Changing the Story

Flinch

When my nurse practitioner told me on Monday that she was treating me for pneumonia, I felt an inordinate amount of satisfaction.  Smug, even.  And at the same time, I was angry and resentful that my friends and family weren’t rallying around me.  When I stopped to look at all that head-ichor, it felt contradictory and very, very old.

We’ve been exploring ancestry in our UU study groups—how ancestors may differ from relatives, how we receive transmissions and transfer them on to the next generation, how we are given gifts and responsibilities.  With that in the back of my mind, I began to see my reactions to illness and support as a transmission.  They are as much traditions in my family as oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

wicked witchThe only time we could count on our mom giving us positive attention was when we were sick.  She touched us with care.  She looked at us.  It was acceptable to wake her up in the middle of the night to say, “Mom, I don’t feel good.”  It was not acceptable to be scared of the Wicked Witch on The Wizard of Oz.  I learned that at the age of three, sitting on Mom’s lap.  “If you’re going to be that way,” I remember her saying, “I’m turning off the TV.”  I got it: Emotions=Bad.  Illness=Good.

It was also a long-standing tradition to value illness that could be named, especially by a doctor, or was freakishly out of the ordinary.  So, my brother scored lots of points for the fast growth spurt he experienced as a teen when he woke up one morning unable to move.  The story of my dad carrying him in a fetal position to the car is legend in my family.  Same with the story of my brother accidentally dropping a pitchfork on my sister’s face and how the tine curved around her eye instead of puncturing it.  These are the fairy tales I heard as a child.

merthiolateGetting a cold wasn’t legendary, but having warts that disappeared before the doctor could inspect them smacked of magic and mystery—and worthiness.  I knew when I fell off my bike I’d better have gravel for Mom to pull out with tweezers or I wasn’t worthy of her time.  I learned how to wash a wound, dab on merthiolate and blow the sting away, wrangle a Band-aid without it sticking to itself.  I learned not to bother Mom with minor injuries.

But worthiness carried over into other areas of our life.  Recently, I talked to my brother about this.  It was no secret that he won the Most Worthy Award in our mom’s estimation.  He wrote to our parents every week from the time he left for college until Mom died last year.  He came home for Christmas every year, a nine hour drive from Bemidji, often through bad weather.  He kept the same job with the state of Minnesota his entire work-life and still works part-time, though he is officially retired.  He’s a little eccentric, which somehow made him more dear rather than worrisome.

I asked him why he did it.  Why did he write faithfully every week for all those years?

“Mom told me to,” he said.

testMy brother passed a test I failed long ago—obedience and demonstration of affection.  It was our responsibility to prove to our mom that we loved her, to do what we were told.  After my dad died, I think my sister understood unconsciously that a new test was in the wind.  She called our mom every day.  She helped her buy a new car and new furniture.  Of course she wanted to support Mom in her grief and confusion, but there was a frantic quality to it, a blurring of boundaries that sapped my sister’s emotional energy.  Eventually, my sister backed away enough to rebuild her boundaries.  And, of course, Mom felt abandoned.  And angry.

As I consider my family’s emotional legacy, I see all of it playing out in me.  I made light of my chest cold as just another annual event and went about being stoic and “taking care of it myself,” because it was nothing special.  At the same time, I silently tested my friends and family to see if they “cared enough” to call or offer help.  When they didn’t, I got angry and marked them as unworthy.

My care-giver, Leanne, visited yesterday, and she slapped me awake like a Zen master.  “How can they offer help if they don’t know you’re sick?”

Holy crap.  I’d turned into my mom, expecting people to read my mind and anticipate my needs.  I had carried forward a story that may have started generations ago.  What happened in my mom’s young life to make her so insecure about being seen and loved?  What happened to her mother to demand a boundary-less relationship with her youngest daughter?  I felt compassion and sorrow, imagining my mother and my grandmother trying to scratch affection out of a barren landscape.  Or, more accurately, what they perceived as barren through the lens of this family fairy tale.

Oz

So, I did a scary and fairy tale-contradictory thing yesterday.  I announced on FaceBook that I had pneumonia and would appreciate kind words and help.  The outpouring of love and people rushing to come to my aid knocked me senseless.

