Friday, July 15, 2016

Just like the song says

It's that moment when suddenly you're faced with your worst nightmare becoming a reality. Except it's worse than your worst nightmare, because you never could have imagined it happening to you. And then the 'what if's' and 'should'ves' 'could'ves,' and 'if onlys' flood in. And you find yourself screaming to the ceiling trying to escape your own reality. Your body tries to flee from itself and its this harrowing, hollow and yet suffocating feeling. It's like trying to swallow tears, only the lump is larger than anything you could imagine.

And that's just the beginning. After the worst has happened you realize the worst does  happen, and does indeed to you, not just to those people you hear about on television.  In the aftermath of having the worst happened, after your grief has subsided, you begin to share everyone else's worst. A tragedy on the news and you become that mother, father, son, daughter who lost suddenly. Who was unable to protect or change the fate of their loved ones. And you are grieving beside them.

I can't separate myself from the recent tragedy in Nice. I feel their grief, their helplessness in trying to help their family members, unable to save them from death, injury, pain. I feel their hollow, aching heart. I see the ghosts of innocence, hurt and abandoned. And I am stunned, agony stricken and sickened. The road of grieving is long and tortuous, and once you've been on it and have paved the way for someone else, you become the roads shoulder, never leaving its path.

What seemed to be a very typical, friendly event turned completely upside down for those people. Everything can change in an instant. Before, I would hear that; "everything can change in an instant, live in the present, etc. etc.," and I would listen for a quick moment, nod my head and quickly move on to other things; that's not going to happen to Me. Now, I know. I know what that instant feels like; how helplessness strangles you and your memories become shadows. I know it to its deepest. It's ugliest. I know it's stillness. And I know its most beautiful, because today and everyday, I smile at this moment. Because this moment is not that one.

Friday, August 7, 2015

august 7

I imagine myself years from now on this same day, sitting here on this swing dedicated to my middle child, reflecting back to those five days in 2013. And I am sure each time, tears will spring up, as they do now. To remember those five days, the hours after Winona's birth, is both torture and beauty.  As each year passes, I am able to add to the list of gifts she has given us.

Today, the air is still. A few rain drops softly break the silence. Of course I wish I was holding her, singing with cupcakes and candles, I know she is everywhere. And although I still ask why, I also smile at her grace, her courage, the way she looked at me whenever I entered the room and of course where I am now; surrounded by all of her gifts.

Life gives and takes, and some days its gifts are so difficult to find. I know within those five days she was here with us, I couldn't see past the darkness. Today as I hold her little brother, the most precious gift of all, I see behind the darkness and I realize her beauty even more.

Today, is her second birthday. In remembrance of my strong willed, courageous and beautiful little girl. Who else could have changed the world the way you did in just five short days? I love you forever.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

august 12

She took a deep breath,
declared her heart free
and Thanked herself 
for being so patient with it. 

She is the breeze. The sky. Everything around us.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Happy Birthday Winona

Nearly three years ago I set up this blog as a way for me to "vent" my frustrations that came with being an artist and a mom. At the time, I was a stay at home mom to a 6 month old, and things were, hard. At least they felt that way then. I was having a hard time balancing the responsibilities of motherhood with my desire to make art, or become a successful artist (contrary to popular belief, just making art often lies outside of what it means to become a successful artist, but more on that in another post). Regardless, the  blog was a success and my art, well its still a work in progress. Through my writing (typing) I have been able to process ideas about my art, motherhood and life.

In my first post about Winnie, I apologized for venting about something other than art and then quickly realized that it was about art; that life is about art. Both art and life encompass all that is ugly and beautiful and frustrating. They are both about successes and failures, love and loss. Despite what they tell you in graduate school, there is no denying that art and life lie parallel to one another. Since Winnie's birth and death, this blog has been mainly about her and all that she has taught me.

Simultaneously, however, I have continued making art! Still frustrated, still hoping to complete 'that one painting.' But again, like life, every painting is another overturned stone, in search of the 'truth.' And a year later, I don't know the truth, nor do I know why she had to die, why I became the mother I did, why I can't make paintings like that guy, or be in that gallery. But I do know that with the ugly, comes the beautiful. Winnie taught me that. You never know what the next stone will bring.

