Sunday Gratitude

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Today I am grateful to release some guilt about other people’s opinions.  I’ve lived my whole life making decisions thinking of the consequences.  No, that isn’t a bad thing, but I put those consequences in the perspective of every other person and their expectations.  The last few days my husband and I have been going through something and in the end, it is my decision.  Yes, it impacts both of us, but it is my choice how this plays out.  And I am looking at where I am in my life.  I’m looking at where I want to be and how things are going to fit in for me.  The impact of this decision will not be easy by any means, but I know this isn’t something I can just “let” happen to me.  I need to be an active participant and be ready for what comes with it.  For the first time I feel amazing because I have some clarity about what I want to achieve and I’m looking at how the pieces will come together.

Today I am grateful to bring myself to the here and now.  Following my first point, I am grateful to be present in this moment because it clarifies what is necessary and what is really important.  That is the right place to make a decision from.  This is what is real and this is where life is happening. 

Today I am grateful for the beautiful sunset.  I see the light, staying out later and later, signs of spring coming, snow melting, people outside.  It feels like some life is returning to the world after feeling frozen for so long.  Last spring we were entering a pandemic, and this spring, even though we are still in this pandemic, it feels different.  There is a restlessness, but for me, it feels like there is hope.  As cliché as it sounds, it truly feels like a beginning for me, like the timing is right. 

Today I am grateful for resilience and persistence.  I’ve taken the next step in taking care of myself and have begun working out daily.  Light strength training and stretching just to get myself acclimated to it again.  I went for a walk with my son yesterday just to enjoy being outside again.  He had a blast and that is one of my favorite things in the world: watching him just be a kid and love running around.  Listening to my body has brought me here, and it feels good.  I’ve always loved cooking and I’ve been consistent with that for a while so this is the next step—and I’m proud of sticking with it even if it’s only been a few weeks so far. 

Today I am grateful to have the freedom I do.  For so long I felt the weight of “having” to do things a certain way.  Putting things in perspective, I see now how much space I have to move around.  Ironically enough, some of that space comes from the fact that I don’t have to move at all.  Harry Kraemer speaks of the difference between activity and productivity often, and I realized that I jump and move from thing to thing—and this is one time where I don’t have to do anything.  There are certain things I want to do, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t need to do a damn thing right now.  I can take a breath and I can figure out a way to get where I want to be without burying myself.  I have to choice to do this differently, and I am going to take it.     

Today I am grateful to witness talent.  This is just a little side note…I’ve been studying some shows and listening to some musicals and I feel so fortunate to witness this type of art.  The ability people have to put the human experience into words and song is something that I have so much respect for.  It’s a way to relate to the human experience and to feel less alone.  Sometimes we need that—especially when we are still so separate from real interaction.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week ahead!

Lessons and Magic

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We watched an old episode of The Magicians tonight, the Life in a Day episode from season 3.  In that episode an alternate timeline takes place where two of the main characters are separated from their friends but they manage to build a life for themselves.  Nothing grand, but incredibly fulfilling.  Their quest during this episode was to build a mosaic representing the beauty of life.  It wasn’t until their lives together were over when one of them discovered the missing piece.  The whole point of life is the time we spend with each other.  The love we have for each other.  What we make of what we are given and how much joy we bring forward.

We can spend our whole lives looking for something and miss the point of what is right in front of us.  We all do it.  We repeat the same day over and over again, looking for meaning in what we get lost in—work, alcohol, sex, drugs, TV, food, social media.  We do anything we can to avoid being where we are, to avoid feeling what we are really feeling.  I do it myself.  So many days I wake up, work out a little, get my kid ready and drop him off, go to work, come home, eat, work a little, watch some TV, go to bed, repeat.  There is more to life than that.  It’s amazing spending so much time with people yet we still miss the life that goes on around us.

The first time I saw the episode was when it came out and I remember feeling really emotional and crying.  Seeing it for the second time last night, I bawled my eyes out.  Sometimes we get to a point in life where we see the meaning of what we do differently, and for me, I am rapidly changing my views.  I feel the passing of time more acutely, I am more aware.  The beauty is that we don’t have to wait our whole lives to enjoy the time we have now.  We put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves to achieve and acquire that we have lost sight of the beauty in being, the experience of being together. 

