Rule Number One: Trust No One

I talk a big talk.

I’ll tell you all about this wall I’ve built around myself. I’ll tell you about how I use humour as a defense mechanism, and how I don’t let people get past my armour.  But on the other side of this wall, I’m just a giant pile of mush.

Wow…that’s some really fantastic imagery there.

I am way too sensitive for my own good; I always have been. The second someone raises their voice towards me, I cry.  It doesn’t matter who it is: it could be a parent, a friend, a random customer from my retail days…they get mad, I cry.  I can’t control it.

I care way too much about what other people think. I want to be liked; we all do, to an extent.  I’ve tried to teach myself that other people’s opinions of me are none of my business, but it still hurts me so much when someone dislikes me.

And behind the wall I’ve built I have a giant, raw, fragile heart. If I decide that someone is worthy of getting to have a look behind the wall, I give them all of me.  This doesn’t just extend to romantic partners.  My closest friends have seen that once you’re in, you’re in: it’s a front row seat to all the emotions, whether you want them or not.

I am an extremely emotional person, I just try to hide it from most people. I try so hard to pretend that my skin is sandpaper, but really I’m just flesh.  I feel everything so much and it’s overwhelming.  There’s an Anna Nalick song… “But I think too much / I love like I’m dying / And I come and go like the moon, like the moon / My face shows when I’m lying.”  I let people’s words and actions hurt me way more than they should.  Someone at work with whom I’ve had little interaction has the power to send me to my bed with covers over my head, crying into my pillow.  A friend with whom I’ve shared no intimate, personal details of my life can say something cruel about me and I physically feel the pain of their words.  How is it that I let strangers have such control over my emotions, when I work so hard to have none at all?

What I’m struggling with currently is what to do when someone I’ve let in is the one to cause the hurt. I’d like to think that I’m fairly selective with who I allow on this side of the wall.  I mean I definitely make the wrong decisions at times and bring over people who don’t deserve to be here.  But what happens if someone I’ve chosen to love hurts me so much I can’t breathe? And further still…what if I still want them here with me on this side? How do I do that? Is it even possible?

Along with my big, bleeding, raw heart…I forgive. I forgive too quickly and too easily.  I’ll psychoanalyze myself here and say that it’s a result of being in an abusive relationship for 11 years.  You have to forgive easily, or it just makes the situation worse.  Once the conflict is over, the abuser wants to just continue on as if nothing happened.  And if you resist that, the conflict comes back and gets way, way worse.  So as the victim, you just suck it up and move on.  It was your fault anyway, right?

But this comes with a caveat: once that trust is broken and that pain is felt, I may forgive but I will distance myself. I will push my emotions away and push you away right with them.  I will build up my wall, stronger than before with steel reinforcements and barbed wire fencing.  I will cover myself in new skin, to try to protect myself from more hurt.

This time…I don’t want to do that. I feel like a fragile little bird.  I’ve been hurt but I want so badly to heal, and to heal with you.  I don’t want you on the other side: I want you beside me.  But the thought of opening back up to you…scares the shit out of me.  The more layers of skin I peel back, the easier it is to hurt me again…and the more painful it will be.

I guess I just need to time hang back here and lick my wounds. Proceed with caution.  I am surrounded by shattered glass and I just need to be careful for awhile.  Even if you think you’ve picked up all the pieces, there’s always a few shards left behind.

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A look back at my angsty teenage years

Oh, Lord.
I was looking for an old picture and stumbled across a gold mine.  Albums of old photos, scripts, and…poems.  Yep.  Poems written by me, circa (mostly) 2002-2004.  14-17 years of age.  Prime angst years.  And so, I share some of these “poems” with you, dear reader.  Completely unedited.  Try to contain your excitement.

The Beast

 

There is a beast that lives inside me;

It tells me what to do.

It calls me short, it calls me fat

It calls me stupid, too.

 

There is a beast that lives inside me;

It tells me what to do.

It says she’s mean, it says she’s cruel

I should break her arm in two.

 

There is a beast that lives inside me;

But I’ll learn to ignore it all.

I’ll learn to love myself

To stand proud, stand true and tall.

 

There was a beast that lived inside me;

It told me what to do.

But one day I finally told it;

The stupid one is you.

 

(2002)

Carry On

Each day I come home

Should I call it home?

