Insomnia is Evil

Insomnia, you are an evil bastard. I’m working on some alternative techniques to deal with you and finding some success, but alas, not yet enough. I’m still mostly thoroughly exhausted.

Some tricks:  Put an extra earplug or two under your pillow so when one of the two you wear nightly invariably falls out, it is not necessary to wake enough to reach over and open the drawer to the bedside table and find another, thus waking further and making sleep impossible. One other thing to note about earplugs, find the kind that work best for you and buy 1000 of the damn things. Manufacturers seem hell bent on reinventing wheels that work just fine every few years and you may discover that your best earplug choice disappears from the drugstore shelf, never to be found again. Buying the entire supply ensures you’ll have enough of your favorite for years.

Keep your eye pillow within arm’s reach for the same reason listed with earplugs. Anything that can be done before really waking will increase the likelihood of falling back to sleep.

The light-blocking shades available at hardware stores are the best thing since sliced bread. Nothing beats them for keeping out the dark. They’re worth every penny.

All the usual insomnia advice about not drinking caffeine later in the day, not drinking later in the day, keeping your room temperature at a point that doesn’t cause too much warmth or too much cold, and eating before bed so you don’t wake up hungry are  all useful too. Considering I have the smallest bladder on the planet, I really have to follow the advice about not drinking anything. Actually having to rise out of bed is a sure sleep killer for me.

I’m trying this Buddhist meditation thing. I have to become really mindful of my body, then focus on my breath, then move through my body and find tension and note that it is there, and move my mind back to this if it slips away. I find that focusing on my body and my breath forces my mind away from the usual suspects that cause it to spin, work and money. I’m getting better, but my brain seems hardwired to know if I’m going to have to get up in an hour or less anyway and will not go back to sleep, no matter how exhausted I am.

Insomnia is a bitch. Over twenty years of this. The only thing that really makes it better is feeling completely secure, and that hasn’t happened for years now. I can’t imagine that this will be a part of my life until I die, but I’m beginning to think that it will. Maybe it will even cause my death since sleeplessness is blamed for so many causes of death.

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The Pretend Society, by S. Brian Willson

This is from the website of S. Brian Willson, and the post is found here.

The Pretend Society

March 5, 2012

I was once a young man, very much like the young men and women who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan as US military soldiers. I grew up believing in the red, white and blue. I believed that the United States had a sacred mission to spread democracy around the world. Viet Nam was my generation’s war. I did not volunteer, but when I was drafted, I answered the call. It was in Viet Nam that my journey toward a different kind of knowledge began.

One hot sunny morning in April 1969 I found myself in a small Mekong Vietnamese fishing village that had just been bombed, burned bodies lying everywhere. My job in that moment was to assess the success of bombing missions of so-called military targets. In my naivete, it never occurred to me that the countless targets, systematically being bombed, were undefended, inhabited rice farming and fishing villages. In effect, all that mattered was the creation of “enemy” body counts – lots of them – Washington’s demonic criteria for defining “success.” I was overwhelmed in grief as I looked into the eyes of young, napalmed, blackened mothers with children – hundreds of them – lying in their own village 9,000 miles distant from my sleepy farm community in upstate New York. I gagged when I witnessed these horrible scenes of carnage, and later became enraged at the incomprehensible lie that I had so easily believed in.

What on earth was going on? Americans were taught that among nations we were unique: a nation of laws, not of men. In one shamefully startling moment in a Vietnamese village, I realized I had been brainwashed, mesmerized by US American mythology. I was overcome by an irreversible knowledge that a huge lie had been perpetrated by men in open defiance of the laws of the land at the expense of countless innocent people.

I futilely demanded that my superiors in Saigon headquarters stop the bombing that violated both US and international laws of warfare prohibiting targeting of civilians or their infrastructure. My pleas were summarily ignored, confirming that in fact there are no laws of war. The pilots of these planes were rewarded for their routinely successful turkey shoots at 300 feet, while other young men back in the states were jailed for burning the national symbol that represented this very policy of burning human beings – the US flag.

