Thursday, August 23, 2012

Living in the Land of Plenty

Until a few years ago, I thought life allotted only a certain amount of happiness. Like I had an individual good fortune quota and once reached… that’s it! I’m S.O.L., baby. Might as well brace for the inevitable misfortune to strike. After all, what made me so special? I’d already been so blessed during my short time on the planet, I surely didn’t deserve more of the good stuff. Life seemed merely a series of challenges and worries, obstacles and struggles, interspersed with a few victories and periods of precarious peace. It’s no wonder I was intermittently miserable for a good two decades.
The end of 8th grade, I recall as one of those short-lived periods of satisfaction. I had supportive and fun friends, a boyfriend (also short-lived) who sang in a band, and exceptional grades. My extra-curricular life was active and rich in music, playing both the piano and the saxophone. I was starting the transition between adolescence and young womanhood. I remember telling my mom (and lifelong confidant), “I feel happy and content for the first time in as long as I can remember.” 
Good grief.  Can you imagine hearing such a thing from your beloved only child? Admittedly, junior high is hellish, but still!
I think this remission from constant anxiety and dis-ease lasted for, oh, all of a week. Maybe two. At best.
I experienced the same brief fulfillment near the end of my college freshmen year, which had also culminated in success.  My first-year seminar research paper was chosen for presentation at an Honor’s conference. I’d landed a job at the college radio station the next year. And I had a summer internship at a radio station in my hometown. I was happy and proud of myself. But also scared. I remember telling Mom this time that so many good things had been happening to me lately, I felt sure that something bad was about to strike to even it all out. After all, why was I deserving of so much good fortune? (Not acknowledging, of course, how diligently and faithfully I had worked to bring these good things into my life.)
A recent conversation with my Island Sista got me thinking about this happiness quota thing. She voiced a fear she harbors about her personal power. Namely, that the more power and strength she has, the less that will be available to those around her.  She worries that HER power and energy and good fortune somehow suck those qualities away from her husband and children. This prompted me to go on passionately and at length about the difference between choosing to live under a Paradigm of Scarcity verses a Paradigm of Abundance. (Ahem…Thanks, Island Sista, for so graciously listening to my oration. And thanks to you too, my dear readers, for reading these musings.)  
Wait. I know what some of you are thinking. A Paradigm a wha?
You know, a paradigm. (pair-a-dime) A way of thinking. A set of beliefs that frame your vision and outlook on life. If you live under a Paradigm of Scarcity—and most people still do, especially in this “harsh economic reality”—you believe there is not enough to go around. The pie can only be sliced so many times and into ever smaller pieces. You have to get yours before I can get mine. The more you cling to what you have, the better off you’ll be. By having a lot of money, success, love, happiness, status, and power, you take away from the amount of those things available to everyone else. 
This kind of thinking sets us up to be stingy, greedy, defensive, anxious, jealous, tense, and often angry. Yuck! I don’t know about you, but whenever I feel any of those things in my body, it feels gross and unpleasant. And I’m likely to do and say gross and unpleasant things. Which makes me feel even grosser and more unpleasant, since I know that I’m truly a beautiful, kind, and loving person.
As with any core beliefs, our reality tends to reflect them. Meaning, that what we believe about our existence dictates the thoughts in our heads, and affects what will naturally display itself in our lives.  Our external experiences reflect our internal thoughts and beliefs. In this way, we create our own reality. My younger life reflected my beliefs. I thought I only deserved wee amounts of good, so I was only ever happy for wee amounts of time. Since I believed life worked that way…my life, indeed, worked that way.
Now, if you have chosen to live under a Paradigm of Abundance, you believe there is more than enough of everything to go around. The finite pie is a fiction of our limited beliefs. In reality, we can bake enough pies to feed the world population and have plenty for leftovers. Ultimately, the supply of money, success, love, happiness, and power is infinite and available to anyone who desires and believes they deserve these things. I can get mine AND you can get yours. The more I give, the more I receive. Your good doesn't detract from my good. In fact, your good ENHANCES my good, if only I allow it. 
This kind of thinking sets us up to be generous, flexible, supportive, peaceful, and loving. I don’t know about you, but when I feel generous, flexible, supportive, peaceful, and loving…well…it gets all warm and fuzzy in my body, and my heart seems to expand.  Then I’m likely to spread those warm fuzzies to everyone I encounter. And then they will spread those warm fuzzies to everyone THEY encounter. And then we are truly experiencing the beautiful, kind and loving people we are all meant to be.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that this sort of human emotional domino effect can easily occur with pissiness and contempt too. Let us all try not to do that any more.
Never once have I been broke since adopting a Paradigm of Abundance about my financial security and stopped constantly fretting about money. In fact, it has come to me more easily and effortlessly. When I moved to the Virgin Islands almost three years ago, I left an upwardly mobile position with full benefits in a successful growing business. I laugh now at the memory of commuting home one evening on a Minneapolis highway thinking, “I surely will never make less than _____ again. I have nothing to worry about financially. It will only get better from here.”
And while I was right about part of that statement—the part about not having to worry—I was certainly wrong about the never making less than ______ bit. Because I took over a 50% pay cut when the first job I could get on St. Thomas was in a coffee shop making little more than $10/hr with no benefits (other than an unlimited supply of free coffee and tea). And you know what? I was always fine. I didn’t get behind on my student loans. I had no problem paying for my basic needs, or taking care of Hershey. While my bank account was much closer to zero than it had been in recent years, my life felt richer in many other ways. When I couldn’t pay for some bigger ticket items (a plane ticket home for my girl Lissa’s wedding, a new hard drive and operating system for my laptop), a couple of angels in my life were happy to make gifts of those items to me. Gifts which I happily paid forward once I was in a place of greater monetary abundance. 
I want to stress that abundance encompasses much more than money. Even when our coffers feel full and secure, we may feel deprived in other areas. It has been far more difficult for me to make the shift to a Paradigm of Abundance in the area of time. For the past 15 years—roughly half of my life—there always seems to be far more on my to-do list than there is time in which to get it all done.  I create unsustainable cycles or patterns and eventually burn out. My fellow members of the millennial generation will surely recall the famed Saved By The Bell episode when Jessie Spano reaches her breaking point, exclaiming, “There’s no time….there’s never any time…I don’t have time to work…I have to study…I have to sing tomorrow…I’m so… so….scared.” And then she crashes into Zach's protective arms. I pretty much do exactly the same thing. I am trying to remind myself that even though it seems like there is a finite amount of time in a day, week, month, whatever…the more I focus on and believe in the lack of time, the more my reality will reflect such beliefs.
One exercise I’ve been doing lately to shift my beliefs and perception about time is to leisurely sing a certain Rolling Stones line to myself as I go about my daily business. Whenever I notice thoughts like, “I’m running out of time. I don’t have enough time to get all of this done,” running through my head, I replace it with, “Tiiiiiiiime, is on my side, yes it is.” And then I just loop it and I’m good to go. The fretting stops and I move forward.

