When you feel unpretty

Sometimes I wish there weren’t mirrors constantly around us to let us assess our looks so easily.

Because they sure can make a person feel unpretty.

It’s fairly easy to feel unattractive in this world, and this has been true for a long time—even before the many Instagram filters available to achieve that perfect pic. The feeling of being unpretty can become even more magnified when that whole dating thing is involved.

I’ll never forget one of the first times I truly felt ugly. It was at a middle school dance when I was in the sixth grade. I was standing with one of my best friends (who is gorgeous, by the way), and a guy came up to ask her to dance. She told him she’d only dance with him if his friend danced with me (definitely not my idea), so he went back to get his buddy, who happened to be one of the cutest guys in our entire class. The image that ensued can never be erased from my memory: The boy who wanted to dance with my friend was literally dragging his friend across the floor to dance with me. Homeboy clearly wanted to be anywhere other than swaying back and forth to some great 90s song with me, and it was seriously such an uncomfortable few minutes of my life. He barely spoke to me and kept looking around so that we hardly made any eye contact.

When the song ended, I went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. Suddenly my hair was too frizzy, my face was too pale, and there were so many other imperfections that I hadn’t noticed as much before as I did in that moment. And then a thought bombarded my mind and wouldn’t leave: I wasn’t pretty enough for boys to like me.

And I believed it.

To be completely honest, ever since that middle school dance, I’ve struggled with believing that guys will ever be interested in me. There have been guys I’ve liked whom I’ve spent a lot of time with, and I know they like my personality and hanging out with me, but they never feel the same way. For me, there’s always only been one explanation for it, and it goes back to that dance. When my friends started dating, having boyfriends and then eventually getting married, I stayed single, and I really believed part of the reason was because they all have that beauty that I seem to lack. If I ever wanted to find a man, it was going to have to be someone who just really likes my personality.


Band-Aids can’t fix everything.

My most recent heartache resurfaced some of these destructive feelings, and it turns out you can feel just as jilted as an adult as you can as a middle schooler when you’re in some of your most awkward and emotional years of your life. It’s frustrating because I’m pretty confident in most areas of my life, but this is certainly not one of them.

There’s a Bethany Dillon song called “Beautiful” that I think pretty accurately describes how many of us can feel at times.

I want to be beautiful
Make you stand in awe
Look inside my heart
And be amazed
I want to hear you say
Who I am is quite enough
Just want to be worthy of love
And beautiful

But reading those lyrics and listening to the song carefully makes me realize that the beauty I’m seeking someone to see in me really isn’t just what I see in the mirror. It’s that “look inside my heart and be amazed” part that really hits home. That’s what I want. And as far as “worthy of love” goes, well, don’t we all need love? Aren’t we all enough as we are? If someone makes you feel like you aren’t enough, then perhaps that person isn’t right for you at all.

I understand that we aren’t always meant to be with the people for whom we fall. Not everyone is going to be attracted to us—and that’s OK. Different people are drawn to different people. It’s important to remember, though, that you’re beautiful to the Someone who loves you more than anyone else ever can.


At least they don’t care what I look like. They still loved me back when I had bangs. Bangs were NOT a good look for me.

There’s a sign I have hanging in my place that says “Be.you.tiful,” and it’s a great reminder that it’s best to be yourself and not try to change who you are to live up to what others think is pretty. I wish I could go back and tell my middle school self this so that I didn’t spend so many years thinking I would never be pretty enough for anyone. I want her to know that she doesn’t have to let others make her believe that she isn’t good enough as she is. I want all people to know that about themselves.

Because you are the most beautiful you there is.

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Being patient and not waiting

When you order something online, you often have the option for standard shipping (which will take a bit longer), or you can pay extra and expedite how quickly your item gets to you.

The choice is yours.

I haven’t always been the best when it comes to patience—just ask the University Park red light camera people, and they can back me up on that one. It’s difficult to wait for some things. I know waiting is important sometimes, but patience isn’t only about waiting. People will often throw the quote out to you about it being a virtue and whatnot (whether they always know what that means when they say it is an entirely different conversation), but I also think it’s more than that. I think patience is knowing how to react and respond in a situation when you might want to be rash or explode.


