Monday, February 1, 2016

A Pebble and a Boulder

Into the woods I went on my birthday weekend. I'm thirty-six now, a highly unremarkable age. A number closer to forty than to thirty. Thirty six is old enough for chronic health problems and extra recovery time from exercise and over indulgence. It's old enough to think twice before wearing a certain outfit or height of shoe. I should probably stop saying "dude" so much, eat more things that grew from the ground than came in a cardboard box, get to bed more consistently, go to the doctor pre-emptively instead of merely playing defense with my health. Maybe I should make another attempt at finding a church? Maybe I should consider my retirement more closely (because if I don't start now, I probably won't get one)? I'm almost too old for a cute nickname, should someone want to anoint me with one. Maybe I should get a cat.

In the woods I do the things that I always do when my legs move and I am alone in the trees. I think things that there is never time or space to think otherwise. This was a really good think that I thunk up, too. In the last two years I went from somewhat reclusive and standoffish, to all in when it comes to meeting new people. As you can see, the topic of my blog posts have touched repeatedly upon connection with others. I suddenly saw all my connections branching out meaningfully around me. With each new person, an awareness that there are no accidents and a seemingly bottomless desire to seek more of these non-accidents. What will I be to you, and you to me? How will you help me on my path? Will you? How exciting, this wondering. It is impossible to come away, from even a brief and chance encounter, just as you were before. But who knows, until it is over, in what ways it transforms you.

I walked along thinking, what am I to people? Am I a pebble? Or a boulder? And what are they to me? Obsessed as I am with personal progress, believing that to be the crux of our earthly life, each person I meet becomes an opportunity to learn. Because I am difficult to teach, I have learned the most from the difficult people. If it weren't for certain others who challenged me, who became giant boulders to throw me off my path, I couldn't be this person. They changed the direction I was traveling, and how I took each step afterward. Yes, sometimes the ones you meet cause you to trip lightly and barely look up from the way you are going. Sometimes they change everything. It's thrilling, this moving together, to wonder where you'll steer me.

I learned as a Christian to be grateful for the pruning shears of the Maker, because He cuts the dead wood away. Yet progress is a theme in all religions. Consider Buddhists and their enlightenment, Hindus and their progressive kharmic reincarnations, Christians who believe we are to grow into the image of Christ until we are fully perfected in death. Similarly Muslims and Jews put a high priority on spiritual development believing more than a reward awaits in a next life. That to become, to be transformed in spirit, is the end game of our existence. And all sacred texts, in one form or another, believe that this is largely achieved through suffering.

I am very glad that's not the only means. Yet the biggest changes I've made were as a result of difficulties. I know there are many more ahead. And worse than I've yet known. I welcome those. I welcome all who will bring me pain. And to those that come so close and bring nothing but joy, you offer an opportunity to practice the skills I have learned. Love and patience, respect and encouragement. This now, is a quiet time in my life. Despite some minor health troubles that come from the wear and tear of being a mortal thing subjected to gravity and ultimately decay, I couldn't be happier. I feel the Universe has given me the gift of rest now. I labored long and hard, here then is the respite I earned. Success in school, happy children, safe and comfortable dwellings, and love everywhere I turn. For now. The very most important thing I learned of late, the thing at the top of the long list, is to be grateful to awaken each day. To eagerly identify ways I can be a pebble or a boulder, to change another's trajectory, while I search for those who will change mine. Each day, each encounter, each breath is an opportunity to get better.

I cant wait to see what happens at thirty six. I can hardly wait for tomorrow.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy This Moment

It's almost New Year's.

Sigh, what to do? Go out and act stupid or stay in, overeat and watch bad television or put on sweat pants, hide under a blanket and go to bed at 8:30 in protest? It's a downer - more or less just the end of the holiday season, which means the pretty lights will come down that have been distracting us from our rapid descent into a winter abyss that leads to mild depression, cold feet, and bad driving  for hopefully only 4 months. I'm tired of it already and it hasn't even started. But I digress.