We already know that the concept of time is subjective. When we’re bored and want to be doing something other than what we’re doing, time d r a g s. When we’re completely engaged in what we’re doing, time flies. The more I believe at my core that time is on my side, the more time I will find in my life. Feeling abundant only creates more abundance—even if your logical mind can’t comprehend how it could possibly work. It does.
If I could talk to my 14 and 19 year old selves, I would tell them (oh gawd, what I would tell them!) from the other side of the mirror:
“Sweetie…Baby girl…My darling Ashley…Relax! Stop. Breathe. Smile. Know this, my love, you deserve to be happy. Know that accomplishment doesn’t have to be difficult and strenuous. You accomplish more when you’re having fun! YOUR GOOD IS UNLIMITED. The only person who can keep you from your unlimited good is you, sweetheart. And remember that your 29-year-old self loves you more than you can imagine.”
Honestly, I could really benefit from my 29-year-old self telling this to my 29-year old self daily from the other side of the mirror.
Here’s what I told my Island Sista: the best part of living under a Paradigm of Abundance is that it’s contagious. Island Sista’s personal power can expand to her children and husband, boosting their own. In a very real way, she is showing her young daughters how to be a strong, successful, and loving woman. She can use her strength to empower others, not just her family, but damn near everyone she encounters. Power, success, inspiration….these things are not scarce…there is plenty available to everyone who desires and even more importantly, believes they deserve them. Many of us are phenomenally talented at denying and/or limiting our own good. When we stop limiting ourselves, we choose to love ourselves, and in loving ourselves, we can truly love others. 
We make a choice every day.  Every minute. How do we want to view the world? And how does our view affect the way we treat others? And how does the way we treat others affect how they treat others, and so on?   
Your good is unlimited. And so is everyone else’s.  We must only believe it is so, and then choose to operate as such.

