scarcrossedlove

40wkssunset

it's something of a rococo. a hot pink, over the top sort of thing. i swim the gathering of all the feelings. you are my near death.

you. are. mine.

it took until the dark early morning quiet, baby breathing, four months to the day, both unslept to say something.

at sixty days we were flooded in early afternoon light. we stood in the center of my dear friend's brand new store. something about the glass, brick and sunlight made the sound of my voice crest like a wave. wearing baby, squirming. just under 2 months old, in a front carrier.

the words, like an olympian, charged out of my body, "i thought i knew what love was," they seemed cheap, already used, sloppy. they rattled onto the floor. i needed a shapeshifter. a game changer. i needed something to gallop on the beach with. other than a word. perhaps a pantomime.

i needed to be greek. they have more words. better words. they have four kinds of love.

i followed up with,"i almost died." my body leased an echo. the room filled with everything and then went back to being a room. i began to sweat, still unsure of my own breast feeding. it had all become the most wonderful and most awful at once. what was that word? it had been a death to reason. until then, i searched other's stories for familiarity. lost in the sleepless string of days spent giving what was left of my body.

a robot. a flower in full bloom, browning.

before her, the last time i had been outside as my former self it was oakland and it was an overcast day surrounded by unseasonably warm days--even for our Indian Summer. i kept singing the same lines to a song from my childhood:

"we were married on a rainy day, the sky was yellow and the grass way gray." and changed them to," you were born..."

i kept. waiting. holding. aching.

and everything they say about paradise is true.

we slipped away in tandem and were brought back apart. the minutes became hours, and the hours became days. and when the gurney became a sea cave, the other side of a curtain announced the inside of my body.

it was a girl. my girl. we all cried.

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i met her in a dream 21 days earlier. the dark of the morning note i wrote myself read:

"dreamt that i woke up with cholostrum on my shirt. i had had the baby. i was home in bed. Fonz and mom were there. i asked what happened, they told me that the labor took an hour. i slept through it. my whole body hurt, i was so tired. asked mom if the baby was a boy or a girl, she paused. it was a girl she said and took me to her in another room. i picked her up an she smiled and we fell in love. we named her rafi (rafaela) right then. chubby cheeks. she looked like fonzy."

I don't know how this middle of the night got me to write again or in the throes of its hot-quiet-baby-breathing-still-nothing-else-in-the-world-lightless-fog, how there is any room to feel anything else, let alone feel so much more. It has a sensible desperation to it, a forgiveness I had yet to feel when it comes to writing. It rained today, a brief delight against this dry and warm winter, and every song makes me want to cry. They say it's the hormones and while I know now to step aside when they come racing, mouth open, poised to swallow, I can't give them all the credit. I had a baby. A baby girl for that matter. She is everything they tell you about having a baby and more. The way the heart opens a new valve. How my body's room for her while growing was a small and slight shadow against the space I now need to hold the tremendous love I feel for her. So much love that I don't recognize myself sometimes. She lies in front of me discovering the world in small pieces, so small that I can't even see them. I read something and then i read something else that helped me to recognize those separate yet symbiotic feelings I have for her and the feelings I have for my body. How they can coexist. Still unharmonious, but less shrill. They put in the place of my scattered, erratic, overwrought, conflicting, and often fragmented feelings, actual words. I held them with both hands and rolled them around in my fingers until they became so familiar that I thought they were my own. They are not my own. I'm finding my own. Like anyone that has given birth, when put together, the story, makes for a long, hard, sometimes sad and then so beautiful mosaic. I haven't been able to find all those words yet. Something about sleep deprivation has left me with just a handful of language that I spin around and over and back again. I expect that one day my brain might grow back and then I might sit down and find that my very own birthscape floats within reach, not just dust suspended, drifting above us, unnoticed in my baby's sunlit room. and then maybe I'll find a way to set it free back into my body, and then up into the sky.

and to my southern scar, i will no longer avert my eyes.

i am a writer because i have stories to tell.

