Saturday, January 12, 2019

Fear of Heights

I looked at Jesse and then back at the 12-foot wall in front of me. I bent double, holding my stomach, and felt as if a hand were wringing the life out of my intestines to the beat of my pounding heart. Waves of nausea waxed and waned as I contemplated the inevitability of climbing up and out of the small crevice within which we found ourselves.
“I can’t do it,” I said, straightening and shaking my head. I walked a few steps back from where we’d come.
“Why not?” Jesse asked, and I couldn’t tell if he were being a smartass or if he really wondered.
“Because . . . because I just can’t.” I wondered how I could explain 50 years of fear, of sitting at the top of an eight-foot ladder and crying because I had to climb down from it. 50 years of dreading any downward slope where I might lose my footing and roll, uncontrollably and dangerously, to end up a broken pile of limbs and torso. 50 years being certain, positive, that I would fall to my death or at least suffer debilitating injury whenever I faced even the most benign climb or descent.
“Why not?” he asked again. “Just put one foot here, and one here, and I’ll help you up and over.” He motioned to his thigh, set out parallel to the ground as it rested on a small outcropping, and another outcropping, just a bit higher, for what he imagined would be my second foothold.
“I can’t.” I repeated the only words I could come up with.
Jesse was getting irritated, I could tell. “Why not? And what are you going to do? Can you find our way back out of here?”
I knew that wasn’t possible, and now I too was getting angry.
“I just can’t!” I heard the panic and futility in my voice and the nonsensical childishness of my response. I felt trapped, and he was being so insensitive to that thing in me that elicited a deep and primal fear as only a deep-seated phobia can.
I looked up at the wall furiously. Furious with his insensitivity, furious at the situation he had put us in, furious with myself for being so afraid. Then I grabbed his offered hand and stepped up onto the thickness of his thigh.

It had been such a great idea, Jesse thought, to explore Rock City Park in rural New York State. And it was. But, as was typical for anything Jesse led us into, we were late to the show.
The whole adventure had begun a few days earlier when we’d left the brick and mortar walls of Jesse’s apartment, loaded the car with borrowed camping gear scavenged from a dusty outbuilding, and headed into rural western New York. My first camping trip since a one-night fiasco 30 years earlier, I only looked forward to it because it promised to be something new and I could have Jesse alone for a few days before heading back across the country for the beginning of a new semester teaching in Sioux City.
Finding the place had been a challenge. Armed with little preparation other than unspecific directions from his friend John (whom we both knew to be a blowhard), we had finally stumbled upon the primitive state park.
Leaving the car as the last bits of light fell through the trees and laced the ground around us, we armed ourselves with flashlights and only a vague idea of where we would find the best bits of the hike. We were completely inexperienced at this hiking/wilderness thing and had no map, no water, and no gear. In addition to our hand-held flashlights, Jesse had brought along the car GPS after entering the car’s position. After a few minutes of wandering among trees, buried stones, and surprisingly colorful toadstools, we found the rocks.
Half-buried in the earth or jutting up in the night air, covered with crumbly loam and slippery moss, these massive boulders had been pushed down the slopes of now disappeared mountains by the slow, powerful force of an ancient glacier, creating cracks and crevices, shelves and walls. Navigating around and over them exhilarated and frightened this city girl who’d never spent any time in the wilderness and little time in nature.
As I hopped across a number of one- to two-foot-wide voids slashed in the earth, I imagined my kids’ disbelief. While these cracks in the ground would pose no challenge to most hikers, or even those out for an evening stroll, my years of imagining falling to a horrible death caused the breath to catch in my throat each time I stepped across one of the narrow, dark chasms.
The pride I felt each time I conquered one of these small feats of bravery built and swelled my chest. I felt uncharacteristically unafraid and strong as we wound our way through the natural labyrinth. Jesse, in what I imagined was an attempt to get a rise out of me, wondered aloud whether there were mountain lions or bears about. Not to be easily cowed, I laughed at his speculation. But his next musing found the vulnerable soft underbelly of my fear. He wondered about spiders and centipedes and what kinds were native to western New York and might be lurking, just out of sight. I suddenly imagined walking into a hanging black widow, my flashlight catching that notorious red hourglass too late and feeling her silk web catch on my face. That’s when we began to look for a way back to the car, finding only a route that included this climb.