The vast majority of US citizenry were paying taxes to finance this grotesquely criminal war, absurdly touted by political, religious, economic and many academic leaders as necessary to protect our national security by destroying other, far-away people’s aspirations for independence. I staggered at how preposterous and racist this policy was. Later I learned that Ralph McGehee, a CIA officer in Viet Nam, had revealed intelligence that could find no significant support for our intervention there. McGehee became depressed when his bosses in Washington reported exactly the opposite to the US American public. He reluctantly concluded that the CIA is the covert action arm of the President’s foreign policy advisers which reports and shapes “intelligence” to justify desired political policy.

This basic lie has been with us since our country’s origins. We ignore the fundamental fact that the US was built on dispossession and genocide of hundreds of ancient nations of Indigenous peoples, describing ourselves as being “as a city upon a hill,” and later as an “exceptional” people. We celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that was first officially proclaimed by the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637 to commemorate the massacre of 700 Pequot men, women and children at what is now Groton, Connecticut. Today, Groton is the home of the Electric Boat Corporation which makes US nuclear submarines. Thus, our official life as a nation is constructed on a shared denial of painful realities and the suffering they created, and continue to create. Denial as a way of life is politics in US America.

Even our founding document, the Constitution, is suspect. The Convention was conducted by 55 well-to-do White men meeting in strict secrecy, and the document was never submitted to a popular vote. Domination by a very few men and the subordination of the many was made the law of the land, in effect, assuring that inherited property replaced inherited government, commercial enterprises reigning over human liberty. However, that is not how it is taught. As we persist in believing the lie that it is “we the people” and not “we the largest property owners” who govern this country, we assure our continued disempowerment.

For more than two centuries, the process of preserving and expanding private property and profits under the lofty rhetoric of living in a democracy has been assured by over 560 US military interventions in more than 100 countries, murdering millions of people. I did not know this history when I was in Viet Nam. One discovers deceit and secrecy surrounding every one of these foreign interventions (necessary to assure public support), starting with the very first intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1798 and through all of our wars and interventions to the present ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. World War II was no exception. Journalist Robert B. Stinnett discovered similar deceit behind US entrance into World War II, the so-called “good war.” His research confirms that not only was the attack on Pearl Harbor known in advance at the highest levels from decoded Japanese intelligence, but it was deliberately provoked.

Psychologist Carl Jung has described how the psychology of nations with imperial ambitions successfully hides its dark internal “shadows” (harsh truths) by projecting outward its own evils onto other nations described as enemies (“demons”): Everything our nation does is touted as good, everything the “enemy” does is evil. But many of us obedient soldiers who participated first hand in these imperial wars of good versus evil had these projections quickly stripped from our eyes. We discovered in fact that we were the savages, not those lying dead at our feet in their home villages whom we had been taught to demonize.

It is easy to identify our nation’s shadows by carefully examining the images we project onto others. But if we continue to maintain a dangerous, distorted vision of the world, we assure protection of our moral high-mindedness at the expense of severely weakening our grasp of reality. We ensure our own destruction unless we muster the courage to look at our own dark shadows, whether as individuals or nations. Instead, we pretend, endlessly.

How many of our citizens know of the systematic crimes committed by the US throughout the world that have been constant, remorseless, and fully documented? As British playwright and Nobel Prize recipient Harold Pinter angrily comments: “Nobody talks about them…It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”  The US just wouldn’t be involved in such criminal interventions any more than our origins are built upon dispossession and genocide.

Over 100 years ago, noted US socialist and reformer Upton Sinclair bemoaned our corrupt political and media system, and his words still ring true: “…we are just like Rome. Our legislatures are corrupt; our politicians are unprincipled; our rich men are ambitious and unscrupulous. Our newspapers have been purchased and gagged; our colleges have been bribed; our churches have been cowed. Our masses are sinking into degradation and misery; our ruling classes are becoming wanton and cynical.”

