Subscribe to Freedom Seeker The Value in Boredom
I look forward to eventually leaving the D.C. area for a variety of reasons, but one of them has nothing to do with the politics or traffic. The other night I listened to Dr. Meg Lowman talk about growing up in rural, upstate New York. She explained there was nothing really around and not much to do, so as kids, they played outside and climbed trees. She developed a love for the trees and, after more than 30 years of traveling the world, spending her time in the treetops, is now considered...
Finding a Village While On a Boat
I look forward to eventually leaving the D.C. area for a variety of reasons, but one of them has nothing to do with the politics or traffic. The other night I listened to Dr. Meg Lowman talk about growing up in rural, upstate New York. She explained there was nothing really around and not much to do, so as kids, they played outside and climbed trees. She developed a love for the trees and, after more than 30 years of traveling the world, spending her time in the treetops, is now considered a pioneer of canopy ecology research. She has two children of her own and was a single mom most of their lives, so out of necessity, she brought them with her as she conducted her work. They played in the trees, too.
I think of how parents in the D.C. area are trying to do what's best for their kids, which tends to translate into organized, activity overload. My Facebook feed shows all the sports that we, as parents, spend our weekends watching. We run kids to soccer, baseball, swimming, and basketball practices and between work and these activities, life is chaotic and centered around where the schedule dictates we drive to next. As adults, we shoot each other texts of good intentions to get together, but never find the time because our lives are on automatic pilot, heading to the next activity. And when the kids aren't in sports, they are doing homework or "plugged in" to something. Then, last night, I watch a documentary on kids, who are 15, 16, and 17 from around the world whose cultures are different and so their free time is spent differently. They are forced to find ways to occupy themselves, so they end up looking around and seeing what's going on around them. Walking home from school, they pass by polluted lakes, so they start taking samples. Riding the city bus, they see the smog and want to develop a way to reduce air pollution, so they begin creating a paint that absorbs the toxins.
And in between hearing this talk by Dr. Lowman and seeing this documentary at The Natural History Museum, I have an entirely unrelated conversation with a coworker, who is overwhelmed in his job and says he wonders if we have lost the bubble on focusing on relationships with other people because we are all so "busy". I, myself, wonder how far our kids might end up lagging behind in "thinking" and expanding their minds and opportunities because we, as parents, are so busy trying to constantly engage them. And, free time, without anything planned, can be boring. That's typically when the ear buds go in and the kids watch YouTube instead of getting outside and riding a bike or exploring a park. We tend to forget the value in kids forming social relationships with other kids in the neighborhood and occupying their time by playing or talking with those around them because that is their only option. In the D.C. area, we have the added intensity because in the back of our minds, we feel our kids need to be involved in a ton of things because all their peers are and this will be who they are compared against when they apply for colleges. By getting sucked into this world, we then forget that we are people, too, who still need both down time and social interaction for ourselves, separate from our kids.
Back in the day, when kids were bored, they climbed trees. I think there can be so much value in allowing for boredom. It forces us to use our eyes and our minds. And, allowing our kids to experience some "boredom" may also allow us, as adults, to have some time to get together and foster the relationships we tend to backburner because we just don't have the time. Personally, I miss the type of friendships I had 20 years ago, when free time was spent getting together, talking and laughing, and it didn't take a month to find a slot in the schedule to meet up for a bite to eat.
I have spent the last couple weeks going through nearly 5000 photos and videos that my daughters and I took during our trip to the Galapagos and Amazon Rain Forest. I will confess that I am still amazed we made it there. I was a little apprehensive that after all my planning for the Alaska vacation that had to be cancelled, something would cause this one to have to be cancelled, too. It doesn't make any sense for me to have been concerned, but I think it was because it was such a huge trip...