“In honor of my daughter being here today, we’re going to have snack time early.” Genius.

Whenever I think of patience, I think of my mom. I took off work one day last week, and I went to visit her at her school that day. She teaches kindergarten, a job that requires a really special kind of human. Well, my mom is definitely that type of person. As I sat there and watched the way she interacts with her kids and the way they listen to her and how much they respect her, I started to think about how she acts in such a patient manner in every single area of her life, and I couldn’t help but wish that I were more like her in that regard.

When I was a teacher, I learned a lot about patience with other people. I feel that I grew in that area during those seven years of my life, and I am not one to let my temper explode. In fact, it really takes a lot now to get me truly angry, and I’m thankful to my mom and my teaching career for that. But I can’t say that I apply that kind of attitude in every aspect of my life.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says “Patient endurance is what you need now,” and even though it was written to the Hebrews, I like to think I’m meant to read it—because patient endurance is what I need a lot of the time. I think endurance is the perfect word to follow because when you’re in that period of uncertainty, it certainly can feel like a trial you’re having to persevere through for however long it might be. And the whole not-knowing part of it all brings an entirely different element into the patience picture: trust. It’s a time when you have to trust that, even if what you want to happen doesn’t exactly happen, everything will be as it should in the end. It’s kind of like when you’re waiting to hear back from a job or a school to see if you got it or were accepted—you aren’t completely sure of what’s going to happen, but you have to accept the outcome and trust that it’s the right one.

And I think the wisdom gained from patience means knowing when you shouldn’t wait for something. There are some things you simply shouldn’t sit back and expect to come your way without you actually taking leaps of faith toward them. It can be tough to know when to wait and when to jump, but I think there are certain moments when the heart just knows exactly what to do—and you can either follow it or let those chances fade.

I think about Rapunzel in the movie Tangled (yes, I’m comparing parts of real life to a Disney movie) and how she waited in that stupid tower for so many years. But then an opportunity came along for her to escape and find life and love outside of the tower, and she took it because, even though she had some doubts and anxieties, she knew it was absolutely the thing she needed to do to be who she needed to be and to be with her person.

Sometimes you need to sit in a restaurant for a really long time until your steak dinner finally arrives and is delicately placed in front of you. But then there are times when all you really want is a cheeseburger from the drive-thru at Whataburger, which you’ll get a lot faster.

It’s all about knowing in your heart what is right and following it without hesitation.

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Learning to cry

Sometimes the things we did so naturally before we knew how to think at higher levels become things we think aren’t so natural anymore.

Like crying.

I’m not big on tears. On average, I probably cry twice a year, maybe three times if it’s a bad year. For reasons I won’t discuss right now, I learned to suppress my tears long ago, and I’ve always done my best not to let them even build up inside my eyelids.

I’ll tell you right now that it’s not a good thing to do. What usually happens is that I wait so long to cry about so many different things that when one thing finally sets off those tears, it’s like a freaking waterfall exploded, and I’m wallowing about months and months of bottled-up emotions. It’s ugly crying to the extreme: My face gets ridiculously splotchy, and my eyes are usually so puffy the next day that I have a tough time getting in my contacts. I realize it’s not a good idea, but it’s been the story of my life for as far back as I can remember.

And then 2016 happened.


My baby sister (left) has been giving me great advice for years.

Last year was not a good year for me. A lot of different things happened that didn’t make me smile, and the biggest thing I faced was a heartache that seemed to form slowly but then shatter my heart suddenly—and it just won’t go away. I cried more in 2016 than the past few years combined, and I felt like such a fool for it. My sister has always told me that there is nothing wrong with crying and that it’s actually healthy for me, but I’ve struggled to believe it. She might be right, though.

There’s an episode of Gilmore Girls in which Lorelai is trying to get Rory to wallow after her first broken heart, but Rory doesn’t want to and tries to spend all of her time not thinking about her pain. By the end of the episode, Rory is sitting on the coach with multiple big containers of ice cream, ready to let the tears flow.

Because crying is natural.

