Posted in Addiction, adventure, faith, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, Musings, People, recovery, spirituality, women

1,825 Days

On this day, five years ago, I woke up and chose to stop putting drugs into my body. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it both is and isn’t a simple thing. You have to understand, and I know it’s hard if you haven’t lived it, but…when you are deep in the throes of addiction your brain tells you stories, and, because it’s your own brain talking to you in your own voice, and because you are very sick and things aren’t right inside of you, you no longer have the discretion to discern the truth from the lies. Your brain tells you that you can’t just stop on a dime- you have to plan ahead, you need to wait for the weekend, you just need to finish off the rest of the dope you have. You’ll have to call in sick, you need someone to help with the kids, tomorrow would be better, next month would be better. It’s going to be so hard. It’s going to feel so bad.

The truth is, you only need to be ready. Before you are ready, nothing will make it work. And nothing can force you to be ready until you arrive there on your own. That place looks different for everyone.

I want to share a part of my story that I’ve been reluctant to speak about for a couple of reasons; I am not in recovery, not in the traditional sense, anymore. One year ago in February, I made the decision to leave the 12 Step world and live life as a free agent. I was terrified, honestly. I had found myself thinking, for quite some time, that I wasn’t comfortable with defining myself by my addiction anymore. I was tired of rehashing the sordid details of my former life in order to identify with the newcomer. Healing from something while reliving it constantly began to feel counter-intuitive. I had done everything that was asked of me, all of it. Service work, step work, meeting attendance, and I felt I was at a crossroads- it was time for me to start sponsoring women or time to move on. I agonized over this decision. I worried that my brain was lying to me again, that I would leave and somehow, though it seemed impossible to me, wind up on drugs, right back where I’d started. But I knew that in order to sponsor women in their most vulnerable time, I had to be committed. I had to buy what I was selling 100%. Lives were at stake. And that made my choice pretty easy. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell someone there was only this one way to live for the rest of their lives because I no longer believed it was true. So, I left.

At first, it was really weird. But, once I found my footing, I realized this choice was the right one for me. I thought I was endangering myself by walking away, but what I did was…I set myself free, and gave myself permission to live my life the way I chose. I trusted myself to make good decisions. And it was the most loving thing I have ever done for me.

The reasons I have been hesitant to share this are not far-fetched at all. I would never, ever want to encourage another person to follow me out of recovery. Every one of us is different, and I think that, scared as I was of breaking from the norm, I knew in my heart that I was done with dope. I knew I wasn’t going back to that life. So, I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to give people the wrong idea, you know?

The second reason is…I don’t want to take away from the fact that I have accomplished something fucking marvelous. I know what my friends in recovery are going to think about this, because I thought the same exact way- pretty sure I even wrote a rude blog about it here somewhere: It only counts if you do it THIS WAY. Well, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t true for me. You know what is true? That my life is not ruled by substances of any kind anymore. That I don’t have to hide or lie or feel ashamed of myself because of the way I am living. That, in the past five years, I have made fundamental changes to my life that have allowed me to become the woman I had wanted so badly to become. The woman I was afraid I had lost all chance of ever being.

So no, I am not in recovery anymore. But that doesn’t change the fact that this morning, when I woke up and thought about what that number meant- One thousand eight hundred and twenty five days- I wasn’t overwhelmed with gratitude. I thanked God profusely and sobbed because my life is so incredibly beautiful. The freedom, the healing, the changes…they are so precious to me. The difference between who I am right now and who I was on this very day five years ago is profound.

When I shared that I didn’t go to meetings anymore with a friend of mine a while back, she said to me “Oh, so you’re cured?” in that “tone” one can get when they think they know something you don’t. Today, I would like to say this- I might not ever be cured completely, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m free. I’m not afraid of myself anymore. I trust me. I’m so proud of myself. And nothing anyone else thinks about the way I move through life can change that.

So, happy anniversary to me.

Posted in adventure, advice, Blogging, friendship, fun, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, manifestation, meditation, Musings, People, spirituality

Hi There!

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Me, excited to share my new endeavor with you all.