As I began the climb up the wall – and looking back I have to admit that “climb” might be hyperbole but life is all about perspective after all – my hands shook and my knees wobbled. Each handhold and foothold felt inadequate as I pulled myself up the wall. When I reached the top, I pulled myself over onto the solid ground and an explicable rush of accomplishment, relief, and undeniable joy instantly replaced all the fear and anxiety.
The realization of what my body was capable of doing, after spending most of my adult life overweight and unfit, shocked me. I remember feeling a lightness of being I’d never experienced. The weight of a lifetime of fear and habit fell away like so much dead skin of an onion, curling and crackling at the bottom of a flimsy paper sack. What had begun a year and a half before – the shedding of an old life that included dealing with a 20-year marriage that ended in an amicable divorce and losing the 50 pounds of extra weight I had accumulated – was now realized in a dark forest in western New York.
The new life I scrambled into when I climbed that first wall looks very little like the years that came before it. I’ve climbed many more walls, scrambled up mountains and ventured down into canyons all across the western United States. I’ve discovered passions and parts of myself that I never knew existed.
That earlier me, the one once ruled by a fear of heights, now seems eons ago and is as foreign to who I am now as the joy of standing free, above the world at the top of a steep and precarious ascent, once was.  And wonderfully, my joy of scaling heights has morphed into a spiritual one – I’ve gained the legs and heart to follow not only the path that leads up and over great vistas, but also the path that follows my bliss. When that path becomes frightening, as it sometimes does, I remember, as a talisman, that question my friend Jesse offered up all those years ago, “Why not?” And I now know there is no good answer.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Who am I? How do I Live?

“Spirit is the symbol for transformation. So when we open to spirit, we’re opening to transformation: we’re not going to be the same person that began the journey and we’re not going to see ourselves in the same way ever again. When we open to spirit, we’re not adding a new layer of identity. Spirit is that which throws off all identities and casts them all away. Spirit has no form, no ideology. It is eternal wholeness and completeness.”
~ Adyashanti - Resurrecting Jesus