I’m older now than I was when I first saw it, I’ve had more experiences with loss and potential loss, my parents are older and our roles are shifting, plus we’ve been in the sustained trauma of a pandemic for the last year so my sensitivities are up.  For the longest time I feared not doing anything with my life.  Now I fear being so preoccupied with doing something that I miss what is right in front of me.  It has been a blink of an eye and my son is four years old.  I’ve been with my husband for 20 years.  I’ve had multiple jobs, trying to define who I am.  And now, in all that time I’ve had, so much of what I’ve done doesn’t matter.

But now as I draw closer to unleashing who I am and believing I can support myself, I am more comfortable with seeing what is really important and what is really important to me.  I’m not saying I’m comfortable with living that way yet, but I am comfortable starting to do the things I need to that truly make me happy.  Life is so damn short, so precious, there is no time to live anywhere but here, in the present.  There is a lot of power in the present because it is all tangible.  Worrying or remembering does nothing other than keep us stuck.  Stop making decisions based on the “what-if” and make it based on what you are working for.  And always seize the moment, love those around you, and appreciate what you have because you don’t want it to be too late when you realize all the potential you had.  Live now in the beauty of what you have.  Live.

Some Needed Wisdom

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I’ve been feeling slightly off today, concerned about the future and how things are going to turn out (and when they’re going to turn out) and how to maintain some of the progress I’ve made with some changes that are coming.  I did some self-help diving.  Gabby Bernstein always has some words for me and I found an old video where she asked, “If what you say you wanted arrived tomorrow, would you be ready for it?”  I thought about how fervently I have wished for different things in my life: a house, a job, even a book and I think about how fixated I would be.  I’d think about it obsessively, what if it worked out, what if it didn’t.  It took a really long time to understand that I was sending mixed messages to everyone around me, to the universe.  I would take it so personally when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to when really, I was culpable in the things I wanted not manifesting. 

A lot of those self-sabotaging thoughts are simply from insecurity and the need to control.  When things aren’t turning out how you want them to or when things go in the opposite direction, we feel unstable.  The things we want in life can’t come to us if we aren’t stable enough to receive them or if we aren’t sending out a clear message that we are ready to receive what we’re asking for.  I’ve thought I wanted a lot of things and I’ve been so frightened that I wouldn’t receive them that, if I’m honest, I pushed a lot away.  It hit me that there are also times that I’ve asked for things and got them, and then still pushed it away.  Whether that is self-worth or fear—or both—I’m not 100% sure, but I know I’m not alone in that. 

Really, the point is to trust the timing of the universe and to understand that sometimes we don’t get what we think we want when we want it because we aren’t ready for it.  That used to infuriate me.  I’d get insulted, as if I don’t know what I need.  But there’s no point in getting the keys to the kingdom if you’re not sure what the purpose is or how to use/apply it. 

When things aren’t moving on our time, that is often a redirection toward what we are meant to do.  So when we aren’t getting what we want, Gabby offers a prayer that says, “I pray for creative possibilities for growth, change, healing, and worthiness.  Thank you for revealing the next right action for the highest good for me and for all.”  That helped me ease the frustration I’ve been feeling, and some of the uncertainty.  I have to trust the things that are happening are for a reason. 

The Deep End

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Sometimes life throws you curve balls.  Some of them are devastating, some of them turn out to be the greatest thing in your life.  They’re mostly scary because of the unknown.  You have to become someone different and do things differently than you’ve done before.  It never feels like you’re ready.  Often times that curve ball is the last push you need to become who you’re supposed to be.

Change has always scared me and I’ve always felt like I was being thrown into the deep end, not knowing how to swim, being forced to figure it out.  I’ve faced it a lot in my life, having to figure it out on my own and feeling like I was never good enough because I never knew if I was doing it right.  But I’ve learned it wasn’t a personal thing.  It was an evolutionary thing. 