I crank the sound and drive the ax

I am so alone.

I play it loud and play it clean –

I want to inundate the sound

The yelling echoes in my head;

It impels me to the ground.

The hell I’m forced to live in,

It’s encompassed in the hate.

The drinking and the screaming…

Is this what is my fate?

I found my name in the book

It’s Welsh and it means strong

So is this my test to get to heaven?

To try and carry on?

The euphony is my escape;

I can close my eyes and fly.

I break out from this life,

And soar off through the sky.

She drinks and does not stop;

He screams and does not care.

I compose and drive the ax –

It’s a truth I cannot bear.

I deny and act okay;

Only I know that’s not true.

Her depression overwhelms and

Maybe I have it too.

I found my name in the book

It’s Welsh and it means strong.

So is this my task to get to heaven?

To try and carry on?

But I cannot leave;

I have no place to go.

I have offers and suggestions,

But I recognize I cannot go.

She needs me here and I know –

She tells me every day.

I am here to save her life,

I know that I must stay.

So I drive the ax and echo the sound;

It answers in my brain.

The thoughts, the swirl around…

Jumping off the train.

I found my name in the book

It’s Welsh and it means strong.

So is this my trial to get to heaven?

To try and carry on?

The euphony is my escape,

The sound, it is my stage.

Maybe someday the dreams of freedom

Will act as my wage.

I am strong I will pull through;

There is another side.

If I grit my teeth and make it there,

Forget the tears I’ve cried.

The music is my barrier –

From the world in here.

It protects me from my enemies;

It blocks out the fear.

I found my name in the book;

It’s Welsh and it means strong.

Is this my quest to get to heaven?

To try and carry on?

I drive the ax –

Connected to the sound.

The beat’s my pulse;

It lifts me from the ground.

People act as if they care;

They try and help me out.

They pretend they understand,

That they know what I’m about.

I deny and act okay…

Only I know that’s not true.

Her depression overwhelms and

Maybe I have it too.

I drive the ax;

Connected to the sound.

The beat’s my pulse,

It lifts me from the ground.

I found my name in the book;

It’s Welsh and it means strong.

So is this my pursuit to get to heaven?

To try and carry on?

I found my name in the book;

It’s Welsh and it means strong.

So is this my race to get to heaven?

To try and carry on?

(2003)

 

Boys

 

Boys      suck

                lie

                cheat

                pretend

                tease

                leave

                break hearts

                break me

(2004)

Silver Linings of Divorce

I feel like one of my best traits is the ability to see the positive in any situation.  I don’t let things keep me down for long.  There’s always a way to make lemonade.  It may be terribly sour, but hey…some people like it that way.

Ending a marriage is a big deal.  It is a huge life change.  And a lot of it really freaking sucks.  You have to get over the fact that your entire life has changed.  Your thoughts about the future are now all wrong.  You’re not going to grow old with that person.  You’re not going to save up and buy that bigger house together.  You’re not going to embarrass your kids together on their first date.  It’s a lot to wrap your head around.

But just because it’s a big deal doesn’t mean it’s a bad deal.  Make some lemonade, my friends.  You can still grow old, just maybe with someone who doesn’t hog the covers.  You can still buy a bigger house, just maybe with someone who actually enjoys gardening.  You can still embarrass your kids, just maybe with a new duet partner.  Or hey, maybe you’ll do all that stuff on your own.  AND THAT’S OKAY TOO.

It’s time to stop thinking about the negatives of divorce.  We all know there’s a lot.  Let’s focus on the positive.  Here are ten awesome things that you may not have thought about before.  Ten awesome things about divorce.

