Tag Archives: personal development

Discovering the Secrets We Hide From Ourselves (Or, I’m Turning 45 and It’s Freaking Me Out!)

This is part of an on-going series about secrets, truth-telling, and my boyfriend being in prison. The essays that follow are a raw, open, deliberate look at life lived and liberated. And occasionally just a touch uncensored.

A guy I dated a few years ago took prescription meds to help him sleep and I thought that was a very bad idea. Why? Because by day he was frustrated with his work life, and he would constantly say that he wasn’t “living the dream”.

I told him that knocking himself out with a sleeping pill would forever stop him from figuring out what his dream even is, not to mention getting uncomfortable enough with the status quo to ever go after it.

But guess who was – just a few short weeks ago – sleepless, angst-ridden, and downing over-the-counter sleep aids?

Um, yeah. (Me.)

What the hell was going on?? I asked myself once I remembered what I’d told him.

What’s the message here? What’s the truth of why I’m feeling this way?

All the answers I came up with – the weather, living with my sister in a house that needs a lot of repairs, my man being in prison, having the soul of an artist, but needing to work – seemed to make a basic sort of sense, but not answer the question completely.

That’s the tricky part of dissecting your inner landscape to uncover the truth. Your mind will interrupt your search with all sorts of fancy, reasonable-seeming ideas.

Oh, it’s just been cloudy for a long time. Of course you’re feeling this way, it’s hard to live with other people. All artists struggle with everyday life, this is actually a badge of honor that you feel this way! Your boyfriend’s in prison (gasp!) of course you’re feeling wobbly.

But one strange truth I found out many months ago is that I secretly sometimes like him being in prison. He’s away, but he’s here, if you get what I mean. Being alone, but with someone is a very different feeling than all those years of wondering if true love was ever going to come my way.

So, privately, a part of me has been relishing my alone time, sleeping with the shades up so I can see the stars, with no one snoring beside me.

Not having to pay attention to anyone but myself.

And what about those sunny days when I’m cranky and miserable?

Yeah, exactly.

There was another message under all the obvious ones. In fact, there is always a deeper voice trying to come through, but it’s almost always going to clash with your ideas about things.

So I kept seeking, uncovering new layers – like, Oh, I really need to be asleep by 10 p.m. to feel rested in the morning! And following my soul desires to sit in the woods or read novels in bed in the morning.

Which is what led me to realize, as I opened the third book in week where the main female character was wrestling with her dawning middle age, that, Wait a damn second, there’s something here for me.

Because I chose those books at the library. I don’t remember choosing books with the theme of middle age, not consciously at any rate. But there it was, last night, staring me straight in the face.

I’m turning 45 this summer. And it’s freaking me out a little bit.

I feel terrific, my life is interesting, I’m involved in work that’s of my own design. And nobody even thinks I’m the age that I am, including me. So it wasn’t that obvious.

But it’s something that my subconscious has been dealing with, unbeknownst to my thinking mind.

It was like being struck by lightening, when this realization hit me where I sat propped up in bed, under a yellow striped comforter, with the lamp lit and dogs barking in the distant countryside.

I woke up to this truth very all of a sudden.

It made me think about a play I saw in the East Village years ago, where there was a voiceover that played throughout, saying, Wake up. Wake up.

I suddenly woke up to the truth of what is really going on with me.

Turning 45 means dreaming new dreams. It means saying good-bye to old dreams. Or turning and grabbing on hard to those near-dying dreams and trying to bring them back to life.

Am I wanting a baby? Could I even have a baby at this point? I’ve been pregnant twice, do I really not regret those abortions? What about those dreams of speaking foreign languages? Should I have done more with that? What about those manuscripts I’ve been carting around for decades, but never published?

Is it too late? Do I even care?

All the crossroads of my life kept swimming into view, as I imagined taking a different path, choosing something different.

And I realized that doing this work – this heart-pounding, doubt-inducing, emotional, ambivalent, unsettling inner seeking – is the hallmark of change. It’s how the bell is rung, signaling the advent of a new chapter.

It’s not pleasant, and it’s not pretty and it’s definitely not clear … but somehow knowing what the truth is of what I’m dealing with is galvanizing. It’s relieving to understand what the hell is actually going on here.

