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How To Live Like You’re Dying, Without Dying

Everyone says you need to ‘live like you’re dying’, they say it’s the best way to live. You can’t really understand life unless you’ve faced death. I’m here to say not only can you live without facing death, you can thrive!

Three years ago my doctor called and asked me to come to her office. I held it together the block between our home and the gas station. It’s one of those pay inside only stations. I couldn’t slip away unnoticed. When I walked inside, she took one look at me, came around the counter, wrapped her arms around me and asked what was wrong. This lady that barely knew me, held me while I sobbed. I knew I had cancer. My doctor would never ask me to drive all the way to her office, 45 min from home, for anything other than that kind of news.

The first month after diagnosis held fear, anger, and a belief that I needed help. The second month I realized I could do it. But the third month I decided to live.

No, not really like that. I always planned to live, but I also held the possibility of death. I shared that possibility with Ryan and our children. We cried. Things crumbled. It was hard. If I lived like I was dying, that meant hiding and giving up. Instead I decided to live like I was not only living, but alive!

Think about it.

You’re not just alive, breathing in and out, in and out. Starting each day the same, but actually ALIVE!

Alive can simply mean ‘not dead’, but it can also mean so much more! Vibrant, animated, engaged, connected. Being alive means experiencing life fully.

live like you're dying
alive in a broken world

Do you want to just live, or do you want to be alive?

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit  

Being alive means loving, and accepting love in return. 

To open ourselves to someone else can hurt. It leaves us vulnerable, exposed to possible rejection or worse, disgust. Can you imagine what it’d be like if you loved yourself fully and completely? If you loved yourself, and allowed yourself to be loved without casting doubt about your own worthiness?

You might notice the love handles, but they don’t matter. You know your heart and soul and finally see the magnificent person that you are. You see the way you talked gently to your friend even though you were tired. You saw the way you went out of your way to help that lost dog even though you didn’t have to. You saw your actions, heard your thoughts, and felt your emotions. You weigh and measure your whole self and realize you’re so much more than a number that needs to change. You are enough. And you love yourself enough.

 

It Can Hurt

Opening yourself to loving yourself can hurt so much. It means you face those darkest fears. You see that lonely child crying on the playground, you comfort her, and let her know it’ll be okay. You see your darkest fears, you face them, and you continuing living. That can be one of the hardest tings to do each day. I have so many fears. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of them, but they don’t hold the same power over me that they once did. I’ve grown to love myself, not because I’m afraid, but inspire of my fear, or maybe because of how I deal with my fear. It’s all mingled together. Everyone has anxiety sometimes. Everyone is worthy of love. And so are you.

 

In order to fully live, you need to love and accept love from yourself. Once you understand your faults don’t diminish your worth, then you’ll really be living!

 

 

 

 

 

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The One Trick that Changed Our Life

I have a secret. I love lists! It doesn’t matter whether it’s a shopping list, a to-do list, or some other random  list. I love to write things down!

I discovered a new way to use lists that brought our family closer together and helped accomplish even more every day. Plus it decreased our stress and increased our fun! What could be better than that?

Check out these two lists and how we use them:

 

Daily List

The daily list is a list of no more than 3 items (except rare cases when something out of the ordinary happens). One item is something we’ll finish that day. The other two items are things we hope to finish, but don’t need to.

Each evening, after supper, we talk about what we accomplished that day. Then the whole family makes plans for the next day. We use ‘Reminders’ on our apple devices so we can all access the list during the day. It’s important for everyone in the family to know what everyone else wants to do, that way we can work together instead of against each other!

Once we check off each item on the daily list, the rest of the day is free. We don’t add to the daily list except at the end of the day.

 

Weekly List

The weekly list is more flexible than the daily list. We add to it during the day and throughout the week. Anything that pops up, we just add it to the list. If the list gets to be 50 points long, that’s okay. This list isn’t about importance or how quickly something needs to be done. It’s about reminding us of things we wanted to do.

We use this list to help generate the daily list. I usually read this list once a day. It helps me decide what’s most important to do the next day. It also helps me see any patterns develop. For instance if I’m adding a lot of extra cleaning to the list, it lets me know the mess has gotten to me and it allows me to either shift my perspective, or do something about the mess before it overwhelms me.

