Friendship

Removing the gender bias from love

As I was scrolling through my facebook news feed and having an important conversation with a young friend via private message during my insomnia moments in the wee hours of the morning, I saw this picture quote from the Love and Inspiration page:

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I clicked “Like” and then immediately thought about the friend I was in conversation with, as well as the many others I have known throughout my life who identify with the LGBTQ community. I thought of all of the men and women I’ve known who have struggled with love in it’s various forms: romantic, filial/familial, and universal ~ Eros, Storge, and Agape. I thought of myself and the struggles I’ve had with Platonic love for many different people throughout my life.

I had to “unlike” the post.

I realized that it was biased, exclusionary, and hurtful to so many people in subtle and silent ways.

God is Love. God is not exclusionary. I can love others because God first loved me.

We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. We have known and have believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also. ~ 1 John 4:14-21, Common English Bible

Each and every single human being is my brother or sister and we have all been created, male and female, in the likeness and image of God. Whether our physical bodies have more masculine genetic material or feminine genetic material, we all carry both types of genetic material in our DNA.

Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us … God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. ~ Genesis 1:26a, 27, Common English Bible

Each and every translation listed here and here refers to the masculine and feminine plurality of God.

God is not gender biased in the Divine expression of love. The Divine nature of Love is all inclusive.

So should we be.

Love isn't about beauty or gender, it's about our souls and spirits.

Love isn’t about beauty or gender, it’s about our souls and spirits.

Depression is like Meth Addiction

I don’t know this for a scientific fact. I don’t even necessarily know it from a first hand experience with Meth addiction. However, I am stating this because of a recent conversation I had with a loved one.

My heart is aching and breaking for this person. Bright. Beautiful (inside and out). Stronger than strong to have lived through what life has thrown her way and to have survived and made it through the choices and consequences of those choices. She is a miracle.

She used to be a scrapper. She used to do extreme things to feel alive and drown the pain. Self-harm, street life, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. A juvenile felony record. Injuries, homelessness, and bad relationships. She’s under 21.

Yet, she has now taken a vow against violence and daily tells me to remove the word hate from my vocabulary.

We had a conversation the other day where we were discussing some of the current events of her life and she said that when people come down on her for her use of marijuana her response is, “At least it’s not meth.”  This statement usually generates a laugh and, “That’s true.” As though she made a light-hearted joke in order to avoid dealing with the marijuana issue.

“Every single day, I want to use. I’m dead serious.”

She told me she makes choices every single day to deny the craving that never goes away. She chooses to fight for her dreams in spite of permanent concussion symptoms from being hit by a car a year ago. She is battling to change her future while navigating the consequences of her past. She fights to focus on happiness, peace, and forward momentum. Yet, she can’t hold the tears and the fears at bay all the time. She is human after all.

“People tell me they envy me, that they want my life. They don’t even know,” she says as she works to stave off the tears and prepare to put on her happy face, to chase her dreams.

She jokingly says I’m an emotional vampire because she always winds up crying around me. I suggest that maybe it’s because I recognize her battle and she’s safe to let go.

For days I’ve been thinking about her statement, “Every single day, I want to use.” Understanding the gnawing, almost undeniable craving.

I have mine too. Only it isn’t an external substance that can be tangibly put aside, avoided, or consumed.

Mine lives inside of my brain, it has shaped the grooves, distorted the receptors, and sheathed every thought and perception about myself and the world. It’s name is depression, it’s companion is anxiety. It has been part of who I am for close to 30 years.

I have gone through therapy of all kinds. I have sought spiritual healing through prayer, laying on of hands, Reiki, salvation, and full immersion baptism. Jesus is my Lord and Savior who understands my open minded skepticism and inability to fully attach and commit.

Capturing thoughts, replacing negative for positive, focusing on what’s right and true can be shifty and shaky propositions when the net is torn. the poles are reversed, and perception is wavy and distorted.

How do I think myself better? How does she? She self medicates with the herb that helps sooth the raw and exposed nerves and enables her to quiet the cravings in order to function and fight to pursue her dreams. She offers me some, knowing that with my fibromyalgia I could qualify for a medical card. I choose not to for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my parental responsibility to Luna.