project light bulb

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the rain a couple of weeks ago reminded me of panama. i counted the seconds between the lightning and thunder and i wasn't certain that it wasn't crashing down much further than the edge of my backyard. my emergency kit leaves a little to be desired, but cocooned in my bed, looking out the window, i felt safe.

i have a habit of second guessing myself. it's so boring. i mentioned the ferocious meltdown  i had a few weeks ago, the one that flung me upright into a new attitude. up until then i had been disjointed, unfocused, and clumsy with my time and energy. yes, wedding planning is a shockingly saturating experience, but clarifying as well. through the planning process i have learned things i had no idea i would. some harsh realizations have occurred, but some really comforting ones as well. and because everything i needed to know, i did not learn in kindergarten, i get schooled, constantly...

it's probably happening now.

several years ago i was fortunate enough to live in a friends house in panama for a few months. the house was built by him into saigon bay, a body of water surrounded by mangroves on a tiny island shaped like an 8. the house lay on the bayside, in the center of the isthmus, where the caribbean was a short walk from his pier up a path and across the street. i packed a bag full of books and bathing suits and flew 4000 miles to a small archipelago about 4ooo miles from san francisco, where i had been living until then.

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i was in the middle of a storm. my life had just changed in significant ways and i was lost. it was the first time in years i felt i had no reason not to leave for awhile, so when an opportunity to go somewhere presented itself, i took it, and fast.

i had been to panama before, in fact i had been to panama many times before. when i was 18 i lived in costa rica not far from the panamanian border of which i crossed every three months to get my passport stamped.  often times, if oscar was working the immigration kiosk, i would pay him $20 to forfeit the mandatory three day stay over the border and just cross right back that day instead.

another story, for another time...

going back to panama was the first time i had ever lived alone. i would have to remind myself that i could act, say, or do anything i wanted to and there would be no one to offend, annoy, or to which to cater. it was amazing, both because that was a conscious thought i had and that it was true. at the time i remember being pretty certain that there may not be another opportunity like this in my life again, so i did my best to make the most of the experience.

there was a night shortly after i arrived when i could have sworn the lightning was crashing into the water beneath the house. everything was moving. the rain owned the sky and i was alone on a dock in a place where i knew no one and nobody knew me. i had no technology to rely on for help, no link to the outside world other than my thoughts about it. i laid in bed watching the rain, measuring the distance between my own fears. at some point during the storm, i thought about the transparency between loneliness and being surrounded. any control i thought i had was an illusion so i stopped being afraid and i decided to enjoy the show.

my life changed in many ways down there. my life was changing down there. and the experience itself is one i cherish beyond measure.

so, after that nostalgic storm the other day before the sun returned and traffic was restored to its usual pace, i had a moment. i was in a dance class and i was thinking about the truth about things. i was mid-routine, where clarity of thought is sharp and pure but fleeting. i was probably going the opposite direction as everyone else, when it occurred to me that i've made an incredibly faithful choice about my future.

there is a lovely hugeness to any type of investment when it come to matters of the heart.

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in an instant i can go from the depths of confusion about so many things to a profound wholeness that encompasses my entirety: i have everything i need in order to survive and actually be happy. i can laugh and cry throughout the day about the same things. i love and am loved. while my life was much wilder at some point, i am still on my toes most of the time. and when i think i've got it under control that's usually when i catch a gentle sucker punch.

but truthfully, there isn't much, if anything, i would change. i am a writer because i started this post last week and ten million things have happened since then, but the song remains the same...

something like a phenomenon

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oh hey there, spring, you're back. 

it's no secret you've been hovering around for awhile, teasing us with your feverish wiles. how you usher in something soft, something that we've missed, a newness and the next. and because i accidentally let my mind wander around your orbit, i began thinking about everything again. there is always so much to consider, can i get a witness? our lives are full of simultaneity, hugeness, and an overwhelming amount of minutia.

and here in the western hemisphere the sun has gently reminded us of the moment in which all that littleness happens. yes, the cherry blossoms have been dressing the streets for weeks, their break neck beauty seducing traffic. yes, there is jasmine growing along the edges of fences and the like. but isn't it how the sky cleared and restored the light back into the day, reminding us that there is less dark, is that what breaks us down and builds us back together the most?

i have written two unsent letters to two very different people in the past week.

the first one was written out of frustration and a need to feel heard, if not understood. my fingers went wild on the keys and then when it came time to send, i froze. i slept on it and woke up the next day with less of a need to outwardly extend those feelings. i decided to just feel them for myself, and let them dissolve on their own.