Walking Off the Old Me
I have spent the last couple weeks going through nearly 5000 photos and videos that my daughters and I took during our trip to the Galapagos and Amazon Rain Forest. I will confess that I am still amazed we made it there. I was a little apprehensive that after all my planning for the Alaska vacation that had to be cancelled, something would cause this one to have to be cancelled, too. It doesn't make any sense for me to have been concerned, but I think it was because it was such a huge trip for me. To take my children to South America by myself and not just to visit a city or two, but to really be off the grid for over two weeks, was an enormous feat. And the trip didn't begin very smoothly. We arrived just after 11:00 p.m. on a Friday night into Quito, sitting in the very back of the airplane, waiting for everyone to disembark when Reese says, "I don't feel very well." I know that look and she's smart enough to grab the vomit bag, as we are hoping people hurry up. Only two rows left ahead of us and then Taylor looks at me in panic and says, "I can't find my phone!" Seriously! So now, I have one kid who has started to puke and another I am helping to look under seats and in seats and in bags, as the flight attendant tells us we really need to exit the plane because they have to begin cleaning it. And at that moment, Taylor says, "Ooops, it's in my pocket." She gets the disgusted look from me as we rush off the plane towards customs so I can get in the gigantic line. Meanwhile, Taylor escorts Reese into the bathroom because Reese looks like death. I then remember that I forgot to remind my kids not to drink any water unless it's bottled. It's the first thing I do when they exit the bathroom, and I am thankful Reese didn't decide to rinse her mouth out, even though the thought is a bit gross.
Over an hour goes by before we get through customs so we can retrieve our luggage and, shockingly, no luggage. Not one of the three bags we brought. Thankfully, I had made each of us pack an extra outfit and some basics in our carry-ons, but off to the lost luggage desk we go to find another line. It seems this is a very common occurrence in Quito, since we find half a dozen people from our flight there, too. Let me emphasize that American Airlines lost luggage personnel do not move very quickly in filing claims. At least they know our luggage is still in Denver rather than completely MIA, but it's been an extremely long day by the time we make it to our hotel at 2:00 a.m. to check in. To add insult to injury, we have to be up at 6:00 a.m. so I can follow up about the status of our luggage, get the kids fed, and be ready for our 6:45 a.m. tour pickup to see the city of Quito during our one full day there.
So, it's Saturday and we are up at 6:00 a.m. I am told by the airlines to call back in the evening, which is no problem, since I won't have phone service all day anyway. We do leave for the Galapagos the next day, though, so having our luggage would be really nice. We eat and wait in the lobby for our tour pickup at 6:45 a.m. At 7:15 a.m., I finally get summoned to the front desk because there is a call for me. It's our tour guide saying she is running late because of traffic. Sounds like I am back in D.C.! Well, we aren't going anywhere, so we just sit and wait. By 8:30 a.m., she finally arrives (note, I paid an extra $25 for the pickup) and all I can think is we could have slept in so much longer had I known. Our tour guide apologizes, as she coughs and sneezes because she is sick, so it's hard for her to speak. So, this is going well...thank goodness she drops us off for our first stop at the Middle of the World Museum, where we get to follow around their tour guide, who is fantastic. We then head into historic Quito and parking is a disaster. Taylor starts to crumble, with tears welling up, as she tells me she just wants to go to the hotel. I get it. I used to feel the same "out of sorts" way when I would be in a really different place than home, and Taylor is sensitive to these things. I tell her we'll be heading back in a couple hours, but I understand and she just needs to fight through the feelings right now. Luckily, lunch is our next stop and that helps get us all back on track. Our tour of historic Quito by our paid guide is a bit underwhelming, but, hey, at least we see some of the old churches and buy some really good chocolate. We make it back to our very American feeling hotel, where the highlight for my girls is ordering room service. This is a first for them and I think a much needed distraction from some of the craziness of the start of the trip. Meanwhile, I call the airlines and find out that our bags made it to Miami and should be arriving to Quito that evening by 8:00 p.m.. What a relief! Or so I thought. At 9:30 p.m., I am calling the airport and discover only two of the bags made it and we don't know which two. Now I have no chance of getting the third before we get on the boat for the Galapagos the next day and I am still waiting for the two to be delivered. So, I am already hand washing the few clothes we have with us. At 1:00 a.m., the knock on the door reveals that both the girls' bags have arrived. It's a double edged sword. While my bag would have been nice because the girls can share clothes and I can't, it at least makes for an easier start to the Galapagos portion of the trip for them. Well, off to bed to get to the airport early, so I can buy some items for on the boat in case I don't see my bag until the Amazon!