  1. You can set the thermostat to whatever you want.  Were you married to a furnace? Was your house always scarf and parka weather? Turn that AC off and open the windows, darling!
  2. You get to choose what’s for dinner.  Did your partner hate asparagus with every fibre of his or her being? Did you go years without freshly grown summer asparagus? Does reading that sentence make your mouth just water? Well, buck up, my love! It’s asparagus time.
  3. You don’t have to choose a side of the bed.  I spent over a decade sleeping on the right side of the bed.  When we split up I started sleeping on the left, out of defiance.  Then I went back to the right side, out of habit.  Then I slept in the middle for awhile.  Wanna know where I sleep now? Wherever the fuck I want.
  4. You can be as late as you want.  Don’t have the kids? Out for a drink with friends? Another friend shows up just as you’re about to leave? Stay! Catch up! Don’t worry about your spouse being upset that you’re late.  You have no one to text, nothing to explain.
  5. You can spend twelve straight hours watching Netflix.  Okay so you may not WANT to spend that much time watching Netflix, but you know what I mean.  You know what show I just watched in its entirety? Pretty Little Liars.  Why? I don’t know.  It popped up in my recommended shows.  I’d never seen it before.  I’d never had an ounce of interest in it before.  But I had nothing else to do.  So I watched it.  (I should say that I didn’t watch it in its entirety ALL AT ONCE.  It took awhile.)  But you don’t have to worry about someone saying, “The new episode of Game of Thrones is on!”, or “Give me the remote, the Superbowl is starting!” Nah, bro.  You watch what you want, judgment free.  Trust me.  It would need to be judgment free for me to watch seven hours of entitled rich white girls running from one party to the next.  Really though, how did they have that many parties to go to?
  6. Pick your own pet.  Are you a cat person? Was your spouse allergic to cats? That’s a good reason to be a dog family.  But now you’re on your own! Get a cat! Get five!
  7. Take up the entire closet.  Really.  It is such an amazing feeling.  I have his and hers closets in my bedroom.  They are now mine and mine closets.  Everything is sectioned so nicely.  It’s so well organized and planned out and beautiful.  Just thinking about my closet gives me warm fuzzies.
  8. Be your own interior designer.  I have a rug in my living room.  My ex-husband would have HATED it.  He’s seen it – I’m sure he does hate it.  I haven’t asked, because I don’t care.  When I was shopping for it, I sent a picture to a group of my friends.  Most of them were super polite and said, “Well it’s not my taste but…” But you know what? It’s my taste.  I bought it.  I love it.  I picked out my couch.  I picked out my coffee table.  The art on my walls? I picked it.  The fireplace in my living room? My decision.  Everything in my house is there because I want it there.  It is an amazing feeling.
  9. Splurge a little.  I’m not saying live beyond your means, because that’s something you shouldn’t do whether you’re in a relationship or not.  But once in awhile, treat yourself.  Buy a new dress.  Get your haircut at a fancy salon.  Go to a baseball game.  Buy a freaking chocolate bar.  Whatever.  Don’t ask permission, don’t ask forgiveness.  Recognize that you’re worth it.
  10. This is a lot of things in one, but mainly it’s just this: be autonomous.  Pee with the door open if you want.  Sing at the top of your lungs in the shower.  Drive with the windows down.  Eat ice cream out of the carton on the couch in your underwear.  Make your own decisions.  Live your own life.  You don’t have to answer to anyone.  Yes, sometimes it’s lonely.  But at the end of the day, it’s worth it.  Maybe you won’t grow old with the person you thought you would.  But the only person that you need to make yourself happy is YOU.

I am covered in skin / No one gets to come in

I had decided to stop dating.

I got to a point where I was happy to just be alone.  I was enjoying my own company and was perfectly content to stop looking for someone to “complete” me.  I felt pretty completed on my own, and that I didn’t need someone else to make me happy.  I finally felt comfortable spending a weekend alone when my kids were at their dad’s.  I didn’t need to fill that time with anything, whether it was having friends over or going on dates.  It felt nice to sit at home and read a book or watch a movie and knit.

So I made myself a very ambitious goal: to watch/re-watch all of the Marvel movies in order.  In true Bri fashion, I did my research.  I researched the order of release, and also the order the Internet deemed correct for watching.  I made myself a list, and I searched Netflix to find which ones were available there.  The first three were not available on Netflix, so I tried to find them elsewhere.

I posted on a Facebook group asking fellow mommies if they had any of the three movies that I could borrow for a weekend.  I said, “I’m looking for things to fill my nights now that I’ve completely given up on the idea of ever dating ever again ever.  EVER.”  One mom replied, “If you change your mind I have a really really great ex-brother-in-law.”  We started talking and she made this guy sound pretty fantastic, so I thought what the hell.  I wasn’t expecting anything but I figured it would make a good story if nothing else.

So I sent the guy a message saying, “So I posted on a mommies group looking for a couple movies to borrow, and instead I got offered you.”  And yeah.  Somehow it clicked.