I’m well aware that being able to say pneumonia still carries a lot more brownie points in my mind than the less worthy chest cold.  Editing this old story will take time and patience.  But my hope is that the legacy stops here.  Part of my work as a point on the continuum of time and ancestry will be to pass on a different story of who we might be.  In that fairy tale, everyone is worthy.

Safety Girl

LukeSo, I saw Ben this week—my substitute therapist who looks like Luke Skywalker in Episode IV.  I like him a lot.  I just keep expecting him to mutter, “Stay on target.  Stay on target.”

Those introductory sessions can be awkward and, honestly, boring.  I’m so sick of telling my story.  Ancient history.  So, instead we talked about us—how Ben works, how I work, what I need from him.  We laughed, I cried, we made another appointment.

He said he digs superhero movies, which endeared me to him immediately.  He also said he was big on themes in therapy, which made absolute sense.  People have patterns and some kind of energy generates those patterns.  Identifying the common threads that run through our lives and calling them themes has a nice, literary ring to it.  And nothing simplifies complex internal themes like a superhero, so this all fit nicely together in my fan-girl brain.

A theme he noticed in our discussion that day was safety.  Ahh, the Force is strong in this one.

Feeling safe—physically, financially, emotionally— drives me and is easily threatened.  And since Safety is pretty low on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (just one step above Breathing), it’s hard for me to advance to meeting higher needs.  Survival seems to be where I spend most of my time.

ElectraI like to think of myself as a Bad-Ass and courageous in my battle with bipolar disorder, but in most parts of my life I’m terrified.  I’m aware of this.  I watch my anxiety rise.  I watch my body respond to the flood of adrenaline.  I feel the fear tip my bipolar scales.

There’s no light saber that can slice through this old pattern.  All I can do is practice awareness, see when the theme is running me, and face it.

I guess that’s the real definition of courage—being scared shitless and facing the Dark Side anyway.  But, it’s always easier to do that with help.  Either a therapist or protocol robot will do.

White-Knuckle Budget

handmade greeting card, collage artThis is a Pattern:

Live in Denial.   Wake up.  Overcompensate.  Go Crazy.  Repeat.

Basically, this is my Pattern for living.  It’s definitely my financial strategy.  This past year I thought I was getting comfortable with my poverty—coming to terms with it—my smug self said.  But what really happened was that I just pretended it didn’t exist.

I know lots of people do this with money.  Statistics from The Federal Reserve say that the average U.S. household credit card debt is $15,270.  That doesn’t include medical or mortgage debt, so imagine what the real number might be!  People all over the country plug their ears with their fingers and sing, “La la la la.  I can’t hear you.”  Knowing this makes me feel a little less crazy, my compulsive spending a little less shameful.  It makes my combined debt of $3000 seem paltry.  But I still have to deal with it.

My hope is that every time I go through this cycle I learn a little something.  Maybe I can adjust the pattern a wee bit this time.  Maybe that’s denial talking, but it seems like I’m required to try.  Right now I’m between Waking up and Overcompensating.  Maybe I can keep from swinging too far into a way of living that’s unsustainable.  I did that when I decided to save money for a new car, cinching the financial belt so tight I passed out from stress and threw myself into a month of rapid cycling.   Neuro-normals go through this, too, I’ve learned.  There’s even a term for it—Frugal Fatigue.  They don’t land themselves in a mental hospital, though.  Well, I’m guessing they don’t.

There are some things I do right.  I keep a spreadsheet of every penny I spend.  I pay my bills through the Bill Pay option with my bank, so things like rent and internet service get paid the same time every month.

There are things I’ve gotten better at doing.  When I was recovering from electroshock and very brain-sick, cooking threw me into scary anxiety attacks, so I ate a lot of take-in.  I mostly enjoy cooking now, especially when I create something fabulous from digging through my pantry (see my Kitchen Sink Chili recipe below).  But, there are still times when I’m so brain-sick I can’t face cooking.  I try to have easy, microwaveable stuff on hand for those times.  And if I can’t even do that much, then try to limit the splurging to one meal, one item, one treat.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

Making wise money choices while cycling through mixed states is sort of a contradiction in terms.  The urge to bolt in my truck requires gas.  The day-long camp-outs at the theater require tickets.  Then, of course, we have the standard binge-eating and internet shopping wallows.  I’m trying to work on those things with my therapist, but squeezing them too tightly also causes backlash.  So, I need to plan for them while I work at minimizing their effects.  Tightrope walking at its finest.