Thankfully, from here on out, things go much smoother. I must give some kuddos to Ecoventura, my tour company, because they take all my information at the airport and are confident they can work with the airline to get me my bag in the Galapagos, something I thought would be impossible. I do buy a couple overpriced tee shirts and flip flops, just in case, and I have a bathing suit in my carry-on, so things could be worse. I have a great conversation with a married couple on the flight to the Galapagos, who happen to be on our tour company's sister boat to the Letty, which is the boat the girls and I are on. So, already things are becoming more enjoyable. When we make it to the boat, it turns out to be a perfect fit of fellow passengers. Nine kids, eight adults, and immediately everyone is getting along. And, Stacey, another passenger whom I now consider my friend, was nice enough to loan me a stack of clothes just in case there was an issue with my bag arriving. The crew does their welcome cocktail and informs us we're going to jump right into things and will be snorkeling that afternoon. I am REALLY glad I have my bathing suit with me. Having to remove my wet suit in front of all the other passengers, while naked underneath, may have resulted in a completely different dynamic for the remainder of the trip.
And then the magic happens. We get in our wet suits to go snorkeling and as we head towards the appropriate spot, our guide spots a humpback whale breaching in the distance. Next thing you know, our dinghy speeds off so we can get a closer look. It was unbelievable! I never expected to see whales on this trip, let alone on day one! And there was so much more to come. There was the pod of dolphins that we saw the next day leaping out of the water along side our boat, the albatross performing its mating dance ritual in the middle of our path, sea lions swimming all around us as we snorkeled, baby blue footed boobies attacking our feet as we tried to walk by...I have never seen so much diverse wildlife up close and truly wild. It makes you appreciate nature and never want to step foot in a zoo again. And just to conclude on the luggage fiasco, the Captain anchored the boat at the north end of San Cristobal on Monday night just so they could jetty a boat out with my bag. It was amazing! Really, though, in the grand scheme of things, as I told the girls, these problems arise and you can't let it ruin a trip. My girls may have heard a few, choice words blurted out to the airlines over the course of the weekend, but that's all part of the adventure!
I don't think I can really express all the amazing experiences from this trip. There are so many details I have to leave out, otherwise you would be reading a book. The Amazon part of our trip gave an entirely different perspective. It's such a contrast, as you have to really search for animals high in the trees and with telescopes. Our night walk was pretty incredible, though, being able to see all kinds of critters just hanging out on leaves right next to you.
What I hadn't expected to make such an impact on me was the interaction with all the people, though. People who were doing just what I was and taking their kids or grand kids on an amazing adventure to expose them to an experience that is not commonplace. Instead of anyone looking at Facebook, we congregated on the sundeck, during our free time and talked. What a crazy concept these days...perfect strangers congregating and talking to one another. I became friends with everyone on that boat in the Galapagos and the other family that was part of our group in the Amazon. We operated like a village in each place. We kept an eye on each other's kids, we talked at mealtimes, we hiked and swam together. My kids ended up loving the trip. They adjusted to a world very different than the one they are used to in the U.S. I did, as well. We didn't have internet, and phones were merely with us so we could take photographs or video easily. Yet, I felt less alone and more connected with people than I have in ages. We threw ourselves into our surroundings and relationships with our fellow travelers and guides. It gave me a glimpse of how I would prefer to live...among people instead of isolated from them. A bit ironic since we were in the middle of nowhere. For a single parent, like me, I believe my happiness in life will really come from finding my village. Now, I am not saying I need to live in the Galapagos or Amazon, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to witness such amazing areas that exist in our world. As the girls and I spoke with other people in our group in both the Galapagos and Amazon, who had also experienced other areas, the girls told me they are ready to take on an African safari next. Well, it may not be our next trip, since mom's bank account is fairly depleted from this one. But, I imagine in a couple years we'll be off to Africa, while our vaccinations are still valid.
There's a song I really like called "Alaska" by Maggie Rogers. In the refrain she sings, "And I walked off you; And I walked off an old me." These are words I seem to live by. Over the course of the weekend, I walked 20 miles. I walk when I am trying to sort things out and get to a better place, mentally. I knew this weekend that I needed time to myself, with my thoughts, and time to figure out how to pull myself out of this slump I've been in. As much as I want to feel better for me, I know...
The Great Purge
There's a song I really like called "Alaska" by Maggie Rogers. In the refrain she sings, "And I walked off you; And I walked off an old me." These are words I seem to live by. Over the course of the weekend, I walked 20 miles. I walk when I am trying to sort things out and get to a better place, mentally. I knew this weekend that I needed time to myself, with my thoughts, and time to figure out how to pull myself out of this slump I've been in. As much as I want to feel better for me, I know my kids have realized I am having a tough time and I want to feel better for them, too.
