This Body

I had something really strange happen today. I found myself, for just a few seconds, actually appreciating my body. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I loved my physical self. And it was a strong burst of love, strong enough to throw me off guard. It was like living in a place where it’s been raining heavily every day for as long as anyone can remember, and then one day the sun punches through a tiny spot in the clouds for just a second or two, and shines so incredibly hard that the person who was standing right where the sun happened to touch is now sporting a George Hamilton-level tan.

It happened like this: I was walking to work this morning. Since it’s already getting hot here, I wear my workout clothes to walk to work, then change into other clothes once I get to the office, so I won’t be sweaty all day. My workout clothes are pretty basic – spandex capris always, then whatever t-shirt suits me that day. Sometimes I wear sneakers, but I can’t stand for my feet to get hot, so lately I’ve been walking to work in my hiking sandals, Tevas.

So I was walking along, feeling kind of like a stuffed sausage in my form-fitting clothes, but overall just enjoying the sensation of walking. I really love the new sandals, and they make my walk feel more like an adventure. I was within five minutes of getting to the office, just starting to cross over a busy street, and all of a sudden – whoosh! I found that I loved how strong and capable my feet and legs felt, and how easy it was to carry my (kind of heavy, actually) work backpack. And then I thought “I bet my butt’s looking really great right now with all those squats I’ve been doing at the gym” and from there I started to smile, and felt like someone really should notice me, walking across the street, looking great. Wouldn’t that be a treat for them to see a strong, happy woman going about her day? And then I realized that I’d just experienced a moment of truly liking being in my skin, and it all disappeared again.

But it was there. I felt it. I know what it’s like. So that’s a start, right?

Sunday Picture Show (Keeping Afloat)

I’d typically be calling this my Photography Friday post, but since I’m two days late, we’re trying something new. This week’s Photo Challenge prompt is to share photos that exemplify what “afloat” means to us, and I’ve taken quite a few lately…

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My workouts at Iron Tribe can be a bit intense, but I love every minute of it. Even better than feeling strong and capable is the fact that a hard workout every day keeps me happy and relaxed. These are the blisters on my right hand after a kettlebell workout earlier this week.

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My Isabel. I love my cats – there’s nothing like having a good cuddle after a hard day, though Izzy isn’t prone to being that affectionate unless it’s bedtime. When I was sick and feeling miserable last week, she came and napped with me on the couch.

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One of my favorite things to do is walk around New Orleans and take photos of the things that capture my attention. Street art never fails to captivate and stir my imagination. I take a lot of photos of cool graffiti around town, but this one struck my fancy last week. Let me find out, indeed.

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Small details help keep me grounded (or afloat, whichever turn of phrase you prefer). I love that looking for little things helps keep me mindful and “in the moment”, and while I’m walking around town, I try to capture these moments in photos if possible. This is a shot I took of water droplets collecting on a newly painted front stoop the other day. I loved how the water was pooling, and was pretty satisfied with the colors of the shot in the end. The stoop was a brilliant shade of teal, but the shadows gave a purple sheen.

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The idea that I’ll be leaving for the Camino in six months is definitely keeping me sane and happy. I walk to and from work (about 2 miles) each day, and on the way to work, I cross over Spain Street. Each time that I notice the street sign, I can’t help but be reminded of how lucky I am, and how amazing it’s going to be to finally get my boots on the ground in Spain this October.

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You, you amazing man. I don’t know how I made it this long without you in my life. You’re everything I’ve been looking for for all this time. Thank you for making me so much stronger, and giving me the strength to realize that I didn’t need a man in my life to be complete – but having the right one could make everything that much sweeter. You make me laugh, you make me think, and you’ve helped me make myself whole. Your encouragement and faith have pushed me to new heights as a person, and I only hope that I can return the favor. I love you.

