humor, life lessons, mindfulness

From The Top Of The World

“Well, there is narcissism in all of us, of course.  I mean we are the protagonists of our own lives, so naturally it feels like we’re at the wheel.  But we’re not at the wheel.  That just happens to be where the window is located” — Jean Marie Korelitz

I’ve been up at the mountain house since Sunday.  It’s good to be back, though the first few days without any connectivity to the outside world was a little daunting.  No phone service, no Internet.  I thought that would be fine – and it was, except when the night encroached and I was reminded that I am a very little, inconsequential person in the great big scheme of things – and the mountains are a fairly imposing backdrop from which to consider this.  What serendipity has brought me to this place in time.  And yeah, there were occasionally shout-outs imploring the universe to keep me safe.  So far, so good.

On some level it appalls me that silence can be unrequited, when it is so necessary and valuable.  I’ve been struggling a lot of late with the outline of this next story line in my life (made even more difficult by the fact that I have yet to figure out what I want to be when I grow up).  Itchy, out-of-sync, closing off more parts of me to see if I could get to the essence of what I want.  The reality is I need this silence right now (though it is good to be able to converse with you again).  With all the noise going on in my head, something had to force me to be still.

I have not arrived at any great conclusions, though I feel like I’m on the cusp of…something.  And I’m feeling a bit less anxious about not being able to touch it.  When you can’t avoid yourself, you have to figure out a way through the mild panic and self-deriding thoughts that circle around as a cyclone.  Stepping outside myself to look inside and provide the reassurance that it’s ok.  Let life carry me – for that is what it’s going to do anyway.   What hubris to think that because I want answers now that I’m supposed to have them.  They’re en route – like the spring.

I marvel that the buds on the trees, the flowers, etc are so insistent on blooming regardless of the temperature.  They’re straining to burst forth, determined to honor their rightful time in the sun.  A part of me wants them to be a bit more self-protective and wait until the temperature proves more accommodating.  Another part of me is cheering them on, encouraging them to claim their rightful place.  They’re going to bloom, in their time and on their schedule.  I am learning a lot from them.  The hide-and-seek exercise that transitions us from one season to the next, and the incoming season is always ‘it’.  And always wins.  So with this thought, I toy with a new season in my soul.

It’s all good.  Learning to give myself a break, give myself permission to stare at the clouds, read a book in one sitting, make some tea and just savor.  Savor my husband, my children (when they allow me), the cocoon I am ensconced in on top of this very large and imposing mountain.  Make music in the silence and write a verse that has yet to be sung.

 

life lessons, love, mindfulness

Leave The Door Open

This video stayed with me.  The changing aspect of love’s reality.  What we’re sure we define as love when our notebooks are covered with hearts and initials inside them, notes are passed and love songs are written expressly for you.  Believing that it lasts forever, when one really has no concept of what that means.  Love in later years, with fewer illusions and more complications, yet felt with a deeper understanding of the rapidity with which time passes.  Learning to stay in love and learning to let go should one need to.  Remembering to keep the door open to the possibility that it will return in a different form, with a different song and open arms.  Let love in – however you define it.

friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love

For Jo – In Her Renaissance

Today is my friend Joanne’s birthday.  It’s a big one to us – sixty is a pretty impressive number, and worthy of celebration.  Since I can’t be with her today, at the very least it is deserving of a post.

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A few years ago, my daughter-in-law set up my Facebook page though I had little expectation that I would ‘meet’ people in such a forum.  Within two hours of being connected, I received a message from Jo.  She had been looking for me for oh, about forty years.  And I felt a surge of gratitude and disbelief that is difficult to explain.  Honestly, I don’t consider myself one of the memorable ones.  But anyway, there was no denying that we were best friends in junior high school, two of the bar mitzvah brides in the neighborhood (a phrase of my mother’s referring to the number of bar mitzvahs we were invited to attend), and typically on the phone when we weren’t in each other’s apartment.  But life happened in between then and now.  We went to different high schools, colleges.  The last time I saw her was when she came to hear me sing at a place called “Catch A Rising Star” in New York.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been in another time” (John Edward Williams)

So we have traveled different roads, in different cities, in different vehicles.  And yet our travels paralleled each other.  Our majors were similar, our commitments were similar.  Our twenties were blessed with the arrival of our kids but kicked our asses in every other way. I probably built more walls around me than Jo; she remains far more open and trusting.  I am here for her today as I was for her when I was thirteen.  We have both lost our parents and understand the seismic shift this causes in one’s bearings; one’s place in the world.  She thinks I’m a better person than I am.  I think of her as a magic kite – she soars and dips in colors so vibrant your eyes have to adjust to its brightness.  You see nothing else in the sky.

