How to Befriend a Grieving Me, or Anyone

Today starts a new phase in my journey as I leave the ship and over the next few days make my way back to Victoria. During the time I have been living aboard, I have kept my sad news to myself, telling only two or three people, and then only in the context of recent griefs we have in common. When people asked if I have children, I swallowed hard and said no. I know that some people aboard know what happened because of this blog and Facebook posts, but beyond that, I don’t know how widely the story spread, because I can recall only two who acknowledged it.

And now my avoidance has to stop. Everyone I am likely to see in Victoria, and later in March in San Diego, will know that I am dealing with the loss of my son. I admit that this is causing me some apprehension. I know that people who love me are grieving for me too, and I’d like our interactions to leave us better and more meaningfully connected. This morning I thought about things that people have said and done in the past, and what has or hasn’t helped. I phrase them all in the first person because mine is the only story I am sure about, but I think most of them will generalize to grieving people and their consolers, regardless of the loss.

  1. You won’t “make me sad” by bringing up my loss(es). I am already sad. Even when I am happy the core sadness is there. Likewise, don’t worry about “reminding me.” Trust me, I haven’t forgotten. 
  2. My public behavior is a performance of the familiar Laurel. I’m not being falsely cheerful. I am not in denial. I’d just rather hold it together than lose it. I may not want to be unmasked at the moment, so don’t push me to reveal how I really feel if I don’t want to talk.
  3. One of the most painful truths is that I will not be making any new memories with Ivan. If you have a memory to share, please do so. It is the next best thing.  Speak Adriano’s and Ivan’s names aloud. I love hearing them because it reminds me that even though they are gone, they are still real.
  4. Advice about things I could do to heal may be difficult for me to accept, and may even be counterproductive.  I know it will be offered from love, but sometimes it feels as if it’s more about what would please you for me to do. I don’t have the energy to explain why some things simply are not a good fit for me, and if I am feeling weak, it may make me feel alienated and even a little angry.
  5. Be careful with the bromides, like “everything happens for a reason,” or “he’s in a better place.” It is only my beliefs that register with me, not yours.
  6. Don’t think your grief stories are evidence that you empathize. I struggle to have the energy for my own, and other people’s stories weigh me down. And besides, the truth is you don’t understand unless you have lost a child yourself. Or, in my case, both of them. And when you say you can’t imagine what I am going through, trust me that you can’t, and I don’t want you to try. Hug your own loved ones. Tell them right now that you love them. That honors my grief far better than trying to imagine yourself in my situation. 
  7. Don’t shut me out.  Don’t run away and hide. I am a walking embodiment of every parent’s worst nightmare, but I am still the flesh-and-blood person you know. Don’t treat me like a pariah. There is no perfect thing to say, and less may be more, but the best way to deal with me is to acknowledge what happened, say you are sorry and then move on with whatever has brought us together. Discuss the menu, set off on the walk, eat the gelato, get in line at the ticket booth, stop to window shop. I need grounding in the present.  
  8. Don’t judge the way I act or decisions I made or make.  You aren’t walking in my shoes, and just be grateful for that. 
  9. And last, let me take the lead. That will help most of all. And please don’t let all this advice scare you. Read #7 again.  

Past, Present, and Future

I saw a Facebook post today from someone identified only as Amy, and I am marveling at the simple wisdom of it.  She says that to move on from emotional paralysis, “You have to give up your need for a different past. You have to allow yourself to grieve for what happened or a lot of times, what didn’t happen.”  She adds, “It doesn’t mean you’re okay with what happened or didn’t happen, it means that you are accepting life now and in the past for what it was and what it is.”

I look out this morning at a beautiful blue sea dotted with whitecaps lit by the sun, approaching Australia on the last day of a two-month assignment, and I know the answer to healing lies in what she says.

I learned that my son Ivan had taken his life, probably at midnight New Year’s Eve, as I sat waiting in the Vancouver airport for my flight to Singapore to begin this assignment. The news was not unexpected—he had been suicidal off and on for years, and almost constantly in 2022. Perhaps that helped buffer the moment in the airport, because as I asked myself, “what do I do now?” the answer was simple: Go on with your life. Get on that plane. 