I never thought I would be announcing the birthday of a dead child of mine. Never. Not ever. But none of us can predict these things. And so here I am, exactly a year after I first looked into Winnies eyes, and I am still processing, still failing and succeeding, still frustrated and grateful, still an artist, and still Winnie's mom.

Happy Birthday Day Love, to my precious, Winnie in the sky.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

August 7: full of life

None of us ever wants to experience death. In any form, it is a terrifying subject. The thought of ever losing a loved one can create such turmoil inside that we just draw the shades and keep busy. I did the same until I had to walk to the very edge with death. Holding my newborn daughter as she crossed over from life to death, screaming at my loss of control, of the inevitability of losing this precious little girl. Forever. Trying to choke down that moment; her touch, her hands, her tiny toes, for I would never see them again. My shade is no longer drawn because I saw it happen, I know it happens and will for all of us.

Fear of mortality can get us into all sorts of precarious situations. Denial for one, but more importantly a loss of presence. While I didn't used to, today I like slow days. I listen. I taste. I memorize all the ways my daughters moves, the way her hugs feel. Today I appreciate all my gifts; my family, my husband, my working legs. So much so that at times I feel I can't squeeze them into every moment enough. But then I remember to listen: to this moment and everything it gives me.

The idea that you should live every moment like it's your last, always seemed hokey to me. Now, however, I describe my life before Winnie and my life after Winnie. Before I thought I had a plan, and control over that plan. I know now that you never know what is around the next moment. All you have is this moment. The most important moment is now. So, what are you going to do?

As we approach Winnie's first birthday I think of life, not death. She brought us so much life. She taught us to listen, to move slower and to think about what is really important. I think of all the gifts she has given me. And of course, how much I miss her.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

the shape of us

Just a year ago, my family bought our first house. Since then, these walls have seen a lot of transformation, both structurally and emotionally. The house has become something we have poured ourselves into with pride and drive. New shelves, floors, paint colors, a sandbox, a bar are all just a few of the things we have kept ourselves busy with. This house is our foundation. It provides security, warmth, a place to sleep and most importantly, it keeps us together. This house signifies our attempt at control. It is here that everything is in place. It feels; protected. Permanent.

The foundation of my most recent work has been destructed buildings. The idea and metaphor behind the use of buildings, is that these destructed man-made structures signify a loss of control, of impermanence, and also our attempt to control the environment. My own loss has showed me how vulnerable we are in this life, despite the structures, physical and mental, we try to employ for some attempt at control.

The act of building itself, says a lot about the human race. We build to protect, we build for growth and structure. Winston Churchill said; "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." What do our buildings say about us? How do they shape us?

This house is neither permanent nor protecting from the harsh realities of life. But this past year, it has shaped us. Although we are still picking up the pieces, I believe life gives you what you need, and in our case it was this house. While all the mental structures that we had tried to employ at some attempt at control fell apart, this house has kept us together. And it is still standing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

on trust

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ~Ernest Hemingway

Over the next couple of days we will be having our floors worked on. Two of those days we will  be out of town, which means our floors will be worked on, our doors unlocked and locked without us being there. We decided that was OK. That we could trust things would be safe. Walking out the door this morning to work as they just started working, leaving my house in someone else's hands, I realized how good it felt to trust.

There are many areas within our house that we have needed to trust. Putting trust in the fact that things will work out for us. Believing in all that is possible, all that is positive. It feels good to trust. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Art Sale - ALL SOLD

12" x 12" the Birth of Love, $65 SOLD

10" x10" Roots, $35 SOLD

17" x 16" Red Glare, $75

12" x 12," Swallow, $65

20" x 20" Sky Seeds, $90 SOLD
3 paintings each 10" x 10"
Love. Trust. Build,  $100 SOLD

Please email me if you are interested in any of these. Prices do not
include shipping.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Finally someone has broken the silence (please at least watch the trailer):

I haven't even watched the full movie yet, but can certainly fill in the gaps. A great eye opener for those who have not experienced the death of a baby (which I hope none of you ever have). Currently, in our house, we are working our way back up from zero. Little by little, we will get there.