Now I find myself in a relationship with the most amazing person.  Someone who treats me the way that I want my daughters to be treated by their future partners.  Someone who will laugh with me, and cry with me, and sit in silence with me.  Someone I can’t help but open up to.  I have these walls but I’m finding that I don’t want them anymore; not around him.  I want to let him all the way in.

After our first date, I sent him the link to my blog.  He said he was curious and I figured, I have nothing to hide.  This is who I am, and this will tell you way more about myself than I will ever vocalize.  Here’s the link.  Read it, and then let me know if you still want to talk to me.  Maybe this was another form of self-sabotage, because I fully expected him to never speak to me again.

But instead, he would ask me questions about the blog posts.  He would tell me how they made him feel, or that he wanted to give me a hug.  He read the entire thing and he wanted to give me a hug.  I’m not ashamed of who I am.  I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done, or the choices I’ve made.  I know some of my choices have not been fabulous, but they’ve shaped me in some way or another.  But I still wrote him off completely as soon as I sent him the link.  In my mind, that was it.  Fucked it up again.  Classic Bri.

It didn’t work like that.  I am with someone who knows more about me than most people, in such a short period of time.  He likes me for who I am.  It feels incredible to feel confident in my own skin around him; like I don’t have to hide or pretend to be someone that I’m not.

At this point in my life, I feel that who I am isn’t going to change much.  I’ve come this far in life.  My views and opinions may change as I learn more about a subject or through the experiences I have, but overall I feel like I’m pretty done.  I am who I am.  I feel the same about a partner: there’s no such thing as a “fixer upper.”  It’s not my place to change someone else or fix them.  I want a relationship where I can feel perfectly happy being who I am in the company of someone who feels perfectly happy being who they are.

And right now, that’s what I’m feeling.  I am blissfully happy.  I have people I barely know commenting on how happy I seem.  I feel lighter.  I feel calmer.  I feel like me.  Like the real me.  Like the me that was lost for so long, buried under the labels of “Jeff’s daughter,” “Ashley’s sister,” “Ryan’s wife,” “Isabel/Abby’s mom.”

I wasn’t ready before.  I needed to let go of everything else, of the me I felt I had to be.  I’m so happy that I found you when I did, because I wasn’t ready before.  I’m ready now.  I’m ready and I am so wonderfully happy.

 

I am ready – I am ready – I am ready – I am fine

Be someone who makes hearts happy.

Yesterday my daughter said to me, “Mommy…I love you because your heart makes people happy.”

This was completely unprovoked.  We were snuggling on the couch close to bedtime.  Isabel was eating a snack.  I kissed her cheek and she wiped it off.  She kissed my cheek so I wiped it off too! She laughed and said, “We should wipe our kisses together!” She kissed my cheek again, and I kissed hers.  And then we rubbed our cheeks together like a couple of weirdos.

We both laughed and then she told me that she loves me…because my heart makes people happy.

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that this is the most wonderful thing that anyone has ever said to me.  Not only is it an amazing compliment, but it’s reaffirming.  In my daily life I really do try to make other people happy.  Every person that I encounter in a day, I try to make smile.  I try to have a positive impact on every person in my life.

But the biggest reason that I loved this compliment from Isabel is that it reflects so much on HER.  It shows empathy, compassion, kindness, and love.  She loves me and she wanted me to know.  I make her happy and she wanted me to know.  She sees how I treat other people and she wanted me to know.

Maybe there’s hope for her after all!

I rag on her a lot.  Not to her face, obviously.  That would be bad parenting.  But behind her back…man, can I trash that kid.

*Before you judge me and call CAS and have my uterus ripped away from me, do you know Isabel? Do you? Have you spent extended periods of time with her? She is a wonderful, strong, smart little girl.  But yeah.  She can be a raging c…omplicated child.*

At home we talk about kindness a lot.  I give Isabel reminders to use kind words.  We talk about “filling buckets” by doing good things for other people.  We talk about the importance of words and compassion and consent.  It is so, so important for me that my girls grow up kind.  I love that Isabel is so fierce – no one will mess with her.  I know that she will not take shit from anyone when she’s older.  She is going to be an amazingly strong, confident woman.  And I know that one day I will be so grateful for that.  But today is not that day.

