Poly Nirvana

Love, Life and Rational Polyamory


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~Really~

I really don’t get people sometimes.

I spent my morning supporting a family through a patient’s death.  All I can really say, is that as a hospice nurse, my perspective is constantly being refocused.  There are big things happening to people, everywhere, all the time, and we don’t even realize it.  Today someone’s father died.  Someone lost a child, a mother, a friend.  There is so much going on in the world, and most of us get to be oblivious.

After I left this family, I went to Sonic.  I needed to sit in my car and decompress.  I ordered a diet cherry lime-aid and I planned to space out on Facebook for a few minutes before heading to my office to do paperwork.

Well.

I moderate a small local poly discussion group on Facebook, with CC.  We have 80 people or so, and it’s had some slow growth, but it’s been a solid little group.  Yesterday someone posted that she was having her first poly “date” tonight.  She was excited and engaged.  It was adorable.

Today someone posted that her husband was going out with someone “repulsive” and so unattractive that it was gross.  “Gross”!  (I can’t even imagine someone saying this!)   Do you see where this is going? The girl from last night was going out with the husband of the girl who posted today.  I was appalled.

I came late in the conversation, apparently it had gotten heated and very ugly, and while the group rallied, people were upset and defensive, and the thread was deleted, I think by the original poster.

People act like this?  I just don’t get it.  At this point, I want to delete this person from the group…but maybe that’s not the right thing.  From what I understand, yes, she did know that the girl her husband was going out with was in the group, which pretty much makes her post a passive aggressive personal attack, and that makes me sick.

Yes, the excited girl from last night canceled the date, and I don’t blame her.  I certainly wouldn’t want to engage with someone when the potential metamour is either that jealous, insecure, or just plain mean.

The end.


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~Date~

I had a date.

A FIRST date, no less.  Now, maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it really was.  I think I have first date stage fright.

It doesn’t matter if I know my date previously or not, though I will say that blind dates are particularly painful.  Especially if it’s someone I’ve met through OkCupid.  Anyway, this guy did, in fact, find me on OKC.

I’m very, ummm…, selective (fine, picky).

I don’t have the time or energy or desire for lots of dates.  Or people.  Or anxiety.

So when The Hippie (hey, he proclaimed himself a hippie, so who am I to argue with such an easy nickname) and I hit it off via messaging, I thought, Ok.  Let’s do it.  At the very least, I have a new friend.  (Because I genuinely do like him.)  But then you get the big D word in there (DATE, you perv), and I get all weird.

Except I wasn’t really weird.

It was fine.  Pleasant.  Easy.  Chemistry?  I’m not sure.  (Man, I sure hope he doesn’t read this, I don’t think he even knows I blog…) I didn’t find myself watching his mouth and wanting to know how it felt on me.  I don’t think I noticed his hands or his fingers, and wondered what his touch felt like.

Okay, so no white hot chemistry.  Damn.

He walked me to my car.  He kissed me a little. It was good.  I may see him again.

May.

Turns out he also has seen Mrs. A a few times. And I don’t know what the future holds for them, but I don’t really want to be involved with someone whose partners overlap to that degree.  And honestly, I asked him if he had gone out with CC as well, since there’s such a small poly community here. (He hadn’t.) This doesn’t have as much to do with my discomfort with Mrs. A specifically, as it does my unease with the sometimes “too close for comfort”, everyone knowing everything, poly network.

Tonight SMF is out on a first date of his own.  And I’m not jealous.  Not really.  A little distracted, when I realized that it was 9:30 and he was three hours into his date, and what on earth were they doing for three hours and was he having a good time, and was she amazing and beautiful and sexy, and I bet they didn’t just have a fight and say sad and scary things to each other like we did, and she probably thinks he’s awesome, because he IS awesome, and I should have just let him wear the dirty socks because then if they went bowling, she would be unimpressed but NOOOOO, I had to tell him to wear clean socks because girls notice those kinds of things.

And now it’s 10:26 and he said he’d be home by 10:30, or would text me if it went later, and I’m watching the clock  and wishing that I wasn’t.

But I’m not jealous.

I’m uncomfortable.  I know he loves me.  And I know he loves CC.  And eventually, at some point, he will probably love someone else as well.  

I hope I find more love too.