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On Passion

Awhile back, I was having one of those mini-crises I always seem to be having. You know, the kind where I question everything that’s going on in my life, why I’m here, what my purpose on the planet is, if I’ve been screwing everything up, etc. As an overthinker, I tend to work my way through that thought process on a daily basis, but it’s one of those broken records that seems to really start driving you mad after a couple of weeks on repeat. That day, Boyfriend was talking me down from the metaphorical ledge (as he does so well) and one of the things that he said was that I needed to find my passion, stop wasting my time on the other crap, and go for the thing that made my heart sing. Or something like that. He generally speaks much more concisely than I do, so it was probably something more like “Pick a passion and go!”

Anyway, I agreed. Still do. There’s only one problem – I have no clue what my passion is. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s more like I know of several things that make me happy, but I don’t really know how I’d transform them into any kind of solid life plan. Basically, when I was in my 20’s, being a starving artist sounded romantic, but now it sounds like a really stupid idea, best avoided at all costs.

In times like this, creating lists really helps me out, so this is my list of things I’m passionate about. Maybe it will help spark some ideas.

  • Origami
  • Photography
  • Paper
  • Crafts (in general)
  • Organizing parties/events
  • Organizing people
  • Marketing/PR for parties/events
  • Helping out my friends
  • Making people happy and more relaxed
  • Animals & animal rights issues
  • Fitness / being strong & healthy
  • Singing
  • Writing
  • Walking
  • St. Francis
  • The Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Out of this list of passions come a few different business/career/life ideas. As far as life goes, I’m combining my love of fitness, St. Francis, the Camino, and walking this fall when I embark on my first Camino journey – that famous 500 miles across Spain to Santiago de Compostela. I’ll probably be tying my love of writing in there, too, as I plan to write a book about the experience. Whether it will be non-fiction or fiction remains to be seen. I’m not sure if I’ll be tying photography into the journey. Obviously, I’ll be taking photos, but not sure if I’ll be taking photos in a more serious capacity, or just for my own joy. But then again, does it really matter so much?

As far as my work goes, I’m stuck in my current career cycle for the time being, and it’s not horrible to make enough money to live and pay my bills. It’s just that I’d like to be more deeply satisfied with what I do for the majority of my waking hours. I’d like to be really helping in some capacity. I guess life would feel just about perfect if I could be spending my daytime hours helping plan events, and my spare time making origami to sell at craft markets and online. To tell the truth, I’ve thought about trying to get into the movie business, but the idea terrifies me as much as it feels “right” somehow.

I think that for now, I should stick with what I’m doing, career-wise, and start making more efforts in learning to craft in paper, and in writing on a regular basis. Of course, this is very easy to say.

Have you found your passion? Do you have a clear idea of what it is, and how to follow it every day? Any stories to share, or advice to give? I’d love to hear from you.

Mind The Gap

Guys, I am so sick. I’ve been down for the count with a really nasty cold for almost a week now, only now it seems to be morphing into a sinus infection or something similar. It started with coughing, fever, sore throat and chest congestion, and has grown into intense sinus pain and pressure, reduced hearing in my left ear, dizziness, so much sneezing (!!!) and a stuffy nose.

Sometimes when you have a cold, you just power through it and go to work and school anyway. It’s more of an inconvenience. Then there are times like this last week, when at times, walking from the bed to the couch seemed almost too much to bear. I felt awful on Wednesday and Thursday, OK on Friday, pretty good yesterday (not great, but like I’d be back to normal soon), and then I woke up today feeling the worst I’ve felt thus far.

I sound like a cartoon character when I talk. There are tissues all over the house. I’ve given up on all of the regular cold medicines I’ve been trying out, one after the other, and have moved on to a homeopathic remedy that I found in the new age section of my neighborhood grocery store. I’m drinking a kombucha to wash it down. Honestly, if I could hook some sort of nozzle up to my sinuses to drain them, I’d be doing it. I don’t have a neti pot, unfortunately, and I don’t trust our water safety here, since in years past it’s tested positive for a brain eating amoeba (I’ll take the sinus pressure, thanks). I must go back to work tomorrow, but right now I’m not finding comfort in dealing with feeling like this all day at the office.