Three Small Steps to Shift from a Paradigm of Scarcity to Abundance.
  • ·       Never skimp on a tip…round up to 21% rather than down to 19% (NEVER tip less than 20% unless you have terrible service. Plus, the math is easy. Figure out 10% and double it.) Throw more than a few coins in the barista bucket at the coffee shop and you will make someone’s day. This is an especially powerful action when you feel a strong lack yourself. I tip generously and lovingly and have NEVER run out of money because I over-tipped. (I have never run out of money since shifting to abundance-based thinking, period. Close! But never completely. Funds have come to me in unexpected ways when I needed it most.)
  • ·       Allow yourself small indulgences that are significant to you. For example, I love colorful gel pens that write luxuriously. They make me happy. For some reason, they make my life feel more vivid and rich. Ballpoint pens feel cheap and lackluster to me. So even though the pens I like are much more expensive than the ballpoint kind, I never deny myself the luxury of writing with the pens I enjoy. Even when my bank account was much closer to zero, I always let myself splurge on writing utensils, and felt richer and more abundant for it.
  • ·       Before you go to bed each night, write down five things from your day for which you are grateful. This is a powerful practice that I truly miss whenever I go through a time period of not doing it. It expands your consciousness of gratitude, and attracts even more blessings into your life. See an example on the sidebar of this here blog.  
Nature's Abundance

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ashley's Dog Hershey Finally Declared Useful

“Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Budget, and I’m looking for a new home. I used to live on a boat, and that was okay, but I didn’t have enough room to run and play…” 
It continued in grievously adorable fashion. The picture was one of those atrocious animal shots taken from above showing only a very dark blob that I presumed was the dog in question. But it didn’t matter that I couldn’t make out his features. I was already in love.
It was Monday morning, and I had spotted the Humane Society ad in the Daily News less than 24 hours after deciding to adopt a dog. The impetus being to provide a companion for my then boyfriend’s endearing but massive and overzealous Weimaraner who desperately needed a playmate. I found it difficult to write in the evenings with a 90 pound dog constantly climbing onto my lap.  
Budget stayed on my mind all week. I couldn’t get to the Humane Society to meet him because they closed before my shift ended at the coffee shop. I called several times to make sure he was still there. I hoped to meet him over the weekend. But when I called on Friday afternoon, they told me Budget had left for a family visit. I could try back the next day in case he and the family dog didn't get along.

Now, I’m not the follow-up type.  I have to be extraordinarily moved to make that 2nd phone call. Well, I was thusly moved that Saturday, and my instincts proved accurate. Budget and the other dog didn’t play well. He was back at the kennel. They'd be open for an hour if I wanted to pick him up for a visit. 

Budget was eager to be free. He ran toward us as if his life depended on it. And I suppose it did. The instant we took him outside he lifted his leg and peed on Mr. T’s ankle. 

Nevertheless, I refused to let Budget sit in the truck bed on the way home. He sat in the cab with us, practically on my lap, but since he was half the size of Harley, he felt like a lap dog. It took about thirty seconds of riding together to realize this was a SWEET dog. He leaned into me, emanating love. 

I swiftly decided that he was a keeper. However, I was not-so-swiftly discovering that Mr. T. & I were not keepers—at least as far as the other was concerned. So, I made sure to pay for Budget and to put my name on his adoption papers. My little black bundle of love and I were going to be partners until one of us left this earth. Dammit.

We’ve been together for over two years now. Today he’s known as Hershey…with an aka of “Budget”. He needed a new loving name for a new loving life, but I decided to keep Budget as a street name. After all, what’s a Thomian street dog without a Thomian street name?

I’ve known that Hershey is special since the day we met. His little doggie body just feels good! When he leans against my leg to let me know he’s there, I feel loving energy flow into me. Other people have pointed this out too. One recent guest—a delightful acupuncturist from NYC—wrote in the guestbook that, “Hershey speaks a special language…the language of touch.” Thank you, Denise, for using those words to describe his essence.