Go get help, then. Go get the medication you need to manage the chemical imbalances that keep the poles reversed and perception distorted.

I can’t. I don’t have insurance. I don’t qualify for state medical. I’m too non-functional to hold down a job with benefits, if I were functional enough to find one and beat the competition to get the offer.

I appreciate the encouragement. I appreciate the well-intentioned advice. But please, don’t read what I write and tell me to think positively. I am doing the best I can with what I’ve got and to be able to get out of bed each day, write, and hold on by my fingernails to look Luna’s teachers and service providers in the eye and be honest with them about where I am at and the things that I am doing to ensure both of our well-being within the context of what IS in our lives, is all I can do.

I know that others have it worse. I understand that this level and depth I am at is not going to last forever. I’ve been here before, with less understanding, less capability to recognize it, and less inclination to do something about it. I am more than I ever have been, even when I appeared to be more in the eyes of the world.

Matthew 5 – The Beatitudes

“How blessed are the poor in spirit!
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

“How blessed are those who mourn!
    for they will be comforted.

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Bible Gateway

I dare not ask how much more blessed can I be.

Compassion for Kitty

After nearly losing my mind and my humanity in the same day when I sat in cat poop, I was on the verge of animal abuse and traumatizing Luna. I’m not proud. Quite ashamed to tell the truth. When LaLa showed up while I was still working to let go of all the negativity and rage and I told her what had happened. She told me, “Violence against animals is still violence.”

I know this. I believe this. I never could have imagined that I would EVER be capable of animal abuse in anyway, shape or form. I’ve had the same harsh and judgmental thoughts toward those who abuse animals that others have. “They deserve their own personal level of hell along with child molesters.” Yeah, THAT.

Thank GOD I didn’t actually abuse him.

However I was overly harsh and nearly out of control and Luna witnessed it. It scared me.

It scared me.

I had a REALLY rough night last night in conflict with Keith via text and private message after a Head Start Parent Policy Council Meeting where I was approached afterward and informed I had communicated in a way that possibly made others feel as though I was correcting them and treating them as inferior. In the middle of the conflict with Keith, the cat pooped on a blanket on the couch. I felt sick . . . for multiple reasons. The cat was not harmed in ANY way shape or form.

Insomnia reigned. I reached out privately to some supportive people.

I don’t have the energy or the will to go into details. We just need prayer, I need a lot of prayer. I feel like the plane is taking a nosedive and the oxygen mask I’m supposed to use for me never dropped but I’m supposed to be administering the ones that dropped for everyone else. Not a pity party and I know God will carry me through, but I’m having a hard time breathing.

After receiving private, one-on-one, compassion, encouragement, and support from one of them, I was breathing easier. I was able to work through the conflict with Keith, somewhat. Definitely feeling the powerlessness and unmanageability of the co-dependency. *sigh* Process. ODAT.

3:30 am scooping the box and cleaning up someone’s barely digested, regurgitated cat food. yay.

3:45 Sweatshirt on and out to smoke a forbidden cigarette.

4:30 Oblivion shuts my eyes and switches off the brain for a few hours.

7:30 The slight vibration of the silent phone from a text sent by Keith, “Are you still awake?” Interpreted by my bleary eyes and muddled brain, “Are you awake yet?”

Um, no. Roll over. Close the eyes. Drift in the zone trying to regain oblivion, didn’t happen.

*sigh* Walk out the bedroom door sniffing for the telltale scent of a cleaning task. Nothing new. Gratitude.

Into the living room, switch the lights on and look around. There he is: Big, beautiful, silent, beseeching. Carefully, gently, calmly I pick him up and cradle him in my arms.

I’d forgotten how soft he is. How steady and low the thrum of his purr is. How gently he reaches his paw to rest on the back of my hand. Claws too long to sheath fully, barely pressing against my flesh.

I rub my face against his fur. “I’m sorry buddy. I guess we’re both broken, huh?”

He needs my compassion and empathy as much as I need yours.

Later….

Luna comes out of the bedroom. “He’s not a bad cat anymore?”