And with that knowledge came a lifting of my grubby mood, because it had done its work and gotten my attention.

In fact, just now, as I walked down the stairs to make myself a late morning cup of coffee I heard my mind say, “Life is good!”

So where in your life are you uncomfortable? Angry? Sad? Mournful? Hungry for more?

Sink into it. Excavate the layers for the deepest, most hidden meaning.

We tend to be scared of the truth before we let ourselves see it. But once you allow yourself access to what you don’t even know that you know, it’s pure freedom. And that always feels really, really good.

*                        *                       *

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Juicy Secrets, Dark Secrets & the Sweet Freedom of Fierce Truth-Telling (Even When You’re Scared As Hell!)

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When You Feel Like Screaming, But You’re Not Alone

This is an on-going series about secrets, truth-telling, and my boyfriend being in prison. The essays that follow are a raw, open, deliberate look at life lived and liberated. And just a touch uncensored.

When I moved out of New York City a few years ago I shared a house with two women. The slightly depressed homeowner did business via speaker phone from the couch with the television on, which was also where she tended to fall asleep — but she also socialized a fair amount, so she was out and about daily. Not great, but workable.

The other housemate was a transgender gamer who spent all her time in her room. She put black plastic over the windows and kept her own hours. She also OD’d and collapsed on the landing outside my room, foaming at the mouth, and I got to call 911 and handle the paramedics and calling her parents.

She never left the house except for a random couple of hours once or twice a week (and, of course, those few days in the hospital, please forgive me for being grateful about my alone time).

Because in those rare times they were both gone, I would start screaming into my pillow, give myself a loud orgasm, and then burst into sobs.

All I wanted was to be able to do that anytime I needed to.

And I needed to a lot.

My dad had just died, and the man I’d thought I was going to be with forever ditched me so he could keep drinking without interruption. I’d just moved to a new town and turned 40. Oh, and I was deciding to give up acting, go back to school, and open up my own coaching practice.

I was unsettled, to say the least. (I was an absolute mess.)

I needed my unfettered screaming, sobbing, writhing around on my bed (or the floor, or shower, wherever the grief and panic hit me) time. At all hours of the day and night.

Can you feel me on this?

Or maybe you’re wondering why you’re walking around, feeling like you’re on the edge of committing acts of violence, hiding in your car to secretly cry in the afternoon before heading home and acting normal. Well, let me be the one to tell you.

We’re not meant to live on company behavior. We’re not meant to act “normal” and “play well with others” at all times.

We’re souls living out a mission here on earth, and that mission means being in touch with the deepest parts of yourself, both human and other-worldly. Because you’re a flesh and bone human being, yes, but you’re also stardust come to life.

That is not an easy ride.

Society will tell you otherwise, sure. You’ll get told you’re “too much” or “sensitive” or “intense” or “different” if you feel strongly. You bet you are.

Because if you’re feeling anything like this – like you’re keeping a piece of your true self at bay because you’re pretty sure it’s not a socially acceptable part – you’re not alone.

In fact, you are called. You are called to access and admit to the existence of that soul part of your being, to bring it out into the light, and to give other people permission to do the same.

Don’t you ever wonder why so many of us binge and purge? Get wasted week after week? Numb out and stay in dead end jobs and listless relationships? Feel like screaming??

(Oh, did you think you were the only one? Haha! No. It’s everyone. Everyone who’s called, that is.)

And it’s because even when our lives look good on the outside, for those of us who are currently being asked to answer this soul call, there’s a yearning for more.

More wildness. More freedom of expression. The permission to dance – fuck that, to live! – like no one is watching. (And judging and ready to condemn us as crazy.)

That’s why living with other people can be so unbelievably awful. We’re programmed to do everything exactly as if we’re being watched all the time. And if you don’t have alone time (or if you haven’t yet granted yourself permission to let it all hang out when you are alone), you can start to get very pent up.

My boyfriend is currently in prison, and every single letter we write gets read by someone. Our phone conversations are listened to, and every couple of minutes a recording comes on that says, “This is a call from a federal prison,” in an unnaturally calm automated female voice.

I can’t even imagine what it feels like to be on the inside, because just my few experiences of visiting and being watched, assessed as a risk, frisked and controlled, have made me want to find a cave in the forest I can live out the rest of my life in.