 

How These Lists Transform

One of the greatest feelings is checking something off your to-do list. But that pales in comparison to finishing your to-do list! Because our daily list is so short, we finish it everyday. It feels ah-mazing!

Every life success amplifies the way we feel about ourselves and our life. Each small step makes the next step that much easier and more enjoyable.

But the real transformation is on the whole family. Our children learn to set their own goals.  Even Brom makes a goal each day (admittedly his goal is the same every day: Play more video games). Talking about our goals together, increases the connection between us in so many ways. They see what Ryan and I need to finish each day, so they either help us, or give us space so we can get it done quickly. We know what they want to do, so we help them with their goals. Once we’re done our items, we then have a lot of time in the day to do things together as a family, or spend special one-on-one time with the kiddos.

At the end of the day everyone feels more loved and respected and we all feel more peaceful.

This simple daily activity takes no more than 15 minutes each day, it’s impact on our day is immeasurable!

 

 

 

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The Danger of Positive Thinking

Some of you’ve heard me talk about Positive Thinking before and how important it is to me, specifically to my journey through chemo. So you may wonder why I’d suggest ‘positive thinking’ is dangerous. I’d like to explain why I believe it’s dangerous as well as why things like positive affirmations and ‘support’ from friends and family are also harmful.

Really what it comes down to is a base misunderstanding of what real positive thinking looks like as well as how our brain responds to it.

Many people believe positive thinking (as well as positive affirmation) is as simple as telling yourself what you want. When a person offers support to a friend it often looks the same, “You’re doing a great job! Keep it up!”, “You’re an awesome mommy”. The problem with that is our friend knows the truth – and our friend’s truth is that they aren’t doing a good job, or they wouldn’t feel horrible!

When I was going through chemo I used positive thinking every single day to get me through, but I used the truth to lift me up, vs holding me back.

Here’s two different ways a person may use positive thinking over the course of two days.

  1. “I’ve got this! I’m strong! I’m gonna beat cancer!”
  2. “Wow. This is tough, it’s really hard to sit up today. But I did it! I’m so strong. I sat up even though it was so hard!”

The first way are empty words, they’re sugar pills, placebo words that may or may not help depending on the day and the person. The second acknowledges the work, but also acknowledges the success.

Day two:

  1. “I’ve got this! I’m strong! I’m gonna beat cancer!”
  2. “This is easier than yesterday. It’s still tough, but I actually climbed out of bed today! I’m getting stronger each day!”

The first one doesn’t acknowledge the work done or how the person is feeling. If the person has a bad day or a bad moment, it will quickly negate any positive thinking because confirmed truth is stronger than empty words every time. But the second example has confirmed truth built in, so even if a bad moment happens, it’s easy to see it for a moment and nothing more and continue to believe the positive thoughts.

When talking to our friends, the same holds true. For instance a friend is struggling with a situation, lets say a parenting situation. A friend complains about their child’s behaviour, or even just curses while talking about their child, or admits they’ve yelled or hit their child. I often see and hear others say something along the lines of, “We all make mistakes, don’t worry, they’ll survive. You’re the best mommy for you child.”AdobeStock_80739055.jpeg

On the surface these sound great, but they don’t acknowledge the truth of the situation, the feelings our friend is experiencing, nor does it acknowledge the subtle (or severe) damage caused to the child. They pretend the problem doesn’t exist. It hides from the complex emotions and buries them under ‘positive’ emotions. Of course we see they aren’t really positive, they’re just pretend!

Instead saying something like, “It sounds like you’re really struggling right now. You sound so upset about the situation/how you acted.”

Open a dialogue with your friend, allow the truth and emotion to pour out. As that happens, you can support your friend while she processes the situation. If your friend needs help, you can offer it, or you can offer to help her find help.

It doesn’t matter if the situation is about parenting, a job, losing weight, or any other aspect of life. The first step in offering support, is to listen. The second step is to acknowledge what your friend has said, and understand what that means. Ask questions if needed. Once you understand, then you can let your friend know you’re there. You don’t need to solve the problem.