What to do on the eve of a new year, but to reflect? It's so obnoxious, the way this time business keeps advancing without my approval. Someday, in another world there will be no time, and we will see all of the events of the sentient world as if we were watching a parade from a blimp, instead of from the corner of East and Gibbs. Beginning, middle and end all at one time. But for now, we are stuck with our stunted view. Have you ever noticed when you are at a parade that no one is looking at the thing passing in front of their eyes at that moment, but instead violently twisting and craning their necks to catch a glimpse of what is coming up the street? Maybe it's something better. In the process, besides risking getting hit in the face with a set of plastic beads and a flavored tootsie roll, we miss out on everything passing in front of our eyes. It's a convenient metaphor for the way we deal with the right now of life - keep looking up the street for something better.

But what if there is nothing better? I'm not trying to bum you out, but it's not entirely impossible that someone within the sound of my voice will die next year. And it's more likely that for a few of us, next year will not even be as good as this crummy one, it'll be worse. We might get really sick, or lose something more special and irreplaceable than a thing or a job. Maybe a person. At this time of year we vacillate between the tendency to look behind and inventory our achievements and setbacks and weigh them out carefully to see which side of our balance sheet is heavier, and making declarations about what we will improve and do differently next year; forgetting that both of those things are just ideas. One a hope, the other a memory. And that the only thing that is real is right now. This moment. This one. And this one. You sitting and reading these words in your favorite chair with that pain in your hip or at work with a tepid coffee in your hand or on the toilet. Your butt too big or boobs too small or eyesight too bad and bank account overdrawn. The dog snoring quietly beside you. The house making that settling noise that it always does. And maybe not enough things in your life to be excited about to make you feel like getting up today was worth it.

Right now. Where are you then? I bet you are not where you thought you'd be. Minus or plus someone you never thought you'd live with or without. Working at something, looking like something, feeling like something and believing like something that you never dreamed you would ten years ago, or five, or one. This isn't how it was supposed to go. Which is exactly how it's supposed to go - with very little input from you. Life is what happens when you aren't looking. Who said that? Was that Ferris Bueller? Whoever it was is smart. Now keeps happening, and keeps becoming the past. It's important to live with intention. It's also important to understand what went wrong. But if my Buddhist friends taught me anything, it's that our most pressing business is to listen to the sound of the breath whispering through our nostrils, or putting down what you're doing when your kid says "Mom, c'mere!". To go there. To see the pointless thing she wants you to see. To LOOK at the stupid thing. And be with her. Stop time for a moment. Exist.

This moment has to be good enough, because it's all we've got. When I was living in a really bad situation for an inordinately long amount of time, I used to think about how things could be better if I had made different choices. I would daydream about how it would be if. If. If. But that depressed me because I couldn't change the past. So I started focusing on the future. The prize I would get if God saw how determined and faithful and prayerful I was. I woke up everyday and put my hand to the plow and didn't look back. I also didn't look around. Very much like a horse with blinders on. Nothing to see here. Nothing but whats ahead of you. Just keep going! Bound to be something better next year. But eventually I realized that my faith in a great later, was just a really nice way of framing "denial" of the now. One day I got tired of shouldering burdens to my future where I could finally set them down, and set them down now. And found real contentment in acceptance of what I'd done, what I'd been doing and how the hell I ended up there. And gratitude for the lots of little good things I was ignoring by keeping my eyes fixed on later.

My dear, we are all desperate to be somewhere better. But what if right now is the best it gets? Can you find something to be happy for? Your tepid coffee? That chair you get to sit in? I bet you can, so that's not really the question. The question is:
Will you?

I won't say I have hopes for the next year of your life. How about your next five minutes. Or this one. May it be filled with gratitude, contentment, and an awareness of your singularity in the world. The beautiful soul that you carry in a house uniquely designed for you. Be here, now. With it. Take a big deep breath in, then let it out with a sigh. You exist, in the vast cosmos as a tiny insignificant and terribly important thing in the universe. Inhabit that thought. No happy New Year's here, my friends.

Happy This Moment.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Where was God, if not in Paris?

What is there to do?

A bunch of lunatics so deeply miserable with themselves, or so obsessed with being heroic for a cause that they think requires them to murder, or so confused about what exactly God is and isn't, stole the lives out from under a group of regular people who had the misfortune to not be at home watching the French version of Netflix on Friday night.

It sucks because it happens all the damn time, and it happens in places where we just expect it, so no one really notices anymore. French lives are worth no more than Iraqi lives, or Palestinian lives, or Isreali lives or Syrian lives or African lives. It's just that when something is new, it seems so very much more atrocious to us, and we are moved to action and outrage. The question is, how do we continue to go to work and do the inane things we do everyday when the world is so g-damn random? But there are more questions people ask.  And why do we as a species continue to do this to ourselves? Where is God?