I’ve always felt that Hershey and I were brought together to take care of one another. But it occurred to me during a Reiki session with another recent guest that perhaps Hershey entered my life to teach me a few things too.

We were using my bedroom for the healing session. Before beginning, she asked my spirit guides and angels to enter the room with us for protection and guidance. At that very moment, Hershey quietly walked into the room, gently sniffed my guest’s leg, and curled up in the corner where he stayed for the entire hour. 

Hmmm…I thought…maybe Hershey is an older and wiser soul than I’ve given him credit for. 

In the few months since that day, it’s become clear that Hershey does, indeed, have valuable lessons to offer. If, that is, I can suspend my ego mind long enough to entertain the notion that a dog is one of my teachers.  Here are ten lessons I’ve learned from him so far.

Greet strangers as friends. If they become friends, great! If not, oh well. Move on.
Hershey loves everybody. And assumes everybody loves him. Most people do grow fond of him. Some love him instantly as I did. And those who don’t like Hershey…well that has far more to do with what’s going on inside them than it has to do with any of Hershey’s qualities. He doesn’t take it personally. He just moves on to the next experience, and lets it go. 

If you are injured, tired, or sick…let yourself rest.  
Hershey doesn’t push or strive. He instinctively paces himself.  If we’re on a walk and he’s tired, he’ll lie down. Won’t move. Not til he’s ready to go again. No ego voice tells him that he doesn’t have time to rest or that he should be stronger and more resilient than he is. Or that he’s lazy. Nope. If he has a sore paw or if he exhausted himself playing at the beach…he rests and recovers appropriately. Without guilt. He knows innately when rest is required. 

Nap during the hottest time of day. 
Everything else you undertake will be miserable anyway. And the siesta will make you more alert and productive during the cool, comfortable evening hours.

Don’t take every scolding or criticism to heart. 
Hershey’s stock response to discipline is to yawn and look the other way. If I keep going, he will usually play the cute submissive card, and offer up his belly for a rub.  
*Yawn.*   “I really can’t be bothered with your yammering about the tipped over trash. What did you expect? I’m a dog. You left me alone, and there were leftovers in the garbage can. Why don’t you just come over here and rub my belly? It’ll make us both feel better.” 
Never has this response on his part resulted in more severe punishment on my part. (Damn little Hershey Squirt.) But feeling resentment, guilt and lack of self-worth for hours or days would not improve his situation. Nor does it ever improve ours. 

Ask for what you want. 
Hershey doesn't fear letting me know that he expects a treat after his walk. And when he’s done with that treat, he asks for another. Which he usually gets. And after that one, he asks for another still. Which he will sometimes get. And after that one, he will ask for another one still. Which he will not get. The disappointment of which he will pretty much get over immediately. But after his next walk, he’ll ask again for a treat. Which he’ll get. And then he’ll ask again….you get the picture. Asking for what he wants doesn’t embarrass him or produce anxiety like it often does me. Like everything else in his doggie world, he keeps it simple.

Openly accept the love that is offered to you. 
Hershey rejects no one. In fact, he prefers to have little love transactions with everyone he meets. You give my ears a scratch, I give you some of my naturally radiating warm fuzzies, and we both go on our way a little better for having exchanged a bit of love today. Love is offered to us every day in a million ways if we open our hearts and choose to accept it. Can you imagine what our daily experiences would be like if everyone adopted this attitude?

Confidently use your strengths to harness your desires. 
Hershey’s main strength around people is that he’s really damn cute. (Unfortunately you can’t tell so much in photos.) In addition to the cute factor, he emits happy love vibes. And he knows how to use these tools to get his favorite thing: attention.  

If I’m standing around talking to guests or vendors in Hershey’s presence, and he feels he’s not being properly acknowledged… he’ll quietly roll on his back, all four legs relaxed into dead weight, making no mistake to communicate that he’s offering up his belly for a rub. Often this move alone does the trick.
But if we’re really engaged in conversation—paying no mind to the dog—he’ll perform the Doodle Bug Dance. Remaining in the supine position, he wiggles back and forth as if to scratch his back. I have no doubt that back-scratching is not Hershey’s aim in this instance. No. Rather, he is using his cuteness to get what he wants: your love and affection. And let me tell you, the Doodle Bug Dance works every time.