So, how to be your socially unacceptable, soul-aligned self and still have friends and loved ones? And not have anybody call the cops so you have to live in total lock-down because the world calls you crazy?

You can head to the woods and let loose there.

You can wait for everybody to leave the house.

You can tell the people you live with that you’ll be letting it all hang out in your room, and not to worry, you’ll be fine in a minute. (Wouldn’t that be so liberating?? To be able to live with people who were cool with you sobbing hysterically, then, when you were done, laughing over hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen?)

Other than solitude, I believe that would be the best option. But it’s not for everybody. And I’m not doing it in my current situation, I admit it, but, boy, does it sound better than holding it all in, amirite?

But it would take making sure you were living with the right people. Everyone thinks that truth-telling is about being indiscriminately honest all the time. It’s not. It’s about being discerning. And kind. And honoring yourself. All at the same time.

A friend of mine told me that the first time he watched his new girlfriend do just that – take a moment to honor her need for emotional release and to howl and cry – he felt something inside him lift up and get set free. Just by witnessing her release.

But, what about the neighbors?

Well, there’s my friend who, in the throes of a very hard break-up, started doing what he called “car-tharsis”. He’d drive his car somewhere remote and let himself go.

Because that’s what all this desire to scream, and cry and get it all out is for – catharsis. (Or if you’re only able to find your sacred solitude in your car … you get the picture.)

Catharsis very very good. In fact, if you’re feeling any urge to find release, it become downright necessary. Sure, it looks scary and ugly and unpredictable, but when done right you come out the other side lighter and closer to God. Healed.

And better able to follow through on your soul mission, which is exactly what you’re here for.

They Told Me Not to Tell But I Am Anyway (The Secret Freedom of Fierce Truth-Telling)

This is the first in an on-going series about secrets, truth-telling, and my boyfriend being in prison. The essays that follow are a raw, open, deliberate look at life lived and liberated. And just a touch uncensored.

I remember the first time I was told to keep a secret. My mom said there were some things you don’t share outside the house. In this case I had announced at the local general store that my parents were fighting. I was three years old.

I kept a lot of secrets after that. Secrets about my neighbor’s stepfather performing oral sex on us. We were four years old. Secrets about my best friend’s father sneaking into the den where we slept and fingering us. My favorite live-in “uncle” holding me on his lap while he had an erection. When I spoke to him about it many years later he told me, “You were a very provocative five year old.”

I made sure not to tell anyone.

I felt disgust growing inside of me, a plague for one. My body held onto all those secrets and turned them against me. When I was twelve, I lied about having a boyfriend at summer camp, so I could feel worthy. Because something always felt terribly wrong with me and I was desperate to hide it.

I talked a lot to deflect attention away from that feeling of wrongness. I ate too fast and too much, in an attempt to bury the secrets and the lies. And I threw it all up again so I could feel light and free.

But the disgust always returned. Because I kept the secrets. Even from myself I kept the secrets, and I replaced my knowledge with the belief that there was something wrong with me instead.

And then I got tired. It took a lot of years, but finally I couldn’t hold down the secrets anymore. And I started telling all of them. To everybody. To myself.

And I discovered something amazing.

When you tell the truth, you feel better.

So I don’t keep secrets anymore.

That’s why I tell everyone I meet that my boyfriend is in prison. I just announce it everywhere I go. To the guy helping me choose the right jumper cables at the local tractor supply store, I tell him I’m happy he’s here to help me because my boyfriend’s in prison. To the young teller at the bank when she asks if I live with my boyfriend, I say, No, I don’t, because he’s in prison.

I tell them the whole story if they’re interested, and I have every intention of telling the whole story publicly at some point. Not today, because I’m not ready yet, and we’re right in the middle of it, and because I don’t feel entirely safe sharing the details openly when there are legal proceedings happening.

And that’s part of the process of becoming a fierce truth-teller – being patient with yourself, letting things unfold, noticing new truths as they surface. Allowing the flow of truth to happen, and being loving with the parts of you that are scared.

And finding people who are guardians of the truth to support you. That’s hugely important.

My boyfriend would be fine with me sharing it all openly.

“Tell everybody anything you want!” That’s what he says.