So, here’s the first draft of my plan:

  1. Stop using my credit card.  That means buying gas for my truck with cash, which means a lot less driving.  That translates to only going to Des Moines in cases of mental emergency.  It also means walking as much as I can, which may have to wait until it gets warmer.  The windchill today is -8, so I think I’ll be driving to the Y later.
  2. Try something new.  This time around I’m going to try the envelope system.  I’ll take out my budgeted amounts for food, gas, laundry and entertainment each week and keep them in separate zip-lock bags.  When the money’s gone, it’s gone.  I have a friend who has used this system for decades, but I’ve always thought it seemed too restrictive.  Well, restriction is what’s needed, so I’m game to try.
  3. Keep saving for the new car.  That’s a priority for me, so I’ll keep tucking away a little each month.
  4. Adjust my medical payments.  Paying $40 a month to my mental health clinic wasn’t taking care of my co-pay from Medicare.  I asked them for a statement and found out I owe about $500.  I’ve increased my monthly payment (through Bill Pay) to cover my weekly therapist visits and start whittling at the debt.
  5. Start chipping away at the credit card balance.  I’ve routinely paid a lot more than the minimum required, but never enough to cover the monthly charges.  If I’m not using my card, I can start reversing that trend.

Personal financial experts suggest test-driving a budget before making a huge commitment.  That makes sense to me.  I won’t be able to start until my Disability check comes in February, then I’ll take this puppy for a spin.  Until then, I’m committed to zero spending.  I have gas in the truck, food in the cupboard, a gift card to the theater here in town if I need a movie.  I have $11 in my billfold, and I’m determined to still have it come February 3.  I’m good.  Really good.

Here’s what I created yesterday—a vegan chili recipe that is so delicious I couldn’t believe it.  Score!

Kitchen Sink Vegan Chili

½ C dried beans (I used pinto beans, but any kind would work.  And canned beans are just fine, too.)

¼ C Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Wild and Brown Rice (Again, this is what was in my pantry.  Use whatever rice or pasta you have.)

1-16 oz. can diced tomatoes

1-16 oz. can corn

1-6 oz. can tomato paste

1-4 oz. can green chilies, chopped

1-2.25 oz. can sliced black olives

½ onion, diced

Water

Seasonings: salt, turmeric, chili powder, sweetener (I used a packet of Truvia, so 2 tsp. of sugar would be the same)

*

Soak and cook the beans according to the directions.  Same with the rice (or pasta).  Beans need a couple of hours to cook.  Wild rice needs an hour.  Drain.

Add all the other stuff.

Add water to make the chili a consistency you like.

Add seasonings.  I think seasoning is personal and requires tasting, so I don’t have any measurements for them.  Turmeric was a creative choice this time and turned out to be fabulous.  Use whatever you’ve got.  The one exception to my chili seasoning rule is sweetener.  It cuts the acid of the tomatoes and just makes any kind of chili better (in my humble opinion).

This made 4 big bowls of deliciousness—231 calories/bowl.  I topped it with crumbled up corn bread (add another 150 calories).

Spiral

handmade greeting card, collage art, grandmother, vintageThis morning marks 20 days for me without bolting.  20 days without that awful itch to climb out of my skin and run.  20 days of staying close to home instead of escaping in my truck to the distractions and comfort of the city.

And I woke up crying.

The scales tip, straighten, tip again.  Night follows Day follows Night.  Spring comes back around.  We each move along our own spirals.  If we’re willing and patient, we may feel the spiral lifting with each turn, bringing our Work with us, using what we’ve learned.  If we choose, we can see the patterns in the way we move through our lives.  If we stay awake, we see everything come round again.  Our path along the spiral is inevitable.  How we dance with it is up to us.

Chocolate Covered Cherries

chocolate-covered-cherriesSo, here I am, practicing living and accepting my life As Is, and what happens?  I’m dipped, like a juicy cherry, in chocolate fantasy.