Even wise old souls need time and space in which to play. 
The aforementioned delightful NYC acupuncturist also might have told me that I’m… “a little wound up,”… “bossy,” and… “a little serious.” Ha! She said these things with love. I needed to hear them, and am thus grateful. I certainly do forget to play.

Hershey is a mellow dog. He’s usually happy just being in the same room as the people. But when he feels like playing, he goes for it, man. He lets his freak flag FLY. When people meet him in this mode, they ask if he’s a puppy and are surprised to learn he’s five or six. 
Our lives aren’t meant to consist of drudgery and struggle. We’re supposed to have fun! Let our puppy energy out when we feel the urge! Hershey reminds me to honor that urge.    

Know when to be patient and when to assert yourself. 
Hershey’s patience can break my heart. Especially when I catch myself being impatient with him during our walks… when he dawdles along stopping to sniff every 15 seconds, and I have what I think are very important things to do. Yet, he’s eternally patient with me when waiting to walk.

But when it’s urgent or if I’ve put him off too long or when he just can’t take for one minute longer the knowledge that people are on the pool deck having fun without him, he lets me know. He talks and whines. He flaps his ears. He sits in front of me, looking expectantly in my eyes, and wagging his tail as if the energy he puts out in doing so will actually force me to move.  
And since he’s usually patient and well-behaved, I know that when Hershey makes a fuss, I’d better listen. I think it works the same way with people.

Exploring is fun, but there's no place like home.
Hershey wanders. As a result of this, he ended up back at the Humane Society twice in our first four months together. This is not something that he has necessarily grown past either. Yet, I can’t begrudge his urge to explore without being tethered to his mom. Good God, how can I suppress that independence and curiosity in a living creature?

Unfortunately though, for his safety, and for our continued peace with the neighbors, he doesn’t get to adventure much by himself anymore. Unless he pulls his signature stealth move and sneaks away when I’m distracted. Which, in all honesty isn't that infrequent of an occurrence...
But now Hershey never stays away for longer than twenty or thirty minutes. He always comes home. When he reaches the door, his enthusiasm is truly awesome. Bursting forth from the excitement he had on his adventures, he’s simultaneously elated to see me and be home again.

For reasons not worth delving into at the moment, I’ve developed a fluid relationship with the idea of home. For me, home is far more related to being in the presence of those with whom I share unconditional love and support than in visiting a particular community or house. 
So really, although Hershey was the one in more obvious need of a home…his adoption was a homecoming for us both.
Resting in a freshly dug hole after a good romp at Nelteberg.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rosacea! Rosacea!

I’m journaling in Roosevelt Park on my lunch break. It’s a gorgeous sunny day. Not too hot. Nice breeze. The kind of glorious January day that, not only makes all the inconveniences and absurdities of living in the Caribbean completely worth it, but also makes me feel closer to the divine. I thoroughly enjoy my time in the downtown park with its benches and palm trees and cobblestone paths. And I've even grown a bit fond of the fountain with the chipped paint that holds no water, but does display a collection of uninspired graffiti tags.

Unfortunately, it’s time to return to work. The afternoon tourist shift. Which always passes more slowly and with far less love and mirth than the morning local shift.  I stand up and tilt my head back toward the sky to apply eye drops. The sun’s rays on my face feel delightful. While in this precarious position, I hear a voice on the path behind me.

“Ya need me put ‘em in fah you?”

I finish my task and don my shades before straightening up and turning around to see who talks to me.

“Nah, I good. Thanks though,” I say—blinking rapidly behind my sunglasses—to a dark-skinned man wearing a cap. I don’t recall seeing him before. I pick up my purse and start walking in the direction of the coffee shop.

“Wh’eh you goin?”

“Back to work.”

“Wh’eh you work?”

“R&J’s Island Latte’. On the waterfront. Next to Foot Locker.”

“Okay, okay. Yeah, I know dat place. Neva go deh but I know it. Know all de place on dis island.”  

“Yeah? You from h’eh?”

“Nah. I bahn St. Kitts.  But I live St. Thomas 25 years. I know dis place. It home.”

“Yeah. It’s home for me right now too.”

“I can walk you back?”

“Sure, if you want.” I shrug.