I should clarify that I didn’t have family to support in their grief, nor did Ivan have possessions or affairs I needed to be physically present to deal with.  Everything that needed to be done could be done remotely, and many things didn’t really need to be done at all. His creditors and bank would figure out the situation eventually, and when his rent went unpaid, the complex could use his deposit to clear out his apartment. I wanted nothing except what a friend of Ivan’s was able to rescue, and that wouldn’t even fill a shopping bag. So I went to Singapore.

I don’t regret it at all.  Even when you feel as if you are only half in this world yourself, you need a place to be.  The somewhere I chose to be provided distractions, positive things to do and experience, and time the first month with travel companions who are wise women who knew the best way to show their love was to just let me be whatever I needed to be at any given moment. 

My grief has two distinct parts.  The first is that my son was so miserable in life.  It wasn’t going to get better, at least anywhere near enough to have a life he would consider successful or happy. I think about a line from a Jackson Browne song: “And though the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it seems/ It would be easier sometimes to change the past.” I don’t think Ivan had the power to change his future. The past, and a present taken up with things he could not manage, were too strong. I had to let him go.  It was the best mothering I could give him in the end.  

From time to time I talk to both my children and tell them how sorry I am that things weren’t different. I am sure I will grieve that way for the rest of my life. All I can do, though, is shake it off and tell myself, “enough of that thinking. It does no good.”  Any lessons there were in all this, I have had plenty of time to struggle with over the years. I need to be kind to Laurel now.  

The second aspect of grief is that Ivan won’t be here ever again for anything.  I didn’t get to have the fun phone call where I listened to him praise and frequently trash the Oscar nominations.  I couldn’t send him photos from places I knew he would love seeing. I can’t share in his highly intelligent and knowledgeable rants about the day’s political headlines. He was always better informed than I am.  And the ambushes are frequent. The other day I saw a shirt I thought Ivan would like hanging in a market stall in Noumea, and I took a step or two in that direction before remembering there is no Ivan to buy it for. And there won’t be, ever again.  

Funny, how we say those who commit suicide have taken their life, when everyone else who dies loses theirs.  I do think in the end I can say that Ivan finally took charge of his life on his own terms.  I, on the other hand, like every survivor, lost a little of mine. I have to figure out how to get it back.  My life has changed, and I feel in my bones it will be different—still unknown and intangible but, as always, beautiful and abundant. Time to walk into my future, with my grief tucked into my heart. I’m ready. 


Stop, Drop, and Roll

It has been six weeks since my beloved son Ivan died. Since numbness doesn’t produce much coherent thinking, I haven’t figured out much I want to share until now. 

One of the themes of early grief is the screaming desire for a do over.  Just a chance to have him back, give him one last hug, try one more thing.  But when the death comes, as Ivan’s did, after a long, agonizing end stage from which there didn’t seem to be any other escape, I would only want him back healed and happy. If there is anything after death, he is both of those now, and reunited with his brother Adriano, who is healed and happy as well.  It would be utter selfishness to want it otherwise. Still, the drone in the background of this stage is two words:  Too Late.  For anyone who cared about a dead loved one, those words are heartbreaking.

I think about the new hard facts.  There is no one now I can share memories with about our family. I will never see either of my sons settled into happy relationships with women they love. I will never have a grandchild. No one will ever say, “Hi, Mom” to me again. I had difficulty for years looking at photos of my intact family because we never saw all of this pain and loss coming.  My last chance for a happy outcome is gone.  Except for me, I remind myself. I will go on, and though I already know I have changed, I will find a way to be happy and at peace in this new reality.

I sometimes thought that if I had to do it all over again, I would still marry their father, not because he was a good choice for me, but because I wanted those two beautiful people to come into this world. But giving the gift of life to my sons and having them in the end not want it calls for some difficult reckoning. I can’t imagine any mothers of children who ended their lives not wondering whether it was a good thing to have brought them into this world. Yet, when I look at photographs of Adriano and Ivan as children, I  see that their faces are happy and that there were many, many good times.  They knew how much I loved them and they loved me back.   I will have to settle for that love being enough of a reason to have taken this journey together. 