Pretending to be democratic takes a lot of effort

This harsh political reality has required the constant managing of the “public” mind to assure mass “democratic” compliance with the undemocratic oligarchic economic and political structures. Pretending to be democratic takes a lot of effort. Edward L. Bernays, the premier pioneer of US public relations, argued that the ability to shape and direct public opinion had become indispensable to the maintenance of order. President Woodrow Wilson was re-elected in 1916 on the promise that he would keep the US neutral, and would not send “American” boys to war in Europe. Once elected, however, ongoing pressures from US banking and other economic interests to enter the war on the side of England required Wilson to develop a strategy to convince a public overwhelmingly against the war to change their minds. With Bernays’ coaching, Wilson created the first modern de facto Minister for Propaganda, selecting liberal newspaperman George Creel to head up The Committee for Public Information (CPI). Creel launched an intense advertising campaign using catch phrases and fear-inducing language with 75,000 traveling speakers (the famous Four Minute Men), ads, and essays reaching every nook and cranny of the United States.

Fifty years later, as noted above, CIA officers realized during Viet Nam that another war was being stage managed from Washington, as the Vietnamese were telling us they understandably wanted no part of our imperial ambitions. This is systematically documented in the Pentagon Papers, released in 1971 by Pentagon insider Daniel Ellsberg.

Now, in the 21st Century we increasingly discover that the so-called War on Terror – actually a war of wholesale terror on retail terror, is itself stage managed, as Stephan Salisbury describes in his excellent expose, Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland. “The plain fact is that if there is no ‘enemy within,’ if ‘homegrown’ cells are not simply elusive but an illusion – as appears increasingly to be the case – then the entire apparatus of the war on terror crumbles in the homeland…What can be imagined has replaced the actual.”

Brazilian educator Paulo Freire observed that manipulation of public thinking “is an instrument of conquest” and an indispensable means by which the “dominant elites try to conform the masses to their objectives.” Everything is make believe; honesty is dangerous. Wars abroad and wars at home must be constantly stage managed to keep the pretentions alive. Our national news constantly stage manages events to conform to our convenient view of ourselves as “exceptional.” Infotainment replaces information.

Eminent quantum physicist David Bohm summed up our dilemma perfectly. Since exploitation continues to be the essential feature of a modern society bent on accumulation of “wealth,” and its popular consumption, man is doomed to ever-increasing confusion, for he has to justify this theft to himself. “This is in fact impossible, except by continual recourse to confusion. For how else can you justify the arbitrary authority of some people over others? You can pretend that God or nature ordered it, that the others are inferior, that we are superior, etc. But once you start on this line, you can never allow yourself to think straight again, for fear that the truth will come out. You tell the child that she or he must be honest, treat people fairly, etc. Just this one point is enough to destroy the minds of most children. How can you square up the emotion of love and truth with that of plundering an enemy, stealing his wealth, murdering helpless people, and enslaving others?”

Viet Nam was not a mistake any more than the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars were a mistake. There neither was or is anything different about these wars. They are part of a pattern of brutality written into our country’s DNA. The long pattern of US intervention policy does not make atrocities by individual soldiers inevitable, but it does make it inevitable that US soldiers as a whole would murder many civilians. Currently, Army private Bradley Manning is accused of revealing to the public numerous and egregious US war crimes in Iraq (the truth). He has been incarcerated for nearly two years awaiting a trial that military judicial authorities say promises life in prison or possibly death. This dramatically contrasts with the recent exoneration (pretend), with no jail time, by that same military system, of eight US Marines, four of whom were officers, of cold-blooded murder of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq, aged one year to 76 years, shooting them at close range in the head and chest. The evil of the US simply does not occur.

Since the first European settlers raped, pillaged, and massacred the local Indian populations in order to claim the land for themselves, we in the United States have felt it our manifest destiny as exceptional people to gain ever more material goods, even at the expense of anyone and everyone else, and the earth. We continue to treat others as inferiors. We are told that these human beings are demons – vermin – which we could only absurdly believe because we as a people have not yet found the courage to look within and discover our own inner darkness – our own vermin – that festers from believing in the lies of our national myths, that we are the “exceptional” people.