(Epilogue: I got a text at 10:41 and I really wish that 11 minutes didn’t make me nervous. It must have been an awesome date. )


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~Year~

One year ago today, I posted my first writing on Poly Nirvana, titled “Perfect Poly”. I actually had written it a year before that, out of frustration with the larger poly community and this feeling of not fitting in anywhere; of not being evolved enough to feel true compersion, or mature enough to not ever be jealous. Or lonely. Or sad. Or any of those feelings that we are all trying so hard to get away from, and that everyone talks about, all the time.

I received this message this week, and I’m posting with permission from the darling friend who wrote it.  I’m sharing it because it resonated with me, and I’m also sharing my response.

________________________________________________________________________

Hi Ginger,

I have something that I’ve been struggling with and I was hoping that I could get your perspective. I hope you don’t mind. It has to do with polyamory, metamours, jealousy, hurt, and my reaction to hurt.

I’m trying to get some different perspectives–not because I don’t trust people around me, but I’m really just hoping to cast a wide net and hope that something works for me, because I’m really struggling. I really respect your thoughts, from reading a lot of your writing… and I’d appreciate your input.

So here are the basics: A person with whom I am in a relationship (going on three years) has a new(ish) partner, and I’ve been struggling with this new(ish) partner from the beginning (about a year and a half). I’ve reached a lot of peace about the situation, but sometimes I just feel so HURT when I know that they’re together. I’m working through that. What I’m really really struggling with is a desire to hurt my partner back in some way with a mean or jealous comment, by withdrawing, by screaming or yelling. I know that something is being triggered within me and I know that I need to figure that out, but that desire to hurt, to hit back in some way, is really upsetting me.

Do you have any thoughts on this, or experiential learning that you’ve done that you could share? 

_________________________________________________________________________

My response:

So when I first read your message, I was immediately like, “Oh , I so know exactly what that feels like.” The problem is, that I don’t always know how to best deal with it, in a healthy way, except to recognize it, accept it, and possibly verbalize it, which it seems like you’ve done.

There’s a knee-jerk reaction that we have sometimes, that is a defense mechanism when we are feeling vulnerable. We do it as children when we lash out, and we do it as adults. When I’ m feeling insecure, I find myself saying something that I know will make him worry about the stability of our relationship. It’s not nice, and I didn’t realize that I was doing it for a long time, and it didn’t happen very often, but once I recognized it, I was able to at least be a grown up and choose to simply tell him instead that I needed him to tell me…whatever…I needed to hear. Once I said it out loud, it lost it’s power, and I could see it for what it was. “Tell me you’re not going to dump me for the 24 year old stripper with awesome legs that you just met because my legs are thick and meaty and I’m an old lady”. Usually he just looks at me and says the right things, which I knew anyway, but I just have to process it out in the open.

Feelings are hard. I read a sentence in a blog recently…

“I think the poly world puts too high of a premium on being un-feeling ever-compersive robots, but reality is that we all handle things differently.” (Link here.)

And THAT screamed at me, I’ve been feeling that one for a long time. At the risk of sounding like a know it all, read this…   “Perfect Poly”

And remember, my sweet friend… It’s what you do with your feelings that matters. If you recognize that you want to lash out, and you consciously choose to DO IT anyway because it feels good and satisfying to hurt your partner for just a minute, then you’re giving up. If you feel your feelings and choose to handle them the best way you know how, and explore ways to handle them even better, then you are doing good poly, good relationships, and good human being-ness.

(It’s early, and I have a headache, and I suspect that this is somewhat rambling and scattered, but sometimes a stream of consciousness thought process works… Maybe…)

~Ginger

________________________________________________________________________

Thank you. It does make sense and it helps, and I appreciate the words of your blog entry from a year ago. I get into these moments (sometimes week-long moments) when everything seems like it’s crashing in and like I can’t stand the hurt and the confusion a moment longer–like I’m going to have to change something in my relationship or do something drastic like scream and yell, and then I kind of snap and say, “Um…this kind of misery is not part of my relationship. I have created this in my head.” And then I take a step back and I look at the big picture, and I realize I’m making decisions about the direction of my relationship (without my partner) and I’m deciding what’s in their head for them, rather than keeping myself open and vulnerable. Oh, god, the vulnerability of not assuming where something is going or what’s in someone’s head, and leaving myself open to “what will be.” And even though I have those moments when I feel fearful and hurt, and I want to say something hurtful or something that would damage the relationship, I know that in the long run it’s not the choice I want to make. I’ll probably never be the 100% secure and compersive partner because I seek out relationships that push me to grow as a person, and growing is painful and it can be confusing. I just have to remember to not get lost, right?