A few months ago, I had been trying to ignore tears and my feelings. I was sitting at my desk at work, and something sparked my emotions, and I felt the tears coming. I bolted to the elevator and ran to the bathroom in the adjacent hotel and cried for what seemed like way too long. There was some convention going on, so the bathroom suddenly filled with women on their break, and I hadn’t been smart enough to hide in a stall. One of the women asked me if I was OK, and I shook my head to say no. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Sometimes all that you can do is cry.”

I’m slowly learning that what she said carries validity in many instances. No, I don’t think it’s right or necessary in every situation that upsets us, and I can’t say that I’m suddenly going to become someone who cries in movies (except for My Girl, the only movie that can make me cry—I can’t take that scene at Thomas J.’s funeral when Vada wants to go climb trees with him again and says he can’t see without his glasses; it’s an absolutely heart-wrenching moment). But maybe I’ll be better about crying when I need to instead of holding it all in and waiting to explode one day in the future.

When we’re happy, we smile. When something is funny, we laugh. When we’re upset, we might show anger or frustration. When we’re sad, we cry. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me to do that last one—and I don’t think I’m necessarily alone in this regard. It’s hard to let others see we’re hurt or upset or maybe not always as strong as we’d like to be. But maybe crying really isn’t the sign of weakness I’ve made it out to be. Maybe it’s just a way of showing that you’re human and have emotions. Jim Valvano said it’s something we should do daily, and he’s a man I greatly admire. Though I don’t think that will be the frequency for all of us, he makes a valid point.

We’re all going to face hurt in life—that’s inevitable. As much as I’d like to act like I’m immune to it all, I’ve come to realize that I’m not, and I can’t. And my sister is right: It’s OK to cry. If you have to break down in a bathroom by yourself, sob in your bedroom while your sister sits with you and lets you let it all out, wallow in your car, or cry in a parking lot where you met your mom because you needed a hug, it’s OK to cry sometimes.

And I know a lot of Atlanta Falcons fans can relate right now.

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There’s a lot of hate and unpleasantness surrounding us lately, so I figured we could talk about my dating life for a few minutes to lighten the mood.

Because it’s pretty laughable.

When I was a little girl, Disney (and many other companies, I’m sure) led me to believe that, if I wished for it hard enough, I’d get the dream life I had always imagined, and it would include the dream man to sweep me off of my feet, and we would have such a wonderful life together.

And then I met this thing called the real world.

I would like to take a moment to point out that I do not have an angelic voice, and animals do not flock to me, so I probably should have recognized from the start that I was not going to live the Disney princess life. But sometimes we’re blind to the things we don’t want to see.

I’m at the age when most of my friends are either in serious relationships or already married and starting (or growing) their families. And here I am, ending up in situations like the one I’m about to share with you.

I went out with some of my friends last Friday night, which was a much-needed adventure. At one point, my friend Amanda and I decided to get up from our table to walk around, and we ended up going to the upstairs portion of the restaurant/bar. We almost immediately spotted a very attractive fella, and so we began discussing how we were going to talk to him when he was in a group of guys. (This was for me—Amanda already has a man.) Apparently my new go-to tactic to strike up a conversation with a guy is to ask him to take a picture of my friends and me. But I had left my phone downstairs on the table, and Amanda didn’t have hers, either, so we had a slight predicament.

We finally spotted an opportunity to talk to him when he walked up to the bar by himself, and there was space next to him, so we went and stood there, too. And then I did something I’m not too proud of: I asked him what time it was. To those other single people out there, please do nothing I do. We sort of awkwardly stood there for a few seconds, and then I walked away. Amanda and I went back downstairs, and we felt slightly defeated.


“I’m pretty sure I heard the word ‘finance.’ Let’s ask him what he thinks will happen with the DOL rule.”

We told the other girls at our table about our failure, so it was decided we needed to go back up there. This time, Bonnie came with us, and I took my phone. There’s a great view of the city from the patio up there, and we obviously needed a picture with that wonderful background. I went up to the group of guys and asked if one of them would be willing to take our picture, and I was sort of looking mainly at the guy with the watch when I said it. His response: “I am so the guy for this job!”