I can never forget the eyes I saw on mother’s faces as they clutched their children when they were caught by the bombs exploding in their villages. In a sudden moment of truth, I realized we are all connected. If we continue to pretend that we are not connected, we invite our own destruction, even extinction. How sad that we would pretend rather than be honest, and become real. Living in a pretend world assures that countless more men, women and children, here and abroad, will continue to be considered as worthless, as the power of the few continue their plunder. Our survival demands that we seek courage to examine our own shadows, rather than cowardly project those shadows onto others, and thus begin peeling back the layers of deception to recover our humanity.

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REFERENCES Cited:

Ralph W. McGehee, Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA (New York: Sheridan Square Publications, 1983), 192.

Robert B. Stinnett, Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (New York: The Free Press, 2000).

Harold Pinter, Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics, 1948–1998” (New York: Grove Press, 1998), 237.

Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996), 49.

Stephan Salisbury, Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland (New York: Nation Books, 2010), 1–28.

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Herder and Herder, 1971), 144.

Lee Nichol, ed., The Essential David Bohm (London: Routledge, 2000), 217.

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S. Brian Willson is the author of “Blood on the Tracks-The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson” (PM Press, 2011). Willson is a Viet Nam veteran whose wartime experiences transformed him into a revolutionary nonviolent pacifist. He gained renown as a participant in a prominent 1986 veterans fast on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. One year later, on September 1, 1987, he was again thrust into the public eye when he was run over and nearly killed by a U.S. Navy Munitions train while engaging in a nonviolent blockade in protest of weapons shipments to El Salvador. Since the 1980s he has continued efforts to educate the public about the diabolical nature of U.S. imperialism while striving to “walk his talk” (on two prosthetic legs and a three-wheeled handcycle) and live a simpler life.

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Categorizing

I wonder sometimes, whether the person sitting on the toilet in a fancy restroom somewhere like the Waldorf Astoria or some other place catering to people with too much money (a place I wouldn’t even know about because I don’t give a damn about staying somewhere with obsequious staff or desperate social climbers — a statement which obviously reveals my bias), thinks about the person who placed the toilet tissue on the roll in the stall where they squat to excrete. Perhaps there is no toilet tissue there. Maybe the seat is a bidet, and it casually aims water at the person’s backside, so there is no need for tissue. Maybe a small towelette? If so, does the wiper wonder about the person who placed the towelette there, or the person who will be required to clean it? How bizarre it is that we have as humans allowed ourselves to be categorized as those who sit on bidets and those who clean that towels that wipe the ass of the bidet sitter.

Lapsing

Lapsed. I’m lapsing. I’ve lapsed. From nearly everything.

Lapsed seamstress. Lapsed writer. Lapsed knitter. Lapsed runner. Lapsed cello practicer. Lapsed student. Lapsed lover. Lapsed homemaker. Lapsed housecleaner (Actually, this one gets many lapses in one: Lapsed duster, lapsed bathroom scrubber, lapsed dishwasher, lapsed vacuumer, lapsed mopper, lapsed ironer). Lapsed makeup wearer. Lapsed friend caller. Lapsed snappy dresser. Lapsed reader. Lapsed photographer. Lapsed French and Spanish student. Lapsed cook. Lapsed popcorn-maker. Lapsed wit (I’d like to think I’m a lapsed half-wit because that would imply I was getting smarter). Lapsed activist. Lapsed memory. Lapsed. Simply lapsed.

I can’t really call myself a lapsed sleeper because I’ve been insomniac for two decades now, so it’s a permanent condition. I could only say I’m a lapsed insomniac if I were to start sleeping regularly. I also can’t call myself a lapsed laundry folder because I’ve always been abysmal at that too.

Thankfully, I have not lapsed in tooth care, keeping my body clean, or playing with my children or dog, although sometimes I wish I could lapse on these things too. I skipped a shower yesterday, and could barely contain my desire to jump in the shower this morning. An itchy scalp makes me bananas. I hope I’m never a prisoner of war or part of some other catastrophe that keeps me from being able to wash.