Jo was going to become a bat mitzvah today, but sometimes life shouts “Plot Change!” and you have to adjust accordingly.  She was going to speak about her journey, what she has integrated into her soul along the way.  She had asked me to say something too – and I would have said the following – “This is a day that celebrates the nexus of all that has come before you and all that still awaits.  I am a better, happier person for your friendship.  The children you have taught and the parents you have guided have been led by an uncompromising, dedicated, singularly outstanding educator.  The formidable and unyielding love for Ben and Jenna is so powerful, it is its own energy force.  Your heart holds more than most can ever hope to experience in a lifetime – and you still have a long way to go.  This world which you have touched with your passion and your elation, with your sorrow and your tears, with your right and  righteous “Made In America” indignation and gentle yearnings for a view of the Gulf Of Mexico – is a better place because of the way you have chosen to grace it.  I would have thanked you for the gift of being able to speak these words.  Yet that said, I’m just as happy to write them to you here.  With love and laughter and wishes for all that you wish for yourself and more – Happy Birthday Jo.

inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness, motivation

This Is The Only Moment

This morning, Bill @ drbillwooten.com touched off a train of thought with another one of his fantastic quotes – this from Ernest Hemingway – “And if there’s not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your life, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it.”

Assuming that one is living a life of relative physical and emotional comfort, I think being happy takes guts.  It seems to be far easier to ascribe one’s frame of mind to the actions or inactions of others, the elements of living that remain decidedly out of our control and/or historic wrongs that we suffered from which it seems likely we will never recover.  I know you have met people who have affixed a figurative piece of velcro to the back of their hand and permanently placed it against their forehead.  Lots of sighs.  Slews of “if onlys”.  Eeyore on steroids (and I say that with affection, for I am a huge Eeyore fan).

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There’s a lot of conversational fodder in looking at your life and finding happiness contingent upon something or someone else.  Life as a perpetual “if….then” statement.  The operative word for me is ‘perpetual’, for arguably there are times when we are anticipating, hoping, planning, etc.  But all the time?  Are we always waiting to react?  Are we never responsible for initiating?  If one believes the latter, then what in the world can we claim personal responsibility for?  What do we get to claim as ours?

Happiness is a challenge, for it means you own it.  It’s on you.  No one else.  Your boss can be impossible (I’ve had those), people may not offer what you are hoping for, someone may ride your bumper during an interminable rush hour.  Maybe your kids don’t get you or you don’t get them.  Perhaps the list of irritations far outweigh the list of delights.  I get it.  But I own it.  My lousy moods are mine – rarely do I blame someone else.  My happiness – which can certainly be fostered and enhanced by the phenomenal people around me – is also mine.  Because at the end of the day, I’m the one in this moment.  Our perceptions of the present moment are not the same, even if we’re sitting here having a cup of coffee together.   However I interpret this time is my job.  And I’m ok with that – because I can adjust and recalibrate – I don’t want someone else to do it for me.

When I was a young adult, my mom would repeatedly admonish “You never listen to me.  Well, you listen to me, but you end up doing what you want to do anyway.”  She was right.  I asked her many years later whether she really would have wanted to take responsibility for my actions – a question answered by her silence.  It’s easier to point a finger out, but honestly?  You’re the one who makes your day.

Why do I post this today?  Because I needed the reminder.  Because the morning broke grey and indifferent and I felt my body concede, bending to the power of a day that didn’t give a damn.  Joints in active rebellion.  One look in the mirror and all bets on a good hair day were off.  The Sirs decided to bark passionately at absolutely nothing and my head began to feel like it was in a vice.  The kitchen still looked post-apocalyptic.  This was my moment.  And unless I kicked myself in the butt, the day was going to continue to spiral down with alacrity.  So Bill’s quote brought me back to baseline.  If this is all I’ve got, it’s fine by me.  And though I wish that all your moments are golden, I know that some may not meet that threshold.  So when they don’t, consider that this is all we know for sure.  Right now – and it’s yours.  For that reason alone, it deserves at least a smile, and perhaps a shake of the head.