If I had to name one reason I am crazy about this man it wouldn’t be his flashing blue eyes or unbelievable confidence. His ability to build beautiful things by hand. Or even his hunky biceps and the way he says things to me like, “If you were a flower, every petal would be a different color.” No, it would be his unflinching honesty and directness. The idea that I’ve finally met someone who loves to tell the truth as much as I do is the biggest relief I’ve ever known.

“I can’t do it anymore,” he says when I ask him why he’s so direct. He says he startles a lot of people (I know the feeling), but he just got tired of pretending, and doesn’t have the time to waste anymore.

Exactly.

I don’t have the time to waste anymore either. On lying to myself or making myself look a certain way to outsiders. On overeating and purging in an attempt to feel ok.

Because what happens when you start to tell the truth is that you clear out all those old lies you’ve been dragging everywhere with you. Lies that tell you you’re not good enough. That you’ll never get it right. That what other people think about you is more important than what you believe about yourself.

Once you start telling the truth, all those lies disappear. And you’re left clean, right down through your center. You have an open heart. Your bones and teeth and blood sing with the lightness and freedom of truth, instead of being clogged with pretending.

And you become a clear channel for the voice of God. You finally get to claim your birthright as a beloved child of the universe. (That’s the biggest truth of all.)

So what’s a secret you’ve been refusing to tell? Admit it right now, inside yourself. Then find somebody to tell. If they panic at your truth-telling or put a disgust vibe all over it, tell someone else. Move on!

People who insist on secret-keeping still believe in shame. They believe that what other people think is more important than anything else.

But you can believe differently. And you can always tell me.

Because you don’t have any time to waste.

When Things Don’t Go Your Way & What to Do About It

It’s a painful time, isn’t it? The 2016 Presidential election brought all of our demons to the surface in a way that is scaring us all. It doesn’t matter which side of the election you’re on (seriously, it doesn’t matter, and I’ll get to that in a minute), the temperature of our world changed this fall and we’re all stuck dealing with it.

As for me, I’ve had some really difficult-to-swallow things happening in my personal life that I’m not going to talk about today – but I will say that the rocky, shifting ground we’re standing on publicly is very similar to the personal ground I’m standing on.

How about you? How’s your personal ground? How are you feeling about the world these days? And how are you dealing with it all? Are you feeling stuck in helpless rage? Or are you discovering a new layer of resilience you never knew you had? Is your purpose becoming clearer to you? Are you finding yourself rejecting people who believe differently from you? Or are you discovering an underlying unity between you and other people that you never allowed yourself to experience before?

I throw all these personal inquiry questions at you because whenever life goes badly (as in, not according to our personal wishes!), we are faced with a choice.

We can use what’s happening as a chance to deepen our self-knowledge.

Or we can fight reality so hard that we lock ourselves into an identification with what’s happening and wind up trapped – and unable to feel peace, calm, joy, connection or trust unless life suddenly starts adhering to our commands.

But … is life something that we can control?

The New Age Law of Attraction movement would have you believe so. And how many religions rely on prayer as a means of attempting to control the outcome in life?

But, well, life would seem to tell us otherwise, wouldn’t it?

I love what Viktor Frankl has to say about this (he was the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, a concentration camp survivor and a psychiatrist). He talks about how we’re constantly demanding things of life, but refusing to recognize that perhaps Life is asking something of us.

It blew my mind when I first came across that idea. What, you mean life isn’t here to give me the perfect, “best” life?? You mean Life might be asking something of ME??

When things don’t go the way we want them to – we get older, a lover leaves, someone dies, our business fails, our candidate doesn’t win the election – we have a moment of existential crisis that, when mined for revelations, carries with it an incredible potential.

It’s the potential to see ourselves more clearly. To notice where we’re still identified with the shifting sands of life. To see how connected we really are to the underlying spirit of life (I call this getting God-aligned, but you can use any phrase that suits you).

Between the election, my response to other people’s reactions to the election, and the craziness that has gone down in my personal life in recent weeks, I found myself in exactly that place.

I reached for the booze first – a delicious two night private extravaganza of fresh-made whisky sours accompanied by a few American Spirit cigarettes and Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban country music. Then, to get myself off the sauce, I promised myself ice cream. A few weeks of daily ice cream eating ensued (and I’m not completely done yet).

