Friday, April 29, 2011

A Few Thoughts.

If I can't admit to my own faults, I won't grow. If I don't grow, I can't change the way I move through the world. Acceptance of my frailties sets me up to hear the lessons I need.

Learning to say what I need to say, respectfully, calmly, and with love, is a blessing not only for the way I feel when I choose this way to relate to another, but for the wonders of response I receive.

When I decide that someone "always" or "never," I'm keeping the two of us in a box of judgement and labelling. There's a good possibility that I get the result I do, more because of who I am, than because of who they are.

Our culture seems to stress financial success above all else, but when we judge someone for their appearance/the car they drive/the place they live, we are cutting ourselves off from the possibility of  "finding a diamond in a paper bag."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is That Ringing In My Ears The Fire Alarm?

One area of life I've always found troublesome, is dealing with "needy" people who are going through a hard time. My compassion for their difficult situation could lead me into not setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries. As a result, I'd get to a point where I felt that the person was devouring far too much of my time, attention, resources, with no end in sight, since the more I gave, the more was demanded. It was never enough.

Invariably, I'd reach a state of resentful frustration, and cut them off completely.  Before Al-Anon, not only was I unable to state my wants and needs clearly, I was also unable to hear the alarm bells going off in that part of my instinctual self which knows long before my conscious self does, that something is not right.

I've learned to pay closer attention - to myself, and to others. When those warning bells begin to ring, I don't try to incorporate them into the music, or dismiss them as a false alarm. I have a clearer understanding of what I respond to, and why. (I also have a better recognition of the rather unpleasant fact, that steely determination can be disguised with the softest of exteriors - that got me every time, because I was used to overt demands. Covert demands were below my radar screen.)

I must accept myself as I am, and the person making the demands, as they are.  I accept my susceptibility, my frustrations, my desires for change - it is what it is. I am what I am. The other person is who they are.

Acceptance gives me comfort, and peace, because I'm not struggling against anything. Experience has taught me that my Higher Power can do what I cannot. I choose to turn it over. I detach as far as I am able, and I do it as lovingly as I am able.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Letting Go Of Negativity - Choosing Hope.

I learned as a very small child not to have hope; it only made the ensuing disappointment and pain much harder to bear. I shut down that part of myself when I was very young, never realising this until I reached Al-Anon, and began to try to work a program based upon choosing to have a positive attitude.

One of the most powerful beliefs I carried into Al-Anon, was:

"Don't hope for the best - worry about how I'm going to deal with the worst, when it arrives, as it surely will."

It rarely occurred to me that good things were just as likely to happen, perhaps more likely, than the worst of my anxious imaginings. I kept myself in a state of dread and fear, anticipating with foreboding, whatever was coming down the road in my direction.

In Al-Anon, I have learned that I don't have to allow my feelings to dictate my mood. I can choose a positive attitude. I can choose to believe that my Higher Power is looking after me, even if I don't always agree or appreciate at the time, the way things work out.

I've learned that if I await the future in a state of dread, I am poisoning my present.

When I choose hope, I am opening myself to possibilities beyond my ability to
envision, and results I wouldn't have considered. I am choosing to live in my present moment, with an attitude allowing me to experience joy in the smaller gifts of life - a pot of unusual daffodils slowly beginning to bloom on my back deck, a huge lily sprout emerging between the leaves of the crocus which have bloomed and finished, the sight of my little dogs snoozing in a patch of sunlight, my husband making me burst into laughter with his wry commentary upon daily life inside the head of a recovering alcoholic.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"I'm Feeling Used."

"A member of my home group only ever calls when she wants a favour, and I'm feeling used.  I feel guilty if I say no, and anyway, a family member of hers only just passed. Any ideas?"

As a recovering rampant people-pleaser myself, this rings a chord with me. I've spent many hours helping people I wasn't even sure I liked, do things which bored me senseless, ate up my time off, and left me seething with silent resentment and frustration. Before Al-Anon, I was a profoundly conflicted person - the inner "true me," at war with the outer facade. I carried that facade like a shield held out in front of me, in the erroneous belief that it effectively hid my feelings. I hadn't an inkling that my anger was easily discernible, and I was a champion sulker.

