Badge of Honor

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I went to the dentist today to have some work done. It was to be a 2 hour procedure, the kind of thing most people dread. I was indifferent.I was indifferent because the dentist doesn’t bother me much. I definitely do not enjoy going to the dentist but I don’t dread it or get anxious either. It is just something I have to do sometimes to be healthy.

So I get in the chair, they numb me up, I put on my headphones and lay back for the next two hours while they do their thing. Some poking here, prodding there, “bite down on this for 5 five minutes”, “open wider”, “bite down”, “open wider”.. and so on.. 2 hours late she asked me to rinse and spit and I informed her that she still had cotton lodged up in my cheek. Suddenly she was flummoxed. Wait, you can feel that? You should still be numb..

Then after talking for a minute about what else I had been able to feel we realized they had not given me enough numbing agent at the beginning. Oops.

She commented on how I must have a high threshold for pain and I confirmed that I do and that was that.

When I was driving home I was thinking about it a bit more though and what that actually means.. People wear that truth like a badge of honor, I have a high threshold for pain, but what does that actually say about us?

Does a high threshold/tolerance for pain = I am really good at numbing. Or shutting down. Are we essentially just saying I am highly skilled at not feeling.

And why is it different for different people? Do some men have a high tolerance because of what it means to be a man in our patriarchal society? Do not show emotion. Do not cry. Do not allow yourself be vulnerable. Don’t be a pussy.

Do some of us have a high tolerance because of the other pain we have bore? Either no pain could ever be as severe as these initial painful experiences we have had or maybe it is that the initial experiences were so painful that we learned how to detach/numb in painful situations as a way of protection/self-preservation..

Either way it suddenly struck me as really odd that having a high tolerance for pain would be seen as a positive thing. Well, actually that is not true. I do think it is a positive thing, I still see it as a protective factor. I think what I mean is, yes maybe it is positive AND it is maybe kind of sad.

Good for you that you are able to take care of yourself this way AND I am sorry that whatever happened to you that made you develop this skill happened.

I do think in our society we try to cover pain up and put pretty details on it to make it more bearable when the truth is there is room for both the light and the dark when it comes to pain.

You can be a strong, resilient, survivor AND being completely shattered by the experience.

You can see a silver lining as a result of a painful situation AND feel engulfed by the storm cloud that created it.

There is room in this world for all of it. I do have a high tolerance for pain. This is true because of the pain my body has endured. I am quite skilled at detaching when I feel the need to protect myself. I have also become a skilled number. I have neither pride nor judgement towards these truths, they just are, and they are mine.

I guess what I am wondering is, will this will always be my truth? As work on rebuilding my relationship with my body and I go back to those places of pain and allow myself to finally feel it will my ability or want/need to numb still exist? Is it possible that I could get to place where I see pain as just a part of life and not longer fear it?

I don’t have answers for this right now but it was an interesting realization to wake up to.

numb

 

Truth Telling

truth

Last night after my revelation I closed everything down and went back to bed. It was 4:22 when I climbed in next to my pup and my hubs; as I did he stirred and then got up to go to the bathroom. When he returned he asked if I was okay and what I was still doing up. I told him I was fine and that I was writing and that I have things I would like to tell him but that it could wait until morning because clearly it was late and we were both tired. He smiled and said okay, told me he loved me and I slipped into a deep dreamless sleep.

Five hours later I woke up. We all did. Each of started to stretch and look around at each other and cuddle. We let Lu out, got her breakfast, got our own breakfast, and then scooted back to bed to eat and talk.

I put on oils in the bedroom, a mix of peppermint and lavender for clarity and calm. I lit my candle, I have many candles in my home but one is special, it is my candle, it’s light is there solely to support me. Then we crawled back into bed, him with his oatmeal, me with my peppermint tea and we started a new chapter in our relationship.

I told him that I experienced a shift last night and that I understood things I did not understand before and that I wanted to share these new realizations with him. Before I started I explained to him what I needed from him while we talked and that was space to be honest without it feeling like too much. He did not think that would be a problem.