Maybe it’s my hair that has me so stuck, so unalive, so lapsed. I heard someone say in a movie that you should not keep the same hairstyle for decades, but I have not followed this rule. I’ve made forays into other hair places, but I always veer back because the texture of my hair is so inflexible when it comes to hairstyle variety, at least if I want to look moderately presentable, that I end up drifting back into blow-dried straight, shoulder-length hair. It doesn’t do well with layers, mainly because it’s really actually curly and layers turn me into a square head, which is so unattractive. Bangs. Those stick out straight in front and I look like I’m giving trailer girls circa 1985 a run for their hairstyle money. Again, it’s because I’m mostly curly. That’s the other thing. I’ve tried Gresham…er…curly, but I think because I blowdry straight every other day, some of the strands have become straight, so I end up with some parts curly, some parts bent funny, and the rest frizzy. Ugly. Ugh. Hence, no hair style change. Most days, it’s in a ponytail. I look the same all the time and this is boring. Just like me.

Tag: Motivation, lack thereof. There isn’t one of those, but perhaps there ought to be.

Two Completely Separate Ideas — Or Maybe Not

I love the silly rituals of fall, the creatures and trappings of Halloween. I love tromping out into a muddy patch to bring in a gourd for jack-o-lantern carving. The air is a blend of warm and cool, the sun drifting from behind clouds, then hiding its face again. Perfect weather. Ours is the perfect climate for this holiday, moving as it does between sun and rain, the harvest and mud perfuming the gusty air.

And now, for the other thought flitting through my brain…

What I do not understand is why the cultures who are invaded by missionaries so freely take on the religion of their imperialists. And I honestly do not know, but do other religions besides Christianity and its versions go out and take over other cultures? Do Hindus, or Islamists, or Buddists, worm their way into villages of third world countries and offer assistance in exchange for belief in their systems? There is no more beastly means of destroying a culture from within, I think, than invading the people and converting them to your way of assessing the world. It’s horrific. I do not understand why the peoples of Africa and South America have embraced these religions that allowed the imperialists to come in and proliferate. Be humble. Be a lamb. Do not put up a fight as we push you out and steal your land and resources. Just think about the afterlife and all that it will bring to you, all the riches. Look away as we pillage and destroy you. What an arrogant, abusive way this is. Several generations later, after the people have been displaced, their cultures fully appropriated, they then seek the values of the culture that plundered theirs. It is considered a mark of the true obliteration of all that had been there before. We seek your wealth. We follow your god. We are you. Truly, it sickens me.

Mulling over what I’ve just written, perhaps my paragraphs are not so unrelated. Perhaps some of my rituals of fall were stolen from the culture we obliterated to be here, or that of the culture of some tribe in Europe, or somewhere. I really do not know.

Our Illusion of Connectivity

I go to facebook. I go to email. I check all the addresses. I go back to facebook. I check my blog. I go back to facebook. In all, I find not what I am looking for. It is not satisfying. I see posts I share. I read here and there. On email I get Truthout, read through the articles. Find one that is really interesting. Read to the bottom. Post on facebook. Go back to email. Go to facebook. Read Salon, click on the link to Continue Reading. In spite of my solid belief that this election is meaningless, I still recoil when a friend likes Romney. He’s such a self-absorbed, arrogant ass, an emotional toddler. And his running mate, ewww. That guy is a sociopath. I have a physical reaction to them and wonder what is wrong when someone I know thinks this person is worth supporting. Then again, I feel frustration at the Obama love too. He’s not the Jesus they want him to be. He’s worse than Bush. He gets away with more because the Dems have their man so no one is paying attention. Ughh. Go back to email. Nothing. Something from Powell’s. Something from Bug of the Day. Go back to facebook. Share a picture of some cute animal or funny thing from George Takei, but overall. No connection. Not really.

I go to these websites alone in my house looking for a connection but there is not one. I want to communicate. I want conversation. I want intellectual stimulation. I want to discuss philosophy, that amazing talk by Alain de Botton on atheism. I want someone else to care as much as I do about what we are doing to our planet. But it’s all futility, bytes and pixels and illusion that there is connection. Searching from page to page, hoping one of the people I know will actually speak to me, to ME, and not to the general public that is their online community, is an exercise in futility. We claim to be more connected than ever, but we are further from connection than ever before. Just because I can share a comment with a friend I met in the Hague last summer does not mean there is any connection. It’s so minute as to be laughable. I read a story that brings tears to my eyes. Instead of talking to a friend about the details there, I post a comment that says, “Dang, I cried.” “Me too,” she comments back. That’s the extent of it.