“He was never a bad cat. Mommy was just wrong.”

“Yes.”

If you or someone you know in the Portland, Or area can help Jade, please send an email to humaninrecovery@gmail.com. We love him but cannot provide for his needs. We don’t want to take him to the shelter where he will likely wind up euthanized and don’t want to turn him loose to fend for himself and we risk eviction by having him in our existing housing situation. He’s been part of our lives for over 12 years and it’s breaking my heart to not be able to give him the care he deserves.20130130-091953.jpg

Emotional Safety

I just read this post on Emotional Safety by A Gripping Life. Please, go read it for yourself, otherwise, I would wind up reblogging her entire post.

After reading this, I got to thinking about how isolated I have gotten myself. Yes, I have isolated myself. Primarily because of all the interactions with emotionally unsafe people over the years. Why so many of those kinds of encounters and interactions? Well, because I was an emotionally unsafe person as well.

How emotionally safe a person are you for those you care about? Who are the ones who offer emotional safety in your life? I’m learning and improving in my practice of being an emotionally safe person. As I do this, as much as I may care for and love them, I am learning to limit my interactions with those I don’t feel emotionally safe with. As a result, I am opening up to the reality that emotionally safe people have been in my life all along – I just didn’t understand it, recognize it, or seek it out. I deserve emotional safety in my interactions with others. So do you. So does everyone, how else will we learn?

Believe it or not, blogging and writing about the angst and drama of dealing with the codependency and depression issues, as well as the relationship difficulties I have had with the various family members, friends, and others has been a training ground for me in becoming healthier emotionally and better able to establish and honor boundaries.

Some of the things I have done to become a safer person for myself and others have confused, irritated, and gotten some negative feedback. I’ve been told by some that it is making it difficult to be a friend to me because I’m being less open about every single interaction I have with other people I care about.

I know I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, so for those who may have seen this before, please bear with me. I used to be like the character, Melinda, from Ghost Whisperer. In the opening lines of the show she states, “In order to tell my story, I have to tell theirs.” That was me. Anyone who ever had any kind of relationship or interaction with me learned two things early on:

  1. Any conversation, interaction, or event where you and I impacted each other would wind up being talked about, ad nauseam, to anyone with an ear in my vicinity.
  2. You would frequently receive a non-stop earful of overwhelming and confusing stories and information about anyone and everyone I was dealing with, just because you said, “Hi, how are you doing.”

I wanted to be understood. I wanted the other people in my life to be understood. I wanted to be the one who ensured the correct understanding of what was going on. I needed support. I needed the other people in my life to be supported. I wanted to be the one who arranged and shaped the kind of support needed for the specific understanding and sensitivities of what was going on.  I wanted validation. I wanted others to be validated without invalidating me and did everything in my power to influence who validated them, when and how. I didn’t want to be judged, but knew it was happening anyway, so I wanted to continuously state my case and defend myself and others in my life in order to shape the judgment of others.

Yeah, I was pretty crazy and intolerable in these things.

In trying to ensure my safety and the safety of others I became the most unsafe person and breaker of boundaries. As people had enough of being bombarded and invaded, they distanced themselves and all I was left with was other unsafe people and boundary breakers. We were in a toxic swirl with each other. We loved each other and we cared about each other, but had no clue how to actually BE loving and caring in constructive, healthy, and safe ways.

Now, as I am working to become the safe person that my children need me to be, that I need me to be, it is confounding and confusing to some others who have only ever known the other me. Finding the balance between oversharing and being authentic is difficult. However, it is one of the most rewarding things I am doing in my life. Because of this work, my relationship with LaLa has reached the point where she told me yesterday morning that she considers me her FRIEND, not just her mom. Four months ago she told me she had never felt like she was a priority in my life and that she had not experienced unconditional love and acceptance from me.

As much as it grieves me that some of my other friendships or relationships may have suffered or been diminished by my efforts to change and grow, to have gained this level of relationship with my adult daughter is the better trade-off. So is the fact that communication and the relationship between Keith and I is better than it has been in years and is continuing to improve. Just as important, there’s less intense angst and psychological disturbance occupying my mental energy and I’m moving into doing things I love with my writing and in developing existing opportunities for relationships where I can be engaged and mutually supportive and encouraging.