 I feel as if I am beginning another stage. I accept that Ivan has died, but I can’t quite grasp that there is no more Ivan. Nothing that happens from now on will include him. That is where the ambushes come from and will never completely stop.  The French writer Colette  put it this way:

‘It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.”

A few years back I was going through some memorabilia and came across an old audiotape of Ivan when he was in preschool.  He was telling me what he had learned that day about keeping safe in a fire. In his tiny voice, filled with solemnity,  he told me I was supposed to stop, drop, and roll. I wish I still had that tape, but maybe Ivan is still trying to tell me that. 

Stop, drop, and roll, mommy.  Just stop, drop, and roll. 


May my heart always be open

A year ago today, while in Costa Rica, I learned from a neighbor that Ivan was missing from his apartment and had been acting strangely for days. Eventually a social worker found me and told me he had suffered a manic episode extreme enough to be hospitalized. I had to leave the ship I was on to rush halfway across Costa Rica for a flight to Phoenix to be with him. The drugs he took to keep future episodes at bay sent him on a downward spiral of depression and other health issues that he tried in vain to overcome all of 2022. Now, a year later I am once again in a place of great beauty trying to comprehend what happened, and what it means for my own life.

I am still sifting through my thoughts and don’t quite know what I want to write yet, but tonight, as I wait in Tahiti to join a ship in a few days, I saw this sunset, and an ee cummings poem I hadn’t thought of in years came to mind. I will let him speak for me.

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old
may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young
and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

Tonight I pulled the beautiful sky in this photo over me and smiled. I am going to be fine.


Love the child that holds your hand

“What you seek you shall never find. For when the gods made man, they let death be his lot. Eternal life they withheld. Let your every day be full of joy. Love the child that holds your hand. Let your wife delight in your embrace. For these alone are the concerns of man” -The Epic of Gilgamesh


Leaving the Train

I read a remarkable story the other day. 

A boy had traveled by train with his parents every month to visit his grandparents. Eventually he reached the point where he convinced his parents he was old enough to make the trip alone.  As the train prepared to leave the station, his father slipped something in his pocket, and said, “if you feel frightened or confused, this is for you.”

The trip was different from when the boy had his parents for reassurance.  The train was noisier and more crowded than he remembered, with people looking at him in ways he could not interpret. Scared, and feeling terribly alone, he remembered his dad had put something in his pocket. It was a piece of paper on which he had written five words:

“I’m in the last car.”

We know we have to let our children go, but no matter their age, we always want to be in the last car, watching, in case their life gets too tough to handle on their own.

For 43 years I was on the train with my son Ivan, at first with him in my lap and eventually supporting him from the last car. With great sadness, I am now ready to go public with the news that Ivan and I both left that train on January 1, 2023.  Ivan is gone now, exploring the hereafter with his brother, Adriano, and I am stepping into my future as well, now that we both are free of his suffering. 

I don’t know how long it will be before I write more about this. Just wanted you to know what has happened, and to assure you that although it is pretty lonely and confusing standing on the platform without him,  I am feeling strong and capable of moving forward, and grateful as ever for the blessings of my life, even when they are mixed with pain. Thank you for any loving thoughts you sent Ivan’s and my way.

Ivan Etienne Corona

September 28, 1979- January 1, 2023

Rise in Power, Be Free, Go with my Love


Solstice Light

Victoria is covered with a foot of snow. The streets are brown with slush and today will be treacherous with ice after a solstice-long night of temperatures well below freezing. It’s a good time to stay inside and light candles. 

We don’t live in an era when candles are necessary—unless we forgot new batteries for the flashlights and the power goes out—but they are one of our most potent symbols. Jews are lighting them this week in celebration of a miracle.  We light them to usher Shabbat in and out. Many Christian denominations light them at the altar to begin services.  They are one of the most powerful ways we have to separate ourselves from the mundane and ordinary and enter divine space and time.

Or just inure ourselves to the long, cold dark of winter. Years back, I took the coastal steamer one summer all the way up Norway to the Russian border. Because it was the means of transportation for local people and goods, I had a few hours in several remote towns unvisited by tourists. I spent a fair amount of time poking around hardware stores because I have always been curious about what we now rather inelegantly call “life hacks,” which are on display in what local people buy. I was amazed by the quality and quantity of items relating to setting a beautiful table—runners, mats, tablecloths, and of course candle holders. In a town without tourists to sell sticker-shock Scandinavian brands to, where else is there to shop for beauty but the aisles between the snow shovels and the bins of nails and hinges? Though it was midsummer and only passingly dark at any point, it seemed clear to me what this was about.  Winter is either here or coming in this part of the world. 