I long for stimulating dinner parties with friends. Or sharp banter about books over warm drinks in a cafe. Or even stupid, silly dancing and laughing with a best girlfriend. Yet I know this is an idealized version of community cultivated by movies and books. It doesn’t exist for most of us. It sure as hell doesn’t exist for me. I’ve tried to pull it together, to be the one who invites everyone over to make some feeble attempt at this, but no one ever shows up. I have a serious knack for being stood up at parties by all my guests. I think the problem isn’t that I’m some loser or something, but that I have an idealized idea of how these things should be, and that most or all of my friends have other things to do and are simply too busy.

So I troll. I make phone calls when I’m in the car and can’t do anything else (don’t worry, I have a car phone and I’m completely hands free). I write here and wonder if anyone I know will read what I write. They don’t, but I don’t begrudge them. If what I said was interesting, they would still be too busy, just as I am too busy too. It’s our 21st century, with its illusion of connectivity. It’s sad really. Sometimes I wish I had a big, ol’ front porch in a close-knit community where everyone came and shot the breeze. I know, I know. Too many movies like The Jane Austen Book Club, or Fried Green Tomatoes. It’s what some team thought of and put together on celluloid. I get it. Just like the teams that make families in catalogs look just a little too perfect. Just like Photoshop. It’s all an illusion. I don’t think we are better off. Not even close. It’s lonelier. It’s isolating. And I have no idea how to change it, at least for me.

I Know Who Will Win the Election

There has been quite a bit of speculation about who is going to win the election next month. Since I already know who the winners and losers will be, I thought I’d do the responsible thing and share this information with you.

The Winners:  Goldman Sachs, CitiBank, Chase, Bank of America and the defense contractors manufacturing drones and bombs. They will continue to get trillions of dollars in no-bid, cost-plus defense contracts and bailouts.

The wealthiest 1% of the population, whose incomes will continue to rise disproportionately while everyone else’s income drops and the cost of living continues to rise.

The big corporate donors to the major parties who will continue to be invited to write legislation favoring themselves.

The big pharmaceutical companies who will be able to continue to market deadly drugs with no more than a slap on the wrist, that is, a fine equal to only a tiny fraction of their profits, when their drugs have to be recalled due to too many deaths from side effects.

The people in the present and past administrations who violated their oaths of office to uphold and defend the Constitution by legalizing cruel and unusual punishment (torture), eliminating due process, waging wars of aggression, and even killing their own citizens–a crime so horrendous that when we think some foreign dictator might be doing it we feel justified in invading their country and overthrowing their regime. These criminals will continue to be immune from prosecution.

The Losers:  The elderly and chronically ill who are bracing for the expected cuts (tweaks) to Social Security and Medicare that both candidates agree upon.

Education and transportation infrastructure, which will continue to be shortchanged in order to finance foreign wars.

The middle class, who are in many cases working two jobs, no longer receiving middle class pay, and having to simultaneously support their aging parents who can’t afford nursing homes and their grown children who can’t earn enough to move out and can barely make the payments on their student loans. These are the most productive and competent workers in the world, yet many cannot know from one day to the next if their job will be outsourced and if they’ll be able to find another.

The planet, which will continue to be raped and pillaged so a few can have their cake now and eat it too.

The voters, because no matter how they vote or who they vote for, nothing will change and their best interests will not be served.

As you may have deduced by now, I don’t believe that a choice between two people funded by the same corporations, is really a choice. I’m tired of having an uncounted vote for people we can’t hold accountable. I am no longer going to settle for a vote–I want a real voice in government, the sine qua non of any democracy. I have voted for the same party all my life only to find out that both parties reward loyalty with contempt. If this government wants to have the consent of the governed, it is going to have to start from scratch and learn that you can’t buy consent–you have to earn it.

We are the people. We can make a real change, and choose how to govern ourselves.  But first, the system as we know it has to end.