I’ve spent the last four years developing my leadership skills and what it takes to be a good leader.  I’ve watched other leaders fighting to prove their worth, making people do things that they were assigned to do, to achieve master plans designed by people in offices whose feet never touched the floor they walked on.  I’ve watched them prove their worth with hours worked and be rewarded with the next project.  Spending time away from their families in order to get the next thing off of their list and be berated by frightened people. 

I’ve learned that we don’t have to be the giver or sacrifice to be a good leader.  Being a leader means more than getting the attention of those we are trying to impress—it means being human and helping others develop their skills as well.  I used to be a person who wanted to prove and take myself higher and higher and get to the next level.  A curve ball for me was realizing what it cost to get there.  What I thought I wanted was nothing close to what I wanted.

Sometimes that’s scary too.  We have to relearn who we are and learn to get in touch with what truly want.  But it’s a gift to be able to create a different path.  It’s a freeing feeling to be able to take what is thrown at you and know that you’re ok, that you can handle it, because you know which way to go based on your needs and wants.  Your path isn’t meant to look the same as anyone else’s because you have a different purpose which means different priorities. 

Additionally, I realized that simply because my priorities are different than other people’s, it doesn’t make them wrong.  Sometimes curveballs look like destruction and sometimes that destruction is necessary.  Over the last four years, making the decision that I could lead in my own way even if it didn’t get me where I thought I wanted to be, I realized that the systems we have don’t support our natural state.  So, take the curveballs, no matter what they are.  Embrace the fear and take the lessons.  Dive in and learn how to swim.

Not Interested in Being Nice

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To the people who’ve always done as they are told and who feel they have to sacrifice some facet of themselves in order to be liked or accepted: STOP.  I was like that.  I truly believed that if I was nice to people they would like me or give me what I want in return for me giving them what they needed.  I’d help people and go out of my way to get them what they needed hoping they would do the same.  Today was different.   

I got to work and, after the last week, I gave zero f*#ks.  Not that I didn’t care, just that I didn’t feel the need to ask permission or care what people thought.  I’ve worked there for 16 years and we’ve been going through a lot of intense stuff to say the least so my patience has admittedly been running thin.  Today a new kid took my papers off of the communal printer and threw them out.  I came out of my office while they were still printing and he had already thrown out two of my reports.  Seemingly innocent, could happen to anyone, I know, but that is a big no no with us because it is a shared printer.  Also pretty common sense to be honest—just because you don’t know what it is, you don’t throw it out without speaking to your management. 

Regardless, he pulled my reports out of the shredder bin and I told him, “We don’t ever throw anything off out of the printer.”  Simple, kind, to the point—no yelling and completely factual.  And that’s where it went downhill.  This kid looks at me and says, “Yeah, ok, isn’t there another printer to use?”  I told him as bluntly as I could that the printer is for everyone and it doesn’t matter, follow the team’s protocol.  I didn’t even give him a chance to question and I made sure he knew I meant business.  I can make allowances for people being stressed, learning a new job, feeling unsure.  But I have never had any employee speak to anyone, let alone a manager that way—not a good way to make an impression on the job.

See, part of self-love is self-respect and keeping the boundaries we talked about last week.  I’m no longer content to allow people to walk over me because they automatically feel entitled that they can.  For me, respect goes two ways and I am no longer sacrificing the receiving end of that respect.  In a work environment especially, I have earned my keep.  For a long time I would take it personally and wonder why someone would feel they have the right to speak to me that way.  Now, I don’t care what they think, you will NOT speak to me that way.  I used to be afraid that I would get in trouble for coaching an employee, but that is the definition of my job. 

Respect isn’t about being nice for the sake of being nice—it’s about doing what is right because you’re dealing with another human.  Everyone is afforded that right no matter how shitty your day may be or how off you feel.  And a personal bit of advice: don’t ever make assumptions about people based on how they look.  You never know who you are dealing with and that person may have the exact answer you’re looking for.  Most importantly, it isn’t selfish or arrogant to command respect—it’s a mutual feeling held for other people.