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the second letter was more complicated, vulnerable, harder to articulate. the message was sincere, absolutely honest, maybe even a little too transparent; sometimes i don't know, maybe i'm doing a little too much thinking...

in any case, i spent a lot of time crafting the message, making sure that there was a purpose to each word, that the t's were crossed and the i's were dotted. in the end it when it was lost it was one part my subconscious cold feet and another fate. when saving it as a draft, i accidentally erased it instead. along with my time, hopes, and efforts, those carefully worded sentiments, vanished.

when it was without a doubt that the letter had gone into the great nowhere, i was relieved. i knew i couldn't rewrite it and ever feel the same sort of satisfaction or certainty that i had originally, not because my feelings had changed, but because that unfettered access to them had been compromised.

those lines had ascended into the ether. an outer hemisphere where things like, what you wished you had said in the moment, and lost socks go, and are never recovered.

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and so my sense of letting go was restored, like i drug that i can't possibly get enough of.

i don't wonder how i will ever say those things again, i only wonder what their worth really ever was in the first place.

i am a writer because i have spring fever.

hematoma galactica

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i didn't realize until i was heading into the shower the next morning that the middling pain i felt was coming from a huge heliotropic bruise in the center of my belly. i stood in the mirror and in the same instant i remembered how my shoulders had been earnestly painted in light blue by a woman in a black afro wig who gave me psychic reassurance about my future. i let my eyes follow the blue toward the white vine-like and sparkling design that spread to my collar bone. my hair was slightly pressed against the side of my head that i had slept on and my lips were still stained pink.  i'll be 35 in a few months and it's been awhile since i had to go around my bedroom collecting clues from the night before, the morning after; nothing important had gone missing. there were other centers of pain. i had a bruise on my knee, one on my shin, and on my left hip, the other hip, on the bone, an unfortunate location; one that reaches outward more than you would think. i could have drawn lines connecting these points, a constellation mapping one of those nights that line up ahead of you, instead of you, before the main event. a perfect little resource, like an alarm clock or a fossil.

a couple of months ago when getting married mostly felt like planning a wedding, someone asked me what i was looking forward to most in the process. without a breath i said that it was spending time with the women in my life that i love most. i had been getting lost in the details, all the facts, and what i couldn't change or dress up around or over. it was getting messy, if only beneath my own hair.

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i use being a poet as an excuse, a lot. i use it to explain how i feel when i'd rather be writing. i say that i am just being, "poety," as an act of diffusion when i can see the reflection of my own emotions getting the better of me on someone else's face. if i really could act, i don't think i would ever have to write.

i sat at the head of a long table this past saturday lined with certain key faces of women that i share my life with. i knew that this would be one of the more fortunate moments i've ever had. i was overcome. every time i tried to address the group i stumbled across my own words. i tried to tell a story about mixing up names and i mixed the names up so that they weren't mixed at all, the point getting lost in my own confusion. i think i feel that way a lot. earlier that day i had been shuttling my thoughts through the maze and was lovingly told by a dear friend to talk less and write more.

so when i tripped over something later that evening and sailed downward in my four inch heels i found myself remembering that moment slowly while so many others were let go. as i hit everything on the way down, i wished that instead of feeling the corner of the chair, the edge of the table and the floor--i could have stayed slowly in those moments that, for whatever science, seem harder to hold onto. how my slipping is bigger than my constant falling and why all those other moments that compete for center stage, can drain each space, flatten the light, and turn rooms into ruins, have ever had even temporary residency at all.