I was in Al-Anon for quite a few years before I began to understand that I agreed to favours I didn't want to do, not because at heart I was a "nice person," but from fear. I was afraid that were I to refuse, I would spark someone's anger, be disliked or rejected. I had no understanding of what was reasonable for another person to ask of me, and no concept of appropriate behavior.

If I was trying to reason this out, I'd break it down into 3 separate areas:

1. I feel used.
2. I feel guilty when I say no.
3. I think I should agree, because this person has just suffered a personal loss.

1. Is this person trying to take advantage of me? How many times has she called to ask me to do her a favour? Once, twice. a dozen? Does she ever call me to talk, or is there always a request that I do something?
Am I feeling resentful about something else in our relationship, and this is how it's manifesting itself, or is the relationship consisting entirely of favours asked and granted?
Have I said to this person, "Call me if you need anything" and now that she's taken me at my word, and calling, I'm wishing I hadn't extended that promise of help? Perhaps I need to be more careful in saying that sort of thing, if I don't really mean it.

I've had to learn to sit on my hands, and keep my mouth firmly closed, so that I don't volunteer to do whatever it is, from unhealthy motives. I want to offer from a sincere desire to help.

2. Am I feeling guilty because I believe that I "should" want to help, and I don't? Do I believe that if I don't want to help, this makes me a bad person? Am I putting the other person's needs above my own, and then resenting them for my  choices?

I was raised in a family culture steeped in guilt; it was used to modify behavior, and motivate choices. In Al-Anon, I have learned that I can live with a little bit of residual guilt. What I don't want to live with, is the resentment I feel when I allow guilt to make my choices for me.

3. Does a personal loss make someone more deserving of help?  The death of a loved one is a massive earthquake - it rocks us to our foundations, shatters our feelings of safety, and changes our personal landscape in ways no-one who hasn't experienced it can imagine.
Any support, shoring up, reinforcement and help we receive, is a powerful statement of love, and one much needed at that time.

I believe it's acceptable to loosen our boundaries a bit in the area of favours asked and granted, to allow us to help out someone who is grieving. If we've had serious difficulties with boundaries with this person in the past, have finally established some that seem to be holding, and now fear they will collapse, and we won't be able to get them up again, that's a different matter.

We need to do what is going to work best for us. If we can't, we can't. Let go of our concerns about what other people will think of us, and turn it over to our Higher Power.

I need to be clear that "I don't want to do this" is a good enough reason, and I also  need to be sure that I can live comfortably with whatever choices I make.

I pray to be loving, without becoming a doormat. I pray to find it within me to give what I can, and accept when I can't, without lashing myself for my perceived inadequacies.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grieving And Letting Go.

Many of us when new to Al-Anon, are stuck in our anger and frustration with the alcoholic; we aren't in touch with our feelings of grief. When we set out to work the Steps, we begin to realise that we are awash in feelings of grief - for what "might have been," were this person not in the grip of a disease.

We grieve for the hopes and dreams we had at the start; we grieve for the reality being so disparate from our imaginings.  We may have pictured ourselves at a far dissimilar place, by this time in our lives. Perhaps we feel a hot anger, when we  look around to see that we've arrived at a destination, to which we didn't agree to travel.

Grief is normal. Grief is part of the process, and we cannot reach recovery without acknowledging and allowing ourselves to feel our grief. But, and this is a powerful "but" - when I cannot accept, I can't let go. When I can't let go, I can't move forward.

Yes, it isn't right that this has happened, and yes, life sneaks up on us, and gives us a good hard shove between the shoulder blades, so that we land painfully, twisting our ankle, and skinning our hands. We can awaken from years of denial, to find ourselves sitting there, shaky, hurting and furious; our pain and grief may feel unbearable, at first.

We have a right to our feelings. We need to admit to ourselves and others, that this is where we have landed, this is how it feels, and this is not what we wanted. We need to admit that we were completely powerless in the face of that propelling shove.

If I cannot admit that I am powerless, if I'm still trying to find some magic sentence, some way to convince/manipulate/change the alcoholic, I will stay in that place of pain and grief, perhaps for many years.

When I give myself permission to grieve, and then let go, I'm giving myself the opportunity to find serenity, peace and freedom.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fighting Other People's Character Defects....