I just wanted to pop in here real quick and let you guys know that I am in the process of setting up a whole new WordPress blog! I am still trying to iron out all the kinks- the set up has changed a whole lot since I started this blog a million years ago, and it is making me feel like a goddamn dinosaur…maybe I should enlist the help of my 8 year old? She’s basically a part-time coding expert, thanks to countless hours of Roblox and freaking…what’s it called? That other one all the kids are gaga over? Anyway, whatever.

So, this will be something different for me! You know, my life has changed so very much over the past five years. I’ve grown up, finally, in so many ways. I will always still come here, to After The Party, to share parts of my life. But I am wanting to try something new, and I thought “Why not?”

For the longest time, every morning, before I would pray and meditate, I would read a…well I guess you could call it a devotional? Those short little daily readings to sort of set the tone for your day? I had trouble, eventually, finding ones that resonated with me. Too Christian, too cheesy, too out there. So I just stopped looking.

Well, lately, I have been keeping this running Word document where I would write (for myself) a little nugget of inspiration that sort of filtered into my brain from the ether. Sometimes it happened during or right after my prayer and meditation, sometimes it just popped into my head randomly out of nowhere, but whenever it happened, I knew that was the one- that was my idea for the day.

So, I’d run over to my desktop and pull up the document, and flesh out the little sliver I’d been given. I found that I was suddenly able to keep things relatively short and sweet (which you all know, if you read anything I write here, can be a bit challenging for me) and get to the point pretty easily. I’ve been collecting them for a while now.

They aren’t doing me any good just sitting in my computer. Well, they might be doing me some good, but I’m all about sharing. Plus, what a great way to make sure I write something daily, right?

So PLEASE, keep your eyeballs peeled for the updates, and follow my new blog when I post a link, if you feel like you might get something out of it…even if it is just a laugh. Look for “Notes From Elsewhere”. Coming soon to a WordPress site near you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted in faith, inner peace, Life, meditation, Musings, People, spirituality

Redefining Holy

Holy

Holy: adjective; Exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness or righteousness.

When I think of the word holy, I can’t help but think of churches. Churches and bibles and the feeling of a big, scary God that I neither long for nor understand. A punishing God with rules I can’t reconcile, who speaks in a language that must be explained to me by someone deemed more worthy. The book they say he left for us is one of the only ones I have picked up countless times, only to put it right back down again. The God I think of when I first hear the word “holy” is a God that leaves me empty and cold. This is a God made by men, in their image, a God of religion, control, fear, money. A God corrupt.

There is another God for me, and he has been with me all my life. I say “he” only because that is how I’ve always thought to call him, but it’s meaningless. The God I know is neither female nor male, he has no face that I have ever seen. This God has filled me with comfort in moments of great despair. He carried me through the battles I fought against myself for all those years. He never left me, never turned his back. If ever he was out of reach, it was because I was closed off, because I had pulled away.

Most of September and some of October were hard for me. Looking back, I see that it was me who caused the shift. I stopped my morning ritual of prayer, I stopped meditating. I got caught up in other things- new relationships, vanity, concentrating on the way things look and not the way things feel. I held steady for a while, coasting on the fumes of all the months of work that I’d put in before. But soon enough, I was empty. Nothing left to give, aimless and unhappy.

I’ve come back down to earth again. Sat on my cushion, day after day, lighting the candles and saying my prayers until the words stopped sounding forced, until I felt like I was being heard again. Eventually, the conversation seemed to flow both ways, although it was only I who spoke. My God speaks directly to my spirit. I may not hear him, but the message gets through, loud and clear. Meditation stopped feeling like a task to be accomplished and became, once more, a slow fall into peace. I often sit long after the bell sounds, reluctant to let go of the soft ebb and flow of my breath.

And just like that, all the things began to fall into place. The pace of my world slowed, leaving time to linger over sunsets, time to gaze at the sky and the moon. Just like that, peace returned and I felt like myself again.

I think I will change what I think of as holy. There is nothing more holy to me than the sacred hours before sunrise, as I light my candles and sit on my cushion, in communion with the God I know. The God who loves me just as I am, no matter who that might be today. The God who reminds me that it is not he who must forgive me, but I who must forgive myself. My God does not recognize sin, does not judge my mistakes, does not leave anyone out. The God I know asks me to be gentle with myself when I have been hard on others, helps me to soften my edges, reminds me who I am- no worse and no better than anyone else.