When positive thinking is used as a bandaid to cover reality, it doesn’t help us move forward. What happens when we use positive thinking incorrectly is we leave ourselves feeling like we aren’t good enough. We may feel anxiety or anger surrounding the situation, or we may feel hopeless. Positive thinking is not a blind cheering section, but when we use it as such, we hurt ourselves.  Instead positive thinking is supposed to be used as a means of seeing the positive parts of reality as more important than the parts that leave us uncomfortable.

If I were to catch myself yelling at my children, I might say to myself, “Wow. I feel horrible right now, I bet they do to. Yelling isn’t a good parenting strategy. I can be more respectful. I’m going to apologize to them as soon as I have a solution to prevent yelling next time.” Then I’d think up a solution, a plan for the future, apologize, ask forgiveness, and then I’d use positive thinking like this, “I yelled, but I managed to stop myself from yelling longer. I walked away, and I apologized. It wasn’t a great moment, but it was better than yesterday. I’m becoming a more respectful parent each day. I can continue to improve, even when I make mistakes.”

It can be difficult to admit our mistakes, but when we do, we can focus on learning from them and growing. That growth is positive thinking. When we grow, we focus on the positive and learn from everything else.

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Hibernating in our Cocoon

It’s been so cold around here lately! Cold enough to turn boiling water into snow. Cold enough that our poor puppy, Moana, hasn’t wanted to go outside without her parka. Cold enough that all we’ve wanted to do was stay inside and never leave. We skipped violin lessons so we could stay home huddled under blankets watching movies and playing video games. We’ve watched 4 seasons of Rescue Bots on Netflix, and all Paw Patrol episodes.

We’ve cocooned ourselves in warm fuzzy blankets, hibernating until the return of the sun. Or at least until its a bit warmer than -35c! Even though I haven’t wanted to leave home, I marvel at the beauty of it all! I love to watch the snow float to the ground, I feel so happy and excited when I wake up to see our world covered in Hoar-frost. It’s utterly magical the way our entire world sparkles with millions of little crystals refracting tiny rainbows over every surface. This week is too cold for me to enjoy outside, but the beauty is beyond compare!

As soon as it warms up slightly, the girls have so many activities planned. There’s a great ice ‘river’ close to home they want to go skating on. They want to go sledding, possibly try skiing. Of course, they also love taking our pups to the off-leash park so everyone can run around like mad without crashing into anyone else. Winter is so much fun!

Winter in Canada is beautiful, but it isn’t always easy to get out with small children. But Adventure is out there, and we’ll be ready – as soon as it warms up! 😉

Sorry for the bad pics, I may be able to send children and dogs outside, but I wasn’t venturing out in that cold! Notice Moana at the door trying to come in, while Chester (with his thick second coat) relaxing in the snow. 🙂 He only comes in to get mad at us for not being outside with him hahahaha

 

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Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

It takes a lot of soul searching, and twice as much work, to elevate myself to become a person I admire. It’s incredibly difficult to admit that I didn’t like who I was. It’s so hard to peal back the layers, find the parts I don’t like, amplify what I do, and rewrite new layers. I’ve spent many days crying as I search back to discover why I think or behave certain ways. Growing isn’t easy. It isn’t comfortable. But it’s so worth it!

I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone more and more often. Last week Ella had a bad experience at her first tumbling class. A coach shamed her in front of others for not knowing how to do something, on the first day of her first class. Ella felt humiliated. When we got home she sent an email to the gym, explained what happened, explained that it wasn’t acceptable, she wanted to know the gym didn’t find it acceptable, and wanted a response back so she could decide whether to remain in the class, or not. After three days she’d received no response, she decided to withdraw from the course. I needed to call the gym, withdraw her, give a reason, and request a refund. The gym has a no refund policy without a doctor’s note.

Normally a phone call like this would result in me yelling or crying, depending on which childhood programming surfaced at the time. That type of phone call is also one I’d usually avoid making if at all possible. I did consider sending an email instead of a phone call.