There has been one positive thing about being sick, though. I’ve been going through these intense waves of thinking too much (mental overload), tempered by not being able to think at all (ultimate relaxation). I’ve found that being a bit doped up on cough medicine puts you in a forced mindful state, giving you less ability to multitask and drive yourself mad with mental options. It’s created opportunities for me to think about mindfulness and get a better understanding of where it is in my normal life (sans cold medication) that I manage to hone in and simplify my thought patterns, helping myself create tiny pockets of calm.

All of this talk about mindfulness is mostly related to a couple of things: a class on the chakras that Boyfriend and I have been attending, and a book that I’m currently reading called 10% Happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works – a true story, by Dan Harris. Here’s a video from ABC’s Nightline, where Harris provides a great synopsis of the book:

Or if you’re not really a fan of reading, here’s a talk Harris gave at Google (pretty much along the lines of a long TED Talk) about the concepts covered in the book. Note: I don’t have the patience for long videos, so I won’t vouch for it being as entertaining as the book has been:

Thus far, my personal attempts at meditation have been similar to Harris’s first attempts, as described in the book. Irritating, full of doubt, not very effective, physically and mentally uncomfortable, basically something that I keep trying and then being annoyed by and saying I’ll never do again. Reading his book has put this in perspective for me, because instead of thinking that everyone’s getting it and I must just not be built for meditation, I’m suddenly understanding that it’s difficult for everyone. I’m not a failure, I just need to keep trying.

The other part of it is that my attempts to meditate have (up until now) been guided by spiritual practitioners, and I have a very hard time feeling comfortable with that. I love that Harris spends a great deal of his book talking about his own discomfort with the hippies and guru-types, and was looking for something solid, more scientific, and less touchy-feely. And he found it. Finally – a place for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pagan, I believe in magick, I use crystals and sage and listen for the voice of my ancestors. But my path is my own, and meditation primarily needs to be about shutting down my ego’s voice for long enough to calm down and think clearly each day. I don’t need some self-proclaimed “highly attuned, goddess-in-training” type to lecture me on how to love my fellow man. I need to be able to quiet my mind long enough to figure that out on my own.

One of the things I’ve learned is that while I need to be working so much harder on being mindful, I actually do have several things that I do on a daily basis that are self-taught mindfulness techniques. For a long time now, maybe my entire life, I don’t remember, I’ve had this practice of paying attention to a tiny detail. When I start to get stressed or sad or overwhelmed, I turn my attention to one small thing, and ruminate on it for a minute.

For instance, a few weeks ago I was having a HORRIBLE day. Boyfriend and I were meeting up to go to a yoga class, and I was feeling weepy and sad and a little angsty and maybe a tiny bit like hitting something, and we were running late, and it was just shitty. I knew I was acting like a brat. I hated myself for it. This was all internal – he just saw that I was dragging, and was being very supportive about quietly helping me get from point A to point B without forgetting my yoga mat. So we’re walking along, and I knew that I was internally being awful, and I naturally let my gaze fall on this tiny flower that was growing out of the sidewalk. I stopped for a second, and let myself appreciate the flower. It was a beautiful little dandelion, still brand new. It was bright yellow, and slightly fuzzy, and the leaves were very strong, this lovely shade of deep, deep green. The edges of the leaves were jagged, and had little sharp protrusions that wouldn’t hurt my skin but would hurt something more tender. I saw the dirt that the flower was growing out of. I saw that the flower’s stalk was the only life that that tiny patch of silty soil was supporting (visible to my eye, at least). I thought about how tough the flower’s short life would be. I realized that I was happy and calm, and none of the things that I was thinking about were actually important. I asked Boyfriend how his day had been and we walked on to yoga class. The troubles of my day weren’t over, but they didn’t matter to me so much anymore.