When I think of what is holy now, I will think of the orange sky and the blazing yellow sun as it sinks into the blue-black sea. I will think of the cold, salty air on my skin and the sight of my daughter picking her way across the rocks back to me. I will think of leaving the sunset behind me and turning a bend in the road to find an impossibly perfect moon hanging before me in the sky. Holy is the warm light of the lamp in my dark living room, the scent of incense, the alter on my shelf of stones and feathers, sage and shells. Above all else, holy is the depth of the peace in my heart as I write this, the certainty that I have returned to myself.

Posted in happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, Musings, random, spirit, spirituality, Uncategorized

Rivers

the way you carry it
Here’s a good summary of what I was trying to say, except it took me like a 1000 words. Sigh. ๐Ÿ™‚

In my mind, there are several rivers of thought-distinct rivers all travelling in the same direction, with miles of space between them. In one river are all the earthly thoughts about who I am- the criticisms, the judgments, the pain, the memories, and all the debris and murkiness picked up over a lifetime of living. In the next river, there is the brisk and frigid water of this modern life- societal expectations, the stress of keeping up, the teeming rapids of work, sleep, tasks…the rush of one day careening into the next as time rushes by faster and faster while months and years pass. The third river of thought is older than time itself, much older than the other two. You can tell because it is neither muddy nor rushed, but it flows downstream peacefully, knowing it will always arrive where it is meant to be, that nothing can stop it. Though this river has always been here, it is hard for me to get to. I have spent most of my time being swept away by the other two, and by countless other streams and puddles and creeks that branch off of them. I find that the third river is difficult to reach sometimes, and though I love it most of all, it’s the hardest one to stay at. I am forever being pulled away, sucked back into the muddy waters of one, or the furious pace of the other.

I am not judging this experience, I am simply explaining it in a way that makes sense to me. Have you observed something similar in your own life? Because this is the best illustration for the layers of my unfolding life that I can come up with. There is the emotional and mental aspect, there is the physical, human aspect, and then there is the eternal, spiritual aspect.

In my short-sighted, human way, I have been struggling against the same exact issues since the very beginning of this blog. I suspected that was true when I started questioning the originality of my posts lately. It was confirmed when I took a little walk down memory lane this morning, and saw myself writing about the same feelings, the same moods, the same ideas- with slight variations, of course- over and over. The reason I find this more funny than alarming is a direct result of this spiritual hurricane season I have personally been going through, trying, inadequately, to convey here.

You see, I have been afraid and resentful of the muddy river of my emotions. I have allowed myself to get beat up by the debris of bad memories and sucked under by the weight of my own judgement. I’ve struggled to swim against the current, trying to go back and make sense of it all, not realizing that none of it matters, the past is GONE. This water only goes one way, and all along it’s been trying to move me forward, farther and farther away from those things. I’ve been fighting so hard in this river when all I ever needed to do was let it move me along. All I ever needed to do was let go.

And this cold river over here? The one that sounds like a thousand clamoring voices and all their opinions and expectations? I have been right out in the middle of that river, tumbling end over end, but no matter how fast I went, I never got anywhere. I can’t really get out of this river, not completely. But you know what? I found out that I can stay out of the middle where the rapids are, and along the edges, things move more slowly. I don’t have to keep up with anyone else to be happy- in fact, the opposite is true. The more I focus on just my life, and the people in it, the better I feel.

River number three, that nirvana where we all come from? We aren’t supposed to live there, I don’t think. Not all the time, not while we are earth-bound in these skin suits. That would be nice, but it wouldn’t teach us nearly as much about being people as the other two rivers (and all the other figurative bodies of water we cross, tides we get swept away in, currents that pull on us) do. We all have our own rivers. We all have to learn from them.

I have spent the bulk of my life in these waters and never named them or saw them for what they are. And because of that, I have fought and struggled and nearly drowned, yet never gained an inch. Every time my head breaks the surface and I get to take a breath, I’m in the same spot. I know this sounds grim, but I’m smiling as I write these words. I can break this cycle now and move on.

As long as I am a human being, I will continue to have human issues. I am here for a reason. I have been through what I’ve been through for a reason. The people in my life are here on purpose. That is all I need to know, which means the past can be forgiven, the pain can be released, and I can let go. I don’t need to be afraid.