It’s sad to realize that some of those who have tried to have this kind of relationship with me and I with them are unable to do so because of all the unsafe and toxic emotional baggage that has built up between us. Hopefully, we will be able to work through these things in safe, constructive, and mutually beneficial ways. I am sincerely and truly grateful for who they are and the roles they have played in my life. I just had to choose to stop holding myself hostage to passive aggressiveness, walking on eggshells, and unforgiveness. I pray they will too.

Redefining Friendship

A few days ago I wrote about my struggles with being as good a friend to others as they have been to me.

I received a lot of positive feedback and encouragement. I was blown away by the validation.

I was also struck by the fact a couple of others seemed to really understand what I was saying, because they were feeling it too. This sense that I am not and never have been able to be the things that so many platitudes define as being a “true” friend:
• Constant
• Steady
• Stable
• Reliable
• Consistent
• Available

Hmmm. That list sounds like characteristics and attributes employers look for in job candidates. Not bad qualities to have, for certain, but also not the complete and definitive list of qualities possessed by people.

LaLa has been going through some things, and I was blessed and privileged to be available to listen and counsel her. At one point she made a plaintive cry I have called out myself and heard from others in times of overwhelming distress when every thought, choice, feeling and action we have and take make no rational sense, and seem beyond our ability to alter or control, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?”

I gave her a response I believe to be the soul deep truth for us all, “There is NOTHING wrong with you.” Of course she scoffed.

I was meeting with our Head Start Home Visitor today and we were discussing the fact that Luna tends to get hyper-focused and seems to ignore anyone and anything that isn’t what she is focused on. She’s been this way ever since she started being able to play independently. It can be as much of a “warning sign” of potential developmental issues as an inability to concentrate or sit still.

I hate that term – warning sign.

Here’s my hypothesis:
With the industrial revolution came the onset of standardization of process to increase efficiency so more goods can be produced in order to generate profit. Somehow, those ideals seeped and slithered their way into and through every other aspect of our society, and we started measuring and quantifying, classifying and segmenting people according to characteristics and traits that achieve the desired outcome of “increase.” Any characteristic that diminished the increase, instead of being acknowledged and accepted as along the spectrum of normalcy, was declared undesirable and classified as abnormal and those who couldn’t or wouldn’t change to meet the desired expectations were then marginalized as incorrigible.

Schools became the factories to produce an improved workforce and to standardize and make efficient people who could subsequently increase the bottom line for employers, corporations and investors.

Now we have reached a point where we come to believe ourselves and others to be fundamentally flawed when we are really just ourselves being human and as unique and non-standard as each snowflake or fingerprint.

The only thing about each of us that is standard is the fact we all share the same God DNA by having been made in the image of God. Everything that we each have in common at it’s most fundamental level are also the very things that separate us in our individual uniqueness. If you don’t believe me, look up and research the harmonic relationship between the earth’s frequency and alpha wave frequencies of the human brain or the Golden Ratio.

Somehow, we have a very difficult time understanding, accepting, and honoring that in as many ways we are the same, we are also different.

What then, does that mean about our relationships with others, especially in what to expect of friendships? I think it might mean there are those who have the characteristics and qualities identified above and there are those who do not. The ones who do not may be flittery, excitable and variable in their attentiveness but still love and care, but show it in their own unique ways.

So, instead of condemning myself for not being the same kind of friend another person is, thereby elevating them above me, I need to figure out what kind of friend I can be and operate from there.

Tasha left me a very good bit of advice about creating and sending ecards to friends to let them know they are on my mind. That resonated with me. So I found a free app and went to work creating several ecard photo images using the tools in the app, photos & their associated apps, and my words and shared them with a few of my loved ones.