There is something deep in all of us, I suspect, that understands that beauty keeps darkness at bay, that light helps to banish loneliness and isolation. In the long stretch of time between ending my toxic marriage and meeting my great midlife love, Jim, I collected tableware and changed out my table every few days.  For a while I set two places even though I knew one would be unused, mostly because I preferred the way it looked, but admittedly because it represented some future hope of having the right person seated there. Funny, how when Jim died, I went back to doing this, but with only one place because now it was too sad a reminder of the man who wasn’t there.  And, I realize now, it was an important symbol of how I had fully embraced the idea that I, by myself, was enough. 

The lighted candles were part of those tables. They help us weather all variety of storms. 

As often happens when I post here, I think I will write about one thing and end up talking about something else. I thought I was going to write about weather and memory, and if you go back to the opening you will see how it took just three sentences to set the course this post was meant to have.  My jumping off point was going to be how I notice when I think back about my travels, how rarely the weather factors into my memories. Southeast Asia is very hot and humid, but what I remember are the Buddhas and the bustle. Don’t ask me whether I was wearing a parka or a light jacket as I was exploring the Maritimes, or whether it was a day for sandals or shoes and socks in the Canaries. I have to look at my photographs to remember. 

Of course there are exceptions—the sudden torrential rain flooding the streets as I was showing my friend Linda the sights of one of my favourite cities, Riga.  Taking advantage of waterproof boots to splash in puddles in Quebec City with my friend Nancy. Scrambling to put on layers of summer clothes for an unseasonably cold day in Morocco with my friend Jane.  But these are the exceptions. Maybe it’s because I spent most of my life in Southern California, where the weather report is on a continuous loop most of the year, and maybe it’s because I have mostly traveled at the easiest part of the year weather wise, but really it’s just that everything else counts for so much more. 

And so it is today. There’s snow piled in the yard, the paths along my beloved cliffs will be far too icy to risk a walk. And probably all I will remember is the glow of the candle I will set in the window. Blessings of the solstice to you all.

The view from my door before dawn.

Mother Love

I have been thinking a lot these days about what being a mother has meant to me over the four plus decades I have been one.  Motherhood is a complicated state, made even thornier by children’s insistence on being their own flawed foils to their parents’ imperfections. 

Even before my first child was born. I was surprised by the mama lion awakened in me. My now ex-husband and I had been a little ambivalent about parenthood but decided waiting to be absolutely sure was a choice to be childless, since that level of certainty was unlikely. I went off the pill and soon the decision had been made for us by a speedy sperm and a ready egg. But from that moment it was like a complete reordering of everything, physically and emotionally. All ambivalence vanished. I wanted that child ferociously. 

When my son Adriano was born, I felt a depth of love and bonding I hadn’t thought possible. When I got pregnant a second time, I couldn’t imagine in the early stages how I could possibly love anyone as much as the child I already had, but the same ferocity took over, and I learned with Ivan’s arrival how a mother’s love doesn’t get divided but doubles. 

When my children were small, I would without hesitation have sacrificed my life for them. This level of protectiveness remained strong as they navigated their school years and experienced the hurts of a world that didn’t revolve around meeting their desires and needs. But there’s a subtle shift as children become adults. It’s not that the ferocity of the love abates, but that it becomes less one dimensional.  

I was on a tour somewhere on a cruise assignment and while on the bus, the guide somehow got talking about how parents will do anything for their children. He asked the people on the tour if this wasn’t so, and got mostly blank stares. I could see he was utterly disgusted and pulled him aside later to explain that it wasn’t that they were heartless, but that their children were probably in their forties and fifties.  He said that he had meant when their children were small, and totally agreed with their response now that he understood it.