As long as I need a roof over my head and food in my cupboards, I will have to participate, at the very least, in my own survival. But I don’t have to throw myself into the chaos completely. I do have some say in how much I allow myself to be swept up in the craziness. I can turn off the news, step away from social media, keep my consumption of bullshit low. Listen to my own voice, and let it guide me.

Releasing my fear of the first river, and learning to find my place in the second, I expect that there will be much more peace, much more time that I can choose to spend contemplating river number three. Who knows? Perhaps one day I’ll find the place where they converge. Now wouldn’t that be something?

 

 

Posted in adventure, faith, happiness, inner peace, Life, magic, meditation, Musings, People, random, spirituality

The Walk

I just glanced at my phone and realized that it is already the last day of the month. It struck me that I am ending this month as a completely different person than the one I was when it started. Well, pretty different, anyway.

I never imagined that having a past life regression would begin a chain of events that would change everything for me. I honestly just thought it would be a really cool experience. Now here I am, getting lost in books about hypnosis and where our souls go between lives, learning about how to do hypnosis myself, thinking very seriously about going back to school in the fall for massage therapy…it seems like a legit way to start out a journey into healing others, don’t you agree? I would not stop there, of course, but something about it has always appealed to me. My browser history is filled with questions for google like “What does a spiritual awakening feel like?” “What is the ego?” or “What happens when you become aware of your ego?”. To be fair, there are also things like “45 easy, healthy, sheet pan dinners” and “Weather in Salem in June”, so it’s not ALL related to spiritual stuff. It’s all about balance.

But it’s the content of my life that is most different. The thoughts I think, the new awareness I have of those thoughts. Thankfully, the initial rush of it all has slowed down to a bearable rate, for the most part- for a while there, I felt like I was barely hanging on as my thoughts exploded in my brain. Did I tell you that when I went to see my therapist, she started asking me suspicious questions like “How is your sleep?” and “Are you eating?” and finally, “Would you say you are having racing thoughts?”. I started laughing and said “Cori! I’m not manic, for Pete’s sake!” She admitted later, on our walk back out of the office, that she knew I would know what she was getting at since I work in the medical field, but she had to ask. I admitted that I would have to categorize my thoughts as racing, but I didn’t feel they were racing in a manic way. And I was still eating and sleeping just fine, thank you.

Either way, the thinking has slowed down. My morning prayer and meditation has become the most beautiful communion with…whatever is out there. I am a big sucker for ritual, and I light my candles each morning, light my incense, and sit down on my big red cushion to settle in. For several days in a row now, I have slipped into deep meditation in the middle of my prayers, and this is very new to me. I have always done guided meditations, and I still do, but I no longer believe it is necessary for me- just nice. Especially if there is a particular thing I want help with, guided meditations are wonderful. But finding I can access that meditative state without guidance, and without even trying- wow! It’s incredible, and easy and natural. I also have this experience of energy flowing through me during meditation that is so intense, it’s almost uncomfortable. I have to try very hard not to shy away from it, but to open to it instead. It’s not something I can explain, but it is intense. I just remind myself that none of this is bad, or scary, or dangerous, and try to relax into it. It is just unfamiliar to me- these are they types of things I would normally scoff at when reading books about other people’s spiritual experiences, and now it’s kind of happening to me, in real life.

But it follows me off of the cushion and into the rest of my day as well. Yesterday, I took a break from work and decided to take Lucy on a quick walk, as we often do. I grabbed her leash and my sunglasses and headed out the door, and from the minute I left the house, it seemed like all my senses were wide open and time almost slowed down- it was the craziest thing. The same walk I’ve taken hundreds of times was completely different. I was aware of the feeling of warmth on my legs from the sun. I could smell every flower and green thing that grew along the way. The colors of every plant, every flower, every leaf, seemed a hundred times more vivid than normal. I could see the bay off in the distance, the white buildings along the curving edge of the ocean, the white sail of a sailboat bobbing along. In the other direction, I could see the rolling hills and the lingering clouds that nestled into the dips of the higher mountains. This vista I had seen several times a day for four years appeared as if brand new to me! I stopped to watch three small birds chase each other from a nearby house to just over my head and then back again. They swooped joyfully and glided and dipped, and I just stood there, smiling like an idiot, watching them. One of them got very, very close to me many times, as if it knew how much I enjoyed watching them and was just showing off. As I rounded the corner to head back down the hill towards my house, I could smell the ocean in the cool air as it blew across my face, and still feel the warmth of the sun on the backs of my legs, I could see all the beauty I described above stretching out all around me, and I just drank it all in. I enjoyed every step I took on the way home, not rushing, just taking it in. I even stopped to smell a big pink rose that hung over the fence of someones yard. Only 15 minutes, but 15 minutes of pure bliss. How often do we get that? I don’t know about you, but for me, not often.