 

anxiety, discretion, humor, inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness, motivation

You’d Think I’d Know By Now

I recently received a comment about one of my posts, which I have let drive me crazy.  The person (whose blog I read regularly and enjoy – particularly for the  fabulous photography) wrote candidly that he didn’t read my posts frequently because he found them “too sweet”.  Now before you say anything – this isn’t a referendum on whether he’s right.  He’s right – I’m not the type to disabuse anyone of their feelings and after obsessing about this for days now, I see his point.

I assure you I’m not all that sweet.  Well, I’m sweet, but I have as many snarky moments as the next person.  And I can be sarcastic.  And if you’re a friend or relative of mine, I can be an absolute lioness – with both chuffing and growling sounds perfected.  You get my drift, though believe me I could go on and tell you all the reasons why I can compete with the best provocateurs, devil’s advocates and cynics.  Just ask Andy.  But I digress (again).

What gets me is how much I let this thought consume me.   I have held onto this like Archie covets a new bone.  The circuitous breeze in my head blows relentlessly and none too gently.  “Have I become saccharine?”  “What do I want this blog to reflect?”  “Is it honest” “Am I still thinking like Pollyanna?” (answer to this question is  – yes).  “Do I have anything new to say or have I become Mimi One-Note?”  “How much do I want to put out there”  Of course, the answers change direction depending on the time of day, the state of my hair, and whether I have eaten recently.  As of this writing, I’ve decided that I’ve got to let it go.  Must be time for lunch.

I began this blog with a thousand different ideas about what I wanted it to be like and then zeroed in on a year’s worth of entries that I could print out and give to my sons – a somewhat morbid, but well-intended gesture for them.  I’m now well into my second year and I can’t see giving them a flippin’ tome, so what am I doing now?  Honestly, I have no idea.  Given that I’m a big believer that certain answers come with time, I’m giving it time and just moving forward.  What I do know is that I’m as transparent as I feel I can be.

On Monday we were out to dinner with friends of ours who have had a really challenging year.   Her son was diagnosed with a serious illness, she was just laid off for the second time in less than a year.  The company he works for is on the brink of going under.  And yet, there we sat genuinely aware that we were all beyond lucky.  First and foremost, her son is much, much better – and that offers a perspective like nothing else.  We live in far better circumstances than most people in the world.  We laugh – a lot.  We know love.  We’re more aware that the concept of happiness is not something that is a given, rather more like snatches of sunlight between the cracks in a day.  The key is in noticing those spaces.  I’m trying to look for them, choosing to find them.  I don’t want to miss my chances, for the weather changes with little warning.

Lately, I’ve been acutely aware of time speeding past.  When the hell did I become 59 when I still hold on to such immaturity?   I’m not ready to age-out of life just yet and would prefer to be in the game with some well-preserved naiveté and faith in a whole bunch of things that are bigger than me (note to David Kanigan – no height comments here, pal).  I’d rather be acknowledging the spaces in-between and delight when I find them.  Pollyanna?  You betcha – though I don’t do braids.

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humor, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, motivation, Uncategorized

On My Own

Well, the King of our castle is off to baseball camp.  Over the next week Andy will be in the field and up at bat, he will pitch and catch, spit pumpkin seed shells and talk it up in the dugout.  He will have Yankee trainers rub his shoulders, ice his knees and disingenuously marvel (while appearing completely credible) at the athletic prowess of these campers-of-a-certain-age.

Andy left with a suitcase filled to capacity.  Two baseball gloves; cleats; Yankee swag from his prior camp days – baseball hats, sneakers, long-sleeved t-shirts, short-sleeve t-shirts.  For all I know there are Yankee socks and underwear carefully folded in his suitcase along with dress shirts for their special bonding dinners, jeans for those casual evenings of drinking at the hotel bar, etc.  You want to make sure you’re one of the cool kids at camp – sartorially as well as athletically.  His carry on?  A Yankee bat bag, of course.  The amount of testosterone which is now coursing through his body is exponentially greater than it was a week ago.  Buh-bye sweetie.