Today I want Isabel to learn that she can stand up for herself but still be kind.  She can protect her sister but still have compassion.  I want her to grow up and to have someone tell her that her heart makes people happy.  Her heart makes me happy every day.  I mean, sometimes her heart makes me want to stab myself in the eye, but mostly it makes me happy.

I can tell that she’s really “getting it” lately.  She has said some amazingly insightful things lately.  We were talking about blessings one day and she said, “I’m blessed with the most beautiful face in the world and it’s yours, Mommy.”  She could have said “I’m blessed with lots of toys!”, or “I’m blessed with this doll but I could really have more Shopkins.”  But she chose to express her love for me instead.

Walking home from school one afternoon, I told her that I am the luckiest mom in the whole world.  She said, “God made the perfect girls for you, didn’t he?”

So what’s the difference? What is so different lately that she’s all of a sudden GETTING IT? Don’t get me wrong, we still have eye-stabbing moments.  But we get past them quickly and go back to our love-fest.  So what is it?

I like myself.

This is a new thing.  I’ve had an epiphany.  If I met myself in the street, you know what? I’d like myself.  I would want to be my friend.  Up until very recently, I would have found myself annoying and needy and clingy.  Until recently, I didn’t understand why anyone was my friend.  I felt like my friends were only there because they were too nice to tell me to go fuck myself.  They were too nice to tell me that they didn’t actually want to be my friend.

But…my heart makes people happy.  My words make people laugh.  My actions make people smile.  And I like myself.

A lot of my difficulties with Isabel stem from the fact that I see so much of myself in her.  When she has a tantrum, I can remember exactly how that feels.  And I get frustrated with myself that I can’t control her behavior.  My frustration frustrates Isabel.  Which agitates me.  Which agitates her.  And it goes back and forth, feeding off of each other’s anxieties.

But you know what? I do see SO MUCH of myself in her.  But…that’s not a bad thing.  Look at me.  I’m smart.  I’m funny.  I’m kind.  I’m trying to be strong, even though I’ve been beaten down again and again.  These are traits that I WANT my daughters to have.  So why am I so upset when her behavior reflects my own? When I see myself in her, why am I getting mad? It’s because I’m getting mad at my OWN thoughts, my OWN feelings, my OWN behaviors.  I’m trying to stop her from being me.  But I’m starting to see that being me…isn’t such a bad thing.

I’m sorry, Isabel.  I’m sorry that I haven’t been the mom you deserve.  You ARE smart.  You ARE funny.  You ARE kind.  And I am so grateful every single day that you are my daughter.  You’re right, kid.  God DID make the perfect girls for me.

A very important list

I love lists.

I do. I write lists constantly.  It helps with my anxiety to see things on paper in front of me.  To-do lists are everywhere in my world.  Organization is beauty for me; it’s one of the reasons I love my job.

I also apparently love choosing the wrong guy. I am really good at it.  I find someone that seems so good for me, and then…they aren’t.  I need to break out of the patterns I have created for myself.  I need to be specific.  I need to be picky.

So, in true Brianne fashion, I have created a list of qualities that a potential partner must have. No settling.  Not anymore.  I’m too old to settle and I have two amazing little girls that don’t deserve to have someone in their life that isn’t going to be there long term, or isn’t going to be a positive role model.

There are some incredibly random items on this list, but trust me: they are all there for a specific reason. I am an open book – if any items need clarification or explanation, I’d love to provide it.

  • Tall (5’10 or above)
  • Well groomed
  • Smells good
  • Has post-secondary education
    • Doesn’t matter what type of PSE
    • Doesn’t matter if they graduated or with what degree/diploma/certificate
  • Has a stable job
  • Owns a car
  • Lives on his own (not with parents, roommate, etc.)
  • Owns at least one suit
  • Good grammar/spelling
  • Smart
  • Good sense of humour
    • Is funny
    • Thinks I’m funny
  • Can participate in witty banter
    • Sarcastic
    • Appreciates my sarcasm
  • Good relationship with parents, but not overbearing
  • First date must be an actual date
  • Friendly with wait staff, store clerks, etc.
  • If he has kids, must see them on a very regular basis
  • Likes at least one sport
  • Can recognize at least one Matthew Good song
  • Punctual
  • Swears, but not every other word
  • Doesn’t vape
  • Drinks but not every night, and not to excess
  • Does not speak negatively of any exes
  • Self-sufficient
  • Smiles in photos
  • No earrings
  • Treats me with respect
  • Trusts and is trustworthy
  • Not sexist/racist/homophobic/anything douchey

It’s my fault for being happy for 30 seconds

When you’ve been a victim of abuse, you build a pretty strong wall to protect yourself.  You learn quickly that expressing emotion can get you punished, so you hold it in.  If you’re lucky enough to get out of the abusive situation, that wall stays there.