I am suspicious of anyone who claims to have those answers. After all, it's people with firm answers who are going around and blowing shit up in the name of those answers. I'll say it: how can we possibly thank God for good things, if we don't curse him for bad things? I believe that God is the source of all light and love in the world. But how come light doesn't seem to reach some dark places, including the hearts of terrorists? People will tell you because sin, or lack of faith, or karma. But few will admit what is more likely: we are volatile creatures, who can just as easily turn murderer as philanthropist. And God has nothing to do with it. We, in our god-like ability to choose, DO. He is inspiration, not puppet master.

There are people in the world who believe God is on OUR side, ergo- not on theirs. Unfortunately none of these groups can agree on the score of the game, and they settle it by at least, shunning and judging one another, at worst, murdering. I see why more and more people are embracing an atheistic or agnostic world view. From the outside, having faith is a damn foolish way to live and believe. Maybe at times - life threatening.

I don't know where God was. Nobody knows, no matter what they tell you. What I think is observing, grieving, and accepting souls as they came in with love and light. Not the Christian souls - all the ones he made, who wanted to be in his presence. Maybe the murderers got up there and felt gyped because they didn't see what was anticipated, and said no thanks - I'll take my chances elsewhere. Maybe they said, aww man. I screwed up. I was horribly mistaken. Can I still come in? And maybe He said of course.

I love you.

You can pray for the people of Paris if you think it makes a difference. You can pray for all of the tortured, marginalized, harrassed people in the world which are far too numerous to count or mention. Or not. Prayer is good. Action is better. However, action that begins with "shoot the bastards", we've probably had enough of. If you haven't noticed, it isn't really working. I don't know what WILL work, but the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I don't think we're going to get what we want here. This is earth after all. If we did get the peace we sought, we'd have to rename it heaven.

The kind of action I'm talking about is what Anne Lamott reminds us is the "next right thing". Why pick up the litter if there will only be more tomorrow? Because today. Because what the hell else is there to do? Why should I tell you I love you, if I'm just going to have to re-tell you again tomorrow?  Because your Paris might be coming. Forget fear of the beyond, how about fear of the here? If you left the earth no better off for your presence in it, your life had no point. What if God isn't going to punish nor reward you? What if you are just accepted? Or what if there is no God? Then the point is here, so don't miss it. There is nothing else these horrific things are good for than to remind us of our fragility, the precious tenuousness of our connections to one another. Let us not allow one another to be unchanged by these events each time. If we stay the same, we can be counted as victims ourselves.

Friday, September 25, 2015

On "missed connections"

"I'm not sure what I'm looking for. But I'll know when I find it."

Confession: I am obsessed with the craigslist "missed connections" page. It's been 20 minutes since my last page view, and I'm afraid I will check again soon.

I have been reading this section of the CL personals (which are not for the faint hearted... fair warning) for the last year, and find the posts to incite a mixture of feelings in me: disgust (for, it IS craigslist), curiosity, hope, and frequently: vicarious despair. I can't help wondering what will happen to the cashier at Starbucks with the bright blue eyes who always remembers her customer's order. Will he ever get up the nerve to ask for her phone number? Or what about the guy pumping gas on Thursday at 7:45 at Kwik-Fill with the white truck and hunting stickers, did he manage to find the ad addressed to him? Is he even single? Straight? Did he remember the moment he locked eyes with the 45 yr old brunette in the red sedan as she drove past? I wish we were given updates. It is more or less a soap opera- with all it's vulnerability and sexual need and desperate silly hope. Sometimes I am repelled, other times optimistic, but most often what I leave with is gratitude. Yes, that I have a nice life and am literate and not too lonely and not terribly perverted and desperate - qualities and conditions that I don't share with an inordinate number of the posters. But also grateful to feel a tiny bit better about my life and the condition of being human, because I see that no matter their age, gender, race, or what part of town they live in, and whether they are married, gay, straight, separated, transgendered, kinky, religious, bright, dumb, rich, poor, ugly, or (reportedly) beautiful - no one is immune from to this terrible desperate need to search for something with which to connect.