I made the phone call. To someone I didn’t know, to make a complaint, to withdraw my daughter, and to request a refund. Pain, pain, pain!

It went really well! I neither yelled, nor cried and they agreed to provide a pro-rated refund and processed the withdrawal.

Besides making difficult phone calls, I’ve also stepped so far out of my comfort zone and volunteered to model at the True Beauty Gala. I also agreed to dance, a choreographed dance, at the Gala. In front of people!

Participating in the Gala means I need to drive to Calgary several times until the end of October. It means overcoming so many fears. Fear of something happening to someone. Fear of falling on (or off) the runway, fear of being ridiculed for not being pretty enough, fear of not being coordinated enough, of messing up the dance.

I’ve allowed my fears to control and limit me for so long. The first weekend I drove to Calgary, 3 hours away, I barely slept the night before. Partly because Brom doesn’t sleep anymore, but also because I kept picturing all the things that could happen.

When I see the scary images start, I say, “No!” I pray. I then purposefully picture the day being amazing. Instead of picturing a car accident, I picture a fun drive singing, and enjoying quiet time.

It’s still uncomfortable, but not crippling. I’m showing up. I’m trying. I’m putting real effort into the event. My past patterns protected me from pain by not bothering to even try. If I failed, it wasn’t a huge deal because it’s not like I put effort in to anything. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t able to admit to fear. I wasn’t able to admit to not knowing or not understanding. I wasn’t able to learn and grow.

It isn’t easy being uncomfortable, but it is better.

truebeautygala

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How to Offer Forgiveness

Whether you believe in God, the bible, or not, forgiving others allows us to live a whole life. If we hold onto anger, pain, and bitterness it festers and consumes us. But forgiving isn’t easy.

It takes much  more than saying the words, “I forgive” to truly let go of a grudge, especially when it’s deep, and not hold it against someone.

I’ve read many articles on forgiveness, but none of them really allowed me to let go and forgive. Something eluded me.

Now I believe I’ve found the secret.

I’ve found an amazing ritual that allows me to let go of my desire to be right and to offer up forgiveness.

  •  Write down everything you feel the other person has done to harm you.
  • Read it over, add to the list. Dig deep.
  • Write down the things you like about the person, outside of the situation.
  • Write down everything you can learn from the situation. Keep it positive! You’re not learning to hurt someone else before they hurt you. You’re not learning to ‘avoid a person’. You’re ‘understanding what it feels like to be treated a certain way, recognizing when you’ve similarly treated someone like that, and changing your own actions’.

 

Keep it personal. On your journey, you will have different lessons than someone else. Just as not everyone will be hurt by the same experiences, nor will everyone feel good about the same experiences.

Forgiving is about lessening the pain in the world. You may not lessen the other person’s pain, but you will lessen your own, and be less likely to spread more pain.  That is the healing power of forgiveness.

 

 

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Self Development

When Ella was a new baby, Ryan and I attended a parenting conference, I couldn’t tell you much about it now, except for one speaker. I barely recall her name, Ivy Shawl Song (or something like that), I don’t know anything about her, but she had a very powerful message.

She said in order for a person to have a fulfilled, happy life, a person needed ten ways of identifying themselves that had nothing to do with their work or family roles.

At the time I was an RN, a wife, a mother, but beyond that I had few interests or hobbies that I could pursue. The act of becoming both a nurse and a mother meant I needed to give up other aspects of myself. At the time, it hurt. I fought it. Looking back, I’m not happy with the person I was, though I know that person was me, and made me who I am.

That person was empty, but she tried.

I picked up various hobbies, tested them out, saw if they fit. Many I put back. Others I held onto. But mostly I remained where I was.

Over time, 1 child turned into 2, then 3, then 4. Plus 3 cats and 2 dogs. Our lives became very busy. But those titles of mother and wife weren’t enough. I needed more. I needed to find myself.

It’s taken time, but now I have many different hobbies and interests that help define who I am as a person, singular. Myself.