He listened as I talked and when I was done, before moving on to another part of my epiphany I waited for feedback or questions. He was on board with everything, all of it. He understood everything I was saying and was open to all forms of honesty in our relationship. I made sure he knew that the standing invitation that he had always held for me, I was holding for him too. I am going to honest with you, in all forms, please trust me enough to know you can be that free here too. Our love is strong enough to hold this for us, it will only make it stronger. We agreed. We will move forward in this relationship without editing ourselves for the sake of the other. We will be real, and honest, and authentic, and build a deeper love on this.

Then I did something I have never done. I asked for help in my dark place. My therapy is what my therapy is, we are still separate from that part of my work because only I can do it. But there are other things that could get better if I ever trusted anyone enough to ask for help. He has shown me I am not too much, I am not asking too much, I am lovable, and he is not only willing but wants to help me should I ever ask. So I asked and he said yes. He is going to help me with practical aspects of overcoming my PTSD. We are going to work together to try and make me feel safe in ways I never have before.

This request was my very first step towards taking him up on his invitation of honesty and love.

Our relationship does not come up often in therapy because he is not something or someone I have to heal from. I realized though that he could help me heal. And that by being open to accepting his help I would also be opening myself up to a deeper level of trust within myself and in the relationship. I am learning to trust myself and trust him. I am learning to love myself and allow myself to be loved.

This is big stuff. It makes me think about the intention I started the year with, transformation. That is what this is. It is transformation, it is a learning and unlearning of love. I have been planted and now I am starting to sprout and grow.

Did You Hear That?

ptsd

One last post tonight to put myself at ease and to experience my own unburdening with the hopes of then falling into a restful sleep.

I have been sitting alone in the living room for the last hour writing. Normally I enjoy this quiet time; just me and the house and my tea and my thoughts. Normally. Sometimes though when I sit alone at night in my living room my PTSD creeps up on me, an unwelcome guest crashing my party, here to terrify me until I can barely breathe.

It started with a noise.

Was that a knock at the door? It can’t be, what time is it? No it’s much too late.. Then what was that noise?

Get up, heart pounding, stomach has already dropped out, adrenaline pumping. Walk into the bedroom;

Babe? Was that you?..
Oh it wasn’t? Then did you hear that?..
Oh you didn’t?.. Well I am sure I heard a knocking..
No but you don’t understand, I am sure I heard a knocking..
Okay, you’re probably right..

Return to my nest on the couch. Continue writing, but not without first enlisting the company of my trusty guard dog.

It was nothing. It was nothing.

Check to make sure the doors are locked..

It was nothing. You are safe. You are alone. You are safe. It was nothing.

Sit back on the couch continue writing.

Hear a knocking. Look at the dog. She didn’t react.

It was nothing. She would have reacted. She would have barked. It was nothing. You are safe. You are alone. You are safe.

You are alone. You are alone. You are alone. It is dark. You are alone.

You are okay. You are okay.

Continue writing.

Feel a bump on the couch. All systems on red alert. Heightened sense of hearing and touch. Aware of every inch of your surroundings. Listen… Listen…. Listen… Nothing.
Look at the dog. She didn’t react.

What was that? I am sure I felt something. Is there a monster under the couch?

You are not a child. Monsters are not real.

How do you know?

Try to convince the dog to come sit on the couch by you.

Come here baby.. C’mon.. Come here honey.

Give up. She is not moving. Continue writing.

No more noises. Heart rate back to normal. Menacing thoughts silence. Ability to focus restored. Sense of safety restored.

Normally I enjoy this quiet time; just me and the house and my tea and my thoughts.

Normally.

 

 

Stepping into a Dream

oz2

Last night hubs and I went to see Wicked at the performing arts center downtown. He told me he got us good seats but I did not realize what he meant until we arrived and were being shown to them. We were just a few rows from the stage. I was in shock. I have never had such good seats for anything. It meant so much to me that he did that for us for this show of all shows. This story, Oz, it had such special meaning in my life.

We sat down and I was in awe as I took in the scenery and the time dragon that was ominously hanging over the stage.When the curtain went up and Glinda came floating down in her bubble I began to cry. It all came crashing over me, how much it all means to me. Oz has always been my safe space in a life that has not always felt safe. Suddenly I was there, this is the closest I will ever be to stepping inside this world, to crossing over the rainbow, to being in this place that has always made me feel so safe.

I am so glad that I saw the show now. At this time in my life. When I am finally with someone who makes me feel safe, when I am doing work on myself for myself to heal that hurts that made me want to escape to Oz in the first place.