...instead of our own, is the way to ensure that we will continue to live in frustrated despondency, for years to come.

Sound bleak? That's the outcome to which we sentence ourselves, when we are unwilling to examine our own characters. We can take another person's inventory,  itemise each time they trespass against us, decency and the world, but at the end of our (probably extensive) list, we will be no further ahead.

I can't change other people.
I can't manipulate them into changing, I can't talk them into changing; they are beyond my control. That leaves me with myself. Before I can be willing to attempt change in myself, I need to discover the ways in which I have gone wrong. This is what the Fourth Step is all about - figuring out what motivates us, and why we do the things we do.

If I cannot or will not accept that I too, have made mistakes, chosen to behave badly instead of well in some instances, then I'm not being honest with myself, and that lack of honesty will continue to trip me up. It may be satisfying to enumerate another person's character defects when we're annoyed, hurt, or frustrated, but where does that get me? My experience has been that whatever I concentrate upon tends to intensify - if I focus upon another person's character defects, soon that's all I can see or hear when I'm in or out of their company - what's wrong with them.

Meanwhile, I can be excusing the selfsame behavior on my part, by giving it a different label, or pretending that I'm not really doing what I'm doing, no, I'm doing something else completely, see?

I once heard an AA speaker, say something which has stayed with me:"You know how to distinguish mature people from those who are just adult? By their willingness to admit, make amends, and work for change."

I pray for maturity.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Waiting To Be Loved.

From "Courage to Change", page 107:

  "For instance, I always expected my happiness to come through others, especially my alcoholic parents. I spent most of my life waiting for them to show their love and approval in a way I could understand. They didn't, and I felt deprived and unlovable as a result.
  Al-Anon has helped me to interpret my situation differently."

I love that. Especially the last line. So much of my past unhappiness was a direct result of how I "interpreted" the world and the people around me. Before Al-Anon, I had no understanding of the fact that I had a choice in my interpretations - I accepted them as fact, and used them as a base for all of my encounters with people.

Learning to accept that merely because I thought it, didn't make it true, was a long hard haul uphill. I first had to accept that my viewpoint might be erroneous; then that it might be driven by arrogance, rigidity, fear, or alternatively, by any of the  motives churning in my head - trying to get my needs met in various underhanded ways. (At that stage in my life, I had no way to ask for what I wanted, so I manipulated and schemed.)

Back to my interpretations. I have learned in Al-Anon that I can interpret life differently when I am hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. My interpretations are always darker, when I'm stressed.  If I view my world through a co-dependent filter, I will feel suspicious, distrusting, anxious, and unsettled. If I view it through the filter of the wisdom contained in 12-Step, I will be compassionate, accepting, relaxed, and serene. My choice.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"I Feel Like My Sponsor Judges Me."

"My sponsor moved, so I had to find a new one. I thought I'd picked well, but when I try to talk to this person to "reason things out" I feel like I'm being hurried along, and I feel like my sponsor judges me for still having problems, when I'm not a newcomer."

Choosing, and working with, a sponsor, is an important part of recovery in Al-Anon. It's vital that we feel accepted as we are right this minute, with no judgement of how we should be/could be/might be/ought to be, or any variation thereof.

I, too, have been in this same position, of having chosen as a sponsor, someone with whom I was not a good "fit." I'd call my sponsor, try to talk about whatever it was that was on my mind, and either receive the same pat answer every time, which wasn't at all helpful to me, or, (as the person writing to me does,) I'd feel judged and found wanting, in some subtle, unspoken way.

CAUTION: I'm going to make one of those blanket statements we aren't supposed to make in Al-Anon. Make of it what you will, it is purely my opinion, and, as my grandfather used to snort dismissively, when exposed to "Free!" offers, "worth what you paid for it." Ready? Ok, here we go:

If you feel judged by your sponsor, you need a different sponsor.

Perhaps I feel strongly about this, as a result of having experienced it myself, and in hindsight, understanding how this negatively affected my ability to work an honest program. Because I felt judged and found wanting, I began to edit my ideas and feelings when I talked to this person, so as to appear more "recovered" and "healthy." Only problem was, those weren't my true ideas and feelings, so I was pretending to be someone I wasn't, in my encounters with her.