Where We Are

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We took time at work today to discuss where we are at emotionally.  We’ve had one conversation like this before (I wrote about it a few weeks ago) and this time around it felt different.  The discussion amazed me because each of us views where we are at so radically different and we are on entirely different levels.  People deal with trauma differently and part of our group is dealing with it head on while the others are immersing themselves in work.  I see now, more than ever, that people are losing it and no one knows what to do next.  We are at our max—there is nothing else to give.  And it’s frustrating because we can speak this truth to all levels in our hospital and NOTHING is being done about it. 

We can no longer pretend our current state is normal.  We are being expected to behave as if this is normal and we are clinging to the idea that we can make this normal again.  We are being told to take precautions and that we can’t do certain things but we are expected to go about our lives as we always did—our mind has been in this sustained state of duality for too long and people aren’t able to cope with this any longer.  We aren’t designed to function like that.

On par with people losing it, I overheard a discussion in the lunchroom from other employees talking about how people who wear masks in their car alone are so stupid.  I’ll admit I struggled with that at first too because it seemed so unnecessary.  But two things: 1. There may be circumstances why someone needs to wear a mask in the car; maybe they share the car with an immunocompromised person or maybe they’re making a quick trip to the store; or maybe they’re so tired they forgot to take it off.  You don’t know what the hell someone is going through, so be kind.  What may seem silly to you may be necessary to them.  2. No matter what the reason they’re wearing the mask—it isn’t anyone’s business and it has 0 impact on other people, specifically you.   

We have lost all sense of what is really important and fixate on everything from an egocentric point of view.  We immerse and insert ourselves in other people’s lives and preach our opinions as truth (which they are—to each of us respectively) and criticize those who don’t live the way we do.  We spend time deflecting what we are really feeling and put it on other people like it’s their job to fix what is in us.  We are quick to place responsibility but slow to take it—even if it is for our own actions.  We look for power and control in every place we can when we feel weak or out of control in our own lives.  And people feel weak right now 

Right now I’m in a situation where people don’t want to take accountability because they’ve taken enough responsibility.  Right now they need support because they have given their all and aren’t able to sustain it any more.  They’re not given support if they don’t do exactly what they’re told and sometimes what they’re told is contrary to what they know needs to be done.  When you are in an environment that no longer suits you or that makes demands that you are no longer comfortable or able to meet, then it is time to consider what you are doing.

This year is about reinforcing boundaries and honoring what works for us.  Whether you’ve made that a goal or not, we are being pushed in that direction.  We can no longer treat each other as commodities or like our sole goal is to make money.  Our minds, souls, and bodies are calling us in a different direction, no matter how small the signs.  It is ok to let things fall apart because from that rubble we can rebuild something more honest. If it no longer serves, then follow your own path. That is enough to rebuild something honest for yourself.

Words Revisited

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I’ve spoken about the importance of language many times before and it feels the appropriate time to bring it up again.  When you are working for a cause, there is a certain way to go about getting people to support you and see your side.  I am an advocate for equality, no qualifications or exceptions.  I’ve been following a lot of feminist advocates and I’ve been edgy about what they’ve been saying.  I don’t like the expectation that we know something.  I’ve read repeated demands saying that they “aren’t here to teach us anything” and it’s “wrong to demand they do anything” and that “we have to do the work”.  I’m not arguing for a second that work needs to be done, but if I am asking specifically what you need and I need clarification, it is absolutely your job to specify.  If I don’t know what context you’re speaking of then how can I possibly help you get what you need?

The truth is there is nothing I “should” know.  My experience is not yours and vice versa.  What I DO know is from my experience.  What I want to know is my choice—and if I trust you enough to ask you what you need or to clarify something for me, then don’t pull the “You should know” card.  What I will know is what I act on—including asking for help.  No matter what your cause, don’t ever put yourself in position of “you are less than me” because someone is still learning.  And don’t make demands of them their experience can’t keep up with or integrate unless you are going to help them.  It doesn’t solve the problem in the former case. 