You get that we're on a pilgrimage, right? Going somewhere...marching through earthly life on the way to the end of it. And along the road we manically swivel our heads about looking for that thing we could swear we've lost. That piece everyone else was born with, that just came missing in our kits. And we're trying to fill it. Sometimes with things that other people say are bad, or maladaptive, or dangerous. And they are. Lots of booze, or a little bit of drugs, or money, or easy sex. Food, netflix, video games, running 3000 miles a year, God. Hobbies or interests or compulsions that become consumptive and, in the end, maim and destroy. (Yes, too much God is bad for you. You don't have to trust me. Just think of the most religious person you know. See? Too much God. He's forgotten how to be human.)

I feel better knowing that everyone else is in the same type of heart pain. It's not acute for me, and thankfully for most of us it isn't. But there is a nagging in each of us aching to move toward...something - to locate and slide that piece to the puzzle that was left off, in it's place . I tell you what to do a lot because I can be bossy. But I won't be arrogant this time and claim to know what DOES go in that spot. If I knew, I'd damn well put it there, wouldn't I? I'd argue that the thing we seek is probably not available on this side of life. But then, that does dick to help us now doesn't it?

It's hard. This being human, shit. It's tiring and lonely and confusing and painful. My brain always gives itself to thinking in thought bubbles, filled with the beautiful words I've collected. I lately hear the "rich man" from the biblical account begging the angel to let Lazarus dip his finger in water and place a drop on his tongue. "I am in agony in these flames," he says. Being human is the real hell. It hurts. And sometimes (yes for all of us) it is agony. We want so badly to be okay - to find the thing that will make us okay from one day to the next. And that thing is elusive. Unavailable. It doesn't exist. And I am not talking to broken people, people with extraordinary mental health issues or addictions - I am talking to you. To me. We can pretend it is okay, because most of the time it is. But sometimes...even if very infrequently- it is NOT okay. And that is when it is helpful to be reminded that neither of us is okay. And it can't be helped. But it will be okay eventually. And eventually - for good.

What we can do to manage these pitiful longing hearts we've been given is to stop and look outward. If you cannot translate your desires into action for others, at least you can look at the "missed connections" and remind yourself how much worse it could be. And that we are all not so very different from one another. And maybe, when the lights are too low inside your heart, you can find the strength to root for someone else to make a connection and chase away their restlessness. Cheer for his or her relief.  However brief that may be.


Friday, September 4, 2015

A Glass Banana

When we were shopping at the thrift store for items to fill the kitchen drawers at our new house a couple months ago, I came across a blown glass banana. It cost $2, was entirely useless, did not fit in as part of some odd collection of glass fruit I already had going, and I refused to leave it at the store. The girls asked why. I said:
"Because glass banana".
"But who would have a glass banana?"
"Well, we do. Now."
"But why?"
"Because it's a glass banana."

I was tying to teach them something. I am not sure they got it. Something about whimsy. About embracing moments. About being odd because you can, when you can, because why would you want to be the same? Because people will come into our house and say, "you have a glass banana". And I will smile serenely and say, "Yes. I do."

Life is special and weird and fun. But only if you make it so. It can be predictable - wretchedly so,  with bedtimes and meal times and work times and play times all scheduled so nicely for yourself. A few years ago I decided that I was going to start wearing my best earrings and best dresses and use my favorite things when the mood hit me. Even if it made me odd, or sometimes made me feel like I was playing dress up in someone else's life. I figured out that the only way to make something your thing, is to make it your thing.

We used to do silly stuff when we were kids, my friends and I. Decide at 10 PM that we wanted to see the sunrise over the ocean, so we'd hop in the car and drive all night to Cape Cod, and wait for it. Then drive home. Or plug in strings of Christmas lights and stay up laughing and crying and painting with our bare hands and feet. Or take walks until 3 AM, singing a Capella. Or put on all of our snow clothes and go to the beach in winter to watch the frozen waves grow higher as our bodies went numb. I did all that until that stuff I always talk about happened in my early twenties and did something in my spirit: I got married, I found Jesus loitering around outside my heart, asking nicely if he couldn't please come in. And when that all went down in a perfect storm, as things like that are apt to do, I stopped being wild. And my life revolved around fear. The fear of being left, of not being good enough, of other people's voices and opinions, of judgement, rejection. I suddenly had a bedtime, mealtimes, expectations and mountains of sin and shame I was to contend with. And I didn't measure up. No, there would be no cereal for dinner, all nighters, impromptu trips to wherever the wind blew. No dancing. No singing. No howling at the moon. Certainly no hammocks, or drop in visitors, or paddle boarding, or sleeping in the woods alone. And definitely no glass bananas. Such things were frivolous. And not in service of the Lord.