_________________________________________________________________________

I think I wanted to share this on the blog, because it always makes me feel better when I know that other people struggle with the same things I do.   And it’s inspiring to me when I see others trying to be good and kind and thoughtful in their choices.  It inspires me to try to do the same.  I not perfect, and I don’t do perfect poly.  I’m just a girl who is trying to find her way, along with everyone else.

Happy anniversary, little blog.


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~Try~

Last night a couple of my demons came out from their hiding places, just to remind me that they are still there.  They are smaller, and less threatening than I remember them being, but they still took me by surprise.  Special Man and I had a date which for some reason, was difficult for me to relax into.  We drove several hours up to some hot springs which closed earlier than we expected.  The roads were icy and rough, which made my palms sweaty as I closed my eyes and flashed back on my car accident last September.  SMF and I never ran out of things to talk about, but I found myself tense and worrying.  Later, as we cuddled and laughed about silly things in bed, I felt myself relax.

And then,some time after,  in just a few seconds, something happened.  There was a look on his face, a look I’m so familiar with, a look that makes me feel loved and wanted and needed and beautiful and connected.  And I went from elation, to a great longing to keep that look for just myself.  I felt possessive and territorial.  I flashed on him sharing that look, that moment, with others.

I didn’t like it.  I felt emotional.  Vulnerable.  I didn’t like that either.

It’s a hard thing to be completely bare in front of someone, and I don’t mean baring your body.  Laying your fears and demons out in front of someone you love, and risking rejection, judgement, or worse, indifference.  I wiped away tears.  He held me, kissed my forehead,  gave me sips of water, and when it was time for him to leave, he covered me with a quilt and I was asleep before I heard his car drive away.


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~Swing~

Over the weekend, Special Man and I were in a Dollar Store picking up party supplies, for a “Day of the Dead” themed event I hosted in my home on Saturday night.  I’m not sure how we got on the subject of compersion, of all things, as we walked down the medicine aisle, but he stopped me in my tracks as he said, somewhat loudly, that he was of the opinion that swingers are way better at compersion than polys. (I don’t even know if polys is a word, but I’m making it up if it isn’t.)  I think his exact words were, “To tell you the truth, I think swingers are the ones who have the compersion thing down.”

He kept walking, assuming I was following, and I stood, in the middle of The Dollar Tree, thinking.  And I had a poly epiphany, right there.  Of course, swingers think they’ve got compersion down.  Their focus is so very finite and well defined.  It’s sex.  Usually together, often in the same room, and they go home together.  Every rule and guideline that swingers enforce, is in place to protect The Relationship.  Because sex is just sex.  I get it.

We polys have blown this concept up to embody the entirety of a relationship that doesn’t include us.  Not just sex, not just orgasms, not just bodies on bodies.  Emotions and time and fights and life and inside jokes and a history…and we are supposed to feel compersive about all of it.  The vision I have going in my brain right now, is that of a smiling, glowing Stepford Wife.    That’s what I feel I’m being asked to achieve,  when I read about how compersion is the highest poly state we should be striving for.

I wanted to stop and debate this right then with him, and I’m not sure why.  It may be that it struck me as so kind of, well, smug.  And he can be smug, because he and CC have a significant swinging history, and I’m pretty sure he identifies as a swinger, just as much (if not more) than he does as polyamorous.  While my style of poly includes a lot of self analysis, and processing, both internally and outloud, he is more of a matter-of-fact, black and white, just don’t dwell on it, kind of guy.  If he gets a jealous thought or twinge, he tells me he “just doesn’t think about it.”  He doesn’t dwell.  He waits for it to pass.