As the scenery would change between Shiz and the poppy field and Munchkin Land I would cry, and then it happened.. The curtain came up and everything was green and glowing. We made it, we were in Oz. I cried throughout the entire show. It was so special.

For some this is purely entertainment, for me it is a validation. I made it. I am okay. I finally made it to Oz and I realized that I don’t even need it. I don’t need to escape anymore. My reality is finally safe and not just safe, it is good. Good in a way that I could have never dreamed of before. I don’t need to escape anymore, I am living my dreams. Being in Oz was proof of this. I am living my dream.

 

Soap like Erasers

soap

The universe has been sending me a message for a while and I have known this but was not ready. It has been woven into my life disguised as the ordinary; a conversation here, a sign or symbol there. There were three major signs recently and that is what finally made me say okay enough, I am ready.

I was working with client recently and the conversation led to me using validation and body positive messages. After I felt good about the work we did together AND I felt like a bit of a phony.

A few weeks later I was with my love and he said something that I feel like all women want to hear (myself included) but the truth is it hurt to hear it because I did not believe him. It is not that I did not believe that he felt what he was saying, it was that I do not agree and I do not feel that way about myself.

2 days ago I was in the shower, the night before I had been painting and as per usual I still had paint on my legs and fingers. I took the bar of soap and rubbed it up and down my thigh until the streak of black paint faded into nothing and the water washed away the soap. This led to the literal inspiration of this post (although the larger inspiration has been building for some time). As I watched the paint on my leg disappear under the bar of soap I thought about how the soap looked so much like an eraser in that moment. It made me wonder.. How many times have I gotten in the shower and used the soap like an eraser to wash away pain?

We all do it. Showers have never been just for washing our physical body.

If we have a bad day we can step into the shower and wash it away.
If we are sick we step into the shower and let that hot water cleanse us and wash away the germs.
If our heart is broken we step into the shower and cry so no one can tell the difference between the water from the spout and our tears.

The thing about this though is that it doesn’t actually work. The shower is not some magical portal where when you step in it erases bad days or illness and last I checked it does not have magical healing properties that allow it to mend a broken heart.

Me using the soap to erase the paint from my body did not take away the fact that the night before I painted, it just cleaned the paint off.

Suddenly it hit me. All these showers I have taken over the years to erase awful things that have happened to my body have erased nothing. My shower is not a portal that can undo trauma my body has experienced. Until I go back and be with my body in these places of hurt I am not going to feel authentic when having a body positive conversation with a client, and I am never going to be able to believe my husband when he compliments me because I cannot see what he sees.

Something I have said for a long time is that is important to me that I am not asking my clients to do anything that I am not willing to do myself. Up to this point I have been not been ready to do this part of my work but now I am.

I know this next year will be transformative for me and I know with my whole being that this part of my work is going to play a very big part in that transformation. A very big, painful part.. And I am scared. I am scared to go back to some of these places with my body. I have gone back emotionally and started the healing process that way but this is different.

What I can do to help myself prepare for this next part on my journey inward is to remind myself of the progress I have already made in having  better relationship with my body.

I listen better. This shows in little ways like what I eat and when, taking breaks when needed, even in what I wear. Some clothes hurt so I have stopped wearing them. High heels for example, it they are uncomfortable I will not wear them. I set the intention a while ago that I will not cause my body pain for vanity sake. I can feel beautiful and be comfortable.

I am more accepting of my body as it is. I do not feel the need to wear make up or paint my nails for others. If I am doing either it is for me only and I have checked in with my body first. Personal grooming, I have talked about this before, I will not feel shame for the fact that my body naturally grows hair. I shave when it feels right and am not mean to myself when I don’t. My hair has a right to be there and I am beautiful either way.

This is a good start these two things but I know there is much work to be done and I am ready. I have to do things for myself so I know how to helps others in these same places of pain. You do not learn these lessons from the text book, somethings can only come from the soul.

I love hot showers, hot baths, the cleansing nature of water in general. I love the way it can wash over me and hold me and make me feel whole. I also recognize that by doing this work I may no longer need water for this and I certainly will not look to soap to act as an eraser any longer. What if I could hold me and make me feel whole. What if I had the power of water?