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and now that the planning has evolved past stressing, i am planted firmly in excitement for this next phase. i can't wait to take these next steps with the man i love. still, there is no shortage of material these days, and it still remains a tricky balance between writing and talking. knowing that i am less apt at the latter and not particularly gifted at holding it in, we'll see what makes it onto the page.

i am a writer because there are volumes and i don't believe in hoarding...

it's complicated

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because valentines day has a way of excluding those who aren't being wined and dined by someone that gives them butterflies, i've always preferred to see it as a day to spread the love. if it's about anything at all, it should be about disbanding the lonely hearts club and making it about everyone important to you, not just your date.

programming note: i think i have become a temporary wedding blogger...it seems to come into focus each time i sit down to write and i just can't help myself...

and so here goes my broken record spinning: planning a wedding has brought each relationship in my life into a bright white light that hides nothing. i still love all the same people, but in some cases our relationship status is whatever, "it's complicated," is, on 10.

and if my wedding record wasn't completely on repeat already, here it goes winding around and around: i've got daddy issues, and guess what, planning a wedding hasn't solved them. in fact they have officially become the elephant in my brain.

i was never the kind of girl that, "played wedding," when i was little or made drawings of some cream puff fantasy dress or knew what song i'd dance to with my prince charming. my parents split up when i was about 11 and nothing was ever the same again. family and marriage took on a completely different shape. they both became scary, uncertain covenants, and grown-ups seemed a little less all-knowing as a result. from there i became a little more guarded and  less convinced of  fairytale endings despite the fact that in many ways i am living one now.  i always felt a little like an alien next to girlie-girls whose hair was perfect and who knew how to do their makeup just like on 90210.

and in a way, spending a little time early on envisioning my wedding could have saved me some trouble now. up until pretty recently i have been at a complete loss with the whole wedding thing. i have been blindsided by planning and pleasing. i think i can see clearly now, and my fiance and i have managed to patch together a sincere reflection of what's important to us and how we choose to celebrate that...and with each day, we get closer and closer to closest.

about ten years ago i was catering an event in the neighborhood i grew up in. after my parents split there were all kinds of interesting living arrangements.  my father, who chose to stay in the house, didn't move until i was a senior in high school. he remained there, reinventing his life, for what felt like the entire world to see.

i didn't realize until i got to the client's house that the address i has scribbled down was that of a family's that we had known in our past life, quite well, before, during, and after the storm. i braced myself as i parked around the corner. feeling the cracks in the sidewalk was surreal, let alone the familiar stairs beneath my feet as i walked through their front door. the mother of the house had a tendency to gossip and upon seeing me her face lit up. "ali!" she said, "how arrre yooooooouu?!" she searched my appearance, had i survived, she probably wondered. her insincerity was piercing, loud, dangerous. i took a deep breath and said smiling through my teeth, "great, i'm great, thanks for asking."

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i was sweating, terrified. every person i had remembered pumping me for gossip as a girl about my family were all there, lurking in every room. i was completely exposed, vulnerable, and serving them hors d'ouevres. needless to say i was mortified. i was working with a new company and with people who are now my close friends, but at the time i barely knew.

at one point the hostess approached me while standing in a group of familiar ghosts and asked me three of the most inappropriate and insensitive questions about the other three members of my immediate family i've ever been asked. i was in a cold sweat, i had been hit. my tongue was paralyzed, i could barely breathe. my colleague, and now dear friend, terry, was within earshot, completely horrified at the behavior of this woman. i backed my way out of the lion's den and terry convinced me to take a minute to re-collect in the concealed area in their backyard.

i had been called into battle, i wanted to defend my troops despite how we seemed to be fighting on different sides. i ducked into their guesthouse where we had stashed our personal belongings when we arrived to the job. i was covered in light from the glass ceiling, i could see the edges of everything around me. i called my mom and told her where i was and what just happened. she was audibly upset.  she wanted me to leave right away, and she may have even suggested that i break something on my way out. i told her i'd come right over afterwards and hung up the line. i felt a little better so i called my brother. i had to convince him to not drive right over to answer her spiteful questions in person. he was harder to get off the phone, upset and feeling very protective of me, as we said goodbye he said he'd be standing by if i changed my mind. i was starting to see a pattern, so i called my dad. he vacillated from wanting to run into her in a dark alley and then hoping, for her sake, that would never happen. he was the angriest and wanted me to know that i didn't deserve to be treated that way, that i had done nothing wrong.