It’s a pattern.  I see a movie (hero) that touches some core hunger, and my imagination gallops off with me hanging on by my teeth.  It happened with Christopher Reeve in Superman.  It happened with Indiana Jones.  It happened with Christian Bale in The Dark Knight.  Now I’ve been kidnapped by Thorin from The Hobbit (and his portrayer, Richard Armitage, by association).  Scenarios, stories, images spring fully formed from my fevered brow like Athena from Zeus’ forehead.  I scribble them all down to try to get them out of my head, but there’s no draining this well.  More Stories take their place.  Details, dialog, complicated plots.  I’ve been invaded.

Thorin Oakenshield, Richard Armitage, The HobbitThis manic brainstorm is lush and intoxicating, sexy and completely distracting.  I can live there instead of the Real World, which is painful and plodding. The desire to stay there is incredibly strong, but I’m supposed to be facing my reality, right?

I do the best I can, which isn’t much.  When the Stories in my head take a little break, I place myself in space and time (I’m in my truck, my hands on the steering wheel, Annie Lennox is singing about broken glass…).  I take a few deep breaths and feel my body.  Here I am.  Then the Story picks up again and I’m onto the next scene.

I’ve decided it might be better to just ride this pleasure cruise until the mania shifts.  And it will.  I’ll do my best to reorient and ground in the Real, but I don’t think I can stop my brain from doing this.  I’m not sure I want to.  I like chocolate covered cherries too much.

Mental Meltdown of the Pneumonia Mind

collage art, hand-made cards

People said I’d go stir-crazy.  Being sick and incapacitated for weeks will mess with your head, they said.

Oh, my.

I’ve officially rounded the bend.  I’ve spent all the money I have left for September, mostly on food and DVDs, which destroyed months of work at losing weight.  I charged up my credit card so that I could put storage shelves in my bathroom—a project on Saturday that left me exhausted and overrun by my own mania.  I feel humiliated, and desperate, and absolutely out of control.

I’ve tried several ways to slow the train down—walking around the track at the Y, walking outside, napping.  They help in the moment, but as soon as I stop moving or wake up, the frantic scrabbling in my brain starts up again.  Every day I start out vowing to “do it different,”  to shroud my TV and do something else.  And every day I end up too tired, too bored, too lonely, too sick.

What I’m hanging onto at this point is that my body is starting to recover.  The lungs are clearing.  The voice is coming back.  I will return to my water aerobics class this morning to splash around if nothing else.  And as my strength returns, I can shift back into my routine, which will give my bipolar claws something else to grab onto.

It’s not like this is new material.  The compulsions, the frantic behavior, the way this illness blows up my life are all reruns of my personal sitcom.  It’s just that adding physical illness squeezes all margins out of the script.  The stress, the disruption of routine, the discomfort run the lines off the page.  I’m not making much sense.

But, there’s a balm in being able to admit the insanity.  Confession always starts a healing.  Lack of insight and secretiveness are part of this illness, so naming names is a good sign.  I’ll hang onto that today.

Spontaneous Combustion

This past weekend I experienced rapid cycling (alternating depressive and manic episodes over a short period of time) for the first time since I weaned off all my meds 18 months ago.  And while very uncomfortable, I managed fine.  It did make me wonder about my stress level, though.

Losing weight is stressful for anyone.  Making major behavioral changes is very stressful for anyone.  On top of those, I’ve also eliminated two of my life-long, sure-fire methods of dealing with my bipolar disorder—TV and compulsive eating.  So not only am I under a great deal of stress, but I’ve lost the two most powerful ways of coping with it.  What’s left in my old bag of tricks is compulsive spending and sexual fantasy, which are both shouting for constant attention.

“Hmm,” I pondered, “perhaps I need a bit more support as I tear my life apart.”

So, today I went to my therapist.  Michelle said all the things I knew she’d say, but it was so comforting to hear them out loud:

All these changes are positive and incredibly stressful.

Don’t worry too much about Captain America and The Huntsman hanging out over your shoulder—have fun with them.

Keep journaling and tracking your feelings.

Try not to be rigid—if the agitation gets too big, allow yourself some TV.

Okay, then.  I’m not hallucinating when I hear Chris Hemsworth mumbling behind me.  And I’m not failing when eating my supper sans distraction makes me cry with loneliness.  No.  It’s just me ripping my life apart and feeling the effects.  Feeling, without numbing those feelings, is frightening and painful.  Many days I feel like an open wound.  But, I’m okay.  And the hunks standing behind me are okay.  However, I’m going to keep seeing Michelle for a while.  She knows how to hose me down if I burst into flames.  Everyone needs a buddy with flame retardant.

