inspiration flow through much more easily. In high school, I called it journaling, in a trendy lil notebook with lots of doodles and NKOTB and Bob Marley lyrics and puffy unicorn and/or faerie stickers. In my twenties and beyond...I mean they started AOL dial-up in homes just as I graduated high school! Imagine??? Yes kids, you'd have to leave the room to upload that new pic of your crush, because it took like a half-hour...pixel by ever-creeping pixel...so my output became blogging: my out-loud, crossing the void, searching for souls, diary...of sorts. "Is anyone out there?" And I'd wait. And even then, I made new friends in the ether, over the internet, mind to mind. Soul to soul, as I saw it. What a fascinating new medium this was...how...magical. Ones and zeroes harnessed and sent in packages at a time through the air itself to form images, sounds, where they touched down...OH! ... I was hooked. Wow.
I'm an adult now. A Mom. A known and recognizable member of the community that I love and live in. A public servant, to boot. So, I find myself...filtering. How much do we put out there? Be authentic, but not that authentic. Write to bleed! But not that much. Keep your juiciest bits, and write what suits your "image."
What a bunch of bullshit. Sorry. I can't keep up falsehoods for long. Not a bit. It's just not me. I'm all out there, as many of you know. Hell or high-water, as they say.
So, as a wanderer, absorber, seeker, explorer, a new soul, as it were...with old soul tendencies... I've come back to what comes naturally for me. Instead of maintaining: morning pages PLUS sculpted, careful blog entries PLUS the work in progress or two PLUS a day job, a child, laundry, and adventures... well, I am consolidating. Because efficiency. And sleep. And well-being. And priorities.
To keep in practice with blogging, I am keeping it real. Morning pages became anytime pages which have become my blog. Again. Funny how that works...I guess I just have my ways of doing things, and as much as I try to obey the self-help books, sages, gurus, teachers, and all the rest...I just have to do what works for me. That's it. (The wind just blew over the mouth-hole of my Shakeology cup and made music.) :) So cool.
"The Earth has music for those who listen..." - Wilmot Hyde Bradley
Speaking of science...this was strange.
I was driving around today, getting things done. I made more than one stop at Starbucks, that kind of day. Fully caffeinated, here.
So, I've be reintroduced to Michael Franti, a favorite from back in the day. Just a great beach vibe. So, I'm doing my little car-concert, bouncing along to this tune...and I maneuver to put the top windows up, because: too windy, eating hair. A/C on. Windows up, and it's like I went through a wormhole... "this one is much more violent!" The car shook, the pressure was unequal, my ears were popping... WHAT THE FUCK? Had I driven through a space-time ripple? Was I in the Nexus, a la Star Trek Generations? And if so, what time had I landed in? No such luck, it was way more simple...
I turned around and low and behold, one window in the backseat was still down. What actually happened there? Why would one window down, in a car driving 55 mph, cause such violent weather inside? I didn't know. So, I let Franti sing to me some more. He knows one thing: he loves me, he loves me, he loves me. And we sang a diddy together on St. Thomas, in my mind, for 5 nanoseconds. I got to shake the sand-shaker. I was good, you guys. Right on. So. Window forgotten, temporal energy ribbon or not.
And then Starbucks happened: Now, my new drink, since Iced Caramel Macchiatos are about 4,000 grams of sugar, and I'm trying to curb sugar intake, is a doppio over ice with a smidge of coconut milk. Yum. I've found that I love strong coffee, or espresso, I don't even add sweetener. Because I am so badass. So good, though. And it's half the price of the fancy, sugary, syrupy stuff. So. Win. But here's what happened...I felt deep guilt about the plastic. I didn't bring my travel cup. So, at Starbucks the Sequel, I handed over my slurped-on-lipstick-strawed-used plastic cup from before, and asked for another doppio, please. I got a look. Yeah... one of THOSE looks. The no-she-didn't look. I did, I really did, though. It's called reusing and it's good. Try it. Punks. Anyway...he carefully handled it like the test-tubes in the infectious disease labs. I imagined him in a yellow Hazmat suit with the weird breathing apparatus, like in Outbreak. DON'T RIP THE SUIT! You don't know what's in that cup!
So, I got my drink, and all went well, but the way it creeped these kids out, was funny to me. The credit card machine that they handle every single day, the cash that exchanges hands, the air they breathe, the pump at the last gas station... all of these things that they touch, daily, sometimes...have WAY MORE GERM POTENTIAL than my lil old cup. I'm just me. My mouth, that straw, that's it. One universe of germs there, manageable. And I'm pretty healthy, I eat sauerkraut and drink kombucha, so. I mean...yeah. You know what I'm saying.