I arrived home with the crazy idea that if I keep heading down this path I find myself on, those moments will grow. If I keep looking for these moments, I will continue to find them. And this idea is pure relief to me. The idea that I can stop participating in the chaos and bullshit around me and connect with something better, something real and beautiful and worthwhile…I mean, it makes me want to cry.

There is so much more I want to share, but here we are, a thousand words in. I’ll save what’s next for another day. Have a beautiful day, and remember, wherever you are, whatever you find yourself caught up in- if it doesn’t feel good to you, there’s another way. It’s probably right in front of you, and you can’t see it. Keep looking.

Posted in Blogging, entertainment, escape, happiness, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, pop culture, random, social media, spirituality, Uncategorized

Opting Out

Riding on the tails of yesterday’s post, I want to share with you that one of the most troublesome offenders of polluting my mental space and making me feel…Jesus, all sorts of unpleasant things…has been Facebook. This is not big news. I have posted about it time and time again, I’m pretty sure. (Like I said, I’ve had this blog forever, I honestly have no idea anymore what I’ve posted and what I’ve simply thought about. But I know I’ve posted at least once about this.)

It isn’t really Facebook’s fault. The responsibility for my troubled relationship with that social media platform is solely mine. I mean, I think so, anyway. The thing is, I spent way too much time there. WAY, WAY too much. Every spare second I had, it seemed like, I was reflexively tapping that little blue square on my phone, scrolling, scrolling, refreshing, scrolling. Leading up to the last election, I really spiraled out of control. I jumped on the political posting bandwagon, and flooded my feed (and everyone else’s) with meme after meme of Republican bashing, Trump bashing, right leaning bullshit news clips. I fought like hell to get my point across, to verbally destroy anyone who didn’t agree with me. I was rabid in my outrage. More than one friend unfollowed me. A few blocked me.

Guess what? Trump won anyway. After that, it was months of disbelief, horror, commiserating with like-minded friends, arguing with those who disagreed. More often than not, it would devolve into name calling and real hurt feelings. I blocked my own mother more than one time. Guess how much of a difference any of it made? How much good it did? Not a bit.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything political. I just don’t have the energy anymore. I suppose I’ve kind of accepted that this is the shit sandwich we’ve been served, and though it may be all that’s offered, I don’t have to sit at the table and eat it. I’m just over here, working on me, I guess. So, no more Trump stuff. Fine. I’ll just focus on the other stuff.

Well, that wasn’t working out anymore, either. I joined a lot of groups aligned with my specific interests- some connected to podcasts I love, a few ADHD related ones, a GOT one, of course. I can tell you honestly that there was not one single day in recent months where being on Facebook brought me more happiness than it did disgust.

People cannot spell. How that is possible with spell-check, I do not understand, but it is a real problem. People are anxious and depressed and suicidal, and Facebook is where they go to discuss it. People have health problems, and Facebook is where they go to discuss it. People hate the finale of Game of Thrones, and Facebook is where they go to talk shit about the writers and demand a do-over. People are upset about everything. Every. Fucking. Thing. And Facebook is where they go to discuss it. The place we go to complain and it feels like something was actually accomplished, when in fact, usually, it means nothing.

My feed was filled with memes I’ve been seeing for ten years, “woke” people getting offended and clutching their precious outrage to their chests as if it were heirloom pearls, cryptic, vague posts from attention seeking souls, preaching about veganism, preaching about the Keto diet, pictures of rashes with “does anyone know what this is?” attached, and like…maybe four pictures of my friends new baby (which I love) and an actually funny or insightful post from one or two friends.