I presented her with a facade, rather than the real me. This caused me to slowly begin to feel distanced from Al-Anon. My co-dependent thinking began to assure me that if my sponsor judged me, and she was supposed to be the most forgiving and accepting person in my program, then so must everyone else in my meeting, and my feelings of safety and comfort in the program began to seep away. I still attended meetings, but I talked less and less, because I was fearful of being judged, and instead of listening to what was being shared at meetings, I was caught up in trying to decide who liked me, and who didn't, what they must think of me from what I'd already shared up to that point, yada yada yada.

I had worked myself around to quite a state of misery, by the time I received an invitation to dinner, from a woman in my home group. I went, and we chatted about this and that over the meal. As we relaxed in her livingroom after dinner, one of those natural pauses in the conversation was ended by her looking over at me, and saying in that crisp British voice, "Ok, kiddo, what's really up with you? And don't give me any of that "fine, fine" crap!"

To my horror and shame, I burst into tears. (I'm still not comfortable crying in front of other people, but back then, it was excruciating.) In the time it took us to drink one cup of coffee, I spilled my guts. I then sat and listened, while she gave me a short version of what she was struggling with at that very point in her life, and as she'd been in program for a long time, I listened carefully. I was astounded to discover that she wasn't perfectly serene, that she still had ups and downs and sideways jaunts, and that she was willing to admit to them.

We talked and talked and talked, and when the evening drew to a close, and we were hugging goodbye at the door, I mustered all of my nerve and asked her to sponsor me. She agreed, and I think of her as my "first" sponsor, because she's the first person with whom I truly began to work the program, and learn to live my life differently - with serenity and wisdom, and great lashings of humour.

She held my feet to the fire countless times, because she was a woman who understood human nature, and she knew that if she didn't, I'd weasle my way out through some loophole, and continue with my misery unabated. When we were first starting out, I took offense at what she said many times, but even so, never, never, did I feel as though she judged me. She was always willing and able to share with me, how her character defects operated in her own life - she didn't present herself as all cured, looking down on me, the lowly beginner.  She made a point of letting me know that in Al-Anon, we are all equals. Period. No experts.

Even as I'd be driving home feeling offended at some question she'd asked, on another level, the portion of my spirit that craved recovery, kept me going back to her, with my best attempt to answer her honestly. She helped set me on the path of honest self-examination, and for that, I will always be deeply grateful.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Power Struggles & The Three "C's".

"I didn't Cause it, I can't Control it, and I can't Cure it."

I like that little reminder. Encapsulated in that one sentence, is the wisdom of detachment, letting go, and focusing upon my own life.

A newcomer to program once asked me: "Are there three different "it's" being referred to, or just one?" I wasn't sure, as I was relatively new to program myself, so I called my sponsor over, and asked her. She replied that it may have originally been meant to refer to the disease of alcholism, but like so much of this wonderful program, could be expanded to encompass anything over which we had no control, but still obsessed.

The new member thought for a moment, then said sadly, "I don't know what I'm going to think about if I'm not thinking about him, my life seems to have been narrowed down to nothing but the alcoholism."

This is an important part of my recovery - recognising that if I am to change my thinking patterns and avoid focusing upon the alcoholic, I need to find other ways to occupy my time. I need to find something else to do.

I need to pay attention to my own thinking, so that I may recognise what I call "the opening bars" of that same old song of obsessing, and decide that I'm not in the mood for that misery music, I want to listen to something new and cheerful and uplifting instead. This may require that I read some Al-Anon literature, or call a program friend. I may need to ask my Higher Power for help to stop my obsessive thinking, or perhaps if I catch it soon enough, I can change the station myself by finding what I love to do, and doing it.

There will be days when the only way I am to avoid getting involved in a power struggle with the alcoholic, is by remembering the 3 "C's."  Since I didn't cause whatever it is, I needn't accept proffered blame. Since I can't control it, there's no point in having another fruitless argument. Since I can't cure it, I can turn my mind away from thinking about it, and towards life's more enjoyable pursuits.

When life is offering me choices, I pray to remember the 3 "C's" and choose recovery.