Obviously, somewhere along the way, our thinking about our children changes. There are a lot of ways one could try to explain this, but what seems to make most sense to me is the idea that motherhood (and fatherhood too for involved fathers) has both unconditional and transactional aspects.  With babies, they are scarcely separate.  A baby offers us gurgles, smiles, and excitedly kicking legs and we are repaid for all we do.  Toddlers just have to offer us a bite of their cookie and our hearts go every bit as soggy. 

But as children get older, we expect more.  They need to pitch in. They need to be more accountable. This is all on the transactional side. The unconditional love side remains intact. Eventually the parent-child relationship reaches a point where, to use a common trope, the parent won’t reflexively throw him of herself in front of a bus, but rather both parent and child act to help the other—and hopefully both of them—get out of the way. Somewhere along the line, a healthy parent-child relationship starts feeling more like a team. 

This can take a long time to happen. An adolescent sense of entitlement to everything relating to parents can extend even to when the first gray hairs start popping out of the child’s head. Parents can have a hard time letting go of the desire to save their children from stress and hardship, and keep figuratively throwing themselves in front of the bus to keep them from suffering. 

This comes about because that unconditional love aspect of parenthood never changes, but somewhere along the line a healthy transactional side never adequately developed. Unconditional love sends messages that it isn’t right to let a son or daughter go without something we can easily afford to give. It says that when they let us down, we should adjust our attitude about what we asked of them so we can let any negative feelings go. When parents think they are supposed to behave this way, they are confused when it only makes them feel smaller. Love is supposed to make one feel bigger, but unconditional love without a strong and respectful transactional side will almost guarantee the opposite. 

Occasionally I see situations where children bend over backwards to do things for parents to try to earn their love because that love has always felt conditional, and the one-sided transactions never satisfy the parent for long. True, unconditional parental love is a great grounding force and an important asset to a child’s healthy and happy life, but the important thing is that both unconditional and transactional love thrive.

I think children tend to relate only to the parent standing in front of them currently, but the parent sees the child as everything he or she has ever been, from bump, to birth, to today. It isn’t just about who did what for whom recently. Some debts can never be fully paid.  The parents also need to know when to let children just be who they have become and not saddle them with all they ever were.  Any healthy relationship between grownups, is founded by genuine actions to be part of a team that lifts up both sides. Parents and children who can achieve this are fortunate indeed. 


Totally Dark at 5PM

I looked out my window just now and had the thought that when the solstice hits in one month, it will be even worse. The darkness will mount around 4PM, and when I wake up, as usual, around 6am, I will have several hours before dawn makes it fully a new day.

But there’s nothing “worse” about it. It just is what happens this time of year, and the better approach is simply to mark it and move on.  I might view it differently if I lived elsewhere in Canada. I might be switching gears more profoundly to truly winter weather, winter troubles, winter pleasures, but really here in Victoria, it just boils down to shorter days and a need every day for my parka, hat, and (maybe) gloves.  

I will not have Pacific Northwest gray and dark as relentlessly as many here, since I will be gone in January and February, first in Southeast Asia and then in Micronesia, but I am feeling philosophical anyway.

There is good in every season. I had a glorious summer and fall, and now it is time to be smaller, to be more inward, to withdraw a little and just be with myself. I haven’t written anything here for a while because some things about my life are too private and complicated right now to share.  In that sense, I think I started winter very early this year. But every season of mind and spirit has its own benefits to offer.

Though I am not Christian, I think often of the line from the Gospel of John about “having life and having it abundantly.”  As I walk along forest paths turned spongy with this season’s fallen leaves (photo below of my latest walk), i see the vanished green life at the edges of lakes and streams and remember that sometimes to choose life, you have to withdraw, to cocoon, to hibernate.  it is a good thing to seek a cave from time to time, or in my case, to seek a restorative place where I can walk and just let the changing season speak to me.  These are all ways that life chooses itself again and again. And so do I.  Let the days grow shorter. I am ready for the life that waits within this fallow season.


A Is for Atonement (and Apple Watch)

The formal season for reflection and atonement is now over, but I have a piece of unfinished business and a story to tell.

A reservation mix-up in Montreal caused me to change hotels after my first night there, and when I got to my new hotel, I realized I wasn’t wearing my rather new and expensive Apple Watch. A thorough ransacking of my luggage confirmed that I had left it in the last hotel room.  I went to the device finder app and for some reason it said my watch was still at home in Victoria (nope), so that was no help. I called the hotel to ask them to look out for it, and they said it had not been found. 