I’m not saying I’m not guilty. Oh boy, am I! I’ve gotten better over time, but it’s definitely been a learning curve. My Facebook “memories” that pop up daily have some humiliating little gems. I am just as bad as the next guy- sometimes even worse.

Oh, Lord. My blood pressure is up just talking about it! I’m not even joking. So clearly, it’s no longer a healthy outlet for me. Plus, here I am, in the midst of all this spiritual shit, trying so hard not to judge myself or others, and…Facebook is never, ever gonna allow that shift to happen. Maybe when I’m more advanced or something? I don’t know. But at this time, I recognize that I have no business poking around there. It brings nothing to my life. It makes me feel terrible.

And so, the other day, without even thinking it over, I just deactivated my account. I didn’t flounce, I didn’t announce, I didn’t say shit to anyone. I just bounced. And the relief was immediate. I’m choosing to opt out of things that make me feel yucky. Things that cause me to have unkind thoughts that therefore make me feel guilty or shitty. I wondered briefly if friends would think I blocked them, but then I realized if they are really my friends, they can always call me. Or send me a message. Most likely, they won’t even notice or care.

I don’t need more opinions clamoring for attention in my head. I don’t need to constantly wonder if my humor is offensive, or if I’m a good enough parent, or if something I’ve said will be taken the wrong way. I don’t want to open myself up to being schooled by someone who thinks they know so much more than me, but in reality, simply has a different idea of the world. I don’t want it. I want out. I want out of all of that malarkey. So I left. It was simple as that.

Will I go back? I don’t know. Not anytime soon, I don’t think. I’m looking forward to thinking for myself, eating in a restaurant without checking in, avoiding the court of public opinion and overbearing political correctness. I want to be in a quieter world, with real life people who aren’t experiencing the rush of digital bravery only a keyboard provides. Facebook encourages and rewards false living, fake thinking, pretend empathy, and real meanness. I can’t seem to moderate my consumption, or get on board with the status quo…so I’m opting out.

Sorry, I just really needed to get that out. I feel better now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted in adventure, happiness, inner peace, Life, Musings, spirit, spirituality

Back to Earth

What a crazy, strange, and indescribable past two weeks it has been. I mean, really- I have done my very best to put into words the experiences and feelings I have been having recently, and I know that I haven’t even come close to doing it justice. I have added at least five or six unpublishable posts to my “drafts” folder here, mostly because they sound like the ramblings of a mad woman.

Finally, it occurred to me, in the midst of my utter frustration yesterday, when failing again to convey what it is I am trying to share with you all…maybe I’m not really supposed to. Maybe parts of this experience are meant just for me, and the reason I can’t outline them adequately is because that’s not what this is for. Perhaps, sometime down the road, if and when I have integrated some of what I’ve been shown into my life and seen some change because of it, then I will be able to. Maybe I never will. Either thing is okay.

What I can share for sure is this- life does not end at death. We go on. Where we go after is a bit of a mystery, but who we are, our souls, continue. And while that is fascinating and wonderful, and such a relief…the fact remains that I am experiencing THIS life in THIS body as THIS person currently known as Courtney. So, where do I go next?

Well, one of the things I know for sure is that I must do my very best to fill this life with as much joy and love and fun as I can. This sounds like it should be easy, right? But I have all these bad habits and barriers I’ve built up over time…ideas about who I am that need to be dealt with. It will not be an overnight process, but at least I can see the next few steps I need to take. That’s really all we ever need to see- the next few steps.

Today, I am going to try very hard not to judge myself for where I am at right now. I am where I am, and there’s no point in being mad about it or bothering with regret. I am going to clean out my fridge and fill it back up with healthy foods- I know this sounds trivial, but nourishing this body I’ve been given seems important to me. I’m going to take my daughter and my dog for a walk on the beach. I’m going to leave my phone in the car. I’m going to invest myself fully in the present moment, and try very hard to not think about tomorrow or yesterday.

Knowing that our souls are eternal does not diminish the fact that all that truly matters in this lifetime is right now, right where we are. Everything else can be dealt with in its time.

So, here’s to living in the moment. Let tomorrow be dealt with when it gets here.