On Back To School

It’s that time of year.  For some parents, this is good news and for others (like me) not so much.  I am a night owl and so are my kids and so for all of us, we dread the 6:43 AM alarm clock, lunch packing and out the door morning rush.

What made this year different than others is my Son’s attendance to a new school. Not only is the school new to him, it’s private and it’s Catholic. Oh, and it’s High School.  Quadruple whammy.  We are not Catholic and we have never attended private school and he is 13.  A moment in time ripe for social awkardness and reflections on this rite of passage we all face.

I, like him, was also 13 when I started high school.  Young for our grade.  But I already had experience with older boys, cigarettes and hid any social anxiety behind Wayfarer sunglasses and an aloof posture.

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*That’s me in the middle the Summer before Freshmen year.  Not smiling.

When I started high school, I had my same friends and frankly don’t recall feeling all that terrible.  I wanted to be a Senior already but could manage.  Any step closer to Adult was good by me.  Don’t get  me wrong, I wasn’t EXCITED to go to school as being EXCITED about anything was not socially acceptable either. My adolescence was spent as a non-participant.  I was a product of the counter-culture coupled with a too-cool-for-school nature.  If I was forced to join anything, I stood in the back.  As I have shared in other blogs, I lacked a playful spirit so doing anything which may reveal joy or vulnerability was not my speed.  At my high school, the “cool kids” didn’t join anything.  Except parties, surfing or possibly soccer.

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*This was a backyard party I attended Freshmen year but as you can see, there are grown men here (one with a mustache!).  I am actually smiling in this one, maybe because of the Keg?

My Son’s new school is known for it’s community spirit and FOOTBALL.  Neither of which I have any experience in.  My Son took the initiative to attend this school and I support him all the way and, as with all parenting, I am learning as I go.  Humbly.  The night of his Freshmen Social, I was invited to attend a Social for incoming Freshmen Mom’s at one of the Mom’s homes.  I spotted the home because of the balloons outside in school spirit colors.  I was greeted with a name-tag, also in school spirit colors.  As I entered a home full of Mom’s, I imagined this must be how my Son is feeling.  I don’t know anyone.  Where do I stand?  How do I do this?  My higher self knows this is all perfect.  My fearful self wanted to run out the back gate.

For someone who has spent their entire life and career in the public arena, I am actually pretty shy.  People have a hard time believing that but it’s true.

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*That’s me on the right, not wanting my picture taken in high school.

Being shy, introverted and not drinking, it’s not super relaxing for me to attend parties with strangers.  But I did it.  And therein lies the development of self that we all must soldier through.  Joining a new team, starting a new job, moving to a new city.  We are faced with the fear of failure, not fitting in, not being good enough, not saying or doing the right thing.  And living through it.  And maybe actually enjoying it?

My kids are having a pretty good childhood.  They don’t hate school.  They join things.  They participate. They want to be “part-of”.  They don’t share my social phobias and for this I am utterly grateful.  Because of my kids, I get to push through my own judgments and reluctance and recognize that at the root of all of it is fear.  And every time we push through our own fears, we become a little bit better and a little bit stronger.  I am sure of it.

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On Depression

I had planned to blog about a photography exhibit I saw in NYC this week but on my way home from vacation today, I learned of the suicide of Actor Robin Williams.  My intention was not for this blog to be so heavy week after week but I do mean for it to be current and this subject certainly deserves some light shined and air time.

I have only had depression once for a few weeks after a miscarriage, before my Son was born.  That itty bitty post-partum hormonal shift was awful.  I felt dead inside.  People around me would complain about whatever and I felt angry and resentful towards their seemingly trivial concerns.  People would try and cheer me up, make suggestions on how I could feel better.  Tell me things would be better soon.  I felt nothing.  Like I was in a bubble, unable to connect.  And then it passed.