Now, lest you think he is perfect: He is not.  These “not dwelling” moments tend to pile up, and then come out all at once, at least with me.  I’m not sure how this dynamic works between him and CC.  Their relationship is in a much different place than ours is after their fourteen-ish years, compared to our two-ish years.  He does get a little jealous sometimes, and I usually don’t hear about it until it is really bothering him.  I, on the other hand, will spill it immediately.  I process out loud, and I know that can be hard on him.  Just as his style can be hard on me, as I can feel blindsided if he’s been acting fine and then all of a sudden, absolutely isn’t.

So this has gotten off on a tangent. Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m going to vomit out onto a blog post, and I guess this is one of those times.  My original thought, was that I was annoyed that Special Man was declaring the swinger team the winner of the compersion trophy.  It’s been a challenge, having a relationship with someone who has both a swinger mentality, and a polyamorous side, and who can compartmentalize each so effectively.  In the beginning I was so confused.  I understood the swinger concepts, of sex being fun, and just something you can do with people you like, or people you’ve just met. But he and I have connected sex, loving sex, hot sex; sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s fun and recreational.  But love is what makes it so good for me.  Was it “just sex” for him?  Where did I fall, into which compartment?  Swinger sex or poly sex, or was there even a difference?

Sidenote: Man, he’s so going to love this post.

Now, I know there are all kinds of non-monogamy.   This isn’t a swinging vs. polyamory debate, but I find they tend to exist in the same realm, and here I sit, from my little poly viewpoint, wondering why compersion is so elusive to so many in Polyland, but the swingers have that shit down.  And I think it comes down to degrees.  If I see SM flirt with another woman, it’s cute, but it has big implications…full blown, impactful, relationship implications.  On the other hand, if we were in a strictly swinging context, the implications would be so limited, to that night, to those hours, to the activity of sex and flirting, that I would think that compersion in context, would just be simpler.

This all just leads me back to my opinion that compersion, as I understand it,  is kind of overrated.  I’m still working from a place of pleasant neutrality and acceptance, when he is interested in spending time with someone else.  Some days, that’s the best I can do.  Some days, I’m a jealous, scared little girl. My poly is imperfect.  But it doesn’t mean it isn’t GOOD.

~Compersion, Thou Art A Harsh Mistress~ 


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~Burn~

Last night, after dinner out with friends, a margarita and a few bites of Special Man’s Cancun Platter,  I sat with him on my bed as he went through his laptop and compiled a list of music to make a CD for me to take with me on a quick road trip.  He was doing something nice for me, I think, in part to show support for the fact that I’m driving several hours for a date with someone new.  Someone he knows I think is smart and funny.  Someone he knows must have caught my eye, as he is of the (fairly accurate) opinion that I am picky, (though I prefer the term selective).  I know he worries and is protective of me.  He asked me last week, why drive, when there were probably 300 men I could connect with, within a fifteen mile radius of my house; why this guy? (That’s when I told him that the Sheriff was smart and funny and I liked him, and that didn’t happen very often, which may have made him nervous.)

I like to verbally process things.  Special Man is different.  He will listen and discuss and analyze with me when I need or want it, but his process is very different.  He works through most things quietly, and internally.  I’m still learning this.

I think burning this CD for me is his way to poly up and show me that he’s good, even if he’s uncomfortable.

I love that.

(More about the Sheriff later, and no, he’s not actually a Sheriff.)


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~Twitch~

Dear Potential Partner (girlfriend, boyfriend, fling, hook-up, or play partner) of Any of My Partners or other Persons Important To Me, Current or Future:

When our paths cross, I will shake your hand, and smile and be honestly pleased to meet you.  I am sure that there are lots of good things about you, things that my partner sees and enjoys, and may even love about you.

I want you to know, that I may be slow to find these things.  I will regard you carefully.  I will watch you from a distance. I will keep my ears open when anyone speaks of you.

I am protective.  I worry that someone I love will get hurt.  I will not think that you are good enough for my Loved One, until you prove to me that you are. I am not jealous, I am not being a bitch; I am not here to sabotage your relationship, whatever form that may take.  I’m careful, and I do not trust anyone quickly or easily, even people who are attempting to get close to me.

I am cautious.  Do not mistake this caution for cattiness.  I am not afraid of being replaced by you. I am secure in my unique relationships.  I have worked hard to develop meaningful ties to my people, and I continue to work to maintain those bonds.  You will make your own place, and find your own space with your Important People.  Eventually you may find yourself close to me, and my mamma bear claws will twitch when new people come around you.