I might be the nosiest person I know. I can't not observe, when I go places. When I do anything, really. How does this work, who are these people, what are they saying, what do we have in common, what do we not, why are they behaving like that? Why am I? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
And then music. And words. And music and words and words and music. And Gaia.
With fully opened eyes and mind, the realities we face, daily, can be overwhelming. We all need our anchors and grounding methods. Sometimes Life is terrifying, sometimes, manageable. Sometimes we get beyond fear, to that place where it becomes utter magnificence and effortless Bliss. Yes...that. Oh, that. We LOVE that. Let's just always be THAT! Ah.... (mental vacation to the beach...) But, the truth remains, that potentialities can be paralyzing, too, EVEN WHEN THEY'RE GOOD! What is that? Why, humans, why, do we do this? Why do we shield ourselves from those things which enliven us most? It all boils down to two things, with every experience in Life. As I was reminded, by a mind body coach friend, during our epic girl-talk sesh on the beach, recently: I am not enough... vs... I am enough.
"You are a ghost driving a meat covered skeleton made of stardust riding a rock floating through space." Right? So what are we all so afraid of? Yet, we are. Fear exists, it's real, it's genetically encoded in our cellular and energetic memory, although our threats have diminished, greatly. Is that right? Am I reading that right? No lions and arrows flying at us as we scavenge for berries and wash in the river basin. Got it.
Still. I don't think we "get over" fear. Waiting for it to leave, to transcend it, to arrive above and beyond it, through whatever self-help scenarios that we try...I just don't think that's how it works. I think our psyches are far too stubborn and like to hold on to what they "know." We thrive and learn experientially. Our animal selves have to look at it. See it, up close. Study it, flip it over, move it about with our big toe for a while. Check in with our counterparts... "looks okay, right? I don't think this will eat or dismember me, do you?"
Fear is right to keep. And we still need it, because there are still harmful and violent forces out there. And maintaining a good, reasonable radar, is just smart. I am all for adventure, but I won't tape cash to my naked body and stroll through Central Park at midnight. Because that's not brave, it's idiotic. Most of the irrational fears that plague us, as a society, these days...most...are fear of emotional experience. Fear of feelings. Yes, it's true. I can't because... I'll be scared. I'll be timid. I'll screw up. I'll say something dumb, and get embarrassed. I'll do it wrong, and then I'll be sad. I'll get rejected, and then I'll be sad. "They're all gonna laugh at you," like in the Adam Sandler skit. Fear of feelings, fear of...not being enough.
You guys...Life happens, and not every path leads to eternal Bliss, but sometimes they do. Sometimes it's for a long time, sometimes, it's a whisper in the breeze and it's gone. Whether it's a job, a relationship, a romance, a friendship... That's reality. But I promise you. I promise you, whatever it is, you are enough to engage in new experiences. And you are enough to recover and keep going if it's a mistake, and you are enough to let your heart open more, and keep going if it's intriguing and worth it.
You are enough. We all are. Take chances. Live. Experience. Wonder. All of that. Life is short. So am I...but it doesn't stop me from living my Life. Ha. Off to write some wild horses into a corral... such a beautiful day here. Sunny, warm, yet breezy. Ah...just blissful.
Ciao for now. xoxo
So I am "on vacation..." away from it all, on location. A writer's retreat, an artist's date. Right on the southwestern tip of Florida, dancing in the gulf. Paradise.
Ongoing conversation this weekend, originally inspired by exotic meat on a stick. But applies... to... ya know. Everything:
Me: what is this?
Life: try it. do you like it?
Me: I love everything about it, I love how I feel right now, I love being ABLE to FEEL right now. I love BEING so ALIVE right now. Free, yet tethered to some current of magical unknown-ness yet connectedness. But what is it? What are the ingredients? How can I repeat this?
And so it goes...takeaway? Sometimes we need to not think and extrapolate. Sometimes... we just plug into it, whatever IT is, and we charge up there. Resonate there. Shine, glow, learn and unlearn there. Love there, as long as we can. An environment of Bliss in which to explore the reflection of ourselves so deeply, that we nearly melt into the mirror, examining likeness. The sublime surrender of particles melding with particles, into new ways and understandings of beingness. Because the YOU then and the YOU now are different, thanks to one subtle, yet powerful change in input.
Unclenching those curled up fingers, that are squeezing that elusive control and need to know things.
Sometimes, yeah. It's about Being, experiencing, and celebrating.
I'M IN LOVE!
Life itself. And isn't that... isn't that why we're here?