Then, early in the day yesterday I read a status update of one of my soul sisters in the blog world, Sara, and was inspired to create and share this:

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After sharing it with her, I felt prompted to share it with just about every other friend on my list on their individual timelines. I was amazed and awed by the response. Several people I barely know and rarely interact with contacted me to let me know how much it had meant for them to receive this bit of encouragement and inspiration. Many of these people are very, very different in their outlook, backgrounds, and life experiences, yet they universally shared an moment of unexpected, unsolicited, and seemingly random bit of much needed encouragement at a time when they needed it.

Please feel free to copy, save, and share this with anyone who’s heart, mind, soul, or spirit needs affirmation, validation, encouragement, or inspiration.

I realized that I am the kind of friend who can utilize my qualities, characteristics, talents, passions and gifts in ways that offer encouragement, insight, inspiration and beauty to others in ways that feed my own soul and energize me.

Confessions of a bad friend

I’m not a good friend. I want to be and I wish I could be. Some days I am able to make more of an effort than others, but most of the time, I just can’t seem to put the mask on and set aside what is going on in my life enough to really give my attention to invest in the friendships.

I’m sure there are many who see this as me being selfish, uncaring, egocentric and lazy.

My reality is that I’m buried underneath layers of pain (physical and psychological), fatigue (physical and mental), and everything I do and all my direct interactions with other people requires almost constant effort to restrain and retrain emotional and mental impulses while filtering through the sensory distortions of sight, sound, smell, and touch that distract and detract my concentration and focus.

Add into the mix the fact that I am working through some extremely complicated and complex relationship issues with key people in my life while trying to field off creditors and attend to the needs of a bright, energetic, and active pre-schooler. At the end of that equation what’s left is a big, fat, zero. As in I have nothing left to give.

So, there are some very dear friends who are going through their own versions of what I described above, and I can only offer the sporadic and occasional private message, comment on a status update, or brief and interrupted phone call. There are those who have gone above and beyond and would go to the ends of the earth for me who needed me to be that kind of friend for them and I wasn’t able to do it.

The thing is, I do care about and do appreciate those who have invested their friendship in me. The problem is that I am not able to live up to my expectations of what it means to be a friend, the majority of the time. I don’t expect or want my friends to sacrifice themselves and their lives for me, especially if they expect that of me. I can offer a responsive ear if they reach out. I can offer acceptance of who they are and the choices they make. Hopefully, I can offer a little space of peace and serenity without judgment or too much unsolicited advice. I can offer a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes I can offer these things. Occasionally I can reach out and make myself available, often I just don’t have anything left to offer.

After decades of being the hot mess who relied on everyone else to fix and suffer for her mistakes and being the psychic and emotional vampire who unconsciously sucked everyone else dry, I am doing my best to not be that person anymore. What this means is I have to be careful not to overextend and drain myself to the point that others have to keep rescuing me. So, until I have grown and learned other ways to get what I need to be the mother, wife, and self-sustainer to live my life, my ability to be the kind of friend some others may need and expect me to be does not exist.

I was feeling guilty about this. However, I now realize that I can’t give away what I don’t have. So, if you consider me a friend you will have to find a way to forgive me for not being who and what you want me to be and figure out how to accept me as I am. Otherwise, choose what’s best for you and walk away. I will be saddened and grieve the loss, but I understand.

Working through codependency

A few days ago I summarized the circumstantial changes that took place between September 18th and October 27th in this post. While all those changes were important to note, the biggest changes that took place were the intangible changes inside of me and in my relationship with Jerry. Mostly the changes are realizations about underlying thoughts, motivations, and emotions that have driven the codependency in my relationship with Jerry and everyone else I’ve ever known.

One of the biggest catalysts for this change has been in dealing with my emotions, responses, and relationship with my friend who is planning on adopting my oldest daughter in a manner similar to the adoption of my adult son by the family that informally fostered him during his last two years of high school. I’m afraid that as I’ve been working through some of my underlying emotional issues and uncovering layers of unresolved and buried issues from my past, I’ve damaged my relationship with this friend and wounded her in unintentional ways. At the same time, I’ve done my best to avoid “going off” on her with my initial emotional reactions to it all and only wrote about it on here, a couple of times. She’s in another state and going through some tough things herself, and these are not things to try to discuss in detail via phone, text, or private message.