When you meet new people, the wall strengthens.  Or at least it does for me.  I could meet the nicest person in the world and it will go one of two ways:

Scenario 1: There is no way this person can be this nice.  It must be an act.  They’re going to charm me and disarm me.  I better run before I see their true colours.

Scenario 2: There is no way I deserve someone this nice.  I’m not worth it.  It’s only a matter of time before they realize that I’m not good enough for them and they leave.  I better run before they see my true colours.

 

Unfortunately, I succumbed to a new scenario.  One that I didn’t know existed, and instead of ending with me running it ended with some serious heartache.

Yep: I’m talking about you, Coffee.

The self-proclaimed “nice guy with asshole tendencies.”  I tried to keep my wall up and I did a good job at first.  You didn’t pry, which was so wonderful.  I felt safe with you, and special.  You kissed my forehead and you tucked my hair behind my ears.  You told me that you hoped that eventually I would let my guard down with you.

The first time I relaxed a little around you, you said how nice it was.  You would text me all day, telling me that you really liked me and if we hadn’t seen each other in awhile you would say you missed me.  I actually felt this going somewhere.  I’m an idiot, I guess.

Last weekend you invited me to stay with you.  This was a huge deal for me.  Since leaving my husband, I’ve been with people but I’ve rarely slept with them.  There are very few people with whom I have actually spent a night.  Of course my first reaction was to run.  Alert, alert, too nice.  Scenario 1.  Get the fuck out.

But you know what? I really fucking liked you.  With an exclamation point.  And I thought you liked me too.  So I agreed.  You sounded excited to have me stay over.  You bought mugs, and a kettle, and coffee.  You made me breakfast.  I was with you…maybe 20 hours? 22? I had such an amazing time with you.  I loved the way you made me feel.  I fucking opened up to you.

I guess that was my mistake.  I talked about my ex.  I talked about my dad.  I’m not going to lie: I verbal diarrhea-ed all over you.  It’s a lot to take and I get that.  My life is not perfect or wonderful; it’s been shattered and poorly glued back together.  But it’s my life and it’s part of me and I thought that you liked me.

When I left your house, I was happy.  I was fucking happy.  This should have set off warning bells, but it didn’t.  I went home and I talked to my friends about you and I smiled like an idiot and gushed like a teenager.

It wasn’t until the next evening that it came crashing down.  An innocent text to you asking if I would get to see you this week.  An innocent enough non-committal answer from you.  A jokey response from me, poorly disguising my disappointment.  A sinking feeling that the end had come.

It’s been a few days.  Communication has slowed right down to nothing.  I wish you would at least tell me that you don’t want to see me anymore.  I know it’s hard to hurt someone but saying nothing hurts a lot more.  It would take you twenty seconds to pick up your phone and say something like, “I’m sorry but I don’t see this going anywhere.”  Or, “I had fun but I think we should stop seeing other.”  Anything, really.  Just something to provide some sort of closure and to make yourself a little less of an asshole.

I was talking to my friend about ghosting yesterday.  When someone ghosts us we should know that they are the ones with the problem.  They are the ones who are too cowardly to send a simple text.  It really takes no time out of their day to be a decent human being.  But instead we blame ourselves.  We wonder what we did wrong.  We wonder if we aren’t pretty enough, or funny enough, or smart enough.  We wonder what part of us isn’t enough for them.

I hate this feeling.  I hate sitting on my couch crying.  I hate feeling bruised and broken and alone.  I hate that you made me feel like you were worth it.  I feel like I was a game to you.  I was closed off and it was a challenge.  You got in and therefore you won.  Game over.  I’m left in pieces behind you but you won.  Congratulations, I guess.  I’m not sure how many times I can glue myself back together, but I’ll try.