So, for the past couple of days I have been on my own.  The palace has been alive with frivolous pleasure and impetuous pursuits.  I really hesitate to share it with you, lest you think less of me as a result.  A wanton woman, with a fickle tendency to move from one amusement to the next.

I have organized the pantry, the shelves of spices and the linen closet.  A new featherbed sits atop our mattress.  Two books finished; new music filling the house with the volume high enough that it can be relished in any room.  In a moment of cheeky adventure, I scoured Whole Foods for some highly caloric delight that would normally never make its way past my lips.  I ended up with sesame seed seaweed wraps and a bag of Good ‘N Plenty from the drugstore.  C-r-a-z-y, huh?

I know what you’re thinking.  If I’m cavorting with such abandon so early in the week, how will I manage to maintain this pace until the weekend?  Stamina my friends, I have stamina.  And a somewhat perverse definition of having fun.  Breakfast at the diner with my kids – goofy and fun.  The sun offering gorgeous shadows and prisms in the kitchen while the dishwasher hums and the Sirs grab a mid-morning snooze – delightful.  Knowing that my husband is having the time of his life – it’s fun for me too.  Happiness need not shout its presence to me, I hear it loud and clear in this moment – right now.  The week will unfold however it will, with bitter cold weather expected and an abiding warmth at the prospect that I need do nothing differently in order to feel happy.   It really is ‘all good’ and I challenge any umpire to tell me that I’m not ‘safe at home’.

 

anxiety, discretion, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

What’s Love Got To Do With It? A lot

I want to thank Bill who writes the blog drbillwooten.com  for posting a quote this morning which has been echoing in my head –

“In the life of each of us…there is a place remote and islanded, and given to endless regret or secret happiness.  Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside wakes.” — C.E. Jung

Let me qualify this, before you leap to the notion that I’m advocating a narcissistic approach to life, centered totally on yourself with no consideration given to anyone or anything else.  Back it up my friend – let’s slow down and just take a little stroll, ok?  There is little risk that any of those who read this are on the cusp of world domination, figuratively speaking (if for some reason you are on the literal cusp of world domination,  I think it’s best I don’t know – just remember to please be kind when you assume global power).

I worry about my friends and family the way my Sirs can worry a bone.  Archie can spend hours considering a new bone from every angle, holding it tightly in his paws, refusing to consider a walk outside or a diversion of any kind.  I get it.  And so today I’m writing to all of you who have been on my mind – I love you, but I also need to get some sleep.

You are so incredibly worthy and deserving of all the happiness that you seek.  And you’re going to find it.  I wish I could tell you that it’s located on aisle six of the supermarket, next to the shaving cream.  On sale with no coupon needed.  The good news is that the cost isn’t prohibitive. The less-than-good-news is that it’s where we seldom choose to look.  Step inside yourself for a minute.  What do you see?  My hunch is that you see a lot of what you don’t want to look at.  So, we shut that door and look outside.  And our lives become “if..then” statements. ‘If this person loves me, then I will be happy.’  ‘If I could just get her to do ‘x’, then all would be good’.  ‘If I get this promotion, then I’ll be set’.  And – what if none of that happens?  We push that away.  Don’t want to think about it, because we’ve already set the level of expectation.

But where do you come into play?  If you spoke to yourself as you would your best friend, looked in the mirror through the eyes of one who loves and cherishes you, gave yourself permission to love yourself with the same passionate devotion with which you approach others – what would you do today?  How would you take care of you?  Would you let someone you love waste one moment of his/her time on sorrow that is avoidable?  Would you ever let someone you adore, cede control of his/her sense of self to anyone?  You wouldn’t of course – that’s what makes you such a fantastic friend.  Perhaps to everyone except yourself.

I’ve gotten myself so lost at times that it’s taken me years to get back to someone I recognize.  It happens.  And finding that I detoured and went so far off course that I couldn’t even figure out my true location is not a foreign exercise to me.  I’m still learning to give myself a break, nurture the little kid in me, still the voices in my head that continue to insist that they know what I should be doing, when arguably they no longer really know me at all.  I look in the mirror and some days I can’t stand what I see.  And I have a very strong able-bodied imp that jumps up and down every time I try to give myself an ‘atta girl’.