We pass the building that’s falling down. It sits between a well-kept law firm and a non-descript government agency. The sidewalk in front of the crumbling building is barricaded to keep pedestrians from getting hurt by falling debris. I walked by this dilapidated structure on the way from my car to work at least once a week for almost a year before I consciously noticed its miserable condition.  I was in the government parking lot with Loida, and my eyes happened to settle on it from a couple city blocks away.

“Holy shit, Loida,” I said. “I never noticed how bad that building really is.”

“Oh, dat place been fallin’ down since I a kid. Usda be homeless people, crack-heads and shit, living in it but dey board it up now and da sidewalk block so people can’t hurt deyself.”

“I wonder why the owners have let it get so bad. It’s nice real estate”

“Me no know.”

The capped fellow and I’ve only been walking together for about 60 seconds, but he’s greeted all three people we’ve passed.  And the person’s appearance apparently dictates his salutation. When we walk by a lady who looks Spanish (local nomenclature), he greets her with the appropriately flirtatious, “¿Hola, como esta, mi amor?”

Well, he’s certainly gregarious, I think.

“This island full ‘a colorful characters.” I say.

“Yeah, people all different color. White people. Black people. Brown people. Spanish people. Chinese people. All different kind ‘a people.”

“Yes, it’s very culturally diverse, which I love. But this place also just plain full ‘a characters, man.”

“You like characters?”

“Yeah, for some reason I seem to be drawn to crazies. Probably why I’m so attracted to St. Thomas.”

“You like to sleep wit black men?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

“Cuz I like white gerls. I like all color gerl. White gerls. Black gerls. Yellow gerls. Red heads. All kind ‘a gerl.”

“I’m sure you do. I've got a man though. And contrary to popular practice here, I am monogamous.”

“That too bad, sweetie. I h’eh d’oh, if ya change ya mind.”

“You have a job?” I ask.

“I fix electrical ting.”

“You have an actual business? Like with a business license and a name and stuff like that?”

“Nah. I word ‘a mouth. Unda da table.”

“Ah, so you don pay taxes or wha?”

He laughs. “It work fah me, sweetie.”

 We’re getting closer to the heart of downtown Charlotte Amalie—five blocks saturated with jewelry stores and teeming with tourists. It’s getting more difficult to walk two by two on the sidewalk. I’m starting my transition into tourist-dodge mode, realizing that I’m at risk of punching in late.  I’m always at risk of punching in late. I walk ahead of my mate, although he remains just a couple paces behind me. I’m far more concerned with getting back to work than I am with continuing this conversation.

While I wait on the corner in front of Tanzenite International for the safari bus traffic to pass before crossing the street to the post office, I hear my friend behind me say what I’m pretty sure is, “Rosacea!” very loudly. That’s a weird thing to shout in public, I think. I turn around and see him standing in front of a Scandinavian-looking tourist. He’s standing very close to her, saying loudly in her face, “Rosacea!... Rosacea!” I take a closer look and, sure enough, her face does have the pink bumpy signs of the unfortunate skin disorder.  She looks confused rather than offended.

Is he really saying this? I think. My god. Is this man crazy? Does he have Tourrette’s or something? Fuckin’ a, this island is full of strange people!

Then he grabs her hand and offers some pleasant mumbo jumbo about having a nice day in St. Thomas.

He catches up to me in front of the post office.

“Were you saying, ‘rosacea’ to that lady?” I ask him.


“Were you referring to her skin condition?”

“Yeah, dat what it call, right?”

“Right…but, dude, that’s really rude. I can’t believe you did that!”

He smiles.

“That’s like going up to someone and saying, ‘Big Pimple! Big Pimple!’ or ‘Lazy Eye! Lazy Eye!’”

He just keeps smiling and laughs.

“So you sure ya don wan have sex wit a black man?”

“I’m sure. I have a boyfriend who I’m very satisfied with, thank you.”

By this time we’re on Main Street, and it’s swarming with people wearing beach cover-ups and visors and tennis shoes. I notice him spot a couple of young attractive tourists, and he abruptly stops walking with me and greets the girls. Oop, I think, amused, he knows he’s not getting anywhere with me. And he’s done moved on.

I finish the walk back to work replaying the encounter in my head—taking stock to make sure I’m not dreaming or haven’t entered into a dimension where life is an offensive black comedy. But by the time I reach work, I’ve determined that this is, indeed, my real life.