Sitting around, moping, and not taking any action to change things never results in an improvement, so I hit the road and walked. I walked until my joints ached. And as much thinking as I did, I also had periods of time when I was immersed in my surroundings and that didn't allow for thinking. It allowed for listening to dragonfly wings flap against the shrubs and squirrels scurrying about the branches of trees. I needed both to enable me to clear my head.
A clear head. Shoving aside all the noise of late reminded me of some basic things that were working for me before I started to fall into old habits. It's obvious to me exercise is necessary in my life. I am in better shape now than I have been in years. I think I am more attractive than I was ten years ago and, even if that is all just in my head, liking the way I appear on the outside sure helps me feel better on the inside. The side benefit to the exercise, which is the main benefit to most, but I admit I am backwards on this, is that I have more stamina and energy. I had let myself slack these last couple weeks, but it's back to pushing my body physically to help me mentally.
Activities are a time suck that I crave. The school time routine is back in session, which means soccer practices and games for the kids, but also museum talks for me. Though I am taking my kids to a couple talks, I need "me" time and this is something I have found I enjoy. I have become one of National Geographic's biggest supporters by buying tickets for nearly half their events, I think. It would save me so much money if they would just hire me to work for them, but, alas, I am not yet the explorer I want to be, so attending as part of the general public will just have to suffice. So, with a couple I found at the Smithsonian, too, this comes to seven talks I am attending over the next few months. It's not just about occupying my time, but learning and stimulating my mind in areas I find fascinating. I can't stand politics. In the world I work in and the city I live in that is a major focus for a lot of people. These talks help me escape. Even if I am going to them on my own, I am trying to broaden my horizons and improve myself through increased knowledge.
Now that enough time has passed since being in a relationship, I am finally ready to date. It has been challenging. I have had a handful of dates over the past year and none were bad dates, per se, just dates that didn't really stand out. I've been very tempted to just close my heart off again. I don't want to do that, though. There are a lot of things I wish in life, but one, in particular, is having someone I connect with, who I can talk to about all the crazy thoughts and ideas in my head and listen to theirs and maybe, by some stroke of luck, we'll want the same things out of life. Sounds simple, but it isn't. I am putting myself out there again, though. I don't want to hinge my happiness on someone else, but I do want to be open to someone coming into my life who can add to my happiness. And, when I think about all I know I am capable of offering someone, I still hope I have the opportunity someday. But, even when I am lonely and wishing I had someone to curl up on the sofa with, I remember all those moments I shared with the wrong people that left me feeling disconnected and unfulfilled. I don't want that again. I would much rather be alone than in a so-so relationship that makes me daydream about what it would be like to be with someone else. So, I am open to something that feels right again, but we'll see what happens.
Most importantly, though, I took a entirely novel action for me this weekend. I researched various environmental volunteer organizations in the area and submitted an application to do in-person volunteering with Sierra Club. I can't remember the last time I did any volunteer work. It makes me sound like a horrible person. I was never really passionate enough about it. I feel ready to commit my free time to do something that gives me purpose. I was hesitant for a while. I was a little bit fearful about doing something else on my own that I have never done before. But, heck, I have now taken my kids to the Galapagos and Amazon Rain Forest completely on my own, as a single mom, AND the airline lost our luggage for several days! Clearly, I can now do anything! Even volunteer. Maybe it will help expose me to some new people and opportuniteis, as well. And, I do need to discover more activities that interest me, as my kids beome more independent and I foresee many more evenings and weekends on my own.
Well, I can't say that in one weekend I walked off nearly everything I still need to walk off. I was able to walk off some of the thoughts in my brain that were holding me back, though. It's a start. I am proud of my 20 miles of baby steps over the past few days. Hopefully, there will be many miles of great strides ahead of me.
Am I ready to head back to work? Probably not.
I have this amazing ability to be able to block out certain memories and feelings, as I move on from an experience. I used to be horrible at this when I was younger, and I would dwell on something I screwed up on or a person who was no longer part of my life. It still takes time for me to recover from these things, but I realize how much quicker I can wipe away a lot of the negative or painful thoughts and memories from my brain. Yesterday, one of my many email accounts was approaching its...