I'll tell you a story that I don't often tell, because it is so personal and so obvious and so damned cliched that it will barely make it past your ears before you are rolling your eyes to yourself and sniggering at my simpleness. But for one or more of you it may be a balm, so I will take my lumps. In those days my life was wall to wall rejection and inadequacies. My relationships to God and man played on my deepest little girl fears that I was basically the biggest piece of garbage who ever managed to take a breath. But one night, as I lie in my stupid bed crying my stupid tears for the millionth time, I heard the still small voice of God that we are always being yapped to about, finally say something worthwhile: "You are enough for me". I knew it couldn't have come from myself, because there is no possibility I would have been able to think such a thing.

I, of course, bellowed and howled and carried on like an animal. Or like someone brought back after a near death experience. Recalling all the things and people and garbage I held in esteem that I had NOT been enough for, finally....finally. Someone said I was. The One who reportedly, according to all the big voices for god, was displeased with me, because I wasn't enough, and I DIDN'T DESERVE his mercy, remember? Remember that story? How you are a sinner, and not good enough and you should feel awfully damn lucky that he wants anything to do with your sorry behind? I knew that story. And what a lovely way it was to keep me in my place of self loathing. But when I was quiet, and at my wit's end, the still small voice


And what happened after that? I jabbed a proverbial flag into the ground of my life and marked a turning point. Slowly I remembered the things that made me, me: speaking the truth, writing, wearing complicated earrings, standing up for myself, road trips, cheers with surprise guests, and glass bananas. Dirty and wild and silly and alive. What happened was resurrection from the land of the dead. I was always a weirdo, with a heart free like a bird. And now, I am a weirdo again. Growing weirder by the day. Sometimes I forget we are supposed to eat dinner and it's my job, so we just work it out when we're hungry, or the gals and I get in the car and drive to somewhere and decide where we're going on the way. I am teaching them about 90s dance music, and choosing lucky rocks, and taking mental health breaks, and lying in the grass, and deciding what and whom are worth pursuing. I hope as they observe they are also learning something about using the good china as popcorn bowls, lighting the best candles, picking flowers, looking intently, and saying what's on your mind. All the things I didn't do while I took that extended break from myself.

What else I hope for them, is that they forget their Stepford Mother, with her schedules, and perfect dinners, and sensible clothing, and all the beige paint. And when they are grown, when I am gone, I would be supremely proud if they fought rabidly over who gets to keep the glass banana.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Here is how you know you've spent enough time in the woods:

When, instead of a vague recognition that you are striding through a wild berry thicket but you can't stop because there are miles to make, you pause and gorge yourself, carefully selecting only the ripest ones.

When you no longer dodge the spider silks that span the trail and glitter in the patchy sunlight, but march through them, collecting them across your chest, reveling in the feel of the strands whispering over your arms and dangling off your elbows.

When you walk twenty miles in to a 47 mile journey around the lake and discover that a group of industrious beavers have turned the brook that was shown on the map into a 75 yard wide pond, impassable safely when you are alone, because of the 12 hour hike from the nearest human and 30 pound anchor on your back, and faced with turning around and retracing your steps, you shrug and about face. Right after stopping for salami and crackers.

When your heart slows and breath slows and body slows down enough that you notice the odd shapes of trees growing around boulders, spot the smallest of toads and newts, and can hear snakes moving stealthily through the grass.

When you know the total silence of the humid north woods at 2 PM, when neither bird sings, nor chipmunk rustles, nor wind stirs the leaves.

When you cruise into the most beautiful campsite with private beach imaginable that you'd been dreaming of all day, un-clip and let that pack fall from your shoulders like a sack of potatoes, and howl in gratitude, like an animal, at the top of your lungs.

When you stumble to the shore line, see the water lit up orange by the setting sun, and strip down in broad daylight before God and nature and dive into the water to wash off the deet, and sweat, and filth you gathered from living outdoors.