That one itty bitty experience with depression gave me the utmost compassion for people who suffer from it regularly.  I would never again offer a platitude to someone suffering.  It just doesn’t help.

I have been around people and lived with people with depression many times in my life.  I have been around and lived with people in and out of 12-Step Programs my whole life as well and I know first hand how close the connection is between addiction and depression.  I have also been around and lived with many Artists and Musicians and Actors, many of which suffered from depression and addiction.   There is no coincidence in these connections.

Whenever anyone dies, either by their own hand or by an overdose, I retreat to the same place in my heart and soul.  I always think about that last moment for them and how lonely it must be to really believe this life isn’t worth living.  And wondering, had they just known that that feeling of futility would pass maybe they wouldn’t have done it?

When a celebrity dies, either by their own hand or by an overdose, I am reminded that there is no amount of money or fame, power or recognition that cures inner suffering.  Our own happiness is something we must work at regardless of circumstance.  Any illusion of happiness coming from outer circumstances is just that-an illusion.  I have been guilty many times over of assuming that “if I had what they had” (money/fame) I would be happy.  And maybe I would be a little happier than I am now being that I do stress about money.  But the truth is, I can be happy right here right now.  I insist on it.  The allegory of the person who has it all and is still suffering is my teacher and reminder of gratitude for what is right here, right now.

Most Marin kids have a Robin Williams story.  We grew up with him around us downtown Mill Valley, in San Francisco, showing up at night clubs, comedy clubs, trying out his jokes on strangers.  My Facebook feed is filled with fellow Marin kids sharing beautiful and funny Robin stories today with his passing.  He was a true genius and a kind soul.

I remember seeing him in his red suspenders telling jokes and stories to a group downtown Mill Valley.  I remember what a presence he had 100 feet away.  This was in the Mork and Mindy days, a show I loved.

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The first movie my Son really loved was Jumanji.  I can’t possibly quantify how many times we watched that movie.  So silly but Robin, as always, brought his soul and humor to his role making him utterly lovable.  He was a raw performer, a true Artist and I am sure that the intensity of his own gifts were a source of torture for him.  Like many of the greats.

I hope that, if nothing else, his passing can shed light on the seriousness of depression and addiction and the urgency for help, support and treatment.  There is no shame too great to keep silent.  There is no need to go like this.

http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Inform_Yourself/About_Mental_Illness/By_Illness/Dual_Diagnosis_Substance_Abuse_and_Mental_Illness.htm

RIP

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On Peter Pan

My Daughter was in a production of Peter Pan this week at our local community center.  It was good and she was really fun to watch.  Having not seen this play or film since childhood, I was strangely surprised by my lack of emotional connection to the Peter Pan character, or really the spirit of the play.  Why?  I always wanted to grow up.  I always wanted to go to school.  I have never uttered, “Oh, I wish I could be a kid again.” When people talk about their inner child, I picture mine  trying to get a job already.  I always loved the sound of high heels clicking on the sidewalk and I developed to-do lists from age 10.  I think I was born serious.

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*My “inner child”.  Age 4

As I found my mind wandering during the shows slower moments, I thought about how each character in Peter Pan represented an Archetype in modern romance.  For a story that was written in 1901, the story line remains relevant.  I wondered, does the ongoing celebration of this 100+ year-old fairytale perpetuate underdeveloped emotional lives?

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If you have not seen the play or movie since you were a kid, allow me to refresh your memory.  Alas, if you don’t want your love of Peter Pan tainted, I suggest you stop reading RIGHT NOW.  I am a fairytale buzzkill from this point on.  I should also state that I am not touching issues of ethnicity in this exploration.  Just gender.  An analysis of genocide deserves it’s own space for certain.

Let’s start with the central figure, Peter Pan.  A man-child who just wants to play play play.  Peter refuses adulthood and insists on nothing but fun all the time.  And the woman-child who loves him, Wendy.  When they first meet, Peter has lost his shadow (is this where Carl Jung got his theories?) and sneaks into her bedroom to steal it back.