But, even as I took care of my panicking inner little girl, I also made sure to set aside some time to actually process what was happening for me.

That meant that last weekend I took a friend up on her offer to dog sit at her remote farmhouse, out of cell range. I hit the library up for all the spiritual books I could carry out, and got ready to sit in silence, to wander the woods in the snow, to keep my feet to the inner fires of panic, fear, doubt, grief, sorrow, and rage.

I didn’t react to any of. I wasn’t screaming at anyone. I wasn’t binge eating (the ice cream was a soothing medicine, not a covering up, do you get the difference?). I kept myself off the internet for 48 hours. I didn’t call up any friends and complain.

I just kept myself in an extended encounter with my inner experience. I questioned everything. I raged and I cried. I laughed at the absurdity at it all.

And, slowly, a picture began to emerge. Of old beliefs that were still haunting me. Namely that Life owed me something, and that I was a failure if I didn’t get it.

That I believed there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way for things to go down, and that I was extremely uncomfortable and unhappy about much of what was going down in my personal life, and out in the world.

I’ve seen those kinds of beliefs – and the horrified reactions by their owners when life does not conform to their standards – in living color on social media since the election. People whose candidate won have gloated like mad. People whose candidate lost, have been directly questioning the sanity of those on the other side.

People have been judging each other openly and harshly like I have never seen before.

Curiosity and connection have been nowhere to be found.

When I attempted to bring a little bit of reflection to the conversation on Facebook, I was met with blind rage and acting out, or attempts to convert me to a side.

I have my own political views, opinions, and preferences, and I voted in this election. But I also am very clear that until we know ourselves better, and are willing to know and understand the other side fully and completely, we will continue to do battle – both inside ourselves (anytime you punish yourself with a self-destructive behavior) and out in the world (hate crimes, war, believing it’s us against them).

Why is it so hard for those who saw their values and personal selves reflected in the Obama presidency to recognize that there were many people who didn’t, but who now see themselves reflected in a Trump presidency?

Why do we all cling to the idea that one side is right, the other wrong, and join in a violent, raging battle against each other?

Again, this is exactly the same thing you experience inside yourself when you are filled with violent self-loathing that leads to unprotected sex with strangers, marriage to someone your mom likes, but you don’t, forty years in a career that’s safe but soul-killing. You are denying a part of yourself. You don’t have inner unity.

What about people who have the belief that there is a certain standard we need to have in our first family? People who thought Jackie O was classy, and that Melania Trump is not, and that somehow that is wrong/bad?

Is it?

I mean, maybe you have a preference for what you’d like to see in your First Lady, but is there a rule about it?

What about women who feel represented by Melania, who see themselves reflected at last in the new First Family, in a way they never have before? Is that wrong or bad?

I’m going to share what a friend wrote in response to a post I put up suggesting that slut-shaming our new First Lady is simply not cool (in case you aren’t aware, Melania Trump has posed nude and some people who are not on her side have been weirdly excited to condemn her for it).

Ok, so here’s what my highly educated, world traveler, feminist, Democrat friend had to say:

“My disdain for our new FLOTUS’ involvement in soft porn is neither misogynist nor partisan because I apply the same standard to men and Democrats. Suppose President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, had agreed to be photographed naked with his bare, erect penis hanging out and a come-hither look. My respect for him would have been diminished–no matter how “beautiful” or “natural” his body is.”

What do you think?

Because it got me wondering (aside from the wildness of the comment, itself!):

Who decides the standards? If America is built on the ideal that it’s a government by the people, for the people, who gets to decide which people? When I suddenly don’t feel like my personal identity is represented by my government, is that the moment that I try to take the government down? Or am I willing to stand up and insist that everybody be represented at all times?

And when exactly is disdain useful? If I’m a feminist, don’t I have to make sure that all women feel safe to self-express? And not just express themselves according to my personal standards of “decency”?

Do you see the irony at play here?

Another friend, same description as the first, said this about Melania:

“She may have used her youth, beauty, and sexuality as a commodity, perhaps she didn’t feel she had anything else to offer or any other means of power.  She has power now and a platform, maybe she can send a message that a woman’s self esteem and power can come from her spirit, her mind, her intelligence, her strength, her deeds. Wouldn’t that be great?”