i felt the light pass through my body where i was sure it was stone. i straightened my apron and held the light in. i realized that since things had fallen apart, that was the first time i had really felt like a family. like a bunch of misfits, we still had each other's backs and beneath that fractured wasteland was still something whole.

my mom is walking me down the aisle. and while i've had many years to accept certain truths about my family, there is still a little girl inside that is a little bit shocked. i realize now that while maybe the other girls were wishing on stars for the perfect dress or groom, i was wishing that things could be a little less chaotic, a little more normal, and that there was a sense of solidarity between my brother, mother, father, and i. as it was, in many ways, it was each man for himself.

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there aren't any violins playing the background, this is no sob-story, it's just my story, one that i am in the process of rewriting. despite how gravity lets these feelings sink into us, there is always a choice. i am a writer because i believe in changing your story.

i try over and over again to convince my brain to tell my heart to feel something else, to hold onto less, and to behave more. but the heart is complicated. the best i can do is take these stories and spin them. where they are scary or sad, find the beauty and safety. own each moment for what it is and be grateful to experience the full range. finding the strength, light, or laughter despite the let downs is worth all the heavy lifting.  so i'll keep pushing those shadows until they bend and disperse, back into the sun.

hipcheck

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i would love to say that 2012, the year i am marrying the love of my life, that my business took a huge step forward, and when i met each resolution with enthusiasm and triumph, started on a high note, but i can't. the holidays nearly ate me alive, the end of 2011 got so chaotic that i found myself teetering into a place of no control, which is my kryptonite. i still managed to convince myself that i felt great about everything in theory, but i was staring down the barrel of a big and complicated push.

we went on a hike the afternoon of the 31st, our tradition, to discuss what we are excited about for the year to come and what we'd like to work on. a convergence of events had us unusually stressed, our conversation seemed less hopeful and more testy. we still rounded it off with a mutual acknowledgment of the excitement for the year ahead, and a gust of solidarity and the notion that we make our own luck, something we have decided to believe.

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on january first my fiancé and i had a lazy morning. my gut has always done a lot of the thinking for me, and i can't say that a funny feeling didn't lead me down the hallway toward the front door. he saw it first and froze. a little finch laid there at our feet in the center of our welcome mat, small and lifeless. we avoided staring into our mirroring gaze. before exchanging knowing looks, we each took a respective moment to summon a weak dismissal of what was surely a sinking feeling to us both. we share many things in common, one of which is a strong sense of superstition. what did it mean? i could see this random act burrowing a portal between us, connecting our thoughts of bad luck and the like. we never said anything.

by the 6th, his 35th birthday, it was apparent that the little bird at our door was right, this year was not going to be all fun and games. the first week had engulfed us in a series of events that turned us on our sides. heartbroken at best at the way the new year was shaping up, a pain in my right hip had crept in that i was prepared to ignore until it piqued into a body-shattering halt. something had to give.

it was as though my body was telling me to stop trying to climb this year already. that starting a whole new year wasn't as simple as replacing a calendar. we went to the doctor and they asked me if i needed a note for work; i should be resting, or the injury could get more serious. my doctor had very understanding eyes, i think we were similar in age, so i figured she understood when i told her that a note to me is what i really needed. that i could in fact really use a note written by someone else to tell me to slow down, to heal, to breathe, that the first week, day, minute, whatever, of a new year is just like any other week, day, or minute...she laughed like she knew what i meant and i took a few days off to focus on healing.

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when i lived in sf i worked as a cocktail waitress in a very busy and popular live music venue for several years. on sold out nights i was a a fighter. i pushed and shoved my way through the crowd, i used every part of my body i could to create pathways through the wall of people drinking and dancing. often times when i was carrying a full tray above my head, an apron full of beer bottles and a six pack of beer in my other hand, i did a lot of hip-checking to get people out of my way. i had relied on my hips for years, and this time, my hip checked me.