I am spiritual. I’m still not sure if this falls into one of the categories that doesn’t ‘count’ or not. But my spirituality brings me comfort, and it’s a part of who I am outside of my relationship and work roles. If it wasn’t for my faith, I don’t know if I’d have made it through the past ten years or not, and I know my faith brought me so much comfort and healing while I had cancer and was going through chemo.

I love Disney. I enjoy reading about the company, the parks, resorts, and entertainment. And of course, I love spending time at Walt Disney World. I can hardly wait for the day when we can experience all the things we’ve yet to experience there!

I sew. Not often right now, but I make dolls, stuffies, and even clothing. I’m self taught, and sometimes I feel very insecure about my sewing abilities.

I enjoy reading. Often my reading is done online, but at least once a month I pick up an actual book and I read. I just took Lisa Scottoline’s book, “Most Wanted” as well as Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” out of the library, both highly recommended books by people I like.

I love to craft. Most recently I’ve been working with wire. I’m really excited about my newest creation and can hardly wait for it to be finished!

I enjoy entertaining. This includes creating party themes, decorations, activities, and the food.

Cake decorating is an interest I have as a result of our dietary restrictions. But I enjoy the challenge, even if the results frustrate me to no end!

Gardening is my passion. It’s how I spend my time relaxing. It doesn’t matter whether I’m digging holes, or sitting staring at my flowers, I find both equally refreshing.

I’m a dreamer and a planner. These two are intertwined so closely, even as they’re almost polar opposites. I love to plan for everything, and change plans as needed, but I also love to plan for the ‘what ifs’ and the one days’. What if this dream of mine came true? Then what? I know what I’d do. It’s something I find great joy doing.

It’s taken time for these interests to develop organically. There were times I had neither time nor energy to devote to anything other than the basics. But I’m now happy with where I am and the person I’m becoming. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to say that.

I can hardly wait to see who I am in a couple more years!

What are ten interests that define who you are?

 

 

 

 

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Pokemon GO

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If you haven’t heard by now there is a new mobile app, Pokemon GO. It’s the most downloaded app world wide, it released in Canada yesterday and over 45 million people logged on!

It is an Augmented Reality game using your smart device’s GPS and camera to put Pokemon into your world! You walk around and find Pokemon, Pokestops, and Gyms in the world around you.

That’s right, walk. You have to go outside! Certain mechanics, such as hatching eggs, even reward you for walking certain distances.

Agatha can tell you more here:

This game is getting people out of the house and getting them to exercise. It’s also a fantastic way to meet new people. Sarah and I loaded it on our phones, handed them to the kids and went to the library, local arts center, and playground. As we passed Pokestops we saw tons of people walking around playing. We had a blast telling them about the pokemon we saw down the road and laughing about how awesome it was that we were out and playing Pokemon.

There were groups of all ages and sizes, but they were groups! Laughing and talking as they walked around.

Sadly, there was one lady who went off on a tirade about everyone on their phones and lack of communication with real people and how they don’t do anything physical all day. It really irked me. If only she knew that many of the people out there would normally be sitting on a couch somewhere and that people like myself, that suffer from anxiety, would never ever think of engaging a stranger in a conversation were out there talking and laughing together. We brushed it off and continued hunting and having a great time!

This morning I sat down with my coffee and browsed through reddit and the stories I read filled my heart. So much good is coming from this game.

  • A man getting the urge to leave his house for the first time in years to start a healthier lifestyle
  • A young woman with mental health issues again getting out, meeting people and feeling healthier than ever
  • A man decided to pick up garbage along his Pokemon journey and clean up his neighborhoodKX9fohG
  • People setting up Lures at at children’s hospital so bedridden sick children can catch Pokemon too!J4GK2EL

Pokemon GO is a fantastic game that is doing fantastic things for community and people who would never dream of getting out there.

Also hearing your kids squeal from down the street that the just caught a Pidgey is pretty cool too!

I recommend the app and I recommend you get out there, meet new people and just have fun with it. I’m sure you will find it as #Unforgettable as well do!

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Thursday, let’s roll the dice!