A Year Older...and Still Growing
I have this amazing ability to be able to block out certain memories and feelings, as I move on from an experience. I used to be horrible at this when I was younger, and I would dwell on something I screwed up on or a person who was no longer part of my life. It still takes time for me to recover from these things, but I realize how much quicker I can wipe away a lot of the negative or painful thoughts and memories from my brain. Yesterday, one of my many email accounts was approaching its quota and it occurred to me that I had a lot of deleting to do. I had emails from exes from years ago. It was time to purge. I have been looking for a fresh start. To me, this fresh start has meant being able to really pick up and go. Still having responsibilities here, though, it felt good to have a baby step towards a fresh start. Even if I know I am past certain people and events, the act of deletion and physical removal was nice. I don't need these memories or reminders of the detailed communications I had with people from my past, who will never be part of my future. I still have photos. Photos are one thing I can never delete because I hold them in a different category, since they involve my experiences or travels. For some reason, though, even if holding onto the images doesn't bother me, getting rid of all the words that hold no meaning feels really good. These words lack any truth for me anymore. And the only way to enjoy the present and look forward to the future is let go of the past. I tend to have a vivid imagination, so I literally imagine certain people and events evaporating, as I carry out my purge. These will always be a part of my personal history, but they are merely facts now. The energy I have needs to be focused on where it matters most: today and each of the todays ahead of me.
I am only a couple weeks away from my 42nd birthday. I am not sure what I expected this last year to look like. I think I had hope and faith that it would be a better year than it ended up being, maybe because the previous year was so rough. I am not really a believer in fate, but I suppose a part of me always wants to think that the universe balances out and, when you go through lots of struggles and sadness, you "earn" some blind luck and unexpected thrills to come your way. Of course,...
The Forgotten Strong
I am only a couple weeks away from my 42nd birthday. I am not sure what I expected this last year to look like. I think I had hope and faith that it would be a better year than it ended up being, maybe because the previous year was so rough. I am not really a believer in fate, but I suppose a part of me always wants to think that the universe balances out and, when you go through lots of struggles and sadness, you "earn" some blind luck and unexpected thrills to come your way. Of course, the practical side of me knows that we have to create these moments and that mindset for ourselves. I think I did fairly well in trying to get my life back on track, after a substantial upheaval, but I know I am still feeling a bit lost. From the outside, I am sure it seems ridiculous that I am struggling at all, but that's because it's easy to conceal all the thoughts and feelings I don't always feel comfortable expressing to the world.
What is apparent is that I haven't strayed off my original course from over a year ago. In fact, I am now on a path to retire a year earlier than I originally anticipated. By 48 years old, I now intend to sell all my "stuff" and be able to support myself without a job. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I returned from my most recent trip; it felt like I was coming home to nothing...at least nothing that I really want or value. A house doesn't bring me happiness. Things don't bring me happiness. While I was away, I had the opportunity to interact with so many people I instantly related to, I am sure, in part, because of the type of trip it was and the type of people that type of trip attracts. I experienced things I love, including learning and nature. I also had my kids with me. There was nothing else I felt I needed that was waiting for me upon my return home. There was no one to greet me at the airport and be excited to see me and no plans with friends because that typically takes weeks to sync schedules. I did have hundreds of work emails to sort through, the instant stress associated with the approach of the end of the fiscal year, and a lawn that needed mowing, though. It's hard going from a "high" and enjoyment of so many moments and interactions to a sudden "low". One thing I know with certainty is that I am wholeheartedly overdue in is having the freedom to do something else, somewhere else. But I can't do that yet, and so I still struggle.