Friday, April 8, 2011


"I'm new to Al-Anon, (about a year) and I'm getting wierded out because I never thought of myself as an angry person but I'm getting angrier all the time. Now when I look at my partner, that's all I can feel, p_____d right off at her for still drinking, and me for staying with her. What's going on?"
I came into Al-Anon an angry person; it wasn't even slightly underground in my case. I woke up angry, went to sleep angry, and muddled and stomped through my days with my level of anger intensifying to a boil, and decreasing to a simmer, but the burner was always turned to "on." Anger was my main coping mechanism, instilled in me when I was a very young child, through years of extreme physical battering and abuse. When my anger became too much to bear, I could shut myself down, much like flicking a switch, with a mantra of "It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter," repeated a few times, and then - blessed numbness.
Others come into Al-Anon feeling distressed and upset, but not particularly angry. I've heard members speak of bewilderment and confusion - where is all this anger coming from? Why can I no longer control my feelings?
I think the operative word is "control." We may feel as though we are losing control, frightened at the strength of the emotion, or the thoughts which arise.
This is perfectly normal.
When we have been hiding our feelings even from ourselves, and denying reality, it is no easy matter to begin the slow process of hauling it all out into the light and trying to take a dispassionate look at just what is there. I have heard many members share about a similar slow building of anger, as they continued to come to meetings. When feelings have been blunted through denial, the re-awakening can be agonising. No strength of feeling is lost through being stored, and when the coping mechanisms fail at last, and the emotions burst through the wall of numbness, a complete emotional breakdown can be the result.
We come into Al-Anon at various stages of various processes, but the one thing we have in common, is our need to be validated, to feel heard. And the one person by whom we need to be heard most, is not the alcoholic, but ourselves.
Al-Anon meetings are a safe place to speak, and to hear. A part of us will recognise this, whether our conscious mind can or does, and that part will begin to loosen the bonds holding our denial so tightly tied. That can be the catalyst for change, if we are willing and able to sit through those awful, painful feelings, and allow ourselves to feel them. Recovery is not always a sunny cheerful place - we may arrive at that destination finally, but the journey requires a willingness to suffer just a little bit more. If we've been frozen up in our feelings, then the suffering is going to be considerable.
Behind my great anger was pain - the pain of a child, and that of an adult, all the stages of my life's sorrows, disappointments, and griefs, all shoved behind the backdrop of rage, and left to molder unspoken and unrecognised. When I began to sort them, I'd pick one up and it would rush through me like adrenalin dumped into the bloodstream, and it would have been too much to bear, had I tried to do that by myself. I needed the comfort of my sponsor, and my Higher Power. I needed someone who could reassure me when I faltered, that it would get better, that this was necessary, that I would come out the other side of my first Step Four changed, and it would be good. And it was, but I had to take that on faith, I couldn't believe it.
Anger is a normal part of recovery; if we are not accustomed to allowing ourselves this feeling, it may be frightening. Get a sponsor, use your phone list, call someone with whom you can "reason things out." If you are not comfortable sharing details, that's fine, too - you can say, "I'm feeling really angry today, and I'm uncomfortable with it." That's information enough to be going on with, you can get comfort merely from hearing youself say it aloud. Treat yourself with loving kindness, and don't get into the whole "I should be doing this, I shouldn't be doing this" cycle, which drives us crazy, by making us feel even worse about ourselves, while accomplishing nothing helpful.

Remember the golden rule of recovery: "Treat yourself wih the same care and attention you've been lavishing upon everyone else on the planet."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Challenging Days. Or Weeks.

When I arrived at the meeting last night, and was asked how I was, I replied, after a short pause for thought, "I'm having a challenging week with my alcoholic." I'd meant it seriously, but my listener laughed at the euphemism; they'd known precisely what I'd meant by that statement. Their laughter made me laugh in turn, and I could feel myself beginning to relax, into the wonderful calming space that is an Al-Anon meeting.

I've been doing a lot of meditating, and talking to my Higher Power this week; something is being worked out in me. I can feel the change taking place, although I can't see it clearly. My feelings are rising and receding;  I'm working to let them flow through me, making no effort to fight them off, label them, or deny them. I am, in some fundamental way, calmer and more accepting, even as I am swept through with this "new broom."

I've been out walking for hours every day, and this helps to keep me centered, by expending the restless energy these feelings stir up in me. I'm reminded of someone at a meeting years ago, who used the analogy of feeling a bit like a pot of soup being briskly stirred, and went on with a sigh, "I feel like saying to my Higher Power, "A little calmer with the spoon, dude!"