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Having attempted to adhere his shadow back onto himself and fail, Peter asks for help and Wendy obliges. In her stitching, she unintentionally hurts him thereby fracturing his facade of impenetrability.  Shadow intact, Peter appeals to Wendy to come to Neverland and  be a Mother.  She obliges, leaving behind her duties to her own Mother and Father.

Wendy’s Mother and Father are the classic male/female of days bygone (one would hope).  The Father is bossy and grouchy from working all the time and wants nothing but “a little less noise”.  The Mother is busy abiding and scuttling around making sure the house is clean and the kids are quiet for him.  We see that what is expected is for kids to “grow up” and become just like them.  And that really doesn’t look like a lot of “fun”.

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*My Daughter as a Lost Kid on the right

In her new role as a Mother in Neverland, we see Wendy taking care of kids and falling in love with Peter.  Both she and Tinkerbell indirectly express their feelings for him (often competing with each other) and he misses their coy attempts entirely.  Peter is confused, clueless and disinterested. Oy-unrequited Love.

We then meet Captain Hook.  The original Bad Boy?  He doesn’t give a shit.  He is totally fine being “the creepiest of creeps” and laughs at death.  Though his one weakness is his fear of a crocodile who once ate his hand.  His fear ends up being his downfall.   Captain Hook is supposed to represent evil in the good versus evil dilemma but I end up wishing he would win because he is far more entertaining than anyone else.  What this says about me probably isn’t so good….

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*My Daughter with Captain Hook

Peter feeds Hook to the crocodile winning the good versus evil battle.  He then flies Wendy and the Lost Kids back home.

Time passes and Peter returns to Wendy to take her back again (for Spring Cleaning!!!!!) yet to his and her dismay, she has grown up and had a child.  He cries on the ground at his discovery that she broke her promise to never grow up. When she exits the room to attend to her grouchy new Husband, he is met by Wendy’s Daughter Jane.  Jane has been waiting for him!  She has all the same qualities he loved about Wendy.  She knows how to tell stories and stitch pockets and is willing to travel.  So the man-child finds a replacement  in a YOUNGER WOMAN. Shocking…

The End

Ugh

“Peter Pan Syndrome” has inspired many a self-help book and magazine article helping women try and avoid him.  No woman wants to have “Wendy Syndrome”.

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I am going to go out on a limb and say that a high percentage of Bay Area men well into their 40s and 50s could be considered Peter Pans.  Some even call Northern California a “playground”.  Home of Burning Man, the Mountain Bike and Polyamory.  I have met CFO’s who wear hiking boots to work. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year which named San Francisco as the number one city LEAST likely for love!!!

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http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303704304579378902170592732

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When I told my daughter about “Peter Pan Syndrome”, she asked if that was a real thing.  We had a nice discussion about growing up and what it means to different people.  I told her how I always wanted to be a grown up and asked her if she likes being a kid or wants to grow up?

She said that she likes being a kid but that growing up means being closer to death.  That, I understand.

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*Me and my shadow

On Bonnie

I first met Bonnie when I was a teenager.  She was dating Bob, who was a good family friend since I was a baby.  Bob and Bonnie met on the Tina Turner tour in the early 80s.  She was Tina’s PR person and he was a Roadie.  They fell in love and when he proposed, Tina sang “Let’s Stay Together” for them on tour.

Bonnie was from NYC, had curly, red hair, was a high-powered business woman and was Jewish.  I was intruiged and enamored by all of those things.  I wanted to be just like her.

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After college when I was moving to NYC to be a Performer, she gave me a huge, black leather bag as a gift.  She told me that all the Dancers and Actresses she had ever known have to carry around “tons of shit” for their classes and auditions and I would need this. She was right.  She was that kind of person and also had no problem with cussing often.