 

The Bruising Hour

bruising-hour

The further I move along with social work and my own personal therapy the more I have begun to understand that the things going on in our lives are not as arbitrary as we would like to believe. The more in touch with my own story I become, the more I begin to see patterns I never noticed, and the more I tune in to my own patterns, the more I notice the patterns of others.

For example, when someone tells me they don’t like something I know there is a strong possibility that there is an underlying story there. My hubs does not like cinnamon. Why? Because when he was younger he was forced to make cinnamon ornaments and hated it and the smell has bothered him ever since. It might seem silly but this little thing that happened when he was a kid forever changed how he feels about this common house hold spice.

As far back as I can remember I have disliked late afternoon between roughly 3 and 4 o’clock. I never had an answer for why but then I was thinking about all of this a few weeks ago (symbols and patterns in life) and I started free writing. I realized I was playing with words and word association. Here is what I wrote..

It is the bruising hour. The peak of frustration.
3 o’clock
3:00
300
300 degrees..
Way past the boiling point, it is getting ready to blow.

Then I realized that a lot of the physical trauma my body has experienced throughout my life took place in the late afternoon.

There is a book by Bessel van der Kolk (that I admit I have not actually read yet because I do not feel ready) that apparently talks about how our bodies remember what our brains sometimes allow to stash away and try to forget. The book is called The Body Keeps the Score.

This word play I created helped me make an connection to something I did not understand and that is, my dislike for this time of day is not arbitrary. There is a very good reason in fact for why this time of day puts me in a negative mood at times, or makes me feel worn down, or even nauseous. It is because somewhere inside of me I am still holding on to the trauma that took place and this time of day is a daily reminder of those experiences.

I am not something that every preference or distaste for something  we have in life has such deep roots, but somethings do.

Doing this work has really opened my eyes in relation to my own work but also in terms of helping current and future clients with their own. There are a lot of patterns and symbolism in our lives, if we wake up to it all we may learn a lot more about ourselves and how we experience the world around us.

Fight, Flight, Total Freak Out

All the bad energy I have been talking about for weeks came to a head this afternoon as I was driving home from internship and it was terrifying.

There is a point on my drive home from internship where the road I am on merges with oncoming traffic. I am usually timid as I make this merge because typically there is a lot of oncoming traffic and the ptsd I have related to a previous car accident keeps me cautious when I drive. So I got to my merge today and there was a lot of oncoming traffic, it was a Friday a 4:45pm so this was not surprising.

I was slowly inching down the merge lane waiting for my opportunity to get in when the car behind me started blaring on their horn. This alone was really startling for me, I wasn’t sure what they were honking for. I looked in my rear view to see the lady behind me screaming (I am not exaggerating here, she was screaming) and waving her hands around in a motion that I interpreted as her wanting me to go. Go where? There was a solid line of at least 4 or 5 cars, there was no where to go until this clearedShe continued with his behavior and laying on her horn until finally there was break in traffic and I was able to finish merging. While I was waiting for traffic to clear I waved back at her trying to signal that Yes I hear you, I will go when I can. It was no use, she was unrelenting.

I was rattled. Her behavior was over the top. My nervous system kicked into over drive.

Once I was able to merge she let off her horn and I thought it was all over. I was wrong. She proceeded to tailgate me down the road, practically sitting on my bumper. All I could think was please don’t cause an accident. Please don’t hit my husband’s car.

My turn for home is not far from that merge area so soon enough I was in my turn lane, again thinking I would be done with this lady and the whole situation. Wrong again. She was turning left too. Then I thought Oh crap. She is one of my neighbors.

When I turned left there was a car coming but I had time to turn, the lady behind me turned left in front of the car cutting it off. I drove down a few blocks and she continued to tailgate me, staying dangerously close to the bumper of my car. I came to a four way stop sign, I needed to go straight but something told me not to go straight home. I turned right. Almost without stopping she turned right as well. I then turned left, she stayed with me. At this point I called my husband. I was not far from home and I did not know what to do. Should I go home? Should I call the police? Was she following me or was she a neighbor?

While explaining to my husband what was happening I decided to pull over to the side of the road to see if she would pass me. She didn’t. She pulled up behind my car. I immediately started driving again. That was all the confirmation I needed. I was around the corner from our home, I asked my husband to come outside, that I thought we would need to call the police but that I wanted to get her plate. I made my left turn at the last stop sign before home and instead of following me she hit the gas and went straight.