Whittling

There are days when it seems that everything I do is aimed at shoring up my defenses.  I exercise to regulate my brain chemistry and strengthen my body.  I journal to catch any distorted thinking and plan my day to avoid impulse eating/spending/reacting.  I work on a short story or a longer fictional piece to bleed out the fantasy thinking that collects like rain water in my barrel.  I practice Tai Chi as an exercise in Will, proving to myself that I can do things that are uncomfortable or difficult.

An underlying tension runs through all this doing, a sense of glancing over my shoulder toward the horizon.  Something’s coming.  Then, I shake it off and get back to it.

I’m sure much of this anticipatory dread comes from making so many changes in my lifestyle.  Change shakes everything up—physically, mentally, emotionally.  There’s no part of us that really likes it.  And those parts will fight to return to the status quo.  Dr. Phil calls this instinctual drift—the tendency for all organisms to revert back to their natural or learned tendencies.  It’s why all those “tame” wild animals keep mauling their owners.  It’s why lost weight always finds its way back.  Deeply ingrained patterns are just that—carved deep—and it will take more than a couple of weeks of tap dancing around them to make a difference.

The patterns that grew up around being bipolar kept me alive.  Maladaptive and unhealthy though they were, they became the only way to survive in my world.  Some days it feels like I’m jumping out of my lifeboat into shark infested water.  Ooo, and I hate sharks.

But, I have a precedent.  I have made a huge change before and incorporated it into my life.  I went from never exercising to working out at the Y five days a week.  Every week.  There’s no resistance to it any more.  It is simply part of my life.  So, I know change is possible for me.  It takes vigilance.  It takes making the choice every day, several times a day.  It takes carving out a new pattern one splinter at a time until that is the new learned response.

Every evening that I swim with my friend in her pool instead of watch TV is a splinter.  Every time I notice my thoughts turning to food and close the book I’m reading is a splinter.  Every time I walk uptown instead of getting into my truck is a splinter.  They all feel unnatural and forced.  My body twitches and there are parts of me that feel like I’m dying.  Sharks!

Sometimes I jump back in the boat, return to the comforting and numbing old ways.  But, the sharks are just a dream.  There is no water.  So I climb out of the rotten boat and start again.

I am shoring up my defenses—against my old patterns, coping skills that don’t serve me anymore.  What’s coming over the horizon is just a scared little girl flailing against pain and darkness.

Come here, darling.  Let’s whittle together.

Haunted Houses

It’s here.  The next episode.

The elevator doors opened, and I rode it down into that familiar darkness.  Time to see how the training, and planning, and digging in play out when all the rules change, and I turn from Jekyll to Hyde.

I felt the change start on Friday while I did my laundry.  I’d identified my mom’s house as an eating trigger already, so I had a plan.  While my clothes sudsed, I’d get my bike out of the garage and ride around town.  I even brought a little tire pump in case the tires were flat.  They were.  And the pump didn’t work.  I put the bike away, went back into the house, and saw the Fiddle Faddle.  The rest was a blur of food.

I broke the surface occasionally during my feeding frenzy.  I told myself, “You don’t have to do this” as I reached for the container of cookies in the freezer.  But, that voice was wee and far.  In retrospect, I had choices.  I could have taken a walk or gotten in my car—anything to get away from the house.  But, those weren’t choices then.  They would have been inconceivable.

I drove from Mom’s straight to another trigger house where I lived with my friends for two and a half years while I was at my worst.  Whenever I visit, I feel the shades of those years gather around me.  I feel that other me wanting to rise up.  When my friends go out of town, I take care of Gracie, their dog.  Again, I had a plan on how to dodge the ghosts.  Instead of “keeping Gracie company” I’d let her outside, take her for a walk, check her food and water, then get out.  No hanging around with the big screen TV and the pantry full of trigger food.  Uh uh.  Get in, take care of business, get out.

All plans flew out of my head when I walked in the back door.  All the old behaviors reared up and took over.  Yesterday, I even brought over my own food to try to keep the ghosts at bay.  They just turned out to be appetizers.