Friday, May 16, 2014

As the World Turns

I will never forget the day we walked out of the hospital after Winnie died. Everyone was going about their usual business; catching the bus to go home from work, out for a run, a bike ride. Even the sky looked, well, normal.  Despite its normalcy, I remember it so clear. It seemed to almost hover over us as if presenting us with our new reality. The reality that we were not bringing a baby home with us. The reality that we would forever have this hole deep in our thughts.

My husband and I had just put an end to a long and emotional five days of utmost presence. Never before had either of us experienced such deep love for a person knowing that we would lose her at any moment. Presence in every minute was all we had. (This is really all any of us have though we don't think about it) What's funny is that somehow we believed the rest of the world had been put on hold too. Walking out of that hospital that day we were stunned, almost sickened, by the fact that the world had keep turning while we grasped the first and last moments of our daughters life. Everything as usual. Everyone around us seemed to have had a pretty "normal" day. And I have to admit, I was quite resentful of them. And in a lot of ways, I still am.

Even today, nearly nine months after Winnie's death, I still cringe at the fact that the rest of the world just keeps turning. Like, no big deal. Life is just normal.

As ridiculous and selfish as it sounds; it's as if I somehow wish everyone else could put a pause on their lives too. But they don't. And they shouldn't. It is just the real struggle of all of this; acceptance. Accepting this struggle as mine. Accepting that all the healthy pregnancies that have happened around me in the past year, have not happened to me. Accepting that life has given my family some brutal and very real lessons, while others have been, well, normal.

Normal. I don't have any idea what normalcy is anymore. I know for one, if you were to compare our house and family to the rest of the families we know we would not be called "normal." (But who's comparing.....)

In Buddhism, it is the idea that we are all connected that gives us strength in times of suffering. In this interconnectedness, we share our suffering. This is the only aspect of Buddhism I have trouble really grasping. We support each other, yes. But ultimately we each go back to our own homes, our own struggles.

A year ago I had no idea what it felt like to lose a child nor to have a miscarriage. Now, I know them both (thank you life). A year ago I could not connect with others who had experienced this kind of loss. Not only did I not know the grief that it came with losing a child (at any stage of fetal development) but also the resentment, the envy, the extreme longing for another child of my own. I now yearn for that connectedness that Buddhism describes, for this loneliness to reside and a door to open out from this world of mine.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


"What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful." Berene Brown

Vulnerability is one of those things we all try to avoid as best as possible.  A little like envy, it makes us cringe at the thought of it. It encompasses our very being. Starts at the mind and runs down through our veins in a cold sweat. It is just, yuck. Scary. Best to avoid it. Or not? Or is this even possible?

Despite the physical and mental structures we try to employ, we are so vulnerable in this life. Every single one of us. This year has taught me that no, it is not possible to avoid vulnerability. Love and life are filled with vulnerability because neither are permanent. We grasp on to them as hard as we can only to know that one day we will have to let go.

Our culture does its best to separate itself from the cycles of nature. We try to tell ourselves that we aren't really part of the same cycle as the flowers, the trees, the animals. But we are. We are all impermanent creatures, prone to disease, the death, to weather and loss. We are vulnerable here and now.

Despite the inevitability of vulnerability, life also presents us with times when we can decide to put ourselves in a vulnerable spot or not. It may be that in these times it is easiest to choose not to be vulnerable (the thought makes us cringe) but whether we choose to or not, is a very difficult challenge.  Despite the cold sweat and nausea that vulnerability brings to our minds, vulnerability also grows strength; it allows us to relate to life directly, rather than slowly dying in fear.

"Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth." Pema Chodron

There is no doubt that this past year has made me fearful and reluctant to vulnerability. I didn't realize it then, but when I became pregnant with Winnie, I became vulnerable. It was naive of me to think otherwise, but I was hit head on with reality the day she was born and even more so the day she passed away.

Before Winnie arrived I often worried if I could love her as much as I loved my first child. Did I have enough room in my heart? Was it even possible to love another human being as much as I loved my first daughter? But the second Winnie came into the world that question was answered. Never could I have imagined loving two little people as equally and as strongly as I do my two girls. I am forever vulnerable in love, in loss, in fear of trying again to grow my family. How can I grasp that vulnerability with everything I have and dive into whatever it has to offer me? How can I find the strength to move closer to the truth?