The other thing that I do is appreciate where the tops of buildings meet the sky. I call them muffintops. No clue why, really. Both make me happy? The roofline is as attractive and delicious as the top of a muffin? I don’t know. For years, I’ve been taking photographs of my muffintops, admiring the lines, the depth, the colors where red brick seems to touch (but never actually does) the robin’s egg blue of the sky behind it. Even when I’m not taking photos, I still look up, and every now and then I tend to fixate on a point that pleases me. I’ve tried to explain why they’re so beautiful to me, and what happens when I look up and see a lovely roofline, how sometimes my mind just seems to float away for a bit and I am awestruck by the beauty. I feel a little loopy when it happens. I know that sounds crazy, and I didn’t quite get it, myself, until yesterday. Boyfriend and I were walking down the street. I saw a particularly pretty muffintop, and I stopped to examine it. My mind was clear. I saw the roofline, I saw the sky, I thought of the distance between the two, how they touched and never would touch. I saw the roofline, I saw the sky, I saw the roofline, I saw the sky, I saw the roofline, I saw the…”holy shit,” I thought, “this is what I’m supposed to be doing when I’m meditating.” The reason it always feels so good to examine a muffintop is because I’m being mindful, and nothing else intrudes. So there’s another piece of my personal puzzle, solved.

Now it’s time to finish the book, and figure out which one to start next. Studies have shown that meditating changes your brain. I’d very much like that. But honestly, if I had a choice between increasing my gray matter and finding an instant cure for this cold, I’d have to fix the cold first. It’s going to be great to breathe again.

All That She Wants

It’s funny how we think that if we just had enough money, it would solve everything. Having just finished up looking at my accounting on LearnVest, I can promise you that (at least for me) it isn’t true in the least. Here I am, making what a year ago would have seemed an exorbitant sum, and I am still just barely keeping afloat. Maybe it’s the 30% I need to set away for taxes every paycheck. Maybe it’s the student loan bills. Maybe it’s the truly insane cost of my monthly health insurance bill (which costs enough that I can’t actually afford to go to the doctor – which requires a copay – on top of paying the health insurance, isn’t that just hilarious?)

Since I can’t seem to get this stuff figured out on my own, I’ve decided to hire a financial planner. Nothing fancy, of course. Just one of the LearnVest planners, who still cost more than I’d prefer to spend, but if I don’t get someone in charge of this who can tell me what/what not to do, I’m afraid I’ll be bleeding even more money each month. So I’m doing the grownup thing and paying someone to help me plan a future where I can hopefully be a little less stressed about my financial security every second of the day.

I probably wouldn’t have had this much time to get obsessed with finances had I not been ill and at home pretty much all week. I caught a nasty cold, and have spent the last three days coughing and feeling feverish, so I’ve been stuck in my apartment, just fixating on all of the things I’d be studiously ignoring if I could go to work and the gym like usual. God, I miss the gym.

Anyway, I thought I’d write a little bit about my wants, because why not, right?

I want straight teeth.
I want corrected vision.
I want hair that makes me look both feminine and carefree.
I want to lose 40 lbs.
I want my boobs to stay this size, even when I lose weight.
I want my thighs not to rub when I wear skirts.
I want my spider veins to be corrected.
I want to not have to shave my legs anymore.
I want my elbows to be soft and pink, instead of slightly grayish no matter how much I scrub them.
I want to stop breaking out.
I want a new Fitbit Charge HR that will pair with my LoseIt app on my cell phone (which pairs with my Healthometer scale).
I want to be funny.
I want to be well-spoken.
I want to know what my passion is.
I want to follow my passion.
I want to be more confident.
I want people to find me attractive and interesting.
I want to be able to get onstage to sing or talk without seeing myself through the crowd’s eyes and hating wasting their time by looking like this.
I want to not hate myself.
I want to care more about other people, instead of just thinking that I should care more about other people.
I want to buy my apartment.
I want to buy the apartment next door and open the two up.
I want a third cat.
I want a pug.
I want to want to garden.
I want some cacti.
I want central air, so my living room would be the same temperature as my bedroom, and I wouldn’t have to sleep under the window unit and get sick.
I want my family to want to visit me.
I want someone to publish my boyfriend’s book, and buy the rights to his movie.
I want a car.
I want to be a morning person.
I want to be able to live on less sleep.
I want to be energized.
I want to be alluring.
I want to be magical.
I want to stop wanting so much.
I want to be happy with myself, even if for just a little while.
I want to stop living in this pool of self-loathing and pretending that everything’s OK.
I want to be able to believe that everyone else isn’t doing the same damn thing.
I want to run away.