I tend to feel better when I set goals for myself, so I have started to really take stock of my situation again. I am saving even more money each month so that there isn't an issue in now funding 12, instead of 11, years of "life" prior to being able to draw from my retirement funds. That's the easy part, since budgeting and financial planning is one of my strong suits. What's really bothering me is that I feel I am in "limbo" and dissatisfied with aspects of my life that aren't entirely in my control. As hard as it is for me to admit, some things I miss the most are romantic love, affection and companionship. I decided I was ready to open myself up to dating and the possibility of a relationship again, but the more men I've met, the more it intensifies my feelings that I lack a connection with or attraction to them, and then I feel worse. I don't want to settle. I have done that too many times for how "smart" I am supposed to be. So dating has been counter-productive; it's opened me up to feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and isolation. Maybe I am the only one who feels this way, but it has been very defeating. No doubt, I am still a work in progress. I debate how to feel fulfilled and fill certain voids that are growing as time goes on. I haven't figured out how to resolve these feelings of wanting something more in my life. I don't want to view happiness as something I will eventually get to when I hit a certain milestone down the road because that would be wasting valuable days in the meantime. And I can fully see that having a plan to retire when my kids are off to college is also to help enable me to run away from potential loneliness, and off to something else that gives me hope and purpose. I don't judge myself for that, as sometimes I think it is okay to know you need a fresh start and new beginnings in a new place. I just wish I could do that now, rather than have to wait. It scares me a bit to know I will "lose" my kids to their activities and friends years before they actually move out, but I can't solve every problem in a day. I can barely solve one. I do know being idle and complacent is not the answer for me. It isn't how I am built. As much as I feel I have been struggling lately, I am not ready to accept that life can't be more fulfilling than it feels like presently. I constantly fight the urge to become a hermit. That's like throwing in the towel to me. So, I am pushing myself to engage in activities and socialize when the opportunities arise. I still need to establish some achievable goals for myself in the short term, too. I need something within my control that can provide me a sense of meaningful accomplishment. All this takes a lot of work, though. Frankly, sometimes I just wish it could be easy. I wonder where I will be at in another year, as I approach my 43rd birthday. Maybe it will be a year that will be better than I could have ever anticipated. That thought, alone, keeps me moving forward.
I remember few real details about when my ex left the house, other than his statement, "In three months you will be over this and fine." Maybe that was true, maybe it wasn't, but regardless, it stung. It implied that just because he viewed me as a strong person, I didn't have feelings at that moment. Over the years, since my divorce, I have been told by many friends that they view me as one of the strongest people they know. Part of me prides myself on being viewed this way. But, part of...
I remember few real details about when my ex left the house, other than his statement, "In three months you will be over this and fine." Maybe that was true, maybe it wasn't, but regardless, it stung. It implied that just because he viewed me as a strong person, I didn't have feelings at that moment.
Over the years, since my divorce, I have been told by many friends that they view me as one of the strongest people they know. Part of me prides myself on being viewed this way. But, part of me knows that the main reason I am viewed as having strength is because I have learned how to bury emotions and feelings when times are tough. Many years ago, I would get so depressed that I couldn't get out of bed for long stretches of time. I felt very hopeless. Everyone around me knew if I was upset because there was no way I could hide it. Over the years, though, and partly because of my kids, I have developed coping strategies. When you are a single parent, there is no room in your life for a breakdown or to fall apart. It can be for no other reason than you have to get out of bed every day and do what needs to be done to take care of your kids. I think I learned how to block out that type of incapacitating sadness so I could function and be a mom. But in doing so, many walls were built. I learned how to be so independent that letting people get too close, where they could break through and make me feel again or depend upon them, became terrifying because it opened me up to potential hurt and disappointment.
Even with all the coping mechanisms, though, even the "strong" need other people in their lives. I know it is extremely hard for me to ask anyone for help and it isn't because I don't need it, but because I don't want to burden someone else. There is also the fear of someone saying "no" which can make me feel even more alone. So, I tend to keep everything inside and face everything on my own. That can be hard. And when someone doesn't ask for help or say, "hey, I am going through a tough time, would you mind listening," they often don't get it. People naturally tend to focus on those who appear most in need and assume everyone else is doing okay. But sometimes those that appear to be doing okay are just waiting for someone to show they care and ask the question, "how are you?" and genuinely mean it.
Life can be very scary for those of us who feel there is no individual we can rely on, who will be willing and available to help us when we have a bad day or the car breaks down. So we convince ourselves we don't need anyone and, hence, no one else views us as needing anyone either. But sometimes that gets lonely. Sometimes we get sad and just try to hide it from the outside world or bury it as deep as we can. I am trying to do a better job, myself, of checking in on my friends. It can still be hard to let others in when they try to check in on me. Still, I have some friends I admire for their strength, but I know it was built on a lot of pain and heartache in their lives and they need me as much as I need them, in order to face whatever days lie ahead. So, please, don't forget about the "strong."