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Several weeks ago I planted flower seeds in our yard. The coming of Spring brings renewal, blossoms of hope and a new start. Planting seeds was an attempt to surround myself with Spring. Following planting I continuously checked on the seeds, anxiously awaiting their blossoms. Weeks later and still no flowers.

Patience is one of those things that shows up at our door when we need it least. We dread it when the world asks us to be patient. To accept things for how they are. To wait. In Dr. Seuss's words this is the waiting place. A most useless place. For people just waiting.

In mid November, Patience was planted. She didn't quite blossom to her fullest potential and we are sad for that. But we have to love her for all she has taught us; the most impossible lesson of patience.

How do we get out of this waiting place? How do we accept that nature works on its own time frame? That maybe next year, my garden will be blossoming.

Monday, March 10, 2014

facing suffering

In the time of the Buddha, a woman named Kisagotami suffered the death of her only child. Unable to accept it, she ran from person to person, seeking a medicine to restore her child to life. The Buddha was said to have such a medicine.

Kisagotami went to the Buddha, paid homage, and asked, "Can you make a medicine that will restore my child?"

"I know of such a medicine," the Buddha replied. "But in order to make it, I must have certain ingredients."

Relieved, the woman asked. "What ingredients do you require?"

"Bring me a handful of mustard seed," said the Buddha.

The woman promised to procure it for him, but as she was leaving, he added, "I require the mustard seed be taken from a household where no child, spouse, parent or servant has died."

The woman agreed and began going from house to house in search of the mustard seed. At each house the people agreed to give her the seed, but when she asked them if anyone had died in that household, she could find no home where death had not visited - in one house a daughter, in another a servant, in others a husband or parent had died. Kisagotami was not able to find a home free from the suffering of death. Seeing she was not alone in her grief, the mother let go of her child's lifeless body and returned to the Buddha, who said with great compassion, "You thought that you alone had lost a son, the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence."

Friday, March 7, 2014

bigger, faster, better, more

"May we go back, then, to the floor of pebbles beneath the water and the fish in the sunlight's ripping net. . . . and watch?"-Alan Watts

Everything is fast. Everything is about more and bigger and better. Everything is about quick. From microwave dinners to full time jobs, after school events, superstores, we cram every piece of everything into our lives.

Nothing is about time.

Something I have been practicing in my life is slowness. I have found that if I can allow myself to be comfortable in slowness I feel more. I have more time with my family, notice the clouds and feel my breath. Such a hard practice, for it goes against all the currents of our society. Business and the amount of how productive you are, is a measure of worth. And I say that after just being declined a job I interviewed for. Do I feel worthy at this moment? Practice. Practice.

I realize that when I am at my deathbed, (hopefully) years from now, I am not going to look back and remember the days of errands, the days when I made the most money or worked the longest days. I will remember the slow days; moments. We all need to remind ourselves of this because our culture tells us we are never doing enough. It also creates a misconception that we are in control of how much we can control, when so much controls us. In some ways, it goes against the natural current of life. Life makes its own time and the best way to be a part of it is to flow right along with it. This has been, and will remain, my mantra for the next several months, or years.

Climate change (a reoccurring theme in my work) is not just an environmental issue, but a cultural issue. Excessive use of natural resources and the desire for more, have created a consumption based society. In turn, we have lost moments. Moments replaced with google calendars and datebooks. 

This moment.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

the thing with wings

A few weeks ago a friend wrote to me about hope. She assured me that when you feel hopeless, the people who care for you will always hold the hope for you, and that this is the invisible thread that connects us all. 

She also assured me that I could tug on this thread wherever I am, whenever I need. 

Hope, like the crocus shoots poking out of the ground. Finding their way through a cold winter surface to seek out the sun. 

Thank you, friend.

Friday, February 28, 2014

spring cleaning

In the past eight months or so, seasons have changed. Our family, however, has been sort of stuck in the dead of winter.

We painted the trim on the house a different color, did a few renovations on the house, I got a haircut. But none of these offered enough of a change. The thing with the coming of Spring for me has always marked a new beginning. The grime of winter slow melts away to reveal green grass and budding flowers. The sun has never felt so good. Often one cleans the house, gets rid of what isn't used anymore, all that is old and worn out.