I remember getting the news that she was in the hospital with Leukemia.  She was young and it was sudden and shocking.  I called her regularly over that next year as she was in and out of treatment, most of which she never remembered. Miraculously, her sister was a match for her as a blood marrow donor and that spared Bonnie’s life for many years.  Unfortunately, with that came something called graft-versus-host disease.

Nonetheless, Bonnie beat Leukemia for 5 years and her remission was considered a miracle.  For many years she lived a normal life, worked (eventually remarried) and although she and Bob divorced, we stayed close.  I had a personal crisis in 2001 when I was pregnant with my daughter, toddler in tow.  My marriage fell apart and I couldn’t work because of a pregnancy complication.  I suddenly had no income, no place to live and was on my own.  In desperation, I considered moving into a trailer park in Eureka.  I ran this idea by her and she said, “No.  Jews don’t live in trailer parks.” Unbeknownst to me, she banded together with Bob and another family member to basically pay my rent for a year while I got on my feet.  She was an angel to me and I will never forget that generosity.

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After I spent 4 years becoming a Colorist, Bonnie became my client.  She was picky-picky-picky and made me better at what I do.  She expected the best, nothing less.  She was loving and devoted and came to see me on and off until she no longer could leave her house.

This was her last visit to the salon in April.

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We spoke a few weeks before she breathed her last breath and she told me that what might end up killing her was dehydration.  She just couldn’t get enough water in her.  I asked her point blank if she thought she was going to die and she said she might.  I knew that she had surrendered the fight at that point.  I could hear it in her voice.

I have never met a more feisty and determined person than Bonnie.  She inspired me and always will.  I was amazed, honestly, that she lived as long as she did.  The amount of hospitalizations, blood-work, surgeries, transfusions, tubes in her chest, weird skin reactions, reactions to dental work-all of which she overcame and any one of which would take down most people.  To the end, she refused to complain and wanted only to hear about my life and push me to be the best I could be.

RIP Bonnie Feingold

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?pid=171776834

 

On the 3L’s

I keep taking love quizzes on Facebook and I have had it with them.  “7 Signs You Have Found Your Soulmate”, “50 Ways To Tell You Are in a Healthy Relationship”, “How Well Do You Know Your Lover?” and so on and so forth.  I can’t resist them yet I inevitably finish embarrassed to partake in such things.  What am I, a teenage girl?  So, I came up with my own.  No long list, no quiz.  Just the 3 ingredients I need these days to be happy with a man.  “The 3L’s.”  Believe me when I say that I do NOT profess to be an expert on long-lasting love. But, I certainly am trying and here is what seems to matter most to me at this point:

1. I need to LIKE you.  A lot.  As I observe married couples who are still happy, they seem to have a genuine respect for their partner.  They enjoy and are interested in each other. It isn’t a tolerance of the other only (I am putting up with you because I am committed to you and feel bad leaving you because I said I wouldn’t but I can’t stand you really).  It isn’t a put on for appearances.  They aren’t staying together “for the kids”.

There is a brilliant study that predicts the longevity of marriage in 3 minutes.(http://www.isoulseek.com/sitebranches/relationskills/articles/6signs.pdf)  John Gottman isolated 6 main signs of trouble in paradise but he emphasized that the number one predictor is CONTEMPT. This is a form of anger which can display itself in many ways but the study focuses on body language and tone of voice.  I can vividly recall myself in relationships that were ill-fated and how that type of poison had entered the equation.  This stemmed from a loss of respect somewhere along the way and from that loss of respect I became contemptuous. And rather than leave, we tolerated each other with a seething anger, eye-rolls and a disdain between us that showed itself in condescension.