I fully believe that she has only ever had everyone’s best interests at heart and that she genuinely loves my daughter and myself, as well as my other children. I also know that she believes that what she shares in terms of her wisdom, experience, and insight is being offered to me as a source of support and encouragement. However true both of those statements are, it doesn’t alter the reality that I haven’t been able to receive what she’s giving. Mentally and emotionally I haven’t been open and receptive, because I have had things I needed to work through. I still do, in fact. I haven’t completely worked through my emotions enough to be clear about what is about this situation v.s. what is about past issues from other events in my life, I’m not really ready to get into a discussion about it.

In working through some of these things, I have realized how co-dependent I have been in ALL of my relationships since adolescence, not just the romantic ones, but my relationships with friends, family members, and strangers on the street even. It’s pervasive and insidious and I’m coming to believe it’s an almost inherent, underlying, and undermining ACCEPTED but unacceptable facet of life in modern society, at least in the U.S.A. With our obsession for reality shows and contests where viewers get to judge, vote, tweet, and participate in gossip about neo-celebrities, politicians, and people in all areas connected to the sports and entertainment industries, we the people, have mistakenly and harmfully abused our right to free speech in expressing our opinions against the right of individuals to live their lives according to the liberty of their free-will in their pursuit of happiness.

I’m as guilty as anyone else. I found myself dissing on one of the actresses courageous enough to strut her stuff a second time on Dancing with the Stars. After I made my catty and oh so witty comment that she was a broken Barbie doll, I realized how much ick I’m still carrying around in my head. But I digress.

The point is, I do love and care about my friend, my children, Jerry, and all the members of my extended family and set of friends, both past and present. I have always cared more about all of these people more than my self, even though from their perspective it may not have looked that way. I have lived my life pinballing from trying to please all of these people and to live up to their expectations and judgements, perceived or real, and I’ve failed them. Most of all I’ve failed myself. It reached a point where I have basically shut-down mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. In trying to live a life that “pleases” everyone, I’ve pleased no one, least of all myself. The only one who could possibly be pleased, up until recently, would be the devil himself.

And so, with these realizations of my lack of self-identity buried under layers of codependent neediness and futility, came the determination to move beyond it. I started putting up walls and calling them boundaries.

I’m afraid that these walls and the boundaries they represent may have made my friend feel rejected. I’m sorry for that. I don’t want her to feel rejected, hurt, or abandoned by me in our friendship. However, for right now, while I am in the process of figuring out who I am, outside of and beyond the codependency, I need the walls because the boundaries are brand new and no one in my life is used to me having them or me respecting the boundaries others put in place.

Learning to respect the wall strong boundaries my son put up with me and giving him the space he needs has taught me that even after being raised in a chaotic, dysfunctional, codependent mess of a family like ours, it’s possible to learn how to be healthy. Since I have even more intense codependent issues with Jerry that I’m actively working through while I am also working through my personal mental and emotional health issues, and working with multiple agencies to support Luna’s growth and development through this critical period in her life so that she can come through it, more intact and healthier than any of the rest of us, I’m afraid I only have so much emotional and mental energy available to work through relationship issues with other people.

It isn’t that I don’t care and don’t want to invest the time or effort to nurture, cultivate, and do the maintenance work to repair and restore where wounds and brokenness have occurred. I just only can do what I can do.

I’ve always felt guilty and less than for that. I’ve always felt I was obligated to answer the questions, and the implied judgments behind them, people ask of me, especially people I know who care about me. As though I owe them an explanation and am accountable to them for the choices and wreckage of my life because they made the choice to care about me.

In learning the lessons my adult children are teaching me about boundaries, I have also learned loving and caring for people does not obligate them to answer to me. Conversely, this means I am not obligated and answerable to the needs and expectations of others, just because they care about me.

Figuring out healthy ways to apply this knowledge and affirm my realizations while trying to be gentle with myself and others is just beginning and it’s definitely challenging. I’m afraid we’re all in for a bit of a bumpy ride that may include some bruising of hearts, egos, and minds. Hopefully, it will all be worth it in the end and we’ll all be better and stronger for it. I believe I already am and know I have a long ways to go.