But – and it’s a big but – I know if I listen for too long, I will go down a path I would rather not travel.  I want to love this life enough to feel joy with who I am – choosing to sit here at the round table, with the sun on my back, jazz playing softly in the background, writing to you.  I choose to travel inside every once in a while to see how I’m treating myself, and to remember that I’m more ok than I probably think I am.  And more importantly, I can’t dismiss my own neurotic idiosyncracies by focusing on everyone and everything except them.  They’re as much a part of me as any wonderful qualities I may possess.  So be it.  I’ve gotta expend a little emotional energy on me.  That’s what my best friend would tell me.

My best friend would remind me that in her eyes, I’m wonderful and worthy and important. A best friend would not let me put the onus of my happiness on anyone’s shoulders and would urge me to get happy with me first.  Because a friend loves like that.  Can you be your own best friend for a little while?  Take that tentative walk inside and find all the wonder that is there and try to make peace with what is not – and still love you like crazy?

That is my wish for today – that you see yourself as I do.  That you embrace your magical, wonderful, generous, funny, lovable, silly, serious, slightly nutty, ridiculously talented self as I would if you were here.

discretion, friendship, humor, life lessons, love, mindfulness

I Love Oreo Cookies

Please note, I didn’t say I love Nabisco – I know nothing about the company, I concede that Oreo cookies are made of few natural ingredients and if consumed in massive quantities may erode one’s digestive track and certainly they can leave embarrassing clues on your teeth if you don’t wash them down with something.

I love Oreos because they don’t fall apart when you dunk them in milk.  Oreos are tough, even though the stuff in the middle always stays soft (but never so soft that it falls into your glass mid-dunk).   I carried two bags of Double Stuff Oreos in my suitcase when I flew to Riyadh, and not one broke  (another story for another day – it was for work, and yes, I looked more than a little ridiculous in an abaya which I kept tripping over because there was no opportunity to get a normally sized one adjusted for a short woman, and blond hair poking out of a hijab didn’t help me achieve anonymity).  That says less for my packing skills than it does for the cookies.  I’m tellin’ you – Oreos are the unsung heroes of Cookiedom.

And I stand (ok, sit) before you today – the metaphoric Oreo.  Yet somehow it doesn’t make me a hero among humankind, so please don’t view this as a flight of egoistic folly.

I’m a pretty tough cookie on the outside (get it? already the parallels begin to present themselves).  Retrospectively, it took a pretty tough exterior to pick up an almost two-year old and four-year old and leave a toxic situation and have no job, no support system in the area, and no idea what the tomorrows would hold.  What I had was an unbreakable belief that I was going to do right by my babies and figure the rest out later.  No heroics here, just survival.  And no perfect endings for there aren’t any – I made sure there was an account just to cover their therapy bills (I’m sorta kidding about this guys – there’s no account with some hidden cash in it).  And at night when they were asleep, I would sit in their room just to listen to them breathe, because it allowed me to be as vulnerable as they were.

There isn’t a lot of room for the creamy filling on-the-inside when you’re working in a mega-firm either.  There’s too much emphasis on the ‘mega’ and my office was the place where people came when they needed to emote, not for me to emote.  Compassionate?  You bet.  Concerned?  To a neurotic fault.  Invested?  To my toes.  But if there needed to be a hard-core, put-your-head-down-and-just-keep-going kinda gal – I was pretty damn good at that.  Fall apart?  Not in front of anyone – that wasn’t part of the equation.  Not because I am a woman, because law firms like the ‘play hurt persona’.  They like the exterior that won’t fall apart no matter the hours, disaffection or compromised values.

And there’s definitely a need to be Oreo-like if you don’t want people to see that you have a body that is constantly fighting with itself.  That’s just way too boring.