2. There must be LUST.  I know better than to think Lust is a good foundation for a long-lasting relationship but it is a requirement.  Chemistry, glances across a room, the remnants of his scent, the touch of his skin.  We really are just animals in the animal kingdom and heat between us matters.  I so wish that this factor was less important to me.  I have ended perfectly lovely relationships because I just didn’t feel “it”.  I have met many wonderful men but without that unnameable spark, there is no future.  It’s what all good love songs are about.  It’s what makes the world go round, makes us want to make babies even when it makes no sense.  We do irrational things, wear ridiculously high heels and give of ourselves.  This fire helps us endure life’s little drudgeries which are inevitable.

3. Last but not least, we must eventually and ultimately LOVE each other.  I am talking about real, respectful and gracious love.  The kind of love that may mean that I love you so much, I want you to be happy despite how your happiness impacts me.  “If you love someone, set them free” and other slogans stick around as long as they do because the true teaching of love is not about possession.  I remember hearing this concept when my kids were born-that my kids are souls that I am fortunate enough to care for.  But they are not “mine”.  Love, at it’s best, liberates us and helps make us our best self.  The people I know who are happily married the longest have this in common.   They love each other through all of life’s changes, through their ups and downs and maybe they will make it, “til death do us part”.

I have officiated two weddings.  One, 20 years ago and they are still married.

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*me on the left with the beautiful Bride.  We were 23 years old.  I was trying to look more Adult but look more Amish?

The other was just last year. Below is the moment when I had them read their vows off the iPhone because I had forgotten them inside.  A funny and perfect moment.

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I gave marriage and love a whole lot of thought for both weddings.  I believe that both couples have what it takes to go the distance and one is half-way there already!  The fact that they asked me to officiate (as an unmarried woman) challenged me, humbled me and I dug down deep to find the right things to say about marriage.  I, despite my many “failed” romances remain a believer in love.

I don’t know if I will marry again.  I don’t know if I believe in Soul Mates or forever for me.  I do know that love heals.  I believe we all deserve love.  I know that after having children, I have experienced love in it’s purest and most selfless form.

I am happy with my guy and I feel all 3L’s for him.  And for today, that’s enough for me.

 

On Princess School

Growing up, I didn’t have too many great role models of marriage.  It has taken me a whole lot longer than most to develop standards and values that I would be proud to pass on to my Daughter for how to be treated.  I have come to jokingly and lovingly call this “Princess School”.  I know when I meet a Princess School Graduate in my chair or in my social circle because life is pretty good for them.  Things are TAKEN CARE OF.  And lest you think I am talking about not carrying my own bags, that isn’t it.  Nor is this discussion about money, material items or being a Diva. It’s really about self-esteem and self-respect.

When I was becoming a Feminist in my late teens, I confused “Having it all” with “Having to do it all”.  I was going to have a career, kids and a relationship.  The man I chose would not have to provide for me.  I could do it myself.  Maybe HE could stay at home with the kids.  I could do it all because I wanted to.  I judged women critically who declared their Boyfriend “treats me like a Queen”.  I had some stuff a bit backwards.

I was 26 when I met Daniel and 28 when we got married.  We met playing in nightclubs in NYC.  We created music together. We fought a lot.  We were in love.  We had our son when I was almost 30 and daughter at 31 and divorced soon after. He was and will always be a great love of my life and you could never have talked me out of marrying him.  But put it this way, I bought my own wedding ring.

When I was in my 20s, I decided that LOVE was all that mattered.  I thought that if I loved YOU, that was the most important factor for us to have a relationship.  Princesses don’t think this way.  At all.  Princesses are rational and decide that yes, love matters but how you treat THEM matters as much, if not more.  How you are treated-not just how you feel about the other person. This is the difference.

We decided to get married on a Thursday night.  We got our marriage license on Friday.  We got married at City Hall in NYC on Monday at 2. We invited the few friends who we thought could make it.  I spent the weekend preparing.  One of my best friends made the cake. My other close childhood friend made my bouquet.

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*disco ball shoes featured are mine

I knew Daniel didn’t have the money for a ring so I went ahead and bought one for myself.  Then I took the subway to the Upper East Side to a wedding boutique to look at tiaras.  The very elegant sales ladies were horrified when they asked me what my dress looked like and I pulled it out of my BACKBACK.