Even while I berated myself for being possessed, I could still watch with curiosity.  I watched how the exhaustion inherent in depression seemed to grease the compulsion’s skids.  I watched how all the self-talk that worked while I was stable made not a dent in the compulsion now.  I watched as the compulsion suddenly stopped, the frenzy ended, and I quit eating.  The good news was that in my own apartment, I didn’t feel the compulsion to eat.  At least for the time being, “that house is clean.”

Curiosity and information will lead to different strategies.  It seems clear I need to stay away from these haunted houses for the time being.  Perhaps I need to do my laundry at the laundromat this summer.  Maybe I can’t take care of Gracie for a while.  The eating rituals that have developed in these houses need to be broken and the ghosts exorcised.  That will be my homework.

In the meantime, I have one more day with Gracie.  Once again, I’ll try to stick to business and get out of the house before the specters find me, before depression and compulsion conjure phantoms too strong to escape.

I’m on an Adventure.

Renewed Bad-Assery

So far, I’ve worked through Chapter 4 of Dr. Phil’s book, The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom, and continue to be astounded by the practical, concrete application of what I already know to be true.  I know what my bad eating and bingeing habits are.  I’ve written them down with every weight loss book I’ve ever read.  I also know when these behaviors happen—the activities, situations or people that trigger them.  I’ve carefully examined what my payoff is for continuing to eat compulsively.

All that information ever concluded for me was that compulsive eating was an integral part of my bipolar disorder, and that untangling those two would be nearly impossible.

But, Dr. Phil gave me a couple more things to consider and, maybe, a way to start slipping the knots of my compulsion.  He opined the only way to get rid of a bad eating habit was to replace it with an activity incompatible with eating.  So, I made a list of things I can do besides eat during the times when I’m most prone to bingeing.  It’s a fun list—full of physical activity, art, writing and things that need to get done anyway.

Then, I listed the ways I can adjust my eating style.  For example, I eat too fast, so I plan to stop and take a breath before starting a meal, then set down my fork between bites.  I know all about how the body can’t register fullness until 20 minutes after the fact, but my fullness button has always been much more broken than that.  I can eat for hours and never feel “full.”  And even though I’ve read about these techniques before, I’ve never tried them, because I was sure they wouldn’t work.  I’m willing to do whatever it takes now.

The last piece (so far) was to make a plan.  Oh, goody!  I’m a planning pro!  My journals are full of plans, most of which were too grandiose, too unrealistic, too stringent, too desperate to ever succeed.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to understand this about myself.  I’ve learned to adjust my goals to something more manageable and realistic.  I never could have accomplished this without my Bipolar Bad-Ass Training (Thank you, Xena and Linda Hamilton!).

My plan includes some radical changes and some simple ones.  The big change is eliminating TV.  I don’t know if this will be permanent, but for now I can’t watch TV without eating, so out it goes.  I also eat when I read (another way to numb my emotional turmoil).  I’m going to try some shifts with reading first, since I want to continue to work with my ECT-induced reading disability.  First, I’ll make sure to finish a meal and do some other activity before opening a book.  If I read while I eat or right after I eat, I just continue shoveling food in my mouth.  So, maybe a break will make a difference.  If not, I’ll try reading only where there’s no access to food, like at the library.  That seems drastic, but again, I’m ready to do what it takes.

Without TV I have a lot of open time to fill, especially in the evening.  My plan is to go back to the Y after supper to work on the stationary bike, or take a walk when the weather is fair.  I used to practice Tai Chi, so I will pull out the DVD (proper use of the TV) and start that practice again.  And most importantly, I plan to make meditation part of my nightly practice.  Like drawing, I’ve been wanting to get back to regular meditation for years.  Now is the time.

I know this is a huge life change.  The few days I’ve been without TV have jangled my nerves.  I can feel the habitual behavior straining to reestablish itself and throwing up flares of panic.  I also know that I have to plant these seeds while I’m stable and give them every opportunity to take root.  I need a practical plan in place and working before the next episode comes or I’ll chuck the whole thing and fall back into compulsive behavior.  I will anyway, I know that, but hopefully these new tools will give me a way to steer the compulsion off its normal target.  All I’m looking for is a tiny adjustment, a way to alter the compulsion’s trajectory slightly.

I may not be able to follow through on all these plans.  It may not be realistic to do them all at once.  But, I’ll never know unless I try.

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