When the book to read and journal to write in sit in your pack, ignored, because you'd rather spend 45 minutes studying the movements of one particular dragon fly, because the only thing that makes sense anymore is to be still - in your body, and your mind.

When you get a sick feeling in your stomach imagining the chimes and beeps and buzzes your phone will make after 3 days turned off, and how you'll possibly face all the humans and their various cries for attention.

When you stop cussing the biting flies that swarm you and whine incessantly in your ear, sun up to sun down, because they are just doing their job, as you do yours.

When you begin to hear the whoosh whoosh of the highway traffic in your final approach, and though your feet are hamburger and your back is in agony and your head pounds with thirst, everything inside of you screams to turn and walk back from where you came.

When you step finally into the bright sun and pavement, and stare dazedly at your car that seems now to belong to someone else, and use your leftover stream water to wash your grimy face and change into clothes that aren't caked with mud then look back at the trail head and wish you could plunge back in, let the woods swallow you, and never never never come back.

That's how you know you've been in the woods long enough.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"All that time I wasted."

I have been providing writing prompts to a friend who is doing her damndest to stay sober right now. Here is why that works: when you're drunk all the time, you have no feelings (except, perhaps, self loathing in those briefest moments between hits). When you have no feelings, you cannot write. Ergo, if you want to write, you have to feel. I have been giving her one liners to give her day purpose, in hopes something buds, something unexpected, something she didn't know was waiting in the sap of her soul. I know what's waiting in mine, because I am always in there. To the point of being obnoxious, I suppose. But, what if I prompted myself as well?

All that time I wasted
waiting for something to happen
when the thing that was happening is
me. You.
To hurt to suffer to grow to love to embrace to look and find or come up
It's not a waste.
Fear? What a shame.
Shame shame.
What will the Eternal say when he asks,
"What did you do?"

Repellant. I was repellant. My 'stay-back!' energy has been so strong most of my life that I could see in my minds' eye people flatten themselves against the wall when I walked past. "This week," said my therapist last year, "I want you to smile at someone and say 'hello'". The challenge left me one palpitation shy of a panic attack. Maybe we can bargain? "What if I just make eye contact. And it isn't with the "f$%k off" look? "Fair enough," she said. "It's a start."

It was a start. My heart beating out of my chest, I looked at a stranger steady in the eye, with kindness. I waited a week so as not to strain myself. Then another, then another. "Your tactic is very effective at keeping bad people away from you. Keeping you safe," she says. "But you also keep out the good ones." Oh.

Here is what happens when you waste time protecting yourself - you miss everything good. I did. But I found the way out, just in time. What happens when you retract your spikes and look someone in the eye and say with a quiver in your voice and a troop of butterflies raging in your stomach "here it is...", uncertain you have what they were hoping to find? Sometimes you'll hear, "no thanks".
It makes you want to double over. Or take a knee.

I have found that happens less frequently than anticipated. When you are fortunate: in a sizzle of electricity, authentic and unexpected connectedness occurs. It's what I live for. People. Me and the people, the people and me. And the animals and the trees and the sounds I hear and the food I taste and the bodies I touch and the things I pull out of myself and expose to the air. But mostly, people. You know them, they know you. You help them, they help you. Around and around we go - taking turns in the care and feeding and tender loving of one another. The point of life is to get better. Sister, she says, you ain't getting no better by staying safe. She was right.

I wasted so much time. I didn't throw open my arms and say "welcome", because I was terrified of hearing "no thanks" and "goodbye". I am slowly, slowly getting used to hearing both, and saying them when it's right...or I should say, wrong. What I am still astounded by is all of the beautiful threads running from me to you and you and you. Those who answered my "welcome" with "it's nice to be here" and "thanks for having me" and "I appreciate you saving me a seat".

I have to stay on this - psych myself up every day, now that it is more than just friends and acquaintances and colleagues I seek. As I was warned, there are many frogs to be kissed. How many "no thanks" will I hear or speak? If I am brave? Tons of them. But if I am lucky, one will say,
"I've been waiting." And I'll say "me too."

Every "no thanks" will be worth that one "hell yes". It won't happen by squeezing back into my armor, though. Courage. Let no man on earth or in heaven above, accuse me of wasting another moment of my time on the fear of "no thanks".