Monday, April 4, 2011

Surrender Into Freedom.

When we are locked into a relationship with a friend, family member, boss, or spouse, in which we are forever pushing for change, and the other is continually resisting, we are snared in a trap of our own devising; all of our mad wriggling and struggle, only tightens the cord about our leg.

The more pressure exerted in an effort to change the other, the stronger will be the resistance. We can get locked into our various positions, to the point that we are operating more on habit and routine, than from any real emotion. This can go on for years, if one person doesn't seek help: with each side becoming hardened and solidified in their half of the exchange.

When we learn in Al-Anon that we are powerless, we may kick against this truth for ages, refusing to accept or to believe that there isn't one action we can take to force change. If you are like me, you might believe that if you just find the right thing to say, the alcoholic will be able to hear you, and, presto chango! Poof! Problem solved.

I can say, without reservation, that this has been the belief which has interfered most with my search for serenity, this idea that my words will affect change in another person. I've spent many unhappy hours nattering away: advising, criticising, judging, complaining. And never, not one time has the other person changed as a result of all my hot air.

I took the dogs out today for a long walk, wandering my neighbourhood's quiet streets, daydreaming and meditating, and I realised that in some areas of my life, I have surrendered completely - but I have some places in which I'm still hanging onto my self-will and my desire to get my own way, if at all possible. This is a realisation which may have been percolating for a while, because when it rose to the surface of my mind and I caught sight of it, I had the instant gut reaction of "That's what's been getting in my way!"

I came home and printed up a sign to post on the wall behind my computer:

of it
to God.

I need these reminders, because life yanks me off on a tangent, and before I know it, I've forgotten the very thing I thought I'd always remember. 

Surrender. Letting go. Acceptance. I have had good experience with surrender; when I practise it mindfully and whole-heartedly, I am putting down my problem in the serene knowledge that my Higher Power is there to pick it up. I don't have to carry it, consider it, obsess over it, give it any head room at all. I'm much better occupied elsewhere.

I pray for the wisdom to close my mouth, and open my mind to surrender and acceptance.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Shutting Down - Emotional Unavailability.

When we've allowed unhealthy patterns to develop in a long-term relationship, trying to limit previously-accepted behaviors by setting a new boundary, can feel like trying to saw a 2"x4" with a carrot. We may find ourselves on the receiving end of temper tantrums, verbal and emotional abuse, or icy silences and rejection.

Emotional rejection can be a powerful tool of manipulation, because we all need to feel recognised, valued, worthy ... loved. If someone punishes us with rejecting behavior whenever we say something they don't want to hear, it can be confusing and distressing trying to set and maintain a boundary.

Being rejected when we speak up, may stir up feelings of hopelessness about the relationship. What's the point of trying to be honest with someone who can't, or won't, listen or hear? Why try to speak our truth, if we are only going to be rejected and ignored for it? For some of us, it may feel so intensely frustrating to be thwarted in this way, that we will begin to act out, in an effort to provoke a response, any response, from the other person. This doesn't work, because we only feel embarassed and ashamed of our own behavior once we calm down. I've done that many times in the past, and felt awful afterwards. I don't want to be that kind of person, who responds to unkindness with my own anger.

If we allow our boundaries to be trampled because we're afraid that setting them, reaffirming them, maintaining them, will result in punishing silences, we are teaching the other person how to manipulate us. If anger and rejection from our partner/family member/friend the first time we speak up or set a boundary, causes us to let them trample the boundary the next time they walk up to it, we have shown them we don't have the self-respect to say "Back up, please, you're standing on my toe."

I don't need to allow another person's silences or rejection of me, to alter how I feel about myself. I am the same person before and after their unacceptable behavior - I haven't changed. I don't deserve it, I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it. That's between them and their conscience.

We don't deserve to be treated unkindly, but we cannot force anyone else to change.

If the rejection is causing me hurt, I can seek comfort and solace in my Higher Power. I have never asked for help, and not received it. I need to be willing to let go of the other person's choices and behaviors, not sit obsessing about our interaction, trying to imagine a different outcome. It was what it was, and it is what it is.