(Or maybe you won’t.)

~Ginger


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Guest post: Reflections on “perfect poly” by an accidental metamour.

Much love to my Meta, CC, who wrote this, and who should be very proud that she is finding her own way, to her own poly.

My husband and I are each two years into our own extramarital relationships, and I still have trouble self-identifying as polyamorous. There are probably people who would place my situation firmly in the “polyamory” area of the nonmonogamy spectrum, and yes, I follow the poly boards and dutifully attend poly discussions and events in my community, but I’m pretty positive that my ideal relationship configuration is not a “true” poly one. Oh, I’ll say I’m polyamorous, but only while I stare guiltily at my feet, unable to lie while maintaining eye contact.

I, for one, never set out to find a relationship that asked me to share the kinds of roles traditionally filled by a life partner with anyone else. When I arrived at the idea of us actually dating other people instead of just fucking them, I pictured us, complete and whole in our own primary relationship, enriching our own lives and the lives of our partners, who would also of course be complete and whole themselves. I didn’t want the responsibility of meeting the entirety of another person’s relationship needs. I was (and still am) concerned at my ability to meet the needs that a second person expects from a life partner. I was (and still sometimes am) scared that I’m not emotionally equipped to watch my husband play long-term, sole partner to someone else. I didn’t (and still don’t) consider that “true” polyamory.

And that’s what I thought we were doing. When my husband and his first girlfriend parted, she said she needed more than he was giving her, and he said she was asking for more than he was willing or able to provide outside of his marriage. That was comforting to me, because for my entire adult life, my sense of who I am and what I mean to others centered on my relationship with him. I had always relied on an unshakeable confidence in my position in our shared lives to keep me anchored as we opened our marriage first to physical and later to romantic encounters with others. Maintaining a division between primary and secondary relationship roles in this way made me feel safe because it delineated an area for other interactions that was separate from the particular spaces we occupied in each others’ lives.

So it was a difficult moment for me when I realized that, so slowly as to happen without noticing, he had become someone else’s only significant relationship. Any relationship needs she might have would, then, be falling on him.

To this day I have no idea whether this realization caused in him a similar feeling of trepidation and fear, but I was terrified by this knowledge. And yes, resentful that he’d deviated from my vision of what I thought poly was going to look like for us. As those feelings increased, so did the belief that I was “doing it wrong.” Feeling guilty about committing “bad poly” only made me feel more scared and resentful. Wash-rinse-repeat, until the only feeling I was capable of was a grim determination that someday I would either be a better person and be able to accept her, or they would break up. Or that I would prove such an utter failure at relationships that I would have no choice but to leave to spare him from my incorrect and dysfunctional emotions.

After all, if I was really okay with poly, wouldn’t I be happy for him? If I was really okay with poly, would I sink into a depression every time they had a sleepover date? If I was really okay with poly, would I make mental lists of all of “our” restaurants that were now no longer “ours,” or any of the other things people complain about when they vent about their new partner’s awful spouse?

I’m sure that early on he had tried to discuss with me my feelings about their relationship growing more and more serious, and I’m sure that I smiled and nodded and apologized for my wrong feelings and we put off further discussion until I was “ready.”

And we all three spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for me to feel better. To their credit, they were both much more compassionate than I was able to be with myself, but the unstated assumption that entire time was that eventually I was going to “come around” and be happy with the situation. I eventually came to the idea that my feelings were so incorrect, so broken, and so deeply-held that I would never, ever be that “better person” we were all waiting for me to be, and I threatened to hurt myself, partly in a last-ditch effort to show them both I knew how I felt was wrong and that I was sorry for feeling that way.

But you know what I never thought to question? The “okay with poly” part. I hadn’t wanted to be in a “real” polyamorous relationship in the first place. And it didn’t occur to me that it was okay to feel that way, to take some time to feel resentful or disappointed that things hadn’t gone the way I wanted. Instead, I had focused on how badly I had been “doing poly.” It was like someone had gone and signed me up for something I hadn’t really been interested in doing, like running a charity 5K, and then being mad at myself for being tired and winded, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t a better runner.