We have to know where we’re going and why you want us to go there with you—and ultimately, we need to know what your goal is so we can work toward it together.  It’s lazy to make demands with no explanation.  Your demands of what I must do to appease you don’t speak to the whole truth of the situation.  You’re perpetuating your misplaced anger and demanding I do the work without even qualifying what you want.  Because the system as it is doesn’t work so replacing it with a different group of people and still doing the same thing won’t fix it either.  We have to understand each other—and that is what communication is for.  It isn’t about putting power over someone or making them feel bad because they didn’t know better and didn’t know how to meet your expectation.      

The bottom line is that we all know there is work to be done—more than can be done in a lifetime.  But beyond who did what and why we feel the way we do, it’s more important to focus on where we are going.  Speak up, make your voice heard so we know we aren’t done yet.  But if someone is willing to help in any capacity, then don’t criticize when they get it wrong.  They’re still learning too.   

Sunday Gratitude

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Today I am grateful to be able to make decisions.  I have often taken for granted the ability to make a decision, thinking that I could put things off until they happened naturally.  Life doesn’t work like that.  Over the last two years, I’ve had two employees become terminally ill and I’ve seen what life looks like on the other side of that diagnosis.  Having my health and the ability to make my life what I want it to is a gift.  Not taking steps that I need to now, when I have the ability is an insult to that gift.  For the last week, I’ve adapted my schedule to allow some time for a light workout in the morning and I’ve become even more rigorous with my diet.  Those are decisions I’ve made to appreciate my life. 

Today I am grateful to try to lean into what life is.  I’ve never hidden that I’m a control freak and a perfectionist (well, recovering perfectionist).  I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older it has become harder and harder to maintain the standards that I set for myself—and I’m slowly learning to be ok with that.  Being perfect isn’t what life is about—it’s about the experience.  My husband woke up a bit late today, but he decided to make us breakfast.  I meal prepped after he cooked and we ate, played with my son and the dogs for about an hour, finished the laundry, we had a late lunch, got the car washed, did some last minute shopping and came home.  No plan, just what we needed to do.

Today I am grateful for new lessons.  I’m reading a new book about facing fears and even though some of the concepts aren’t new, it is fascinating to see how different people apply the same concepts.  In this book, she discusses finding and defining personal values.  It is in narrowing down my values that I see how much I take on—and why it’s challenging to commit and finish something.  Not that having values is a bad thing, but valuing so many things makes it more difficult to target your goals.  As a side note, I also really appreciate being able to connect with the authors I’m reading.  There is real value in seeing how someone lives their truth as well as how they came about their work. 

Today I am grateful to get out of my head by putting others first.  Both my sister and my boss have birthdays coming up so I took some time to buy them gifts and cards today.  I spent time helping my husband with some issues with his feet.  I spent time playing with my son—he’s in love with these Bend and Flex toys so we had an impromptu photo shoot. We are in the middle of another snow storm and my son and I spent some time outside catching snow flakes–and seeing his joy every time it snows is pure magic.  I haven’t been sleeping well and I’ve been getting overwhelmed with work because of the uncertainty in that environment so it was nice to NOT fixate on what was bothering me for those moments in time.

Today I am grateful for reminders that I’m capable of doing things on my own.  My husband was called into work yesterday and my son and I went about our business and I got some work done around the house and went to the store.  I was trying to find a small gift for my husband because he was so frustrated with being called into work.    I know that’s nothing abnormal, but I think we need to recognize as a whole how much work we do and how we are constantly trying to balance things that demand our attention.  Right now, it is a freaking miracle to get through a day with the weight we are carrying and we need to honor that.

Today I am really looking forward to sleep.  After more than a week of sleeping like crap, I’m so excited to rest tonight.  I know there’s no guarantee that tonight will be any better but I am so tired, that I’m preparing myself to put my head on the pillow and knock out.  I’m getting my diffuser ready and I’m going to have a super light meal and just relax.      

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.

Love and Other Emotions

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Yesterday’s post on love and language and Chapman’s work felt entirely contradictory to how I was feeling.  Not what I wrote about the book, but the discussion about how we feel and our standards and expectations when it comes to communication. I have a deep love for the potential we all exhibit and a profound anger for what we choose to exhibit.  I have a lot of confusion around human behavior and motive as well as the whole premise of systems and hierarchies. 