            I have reached a new stage of being, or at least a new stage of identification of being. Identity is not only that which we call ourselves, that around which we orient ourselves, but it is a directive, a call for action. Most of us go through many identities as we go through our lives, many have been thrust upon us by birth or by others; many have been claimed through action or intention. But one thing is certain – identity shapes our self-perception, our action, and our presence on this earth.
My identities, or labels, as a human being, have been numerous. Beginning identifications such as baby, toddler, child, little sister, daughter, girl, are common to many beings born into this existence as a female human. But as I grew, I began to add to those pre-assigned labels with ones of my own, ones particular to my own individual journey – ones I chose or that were chosen for me. Some of these were positive, but many of them were labels that instilled a sense of worthlessness or shame on my young developing self.
            As a young teenager, I decided I wanted to be a horsewoman. So I pursued that identity, getting a job (a girl with a job) at 13, saved money and bought a horse (horse owner). I spent the next four years dedicating my life to all things horse and the things I needed to do to accomplish that (hard worker). Then, my need for connection with other humans blossomed, and I began to search for that connection in many destructive ways. I became a girl who drank (partier), a girl who slept around (slut). Having been assigned the label of “smart girl” when I was young, I still maintained that categorization, even amid the other dabblings of identity that were tearing down any self-esteem I had built with my previous actions.
            After a few years of drug use and alcohol abuse (partier, risk taker, experience seeker, wild girl), I adopted the label as sober alcoholic, a label that not only saved my life, but also set me out on the conscious path to awakening. Even before breaking through the fog of alcoholism, drug use, and promiscuity, however, I began to see there was another mode of being to which I was drawn. I read Richard Bach’s Illusions and Peter Marshall’s book of sermons, and I understood there was something more about me, about this existence, about being, that I was on the verge of seeing. Like an elusive word on the tip of my tongue, I could feel this knowing just beyond my peripheral vision.
            Once I adopted that identity of a sober alcoholic, I began the journey of consciousness awakening to itself. Sometimes I focused on the journey, and sometimes it retreated back stage while I adopted other identities and roles in my everyday life. I regret none of those roles, either before or after that initial awakening, and those lives and labels – wife, mother, student, professor – are experiences I treasure and which gave me, and continue to give me, innumerable joys in this lifetime. But always, along those paths of identity and action, I had that pull, sometimes shouting loudly and sometimes whispering just behind my consciousness, that I needed to be more fully following that impulse to awakening.
            This impulse began to intensify in the last 10 years, and I began to pursue paths of knowledge and inspiration; I attended spiritual conferences and retreats and took week-long courses to develop tools to not only open myself to awakening but to further flush out the shadows and obstacles that hindered the full maturity of my personal ego. This pull to awakening finally pushed me to step beyond my identity of full-time career woman to wanderer, and I left home and security to explore the world and my self and, as I said, “to see where I wanted to land.”
            I see now that landing, settling, while yes, in some ways, is finding a place where I feel grounded and home, is also another thing altogether. As I’ve found a place where every morning I see that which stirs my soul, I also find myself settling into a new identity. This new place I find myself is that of a monastic, someone who chooses to forsake other pursuits to spend her time pursuing awakening to the consciousness that already and always is – awakening to the true Self, that which is beyond the true Self, and the Boundless Totality of Source that is everything.
            Of course I still must work, and I still must play, and I must love and give and go about those daily tasks and experiences that sustain my physical presence in this world and the intimate relationships with those to whom I am deeply connected. But instead of my awakening being something I return to now and then, it is the overarching reality I awake to every morning and go to sleep with every night. Just as when I received the gift of motherhood, it is all-encompassing and has redefined who I am and every decision I make.
            Perhaps this movement from stage right to center stage happened because I’ve taken the steps to embrace awakening fully – I’ve meditated daily now for almost three months with no exception, I’m actively participating in an online retreat with my teacher that prompts daily contemplation and spiritual exercise, and I am fully ready to surrender what resistance I’ve held to awaken to the fully reality of existence. I took steps to evaluate how I spend my time and reorganized my day to give time and attention to the things that I value most in life – spiritual practice, writing, and physical exercise – and I’ve followed that schedule joyfully.
            Whether this movement, this opening, comes from creating the fertile ground for evolution or it has just appeared because it was time doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it is here and I am embracing it. My life, now, is dedicated to waking up and sharing that experience. I have finally found the words that have been on the tip of my tongue for nearly 40 years, and I’m determined to speak them aloud. My identity is that of a monastic, an everyday goddess who is coming more and more into her full identity. And by coming into that identity, I will, as I awaken fully, move paradoxically through it to that place of the ultimate no-identity. Come on along.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why I Can’t Do Facebook Politics Anymore: An Essay in Two Parts

First this is a formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President.

This election may be the most important most of us have lived through. Who is elected will shape much of how our country will go forward, and it will be a reflection of who we are and what we value. If we want to be a country that endorses hate and separatism, that rewards greed and honors privilege, Donald Trump is the guy. If we want to keep progressing toward a more loving, fair, and inclusive world, we need to elect Hillary Clinton.

We have a cast of characters in this presidential election that run the full spectrum. I admire Jill Stein and Gary Johnson for throwing their hats into the ring, and while both have some decent ideas, each is unqualified and unprepared to shoulder the burden of the presidency. Votes for either may satisfy a need to protest or stand for an ideology, but realistically the only difference it can make is to weaken one or the other of the two main candidates. I was an all-out supporter of Bernie Sanders, and I believe he moved the Democratic Party generally and Hillary specifically toward a more progressive agenda. But I am a realist – Bernie didn’t get the nomination and Hillary did. He supports her and knows the importance of electing her our next president, and I do too.

I know people have problems with Hillary, and some are justified. Yes, she’s the quintessential politician. Yes, she has not been completely honest at times and spins the facts to favor her ideas. This is typical of any politician. And while she’s been thoroughly vetted and investigated by a hostile congress, by Fox News and all the neo-conservative vehicles out there, and by her enemies in both public and private life, she’s never been found guilty of the accusations heaped upon her. So she’s either the best criminal ever or the victim of lies told often enough people see them as true. I don’t think she’s a criminal mastermind.