But what if all of that is good? What if expression via the human body is an equivalent to using our spirit, mind, intelligence, etc? Why do we so love to rate things on a scale of good or bad? Why are we so excited by and attached to judgment?

What this election has highlighted is that we – as those fabulously self-identified creatures, human beings – still hold tightly to the belief that life is supposed to be a certain way.

Namely, life is supposed to be all about me and my clan and our very specific and narrow perspective.

But what of our capacity to expand how we define “us”? What if we’re all “us”??

Why are we so afraid to lay down our identities for a moment, and listen, really listen to the other side? Why has this election polarized us even more, so that everyone is grasping ever more frantically onto their identification with certain political parties, ways of being human, and to the belief that there’s only one right way to do anything?

I actually find this moment rife with potential and more than a little bit exciting. Just like the craziness that’s erupted in my personal life.

This moment, this polarized, electric moment, is the exact moment we’ve all been waiting for. This is the moment in time where we can see ourselves reflected clearly. To see where we’re stuck in a stagnant identification program. To see where we’re limited by us vs. them/right vs. wrong.

This whole dualistic system that starts with black and white thinking and manifests as a two-party political system is what we’re being asked to take a long, hard look in the mirror at.

Not to mention how dualistic black and white thinking shows up in our relationship to ourselves. I mean, how many times have you told yourself you were a failure because you ate ice cream or drank booze? And where did that condemnation get you? I know when I was living inside that wonderful paradigm, that way of thinking got me so full of hate for myself that I would binge eat and vomit. How’s that for productive?

What’s the world stage equivalent of bulimia? It’s the hate crimes in reaction to the uncomfortable feeling that not everybody is like you. And I would like to emphasize here that there is absolutely zero distinction between someone who perpetrates a hate crime and someone who lies and says a hate crime was perpetrated against her. They are equally committed to the paradigm of hate.

And if we want new solutions, we need to walk ourselves right out of that worldview.

How do we do that?

We walk directly into the pain of it all without reacting. Without making anyone wrong. Because it’s hard to confront difference with openness. It’s hard to look at ourselves without judging. It’s hard to accept other people just as they are. It’s hard to take the high road and be the bigger person.

But what if doing exactly that is the portal to shifting the way things are showing up in the world?

What if the pain of being an us vs. them is exactly what Life is asking us to encounter and transform right now? 

If you like what you read here, please pass me along to your friends!

Life Lessons from a Country Girl Summer (Decide Shit. And Other Helpful Gems.)

I spent the summer in rural upstate New York, bouncing between unfinished houses, dog-sitting gigs, and camping out in the wilderness. Oh, and sleeping in my car.
I wanted a wild summer, time in nature that would remove the comforting cover of predictable, indoor living, so that I could have a true encounter with myself, and go deeper with some healing on old, stuck places.
It was amazing.
Healing. Riveting. Terrifying. Bottomless. And truly fulfilling. I’m in a totally new place.
And I want to share with you the things I learned that made new transformation and fulfillment and a vaster experience of inner freedom possible. Take it and run!

img_4842A few of the most life-altering things I’ve learned/re-learned this summer:

  • You don’t have to be happy all the time. It’s alright if sometimes you feel not too great. You’re not a failure, you’re a human being.
  • If you cook this morning’s eggs in last night’s hamburger grease you will really, really like breakfast.
  • When you do the absolutely crazy thing that you’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time you will like yourself more.
  • Life can be extraordinarily messy. You’re not a loser because of this. Don’t believe everything you see on social media. Mess is okay, it’s part of living full-out and well.
  • You have friends. People you forgot about love you and will be super excited to see you again. They will invite you into their home and cook you dinner and make you cocktails if you let them. It’s amazing to let in the flood of love.
  • Children are wild creatures and worth spending time around. Even when they pee on the trampoline or cry over rice. You will find them fascinating examples of how to live full-out and embrace being human.
  • You have to decide shit. Life will happen to you, randomly, otherwise. Decide.
  • Fear is looking for an in-road. You are not available. Why not? Because fear is NOT REAL. Stop pretending like it is.
  • Shame is not real either. Your objects do not quantify you. You are an immortal essence. Live like it.
  • You have something staggeringly beautiful and singular about you. Let it out to play.

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