We made small talk, and he pretended to be a professional photographer, and we commended his work when we saw the pics. He told us he and his friends were about to leave to go to his buddy’s rehearsal dinner for his wedding the next day, so I congratulated the groom when we got back to his friends, and then told the guy with the watch and iPhone camera skills that it was nice to meet him. He said, “It was really great to meet you, too, Natalie,” and then the girls and I went back downstairs, and I’ll probably never see him again.

I don’t think that’s how it happens in the movies.

Being single is not always easy. I could list about 72 reasons why, but I’m pretty sure the story I just told you says enough for now. People have been telling me for years that the right man is out there for me, but I think it’s important to face the possibility that he’s not—I might be one of those people who is single forever. And I have to be OK with that.

The truth is that love is all around us everywhere, and it’s not just the type of love that’s in romantic comedies and fairy tales. It’s the love that makes people know that they matter and that others care for them. There are so many situations right at the heart of where we are that have proven lately that what the world truly needs now is love, sweet love. It’s not love that you get by trying to catch someone’s eye on the second floor of a swanky bar. It’s the love that you give by accepting others for the individuals they are and appreciating them in spite of their differences and in spite of their flaws—because we all have flaws, and we are all imperfect.

Whether you’re single or dating or engaged or married or just don’t care, you always have the opportunity to love and to be loved. I know it’s difficult to show it to everyone all of the time, especially when we all have our own struggles and pains we’re dealing with in different ways, but the smallest acts of love really can impact others in such big ways. And if you see those opportunities, don’t let them pass you by.

Otherwise, you might end up spending too much time eating Sour Patch Kids: Berries by yourself. (Side note: They’re delicious.)

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Not better left unsaid (part two)

I think sometimes we all need to be more like Pepé Le Pew.

Well, in at least one way, anyway.

When I was a teenager—and continuing into when I was in my 20s—whenever I had crushes on or more serious feelings for guys, I did everything I could to keep those feelings to myself and not let those guys have any clue how I felt. You know where that got me? Thirty-two and dateless. I’m not saying all of those guys would have gone out with me, but I’ll never actually know.

Because I was silent.

I don’t think I’m completely alone in this type of behavior. Sure, maybe it’s more prevalent in some teenage girls, and perhaps not all people go to the same measures I did to ensure all of my feelings were kept secret, but I think we have a lot of work to do when it comes to being more open with one another regarding to matters of the heart.

Because people deserve more than silence.

There was a guy I fell for years ago and continued to have feelings for him for way longer than I wanted. You know what I did about those feelings? I covered them with jokes and the appearance that I wanted nothing more than friendship. Even when we spent time together just the two of us, I let a countless amount of opportunities slip through my hands when I could have put on my big-girl-courage pants and said something.

But, instead, I was silent.

I don’t like to have regrets in life, because I know that things are the way they are and happen the way they do for intentional reasons, but I have to admit that I can think back to a number of situations in which I bit my tongue when I wish I would have shared my heart. But I was scared. Honestly, though, what’s the fear? Rejection? Sure. Hurt? Absolutely. Awkwardness? You bet. Maybe it’s a hesitation to ruin a friendship—but can’t a true friendship withstand something like feelings? Saying what’s on your heart is definitely not easy, and you don’t necessarily know what will happen when you do.

But some risks are truly worth whatever ensues.


Olivia always says what’s on her heart. Apparently she’s not a fan of “The Cat in the Hat.”

I think honesty should be a more common theme, even when it’s not for bravely saying “yes”; sometimes it means bravely saying “no.” I’ve seen many situations in which at least one person in a potential relationship is vague and leaves the other person playing a guessing game. If you’re not interested in someone, it’s better to let that person know rather than dragging things on. If you do feel the same way but maybe aren’t in a period in your life when you can pursue that relationship, what’s the harm in being honest about that? If it hurts the other person a little to do so, it’s likely a lot less painful than prolonging the inevitable and causing more heartache later. I’ve been on that other side of wondering how someone who won’t say anything feels, and it’s really frustrating. And annoying. And hurtful. And confusing.