I will crack a joke (and they’re often quite good by the way), sound like Pollyanna, and never admit that I’ve lost the part of the sandwich that keeps the icing inside.  Yup. Love those Oreos..Someone recently wrote me and said “you know, this is a two-way deal – you can talk to me about what’s going on with you too”.  I love her dearly – and find the prospect of such disclosure so  hard.  I’m better in the other role, the ‘I want to see you happy role’.  And you know?  I’ve gotta get over this a bit – enough so that I develop enough affection for myself that I can be something other than perpetually ok.  And my hunch is you do too (admit it, you’re nodding aren’t you?)

For at the end of the day, I do break like everybody else.  I feel slights as much as the next person and though I rarely acknowledge it, can feel completely broken by another’s thoughtless action.  Perhaps it’s why I pursue kindness so passionately, maybe that’s why I rail against communication that can be obfuscated and misunderstood – because I don’t want there to be hurt – intentional or unintentional.  Petulant and childish – I know.  But maybe there is something to it.   I can be a tough cookie when it comes to dealing with the curve ball that can be thrown when one’s health is always compromised;  when a crisis arises, I want me there;  if someone needs another to have his/her back – turn around – I’m there.  I have to learn that sometimes it’s important to ask someone else to have mine.

So when all is said and done…and I occasionally look at the losses or the hurts, the foul plays and the cheap shots, the downs that have to accompany the many ups –  I realize that perhaps it’s time to develop an affection for another type of carb…I think at core, I am really…a Twinkie. And I think, I’m going to be ok with that, though I’ll probably have to go to the gym more often.

discretion, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, motivation

Joy – Part II

I met Leo Buscaglia twice when I was in grad school – he was just as you would imagine a person nicknamed “Dr. Love” to be.  He believed in the absolute power of touch and when he hugged you, not only did you feel it vibrate through your body, you would see the sheer delight on his face at having had the experience.  The experience of giving I would add, for certainly those of us who were not acolytes, were left a bit taken aback, amused and feeling good.  Hesitant to adopt any practice that we doctoral candidates (with the hubris that comes with thinking you’re too-too smart) felt may be too cult-like.  But there was unquestionably something to what the good doctor had to say as witnessed by his hypnotic lectures and laudable legacy.

So, I return to the Buscaglia quote I reblogged from Dr. Bill Wooten this morning….When assessing the life you have led, “[d]id you bring joy?” and “[d]id you find joy?”  I don’t think these are easy or trite questions.  We have known joy certainly – a love-filled relationship, the birth of a child, the delight in seeing a sunrise, the first bite of a ripe peach…But do we bring joy to another, to this life – or do we wait for joy to arrive?  That’s a different question, for it implies the one thing that we all struggle with – recognizing that those things which are most important don’t seem to be about what’s in it for us.  It isn’t all about us.  It’s about what we bring, give, share – for the sake of others, not because of what we seek in return or exchange.  The ‘tit-for-tat’ by which so many of our relationships can be defined.  Bringing joy then is a pretty selfless act.  And perhaps we are fortunate enough to see the result of our efforts, perhaps not.  Yet either way, the importance is in the doing.

And finding the joy?  Maybe it is a rhetorical question that is answered when we are conscious of what we bring into life.  The idea that if we bring joy, we will find joy – if in nothing other than our actions.  The joy in making people laugh, engage, love freely.  The delight in treading gently enough on this earth so that we may experience all of its wonders for as long as possible.  Maybe this is all obvious, maybe it is something that we know, but get lulled into the passive position of waiting for someone else to bring it anyway.  Somehow though I think that two simple questions can reawaken our awareness of each other and why we’re here.  And we can look to the universe to affirm that the joy we make, is equal to the joy we take (to paraphrase The Beatles).

friendship, humor, life lessons, mindfulness

Monday Afternoon Musing…

Perhaps if I were a different sort

I wouldn’t talk to my dogs or look for cohorts

Seeking out people of similar mind –

Or dissimilar mind, as long as they’re kind.

 

I’d contemplate the beauty of growing wisteria

And wonder far less about human mysteria

Why people behave as they are oft wont to do

In ways that spread more aches than the flu-est of flus.

 

I’d write with more deftness and amazing fluidity

That would guarantee greater financial liquidity

My ego would withstand all but the greatest of slights

Ergo my emotional baggage would be surprisingly light

 

Alas and alack and I might add anon

The conclusion to this is already foregone

At this point it is best to make peace with myself

With my heart sized enormous and the height of an elf..