There are a few things I haven't been able to clean out yet. The baby toys in the closet, set back just enough so that I don't see them, but know they are still there. My jeans, which, after two post baby bellies (dead babies) that have now conjured as one, no longer fit me. My body has become this temple of death. The pack n' play, my CDs of reggae music, the infant car seat, maternity clothes. I hold onto these things, just in case. As if some day my life will be different, and better, if I get to use them.

On the way up my hike today the trail was covered in snow and ice. On the way down, it had begun to slowly melt, creating a small stream that ran down the trail. It felt good to follow the stream, which took the place of the trail, as if I was leading me somewhere. I followed it for awhile until it turned back to ice. Still winter here. Still waiting for that stream to lead us all the way to Spring.

seems pretty dark. now where are those stars?

I have been hearing a lot lately that every obstacle comes with a chance to come back. That every loss has a gift. That in the darkest moments, you can see the stars. Now, call me crazy, but since Winnie died I felt deserving of some gift. And have been looking for them in the most hidden places. Around corners, behind closed doors, all the while never leaving my desire for another baby behind.

And then I got pregnant. I found out on the exact same day I had with Winnie. Exactly one year later. The signs were knocking on my door; this was it, this was our gift, our chance to be a family again. Our hope. Our star.

And then she died.

I realize that not every loss comes with a physical gift. Some loss presents you with strength (I am not quite there yet). Some loss gives you presence and an appreciation with what you have without needing to gain anything else. (Not quite there either). My hope is that I will be able to accept this in time.

Now, I have been fortunate in the past two weeks since we lost this baby to have been able to fill my emptiness with art. An upcoming show and a full blown need to create has kept me busy. Engaged. And a little at peace.

In graduate school we talked about semiotics, the philosophies of Heidegger and Bachelard, and the contemporary discourse of blah-blah-blah. We were told to leave emotion with the Expressionists. Emotion is for sissies, for fake artists. Artists have a moral and ethical responsibility to create work that investigates, questions, and puts into effect a stressing issue that mankind is facing. Concept should be at the base of all art. And I whole heartedly agree. However, I think these things come full circle. While my work may be about environmental issues on a broader level, on a deeper level it is about emotions. It is about loss of control and the natural forces that override us. It is about mindfulness. It is about hope. And maybe within the creation of these works I will find that star and I will be able to share it with others.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

to compare is to dispair

I read this post on a blog I follow for grieving parents who have lost children, Glow in the Woods. This post is so perfect as making comparisons is my biggest downfall. Not only do I compare my grief to the grief of others, but I compare what other people have that I don't; their jobs, their looks, the amount of children they have. Just before finding this I was comparing my success, and lack thereof, to the success of another artist. It is a painful habit, but as the writer here points out, something women are very good at.