I don’t believe we should all chase people like Pepé Le Pew does when they clearly don’t want to be chased, but I think his transparency is admirable. He loves someone, and he’s not afraid to let the world know. Why is it such a challenge for us to share our hearts? Why do so many of us feel the need to be so guarded?

In a world full of noise, why is there so much silence?

I’ve mentioned before that when I was in high school, there was an Avril Lavigne song called “Things I’ll Never Say” that I related to so well.

I’m staring at my feet
My cheeks are turning red
I’m searching for the words inside my head
‘Cause I’m feeling nervous
Trying to be so perfect
‘Cause I know you’re worth it

And then she goes on to list all of the things she wants to say but never will. That’s typically been me: I definitely still blush around the fellas who give me butterflies, and I used to never be able to muster up the gusto to look someone in the eyes and say what I really wanted to say. Somewhere along the lines, I realized I can’t be that girl anymore. I’m never going to be perfect, and I shouldn’t have to try to for someone. I’ve faced rejection before, and I’m still here. I’ve had my heart broken, and I didn’t completely crumble. I don’t want to be afraid to share my hopes and feelings when I need to.

And I don’t want to be silent when my heart has something to say.

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Closed doors can make you stronger

I really don’t like trite expressions, but I guess there’s a reason they exist.

Perhaps they were true at least once.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “When one door closes, another door opens” many times, and maybe there’s a logical explanation for that. But is it really true? Or is it one of those things we say to make people feel better when we don’t actually know what’s going to happen? Aren’t there some doors that simply close, and other open doors have nothing to do with the ones that closed? Or will there always be another door that opens for you solely because another one just closed in your face?

I’m still trying to figure that one out.

It can be pretty painful when a door in your life closes when you really hoped it would be one you’d walk through. My mom used to love the store Coldwater Creek—in fact, she loved it so much that she once got a part-time job there so that she could not only make a little extra cash but also get a discount on all of the clothes she wanted to buy. (I’m surprised she wasn’t featured in the Coldwater Creek catalogues, seeing as how she was decked out in the apparel from head to toe.)

Imagine her reaction when she found out her favorite store was closing its doors forever.


When you find out you didn’t get a callback to be one of Beyoncé’s background dancers

Imagine how people feel when doors close on things that matter so much more than skirts and shirts and dresses and whatnot. You’ve likely been there before—it’s not a fun place to be. You might realize a closed door will never open again. You might wonder if it’s closed temporarily for renovations. You might know in your heart that the door is merely closed for a bit, and you simply need to wait outside until it opens again.

But what do you do if you really don’t know?

I’ve started watching the Netflix original series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Kimmy literally had a door closed on her for 15 years, living in a bunker until she and the three other girls with her were finally rescued. She walks through the open door that once closed on her, and she goes on to find a tremendous amount of other doors welcoming and daring her to walk through. One thing I love about Kimmy is that she never loses hope, and she doesn’t give up on her goals—or on people. There are a lot of doors that continue to slam in her face, but she keeps fighting, either by trying to kick those closed doors back open or by directing her path elsewhere.

Doors closing have been fairly common in my world lately. Some of them don’t bother me too much—others leave me wondering why they ever offered even little lights of hope at all if they were only going to close right when it seemed like I was about to walk through them. So much about life doesn’t make sense to me, and maybe it isn’t supposed to. I don’t always understand why things happen the way they do and why there sometimes has to be so much pain involved. I was thinking about this Sunday in church when the band started playing a familiar tune I love as the final worship song, some of the lines reminding me that I don’t need to concern myself with any of the doors anywhere.

And I can see a light that is coming
For the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You

It’s easier to say not to worry rather than actually not worry, but the truth is that worrying doesn’t really do any good. It doesn’t open closed doors or find other opportunities. We’re probably all going to face a lot more closed doors in our lives than we want to, but the hurt that happens after won’t last forever. It can be really difficult to trust and have faith during those times, but sometimes that’s all we can do—be the hearts that hold on.

There may be other doors that open when certain doors close, but even if it seems like there aren’t, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any hope left. The door that closes closes for a reason. It may be for a while; it may be forever. Either way, the sadness or frustration or pain or whatever emotion you feel afterward will eventually fade, and you may or may not see the reason you had to go through what you did. But it’s important to keep going through the rain when you’re there and find the strength you may not have even known you have.