10 years ago I thought I had it all figured out and that the way things functioned made sense.  It felt like there was a sense of purpose, even amidst frustration and monotony and the occasional outburst, it felt like I knew my role and what I was doing.  Slowly I noticed that even when I did what I was supposed to, the results I expected didn’t show.  With more frequency, I noticed that most of what I expected didn’t happen.  Then I noticed that greater demands for less return were becoming the norm.  And, really, that has worsened year after year.  It felt like no matter what I did, I couldn’t get ahead.  And for the last four years, we watched as each system revealed itself for what it really is: a machine designed to keep the rich rich and the disenfranchised unable to catch up.

Then last year the entire world was turned upside down—and we were given the choice to protect our systems or protect our people—and we’ve been living in that state of awareness with no direction to change it for over a year now.  At work yesterday, while driving, while in the store—pretty much everywhere—I felt incredibly angry.  All around me, in spite of what we have experienced in the last year, people are still so entitled.  I can’t fathom for anything how people can still feel they have the right to make any kind of demands resembling anything close to where we were.  The sheer arrogance of people believing that they have any say in what happens anymore is insane.  The delusion that this goes away because of a vaccine.  All of these things feel like living in the Twilight Zone. 

So, with this much frustration and anger, how do we still find and express love?  I found myself not in the least bit willing to figure out what people needed—and I know now that it has to be a boundary for me.  When people make demands out of fear, they are angry and irrational and I refuse to be part of the problem of giving into people who aren’t rational.  I refuse to give into people who forget what we are all going through right now and remain so self-centered that they can’t see what they’re doing. 

I also know that a boundary for me is that I can’t spend my time telling other people what they’ve done wrong—I’m not the behavior police.  But I know with both of those boundaries that I don’t have continue to expose myself to those situations.  Making demands on others isn’t love—it is suggesting a hierarchy and that their perceived needs are more important that you.  I know that the most loving action I can take in those situations is to walk away because I would not contribute anything of value in those cases.  I respect where other people are coming from because in healthcare, everything, every emotion is heightened.  But I do not respect people who demean others or degrade and disrespect them in an effort to get what they want.  No one has to tolerate that. 

Love and Language

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I wanted to share some of the books I’m reading to start discussion on what I’m learning.  I read Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages: The Secrets to Love That Lasts.”  The book is highly recommended for relationships so I figured I would give it a try.  Chapman discusses how relationships can be improved through communicating with our partners in a way that suits them. 

I feel the premise is valid—communication is about creating mutual understanding and the easiest way to do that is to communicate in a way a person understands and is familiar with.  It makes them feel heard, understood, and validated. 

As much as I agree with that statement, I find myself annoyed that the book sets the expectation that you have to know how to talk to everyone.  There is no personal accountability for other people’s expectations—only that we will behave and speak in a way that makes sense to them.  Now, to be fair, the book doesn’t overtly suggest that, but some of the stories shared are fairly archaic.  Like a couple from a small mill town where the husband wants to work and hunt and he expects his wife to have dinner ready when he gets home and a clean house and a perfectly clean child. 

I don’t feel like anyone should ever have to meet the demands of their partner—helping to meet needs is a different story.  Relationships need to be about give and take and sharing the load whether it is emotional or physical.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed mentally so I need my husband to help me take care of our son or he needs to cook dinner.  But to demand that someone change or do a certain thing to show love is unrealistic.  Sometimes I think we have to learn to accept that people show love in a different way—not that we need to adapt every time they have a feeling.

Relationships are about understanding—and this book is great at setting that foundation—but I feel it should be more about understanding where we and our partners are coming from.  Level set early on and then you can decide what your relationship looks like and how you will make it work.  A relationship isn’t about deciding how you want your partner to behave—it’s about how you behave together and what you are working toward.  It’s always a mutual thing.

I recommend the book for a deeper look at communication in general because the theory/process really applies to more than just romantic relationships.  I took a lot of it at face value (which is probably the intent with this type of work) because, as I mentioned above, some of the stories can be outright infuriating with their implied oppression of “how things should be.”  If anything, read the book because we all need a little improvement with communication—you can’t go wrong there.