I was only partially relieved.

I got home, parked, and immediately went inside. I was shaking so hard my husband had to hold me. I laid on his chest and mimicked his deep breathing until I was breathing normally again. I did not stop shaking for 20 minutes.

After processing it with my husband what we think happened is she saw me on my phone and after the maneuver I did to confirm she was following me she assumed I was on the phone with the police. She made sure to drive off fast and in a direction where it would be very difficult for me to get her license plate information.

As my husband was walking back through the whole situation with from beginning to end I found myself trying to make sense of everything. Why did she do that? I just do not understand. My husband tried to explain that she probably had a bad day and was taking it out on me through her road rage. Ok, but I still do not understand what about me and the way I was driving set her off. There was literally no where for me to go. If I had gone forward like she wanted me to I would have caused a massive accident.What did she want? What was going on inside her head?

I have never been involved in road rage before. I am a very cautious driver, I always let people in, I do not speed.. I just do not see myself as an obvious target for someone’s aggression in this way, especially in this specific situation. I mean if it was what my husband said and she was projecting her anger on me that is scary. This woman allowed herself to get so wrapped up in it that she was following someone home. What did she think she was going to do once I stopped? Was she going to confront me? Was she planning to get out of her car? I mean to what end was she planning to take this situation? And again why?

This all just goes back to the really bad energy stewing our there right now. It does not matter how zen I try to be or how committed to keeping balance and perspective I am.. I cannot control the rest of the world.

Let this scary situation be a voice in the back of all of our heads the next time we feel ourselves feeding into negativity.. To what end? Why? What am I hoping to accomplish with this? 

We are all in this (surviving life) together folks. Lets not make it harder on ourselves or each other. Be kind. Show love. Forgive. Take a breath. Be patient.

It all may sound cliche and recycled but this woman forgot all of it today. We are capable of getting caught up in our own negativity or the negative energy swirling around out in the world. We all have the potential to forget. So be mindful, be kind, and be grateful whenever you can.

Although this lady sent me into a full on ptsd episode I still trying to find compassion. I know it is hard, I am sorry you are struggling with whatever it is you are struggling with, I am sending you light.

I Can’t Breathe

i cant breathe

I was dropped kicked in the face by my trauma today. It is late and I have my first day of internship tomorrow so I am not going to process all this here and now, I felt the need to address it though. Give it a voice with the hope and intention that it will not haunt me as I try to sleep tonight. I wrote about it in my dark writing place so I have processed it to some degree but I also felt the need to put something here as well. This blog is about my experiences as a student and this is absolutely part of that, I do not want to edit it out just to make the over all story look nicer.

This piece of my story is not a piece I am willing to talk about openly, not at this point at least. It is not like my car accident, it’s roots are deeper, it is messier, it is the trauma that all my other trauma ever experienced was originally born from.

I was not prepared to face it today. It is a dragon and I was not wearing any armor. I had it together long enough to be in my car alone where I can let myself go. It was as if an old wound burst open, my tears flowed like blood, I bled myself dry.

I am okay now. I am much better at taking care of myself than I have been in the past. I feel safe, grounded, loved, and comfortable. I feel like after reading my book for a little bit I will be able to go to bed without issue. The best part of that is I did that for myself. Yes, I processed what happened with Todd but I did not ask him to come to my rescue, I did that for myself. I know how to do that now. I made myself feel safe, I showed myself love, I helped myself feel grounded, I am the reason I feel comfortable and ready for sleep. There is only one relationship you will have for your entire life and that is the relationship you have with yourself. It is the most important relationship of your life. Nothing I have ever done in my entire life has been more important than learning to love myself and invest in the relationship I have with myself.

For a brief moment tonight it felt like my entire world cracked open and 20+ years of trauma came washing over me in one terrifying instant. I did not spiral. I did not retreat. I did not numb. I sat in that awful place and felt every single thing I was feeling and took care of myself. I made it better. I did it. This is the turning point in my life where I realize every single thing is possible. If I can do this thing I have never ever been able to do I know I am capable of anything.