Because there’s a light that is coming for the heart that holds on.

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Some destinations are worth the journeys to get there

I’m not a huge traveler, and I think I’ve figured out why.

The journey to the destination feels like forever.

If I’m being perfectly honest, road trips aren’t really my thing. I guess every once in a while I enjoy them because there sure are a lot of memories you can make if you’re with other people, but I generally don’t jump at the opportunities for them. I’ve driven to Florida and New Mexico multiple times with my family over the years, and each time I was reminded that riding in a car for long periods of time isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend multiple hours of life. Actually, sitting for any extended amount of time is a challenge in itself.

But sometimes those road trips are needed.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I drove to Tennessee. We were both going through some difficult times, and I think we both needed a little getaway. It was a long drive, and we spent more time in the car than at our actual destination, but it’s a trip I’ll never forget for so many reasons.


West Texas rodeo time

Over the weekend, I needed another escape. I think we occasionally simply need to get away from our normal surroundings and routines to clear our minds and be refreshed. On Thanksgiving, I had talked to my cousin Rachel about traveling to visit her and her family in West Texas—when you’re going through the rough stuff, it’s best to be around the people who make you smile as much as possible.

But to get to some of those people, I had a journey to make.

I’m actually glad I went on the weekend I did, because I was able to escape the snow that happened in Dallas on Friday. I don’t like snow in general, but I really don’t like that people in this city act like the world is coming to an end if there’s any frozen precipitation, and traffic becomes an absolute nightmare. Dodged that bullet. I drove through some flurries on the way out west, but it wasn’t too bad.

What was bad was my fatigue.

I was so tired. I usually don’t get enough sleep on weeknights (it’s a horrible reality that I’m trying to work on), so I’m pretty spent on Fridays. During the first almost two hours of the drive, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it without falling asleep at the wheel—there were a few close calls already. But I made a quick pit stop at a high-quality Love’s station to use the restroom and stretch a little, and I was a bit revitalized after that. I put on some tunes for a car concert, so that helped, too.

I knew I was going to have to make one more stop to get gas and because I have a bladder the size of a jelly bean. But the second stop left me in a state of torture. I was on the phone with someone from the government (long story) for way longer than I thought it would take, but I was hoping to wrap things up by the time I finished filling up my car so that I could use the restroom again. (Small bladder and kidney stones magnifying that issue are a bad combination.) I was still waiting in the car for my tank to fill—it was SO cold—and still on the phone, and then I saw a sight I didn’t want to see: a school bus full of kids pull up. Why were they stopping here? It wasn’t a big station, so I’m assuming there was only one stall in the women’s restroom. When the gas was finished, I made a bad decision: I said, “Screw it—I’m leaving.”

And there basically wasn’t anywhere else to stop until I was practically to my cousin’s town.


Family = worth travel time

You know what, though? Somehow I survived, and the entire time in the car getting there was completely worth it. I had such a great weekend with Rachel and her sweet family, and I even took a pretty long nap on Saturday, which I definitely needed. (Rachel even made her two boys stay out of the room where I was so that they wouldn’t wake me. She’s incredible, and she gets it.) She and her husband were so welcoming to me all weekend long, and her two little boys are precious and hilarious—they kept me entertained the entire time.

As I was driving home on Sunday morning, I kept wishing I could snap my fingers like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and be home without having to endure the drive again. But that never happened. I guess that’s just life sometimes—you have to go on journeys that can often be frustrating and painful, but you have to persist through them in order for you to get to where you ultimately want or need to be. Sometimes they take you to new and exciting places, and sometimes they lead you right back home. Sometimes you have people with you, and sometimes you ride solo. Either way, you grow and change along the way and learn things that help you become the person you’re supposed to be.

We’re all going to face challenges in life. There are certainly no guarantees that everything is going to be easy. In fact, it seems like most of the things that are so great and wonderful either take a lot of effort or a lot of patience—or both. But when we last through those journeys, we might just realize that everything we went through was worth every second of the tough times.

And we might also realize that love is strong enough to make you forget about all of that, anyway.

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