I enjoy table top games. I started with Games Workshop as most people do, but when Warhammer began to die out in my area I wanted to find a new game to play. This was about three years ago, at the time I followed a certain Mr. Malorian on youtube, turns out he also played in my area! Just happened Malorian, was starting a new league for a game called Warmachine and Hordes at a game shop across town. I showed up, got my butt kicked across the table and had the best time ever. By the third week I managed to get paired up with Mr. Malorian himself and put up a valiant fight.

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Fast forward a couple months and Malorian, now Brian and I are good friends. Turns out we live minutes from each other and our kids are the same age. I’m playing Warmachine almost twice a week and getting really good. Come spring of 2014 I managed to win a tournament, my gaming hobby was awesome!

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Then Sarah got cancer. I stopped playing while she was undergoing chemotherapy, I had to put my family first. Sarah beat cancer early 2015, just in time to start a shut down at work. That means working just about every day for 4 months non-stop.
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It’s been almost a year without hanging out with my friends, playing warmachine and just taking me time. Then comes Thursday, Btian is having a gaming night and I’m not working, the family is in a happier place than they had been for a while, I’m going to go out.
Come  6pm I’m getting ready to leave, Sarah has a headache and the kids are loud. I offer to stay home and she tells me she’s fine. It’s now 7:45 and I should be in the van and Sarah and I are in a fight. (Yes, we fight, loudly, infront of our children. That can be a different post)
I don’t want to go out. I’m tired. I’m mad. What do I do?

I go. Not in anger, but in healing. I go out, roll some dice, I meet someone I didn’t know before and I lose. I had a blast. I saw my friends, I played my game and I had a good time.
I came home refreshed and ready to spend the evening with my wife.

Sometimes when things are hard and the last thing you want to do is go out, go roll some dice!

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Sleepless Nights Bring Magical Days

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Sleepless nights suck and don’t bring magical days.And to a certain extent you’d be right. Except we’ve decided we’ll choose to have a magical day anyhow.

More often than not, I’m tired and feel I should get at least 3 more hours of sleep a night. Some days, like today, I spend those 3 hours attempting to sleep (on the floor, on a chair, leaning against the kitchen counter hoping my children think I’m working in the kitchen and not sleeping…) anyhow.

Yesterday, neither Ryan nor I woke up feeling refreshed, we thought about staying home and having a lazy day. But because we decided to look for magic and moments of connection everyday we decided we’d go out after all. In record time everyone was dressed and out the door. Half hour after climbing out of bed, we were on our way to the bowling alley to meet up with some other homeschoolers.

 

I love watching them bowl! They have so much fun, though none of them seem destined for bowling greatness 😉 They love using the bumpers to bank the ball toward the pins. Ella gets several strikes and one of the highest scores out of everyone there. But without those bumpers she’s nothing! lol Not really, but she does use them heavily 🙂

Agatha’s awesome, even with the bumpers she managed to get a couple gutter balls. That takes talent! Talent I tell you!! :p

Cordelia managed to get the ball all the way to the pins a couple times. I think she’s improved over the past few months lol

Brom bowled all of twice before heading over to check out the arcade. He had so much fun just pretending to play, and fun is all that mattered.

What else does a sleepy day bring? Silliness, stories and cuddles, kitties and puppy play. It also brought craft time, and fun with beads.

But everyday life isn’t always easy. Parenting is hard, exhausting work some days. And we certainly don’t have time to devote 100% of our day to our children the way we can on vacation.

So we need to make the most of the time we do have to make sure each day, at the very least, begins and ends with a happy connection.

There’s so much I want to accomplish, and so much I want to help my children succeed at each day. That pressure added to feeding them and clothing them, as well as cleaning the house, and taking care of animals means some days we could loose sight of our goal.

I want to create a plan for these days when I’m running on empty but still want to stick to and accomplish my goals. I also want to take better care of myself in the first place so I have fewer days like this. Setting my bedtime an hour or two earlier than it is will make a huge difference in my day to day life and how I relate to my children. It’ll also offset the sleep I lose from being woken up multiple times in a night.

What do you do to remind yourself to react with love and patience when you’re exhausted and your children are children? What do you do to connect with your children when you’re running low? What do you do when you’ve ran out of gas, but you’re not able to actually stop and take care of yourself yet?