It was just a Dream

dreams.jpg

That phrase, it was just a dream, can be the most comforting and invalidating statement all at once. Anyone with PTSD might know what I am talking about. I have night terrors, frequently. I have had frightening dreams for years, since high school. Some are recurring, some are recurring themes with different characters/environments, some are terrifying and do not seem related to anything specific (although I would be willing to bet they are).

These bad dreams have been my constant companion for all these years, the frequency in which they occur varies though. There are times when I may go weeks without one, recently though they have been there every night. For weeks I have been almost afraid to go to sleep because I know what is waiting for me, or at least I think I do and then it is usually much worse than I could have anticipated.

Last week Todd woke me up because I was making noises and breathing heavily/erratically. When I woke up I grabbed on to him and started crying hysterically. When I finally caught my breath and calmed down I was laying in a puddle that once was my husband’s chest and my eyes were swollen. It was just a dream are the words he cues into my ears when this kind of things happens. He holds me, he rubs my back, or pets my head, his even breathing calms mine and the echo of his heart beat in my ear brings mine back down. It was just a dream, it’s not real, I am safe. I feel comforted.

I have been in other situations where those words, it was just a dream, were flung at me in annoyance, they were dismissive. It was just a dream, get over it!

As I do my work my hope is that these dreams will ebb. Right now I think my work is why they are so frequent. A lot is coming up and my subconscious is reacting to/processing it. These dreams are certainly giving me plenty to work on. In the mean time I am doing what I can for myself in order to feel safe and comfortable at bed time.

There is a song by one of Todd and I’s favorite bands, City and Colour, that I think of when it comes to my haunting dreams. Apparently Dallas Green’s wife (he is the lead singer and song writer) also suffers from night terrors. I hear this song and think is this is what it is like for Todd? I wanted to share the lyrics in case it speaks to anyone else with these same issues.

Fragile Bird

When she sleeps
There is a fever dream, yeah
It brings a night terror
To haunt this fragile bird

She speaks in tounges
Her words they come undone, yeah
And with the wayward mind
She struggles through the night

All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through, through the night, through the night

These cold nightmares
They make her worse for ware
Lost in the dark
She’s got a heavy heart

And when she wakes
In her fragile state
When she calls my name
Hopin that I keep her safe

All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through
All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through

Through the night (x4)

All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through
All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through
Through the night

OZ

When I was 14 I was in a car accident on the first day of high school that resulted in me being absent from school for a month while my body healed. It was traumatic and at the time I could not process it so I found ways to bypass the feelings. One way was by watching The Wizard of Oz every single day sometimes two and three times a day. It is what I remember most of that month. I was not laying on the couch with a broken face, I was in Oz.

Although this may not have been the best way to deal with the physical and emotional trauma associated with the accident it is what worked for me at the time and you have to admit that if a person wants to escape their life Oz is great choice.

This movie has always been special to me because it helped me survive a very difficult part of my life and I admit I still return to it sometimes when I feel overwhelmed.

We spent Saturday evening with my family playing cards once we returned from West Palm. When we arrived my Mom had four blank canvas for me that she purchased and decided not to use. I was over the moon. I have not painted all summer because I have been busy. All of my assignments are turned in, my break between semesters has started, and I have time to paint. Her timing with this gift was perfect.

Sunday I spent the entire day on a research paper so Todd held down the house. He did chores, made dinner, did the grocery shopping (an errand we always do together because we both hate it). I was grateful. I told him I was going to paint him something beautiful with my time off to thank him. Yesterday I laid out my drop cloth, got my floor pillow, got all my supplies set up, and set up my canvas. I had an idea for what I wanted to paint for him but I couldn’t visualize it, kind of like when I have inspiration to write but I don’t quite have all the words yet.. I paint something in my head for a while before I touch the canvas just like how sometimes I write a post in my head long before I get it down on “paper”.

I sat for a while trying to visualize the piece and finally decided to start painting and let the piece make itself. First I gravitated towards a whitish blue for the background, then I made a reddish orange and started painting little blobs on the canvas. I paused to see what I was making and then it hit me, poppies. I intended to paint something for Todd yesterday but I guess I needed to paint something for me first. It was the poppy field, I was painting the way to Oz.

There is less bypassing going on in my life since I have been in therapy but that does not mean that Oz is any less important to me. It is a reminder of something, I understand why my subconscious brought it to me.