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I had this dress for years.  I figured it was white and strapless and why not wear it? Their tiaras were way out of my budget so I left and got one elsewhere and laughed a little at the thought of how they were probably talking about me.  Clearly, they were used to dealing with Princesses.  On a timeline.  Not a short sale.

I loved my husband. I loved our little wedding.  Our children were born of love.  I wouldn’t change any of that.  I led with passion and my heart, always.  But looking back, it wouldn’t have hurt for me to have more needs, more self-respect and ask for a little more in life earlier on. The two don’t have to be at odds.  This I didn’t understand.

There is so much to say about how we think of ourselves and how these thoughts generate the actions that create our lives.  It could be said that our lives are manifestations of how we feel about ourselves.  Where I still have work to do is as a late-comer to Princess School.  Maybe I will never become one?  I’m probably too old so I should be enrolling in Queen School.  But this much I know-I’d like to stop creating hardship for myself.  I’d like to think there are new ways of thinking that are easier than the ones I have.  I’d like to stop suffering because I think I have to, because it’s second nature.  There surely is something to be said for buying one’s own ring.  And there is surely something to be said for not having to.

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On Vacation

This year, my family and I rented a beach house together and will spend a week on vacation.  The house we rented is only about 35 minutes from my actual house and 15 minutes from the house I grew up in.  At a beach I grew up going to every chance I could. I was a beach girl, back in the day.

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*1985 Stinson Beach.  Crutches were mine from a non-drinking related ankle sprain.  Actually, it probably did involve California Coolers

In my beach years, I had a tan, long Blonde hair and I dated Surfers.  The beachy lifestyle continued through college (location changed) where I studied on the beach, worked by the beach, ran on the beach.  You get the idea. When at last I found I could no longer tolerate ANOTHER beautiful day, I traded health and happiness for angst and suffering NYC-style.  While in NY, I became an (aspiring) Actress, got rid of my Valley Girl accent and avoided the sun as well as overly-happy people. I learned I was actually a translucent shade of white and that I had been dating dumb-dumbs. No men in NY told me, “you think too much”.

I did have this uncontrollable urge when pregnant to dig a hole in the sand to put my tummy in so a few times in that 9 months I went to the beach.

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Besides this moment of glory, I was an Urban Dweller all the way.  When my son was born, we moved back to California to the town I live in now.  As the years have gone by (13 now), the call to be by the water gets stronger and stronger.  I realized this week sadly, that I have become that person that craves a somewhat different life than I live.  And yet I don’t know if I can change my life, at least for awhile. Wise women have told me that the 70s Feminist Tenet of “having it all” is a myth.  We can have it all, just not all at the same time.

Only after I had my kids did I start to comprehend the meaning of sacrifice. The purpose of my life became completely clear.  I felt the full weight of providing and nurturing, endlessly. The necessity of stability and the exhaustion and satisfaction of being stretched thin. Parenting, especially single-parenting, is hardcore.

The good news and bad news about my kids getting older is that I now have more time on my hands to think about ME.  For years, people would ask me how I was doing and I would be…clueless.  Me?  Feelings?  There was no “me time”.  I was thoroughly out of touch.  Yet, I found great liberation in that state.  Me? I am a Mom.  I am working for them.  I get up for them.  I clean, work, think and act for their well-being.  I loved this freedom from the self-centeredness of my past.  The total lack of Existentialist questioning.  Free from the naval-gazing emptiness I felt in my 20s.

On Vacation, we have time to reflect.  I have accomplished a whole lot in my life thus far.  And when I boil it down, I now think I will have really “made it” if I have a hot tub and can see the sunset regularly.  This week I got a taste of what that feels like.  And it happens to be a lifestyle I can’t actually afford.

Or can I?

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