so when we finally got to a place where we were laughing a little bit about the first week of 2012, i told a friend of ours about the bird. i was hesitant because i just couldn't bear any folklore about dead birds and new years day or anything else my imagination could conjure up. she listened as i poured out the dramatization of opening the door to a bad sign and just waited for her to respond with her interpretation like a bullet. she sat back for a moment and casually said, "oh, it was probably just that feral cat in your yard bringing you a gift." and just like that, the clouds parted and 2012 hasn't been looking so bad after all...i am writer because there is always more than one version of the story...

speakeasy: a tale of passwords

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well past the days of prohibition, we are still mired in passwords. i have them for almost everything--of course it would have been nice as i was setting them up if i had made them all the same, alas...i have come to learn that i don't usually do things the easy way...

i am confronted with that most charming part of myself, often, and recently in a guest post i wrote that was featured on the Simply Solo (read it here) blog, i revisited a time in my life where i felt like i was met with doing things the easy way in a dark alley. i made it out unscathed, living to tell the story, but the one thing is: the story is hard to tell. there is a happy ending and all, but that's not why it's hard to tell. it's complicated, personal, not everyone wins, not everything goes drifting off into the sunset, and it wraps around so many lives that it's overwhelming to organize in any truly satisfying way. but it is cathartic to be brave and write it anyway, despite the audience, despite my own fears, and  despite the heavy lifting. writing can be a full disclosure practice. not every word is easy on your fingers. we are afraid of revealing, afraid of what our/the audience will think, what will they say? will i be understood, is it ok to write this or that?

we are never perfect. that's hard to swallow, even as ridiculous as it is to think we could be, we aren't, ever. or perhaps i should speak for myself. i am so not perfect. at a lunch meeting last week i got out of my chair as we were saying goodbye. i had hung my oversized bag that carries too much on the back and as i got up from the table, the sudden shift of weight flung my chair backwards into another patron. he grimaced and said he wouldn't sue--i thanked him for his kindness, and then dropped my huge scarf on the ground and bumped into someone else as i was picking it up. let's just say if it were a scene in a movie it may have been sort of cute or functioned in a less obtuse way. it wasn't, it was my real life. i was meeting a new client, discussing plans for some immediate and future projects. i was friendly, professional, and articulate all the way up until that moment where i would have loved an invisible cloak or some magic glasses that could have made me disappear. basically, after the chair fiasco, i looked like a lunatic who might live out of her bag.

i guess what i am trying to say is, our behavior is always relative to someone or something else, or subject to interpretation or maybe even gravity. the way we look, how we cook, create, write, speak, think, laugh, everything has another version that may or may not be slightly better, but never perfect. and then of course, there is good old fashioned slapstick, where slamming your head into something is the perfect way to tell a joke.

and as we go careening toward the holidays things inevitably get crowded and pushy, and behavior gets even more desperate. on my way home last night i saw four car accidents, one looked serious, someone was definitely, very hurt. i can't stop thinking to myself how out of control we get this time of year. me, personally, my emotions have gone completely richter. as i grow a small business, plan a wedding, and confront the big ideas of my future, i would rather be napping. it may seem lightweight to you, but there is so much more i am not saying. and that's the thing, we speak in code, saving our passwords just for our own privacy, never revealing what our real feelings are. instead, we avoid hurting others, showing too much, saying the wrong thing, and on and on. we like to appear together, all buttoned up, "nothing to see here," that sort of thing. and while it may be more convenient, and certainly polite, is all that smoke and mirrors necessary?

meanwhile you turn on the news and the world is at war, there is tremendous suffering, and the human condition has gone digital.

but this is the thing, while never completely perfect, everything is always moving along. last week i couldn't get my mind un(Occupy-d), and still there, things keep moving despite the rate at which we must face our own dailyness, without any naps.

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i am still worried about polar bears and pakistan, i am not immune to the obsession i have with doing things right, or the fact that three of my dearest friends have moved pretty far away, how i have my own business now that needs more attention than i sometimes have to give, or the fact that i'm getting married in eight months and i've got some broken family stuff that needs fixing and i don't know where to begin. i am extremely grateful for it all. in this time of thanking, i am humbled by how fortunate i am to have all that i do, to know and love who i do, to feel as much as i do, and to have the opportunity to share all of it when i can.