The distraction and stain of these accusations have bled into her own party, prompting some Bernie supporters and Democrats to take up the chorus of these overblown and false attacks. Serving the GOP and the right wing of the conservative party, these “progressives” are now their foot soldiers. The most unfortunate result of this taking up arms against her is the complete disregard for a lifetime spent in service, bringing about real change over the past 30 years. She has fought tirelessly and is prepared to continue to fight for those causes I, and many of her now critics, find most important – equality for women, alleviating the burdens on the poor, civil rights, health care, the sustainability of the planet. She is known and respected by world leaders, and cares deeply for this country and humanity.

So I believe Hillary, who was not my first choice, will make a very good president and must be elected. The alternative is not just someone who has non-progressive ideas, but who is one of the most dangerous candidates in history. He gives lip service to whatever he thinks will gain him votes, which is rather common in politics, but he lacks the moral fiber, the strength of character, the good judgement, and the steady temperament to hold this highest position in our government.

This brings me to the second part of my essay: Why I must leave Facebook politics for my spiritual well-being and why Donald Trump is so dangerous for this country.

I’m in a time of transition, or rather, I’ve made a transition. I’m moving away from the illusions of fear and separation and toward the Reality of Being. The only way I know to do this is through meditation, reading my spiritual teachers’ texts, and using the tools I have gathered over years of consciousness evolution. That means giving time and attention to that state of Being, and spending less time and attention on distractions and illusions.

The vast majority of the world, unfortunately, is mostly caught up in the illusion in which we live our everyday lives as if it were the only reality. It is easy to be seduced by the battles that rage there, even as we move toward consciousness. I find myself in the struggle to be in the world but not of it and trying to keep from losing of all sense of that elusive Being. But ironically, as is the case with many spiritual truths, I keep finding myself buried more deeply in the quicksand of illusion the harder I fight.

I’ve been waging much of that war on Facebook. The presidential race has given me the battlefield, and Trump an easy and identifiable foe as the embodiment of all that is wrong with the illusion of separateness. His worldview is as diametrically opposed to that that I’ve come to see as the true reality of oneness as one can get. His tactics of fear-mongering, pettiness, hate, and dishonesty astound me, and the fact that so many are openly embracing these things distresses me. He is unconsciousness personified. My teacher Adyashanti describes this deluded world in his book, The Way of Liberation:

To remain unconscious of being is to be trapped within an ego-driving wasteland of conflict, strife and fear that only seems customary because we have been brainwashed into a state of suspended disbelief where a shocking amount of hate, dishonesty, ignorance, and greed are viewed as normal and sane [emphasis mine]. But they are not sane, not even close to being sane. In fact, nothing could be less sane and unreal than what we human beings call reality (10).

Because of Trump’s open endorsement of “hate, dishonesty, ignorance, and greed,” I find myself time and time again sharing the evidence on Facebook. I want to call him out, to show the world how awful and destructive he and his ideas are, especially to those good people I know personally who, because he calls himself a Republican, a conservative, or Christian, are hesitantly going over to his camp and making excuses for his behavior. The ability of people to ignore or disregard the reality of his rhetoric and ideas because of ideological alliances seems boundless, and I’m sickened and frightened about it.

This fear that arises, the need to illuminate the horror that he represents, pulls me deeper into the quicksand of illusion. It’s another of the traps that masters of illusion seem capable of setting – pulling in those who see the illusion for what it is and trapping them in the illusion though the fight, like a fish setting a hook. This has been suffocating me and pulling me under, and it’s time for me to walk away from the trap.

So I leave the sharing of clever memes and well-written, well-researched articles, the almost daily revelations of ongoing atrocities and uncovered character-revealing actions, to others. I’ll still be on Facebook, sharing what I’m learning about Reality and the beauty of this physical illusion we call our world, but I won’t be playing on the political field regularly any more.

Because after all, as Maya Angelou said, “We are more alike than we are different, my friends. We are more alike than we are different.” Namaste, my friends.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Pursuit of Comfort

I went to see "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" today. In a season of high quality and diverse Oscar contenders, this film, with all it's hype and promotion, fell a little flat at the box office and in popular consideration. But I was craving a celluloid fix - although of course it's all digital now - and I had enjoyed the scenery in the previews and I like Ben Stiller. 