I was still hopeful, and I went about my day trying not to let self-recrimination ruin it. That was hard to do. I have been careless so much in the last year or two, losing more than one phone, and walking away from jackets, bags, etc..  I am not careful about checking spaces I have vacated, and I can’t seem to break the habit.  Yes, I check hotel rooms pretty thoroughly but obviously not carefully enough. I am a failure at protecting my possessions, I am getting senile, I can’t justify buying expensive things, I am just not anywhere near the responsible person I want to be—all this was going through my mind. 

Then, for some reason, in the afternoon the app updated and said the watch was indeed still at the address of the hotel.  At that point I was out of town, and when I returned I headed straight there. To my surprise, just before I got there, the app said the watch was somewhere else, about a kilometer away. 

I went back to my new hotel and called to tell the other one that they indeed did have the watch and now it was gone.  The clerk and I agreed that it was quite suspicious. The housekeeping staff would have been on site until roughly the time the watch left the premises. The most logical conclusion was that someone had found it and taken it home.  

The manager got involved and it was starting to look ugly, because I said that for something that valuable, with the appearance  of theft, I felt I had to file a police report.  It also was starting to look as if they might have to deal with a thief in a position of trust. Everyone was very unhappy. I was thinking at that point that I would rather have lost the watch than be getting into the spiral of accusations and mistrust I sensed was coming. 

Then the manager stopped returning my calls.  Were they circling the wagons?  Were they on the verge of resolving this with an employee and just not ready to say anything yet?  I didn’t know. In my new hotel I found my experience of the housekeepers colored by the belief that the last one had not been honest. Ugly, indeed. 

It stood that way for another day, when I called again and was told that the watch had been found in a pile of dirty sheets.  Of course, I thought, the person who took it brought it back and ditched it. Maybe they showed it to someone who told her these watches have tracking devices and to get rid of it fast.  Anyway, I could come pick it up. I was relieved not just to have it back but because I wasn’t going to be responsible for doing harm to whoever had taken it. Even if it had been stolen, life is hard, and I didn’t want to get anyone fired who was already struggling to survive.  

So that is the story as experienced by Laurel. Now I will tell you the true story of the watch. Apparently it was caught up in the bedding when I left the room. The housekeeper had not seen it when she collected the sheets and had thrown it in the laundry. In the afternoon, coincidentally, right at the time the shift ended, it was headed to the laundry service.  That was where Its location changed to, not at someone’s home. 

But it gets better. Apparently the watch got associated with the laundry of another hotel, and it had taken the better part of a day’s dogged search for my old hotel, the laundry company and the misidentified hotel to all come together and realize where the watch needed to go. While I am thinking terrible thoughts, all those people were coming together to help a total stranger get her property back. 

All this was happening in the last few days of the High Holidays, meant to be a time of reflection about our shortcomings and resolutions to be a better person in the coming year. I am still processing the story of the watch in these terms. In Hebrew the word Teshuvah is often translated as repentance, but its more literal meaning is return. Return to a time before we went astray. Return to a simpler understanding of the connection between behavior and principles. Regrounding. A chance to be new again. 

I don’t think I was a bad person to think my watch was stolen. I think it was reasonable to draw that conclusion. But I was wrong when I said to the hotel manager that there really didn’t seem to be any other way it added up.  There indeed was, and it is a reminder that we can choose between thoughts that reaffirm our faith in humankind, or that undermine it. I chose the latter and for a few days I suffered needlessly and could not be my best self. 

I could say that what happened reaffirmed my faith in humankind, but that makes it about other people and in the spirit of Teshuvah, I want it to be about me. Where is my opportunity for return in this experience?  

I can return to compassion by remembering that every person I meet has a story, and try harder to have their story be better as a result of crossing paths with me. i can do better at this.   I can return to greater confidence that most people are trying to live their best lives, and thus are doing their best to be trustworthy and honest. I can do better at this too So what if I daily see exceptions?  I daily see proof as well. It’s there in every one of the people who got my watch back, including—and here I can return to assuming the best in people—the housekeeper who never stole it in the first place.