comparatively speaking

I believe if you got a room full of widows whose husbands had died of the same form of cancer, each woman would still silently compare herself to those around her.
I wish my husband had survived longer after the diagnosis.
Thank goodness my husband went fast and it didn't drag out.
She's lucky, her kids are still young and in the house to lend support.
She's lucky, her kids are grown and she has time and space to grieve by herself.
I wish I had been married longer.
She's so young -- she's got her whole life ahead of her.  No way I'm getting married again.
And so on.
I also believe, especially early on, that it's a good thing -- it's even a healthy thing -- to compare yourself to others in similar situations.  I think it puts parameters on your grief, and helps set the boundaries of exactly what issues you personally need to move through. 
At first, unsurprisingly, you probably think yourself the worst off in the room -- from newness and the raw angry wound if nothing else.  And that's ok, by dint of still bleeding, you probably are.
But the nice thing about support groups, either in person or online is that you realize you're not alone:  others have gone through the same thing.
Well, not quite the same thing.
And there's the rub:  we're all so alike, we occupy a tidy little corner of the internet where we share macabre humor and toss around familiar euphemisms, but then we hang around long enough and realize there are some odd angles and edges.
Some lose babies earlier in the pregnancy than others
Some lose two children -- or more -- in the same event
Some lose two children -- or more -- over time
Some have to birth already dead babies
Some have to make decisions about life support
Some have to make decisions about termination
Some have seemingly healthy babies who are rudely snatched from their hands -- metaphorically -- weeks after their birth
We ponder these differences, and hell, it doesn't really matter does it?  No of course not, many of us pronounce, pain is pain, and we begin to comprehend still other parts of the stories:
Some don't have living children
Some have to explain what happened to living children and help them grieve, too
Some spouses leave
Some suffer infertility along with babyloss
Some subsequent pregnancies don't work, either
Some had horrible medical treatment
Some have long-standing issues with depression
Some were still suffering from other losses in their lives when their child(ren) died
And I think it's still good - and still healthy -- to compare, and realize, you know, I'm not the worst-off person in the room.  
And I speak rather ironically because of course, if you're following my examples here, no one is the worst off person.  Everyone is worse off.  Everyone is better off.  It depends to whom you're referring, to whom you're speaking, whose mind you're in.  Are we counting that refugee I just read about in the paper?  It just depends.
I'm not sure whose particular set of circumstances I'd rather have:  they all suck, and at least I'm familiar with mine.
I gather -- for better or worse -- that this sort of self-comparison is probably a chunk of how we form our identities and selves.  Some comparisons are merely factual, some make you gasp in relief, and some perhaps make you feel a little less of yourself.
He's taller than me.
I'm lucky I like my job.
Her skin is always so clear and smooth, and mine looks like the lunar surface.
And it's what we do with this information that's important:  it shouldn't make you feel like you get a prize of some sort just because your car is a newer model, but nor should it take you in the dumps if your neighbor's lawn looks better this year.  It is what it is.
We sometimes bandy this idea around and call it the Pain Olympics, the idea that some play games to set themselves up as the worst, the bottom of the well, the stink of the trash-heap.  
And I still argue it's good and it's healthy as long as at some point in time -- and it usually takes a bit of time for the wound to cease throbbing and your head to stop spinning -- that you realize maybe, just maybe that person had it worse.  And now that I think about it, that person I read about in the paper?  She did to.  And he did.  And her.  
And suddenly you have perspective, and compassion, depth and breadth to your experience.  You're able to welcome someone with a far different set of circumstances, realizing exactly where your circles cross each other in similar shaded places, and where you diverge.  And you also begin to realize that what one person considers lucky, another considers a cosmic kick in the ass.  What one person deems a lousy situation sounds like a symphony to you, comparatively.  
And before long you're beginning to understand not just how your situation fits into the world, but how your pain does.  And that there are other kinds of pain, and maybe "more" and "less"  and "better" and "worse" really aren't good ways to go about comparing these sorts of things, anyway.  That actor who tried to kill himself when he was 22?  His baby didn't die (he didn't have one as far as I could tell), but you know, in his head, his life was so bad he wanted to die.  My life was never that bad.  That was the day I picked my chin up a bit, felt sympathy for this poor guy, and realized I could keep stumbling.
Who are we to judge what's better and worse, anyway?  Maybe my neighbor uses pesticides on that ultra green lawn.  Maybe my newer car gets lousy mileage.  Maybe I just need to be with my situation and deal with it on it's own terms and use other people for support and inspiration when it suits.
That's the problem with comparisons.  You sometimes don't know the backstory, the consequences of the outcomes.  Maybe we shouldn't do this so much, after all.
Way way back, when I took yoga, in the beginning, the teacher reminded us practically every 5 minutes not to be competitive!  Don't look at your neighbor!  Ok, well go ahead and look if you must, but don't get down on yourself!  Because every person is different, every body is different, every student will have a strength and a weakness.  Work on your weaknesses, don't be ashamed to use props.  Revel in your strengths, but know that you can always grow -- the pose can always be better, made more difficult, held longer.
And I realized, in-shape-runner-me, that my soccer-muscly quads that allowed me to sit in air chair for an eternity outright forbade me from bending over and touching my toes, my hamstrings were so tightly wound.  Meanwhile, the 60 year old lady next to me had her head through her legs and was examining the backs of her ankles.
Grief is like this, I've come to realize.  Pain is like this.  It's mine, it's mine to hold and ponder and hold up and examine.  It's mine to improve.  I appreciate your sympathy in my down moments, and I really appreciate it when you find inspiration in my good moments.   
It's not better or worse, it just is.