The film opened at the discount theater this weekend, after just a few weeks of its release. Picking the early matinee to keep my afternoon free, I was the only one in the theater. Settling in, I prepared to be whisked away in a fictional world.

The film itself is no award winner, but some of the scenery is fabulous - Greenland, Iceland, the Himalayas - and Ben Stiller and co-star Kristin Wiig create characters that the audience roots for. The message of the film - that we should overcome our fears and adventure out into this huge, glorious, unpredictable world - is obvious and overstated, as is the grotesquely visible and drawn-out product placement for a well-known pizza chain, but the experience is overall pleasant and enjoyable. 

Films, however, like all literature, often surprise their audiences with unexpected emotions or themes, based on each member's need, level of personal evolution, or distinct worldview. And this one blind-sided me with a custom-made message, delivered with all the subtlety of a freight train: how is it that we've become a culture of individuals who seek comfort and ease above experiencing the entirety of this existence? 

Now I'm not above comfort-seeking with my cell-phone virtually attached for convenience, my well-furnished kitchen with a gadget for any possible contingency, my comfortable king-sized bed, my late-model CR-V, and too many other comforts and conveniences to mention. But I have, over the past few years, been weaning myself from this perceived need. 

Having once spent a year creating a 4000 square foot Victorian dream house with a room for almost every possible use and as many bathrooms as inhabitants, I now, after four moves, live in about 800 square feet. I remember declaring to my ex-husband, as my southern-raised-self weathered these unfamiliar frigid winters here in the upper Midwest, that I would set the thermostat wherever I needed to to stay comfortable, regardless of the cost to either our energy bill or my carbon footprint. Today, I turn the temperature to 60 when I leave the house and I never set it above 68, keeping a blanket and space heater close for use when my toes get cold. 

After years of declaring I'd only camp if I had access to a microwave and a toilet, when I travel now, I try to tent camp if the weather is warm enough, even though it's a lot of work to set up, take down, and organize a campsite night after night. Climbing up from a two-inch mattress covering the cold ground creates awareness of my not-so-young joints and muscles, and building a fire, preparing and cooking my meals before I can eat is more work than stopping at a fast-food restaurant, but I've grown to not only manage the added work involved but also to enjoy it. 

I choose to spend my leisure time hiking, climbing, and often carrying a 40-pound pack in steep terrain. These pleasures have nothing to do with pursuing comfort and have everything to do with pursuing the joy of existence. Although I've uttered profanities to myself while struggling up a seemingly unending incline, I wouldn't trade the pain and effort for a cushier pastime. And I don't only eschew comfort in my vacation time. 

I've modified my life in many ways, foregoing comfort for frugality until it's become part of my identity. I'm constantly looking for ways to economize more, both for my budget and for the good of the planet. Yes, it's inconvenient to wash out any recyclable containers I empty when I eat my packed lunch so I can carry them back home to put in the recycling. Yes, it's uncomfortable to weigh the gas I'll use to run an errand with the inconvenience of waiting and consolidating trips, but the rewards are high for this kind of conscious living. 

But conscious living is not the norm here in the heartland - or, I would posit, in the rest of our country. Our culture's never-ending quest for comfort, convenience, and ease has somehow led us down a dark and irresponsible existence. We pursue money - the means by which we purchase comfort - above all else, often at the cost of time for ourselves or with those we love. We make our educational decisions based on what will prepare us for a high-paying job, not on what will prepare us to do what we love more effectively or to make a difference in the world. We spend at least 40 hours a week chasing that good paycheck not only to sustain ourselves and our loved ones, but also so we can have the latest new gadget or style of shirt. 

And I wonder, what have we given up in this pursuit of comfort? I have discovered in the last few years that during the years I pursued a life of escalating ease, I often gave up living my life. I never knew the joy that a cold walk through the mountains, pushing myself physically and emotionally, could bring. I never knew the satisfaction of opening a utility bill and smiling at the money I saved by wearing a sweatshirt in the evening instead of a t-shirt. I never knew that making decisions based on what I wanted, not how comfortable I'd be, would free me up to live a life I never imagined. 