I’d love to be able to run more than a block, I’d love to be one of those people who likes running, but I just don’t. I DIDN’T WANT TO RUN A GODDAMN RACE TODAY.

But once I was able to say that out loud, to admit that I had found myself in a situation I would never have gotten into on purpose, things got a lot better for all of us. Now my only regret about our relationship is that I held on for so long to the idea that I was just wrong, and that I made things so much harder for all of us by trying to cover my feelings in guilt for not achieving “perfect poly.”

Finding myself in the middle of a race, running alongside the person I love most and the person who he makes feel happy and fulfilled, running for a cause that’s important to both of them, I’m surprised to find how easy and natural it feels. I might not have set out to run. I didn’t have the right shoes with me, and I may have to stop every so often to take giant heaving breaths, but I’m doing it.

Having someone sign me up was just a thing that happened, not a mistake or a way to “get” me or an opportunity to watch me fail or a test of my okay-ness as a person.

It just is. And I can keep running.


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~Green~

Mister SMF has a new friend. A new friend who is a girl. They met through OkCupid. She drinks coffee and she is recently split from a husband. That’s all I know.

I kind of want to know more about her, this Coffee Girl, but at the same time I’m hesitant to give myself fodder for comparison and insecurity. (What if he thinks she’s prettier than I am? What if he likes her ass better than mine? What if she giggles and fawns when he talks and he thinks that’s the coolest thing ever?)

So what?

I wish I could put jealousy to bed, once and for all. How is it that I can know in my brain, how much he loves me and wants to be with me, and at the same time, wonder in my heart if he might wake up one morning and say, “What the hell was I thinking?” (And then proceed to dump me.)

Human beings are such contradictory creatures. We get logic and rational thought, and we also get emotion and feelings. Sometimes at the exact same moment, my brain will be saying “He loves and adores you, and isn’t going anywhere,” while my heart is beating out, “This hurts. He likes her more. He is going to leave you, because she is prettier, and smarter, and funnier, and he likes her vagina better than yours.”

I wish I was making this up. Those thoughts have actually gone through my head.

It’s insecurity, fear, vulnerability. It’s also a testament to how vested I am in this relationship. He is a vital part of my life. I think he’ll always be part of my life, though the roles may change as we each change. Our degree of entanglement may be different as we explore other relationships and as circumstances shift. I know this is true. But it still scares me sometimes.

I’m not even sure it’s really jealousy. It’s discomfort and fear, for sure. But jealousy is defined as 1. intolerant of rivalry or unfaitfhulness. 2.disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness, and 3. vigilant in guarding a possession. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jealous)

SMF isn’t unfaithful, and he isn’t my possession.

(Alright, maybe I am just a little possessive. Sue me.)


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~Compersion, Thou Art A Harsh Mistress~

I think compersion is overrated. There. I said it. There’s nothing in the poly world that has the potential to make me feel more inadequate than the concept of compersion.

Compersion as defined by Wikipedia (because, you know, it isn’t a word that has even made it into the dictionary, at least as far as I could find…):

Compersion is an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy…..It is commonly used to describe when a person experiences positive feelings when a lover is enjoying another relationship. It is an opposite of jealousy.

In the poly world, compersion is touted as the end all, be all. As if it is the ultimate enlightened goal for each of us. We all know, jealousy is BAD and compersion is GOOD.

Bullshit.

It’s a personal success, when I can feel pleasantly neutral about my partner wanting to spend time with another woman.

Here’s what I really think:

How you feel is completely separate from how you act.

Let me say it again.

First, feel your feelings. Second, choose your actions wisely, and thoughtfully… Even if your feelings and your choices are at odds.

You still get the poly points, gentle reader.

I had a jealousy flare-up a while ago. I was so jealous it made my teeth hurt. When my guy offered to not see her, if I asked him not to, I was stunned. Of course I wasn’t going to do that. I was just feeling my feelings. I’m generally proud of myself and the choices I make in my poly relationship. Asking him to not talk to a woman he might enjoy was not something I had ever considered.

Moral of this story?

You can do good poly, and never attain that ultimate state of compersion. Moreover, you can even feel jealousy (~gasp~) and still be a successful practitioner of healthy poly. Love yourself, love your people, and do your best.

This is all I can do, and it has to be enough.