So for me, today, I try to notice where I, like Walter Mitty, am giving up living my life for comfort, ease, and avoiding some perceived risk. And I try to choose what will feed my soul, not what will make me the most comfortable. And that, as my friend Robert Frost says, has made all the difference.

Inside the Eye

The eye of a hurricane is a place of quiet, of power, of wholeness, holding steady and sure while the world spins around, out of control and taking victims with its flailing tail. Life often feels that way too - the out-of-control part anyway. I've come to discover, however, that finding the eye is not deadly business, even though it may feel that way. 

Perhaps the journey to reach that eye is a bit like the middle stage of Joseph Campbell's heroic journey - the road of trials. It often involves a bit of struggle, a bit of pain, and a concerted effort to push on when all hope seems lost. But it is the only way to reach the reward, the boon of awakening from the dream, the eye of the hurricane. 

There are no shortcuts - at least none I've found. Perhaps staying focused on the goal will facilitate its attainment, but even that offers no promise. Monks have chanted, sat, and meditated for years before (if ever) reaching Nirvana, and one can't get much more focused than dedicating one's life to practice. In fact, the rareness of attainment in monks perpetuates the idea that one must search for years, becoming ascetic, abstaining from the material and carnal pleasures of the world. 

That said, I have found that awakening is an eye-blink away, ready to fall upon us like unexpected good news. As my friend Greg Nooney says, we're always two seconds from awakening. I'd say we're always already there, but we just don't know it. 

I can say this with authority. I have had moments, moments I fully awake from the dream and I know who I am at the core of my being. I am enlightened - for a moment. I can remember a few of them clearly - those experiences that lasted minutes or hours instead of seconds. The reality of that awareness stands in stark contrast to the all-too-common somnambulism of my life. 

I no longer find this state of enlightenment, of awakening, some distant goal to be chased and yearned for, but rather my natural state - one that I can drop into with just a little bit of inquiry. In fact, its accessibility reminds me of the months and years following some pretty heavy acid use. We called them flashbacks, those times we could start tripping without the drug by conjuring up the memory of the taste or sensation of the hallucinogenic, and after some bad trips, I avoided trips down that specific memory lane whenever possible. But this ability to drop into awareness, while the process is similar in some ways, involves nothing of the fear. It's a journey home each time, a sudden recognition of who and what I am. 

So what do I find there, at the eye of the hurricane that is my life? While words cannot do justice to the reality of our authentic selves, it's all we have when trying to convey it. We have beautiful descriptions from sages, saints, and, maybe surprisingly, screenwriters. Alan Ball has given us some of the best: 

Lester Burnham's voiceover at the close of the film American Beauty is a beautiful description: 

. . .I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me – but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world.  Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst . . . and then I remember to relax, to stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life (amused)  You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure.  But don’t worry . . . You will someday (Ball 97 – 100). 

And from the same film, when Ricky Fitts is describing his epiphany gained from watching a plastic bag on a windy day, just before snowfall: 

It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing.  And there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right?  And this bag was just – dancing with me.  Like a little kid begging me to play with it.  For fifteen minutes.  That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid.  Ever – Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it – and my heart is going to cave in (60). 

I'm not sure I can add much to these, but I will say it's as if I suddenly know, not just intellectually but also emotionally and experientially, that all the world, all of this existence, is simply a playground for learning, for awakening to my true nature. And the most lovely part of this realization - it is your playground too. While I am the hero of my journey, and all of you, all of this life, are simply the helpers on that journey, you too are the hero of your journey. Your life, along with those of us in it, is there to serve your awakening, as perfectly as mine is there for me. As Shakespeare said so prophetically: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts." 

I've found there are no extras in this life. The worth of every single individual is the same - from the least among us to the most. From the most generous to the most heinous. No exceptions. And in a world like that, how could any of us possibly have anything to lose as we navigate the storms of our own personalized hurricanes? 

So I look forward to meeting you there, Inside the Eye, when we know, without a doubt, there there is absolutely nothing to fear, nothing to lose, in this thing we call our lives.