Tidbits and Tidings

It’s 9:07pm on a Wednesday night. I’m nursing an overworked bicep and eating one of the most delicious brownies I’ve ever eaten (washing it down with flax milk). There’s tons on my mind, but it’s not for this blog. Believe it or not, I had an idea for a book yesterday, my first new fiction idea in a couple of years. Or at least the first one that was interesting enough for me to want to put aside the other things I’m slowwwwwlllllyyy penning. I’m the slowest writer ever. At this rate, I’ll be 95 before the first one gets published. Self published. But anyway, I did want to stop in and write a few things.

First off, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman announced today that she is pregnant with their child. I have mixed feelings about this. I love them both, and any kid they produce is bound to be awesome, but I guess I’m either sad or jealous or a bit of both. I’ve had a mad crush on Neil since about two sentences into Neverwhere, and obviously that’s like having a crush on Brad Pitt and getting jealous when he and Angelina started their brood, but whatever. I’m human, and I’m sad that he’s definitively off the market, even if I was never even allowed in the doors of that particular establishment. But I’m still happy for them, and I hope it’s a girl, so she can be as fierce as her mother, times ten.

Secondly, my handsome amazing boyfriend and I went to Atlanta this weekend for a ridiculous trip. We drove roughly 9 hours there (counting meals and pit stops) on Saturday, and about 8 hours back on Sunday. We spent about 18 hours there, total, during which we got some pizza, saw an amazing concert, slept at our Airbnb, did some laundry, and went to Ikea. Next time I’m planning an extra day in there just to get rested up and maybe see some of the city. I heard that there’s a paper museum there, which sounds pretty interesting (if you’re as boring as I am).

The concert was fabulous, and I want to talk about it next Music Monday, but I’ll just say that it was my second time seeing Dry the River in concert, and this time the crowd was smaller but even more excited to see them. It was awesome getting to be so close to them as they performed, and getting to see their rapport with the other band that played that night, an American group called Horse Thief. Also, I was very pleased to be able to introduce the boyfriend to them in a live setting, after he’d been the one to introduce me to them on CD. Or mp3. Whatever. It was great.

Next up, I’d like to tell you a little about my mood and overall health as of late. The road trip really did not sit well with me. The constant anxiety of driving, plus the shitty food and lack of rest, set me over the edge. By Monday I was kind of freaking out. Thankfully, I’ve been “seeing” a therapist online and she’s been helping me get sorted, but it’s still been tough. I’ve been watching what I eat, trying to avoid caffeine and alcohol, and I’ve worked out for the last two days, so now I’m properly tired and can’t really think of being too anxious or moody. However, I hurt my biceps yesterday, and again today, at the gym. Not so much hurt as had intense cramping in both arms, which is a strange and unpleasant feeling. To counteract it and hopefully prevent it from happening tomorrow, I’m currently heating one of them, and I’ve taken some ibuprofen and rolled out the muscles a bit with a tennis ball. Hopefully that will help.

OK, that’s all I’ve got. I’m moving on to greener pastures, i.e. the outline for my new story. Have a lovely night, all.

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, I walked into the theater. Did I walk behind you, or in front? I can’t remember.

I was wearing that simple, sleeveless black dress, the one with the high neckline and the flouncy skirt. Boots and tights and a light purple cardigan looked nice. My crystal wand, strung on a necklace, dangled just below my breasts. I like to think I wear it to look cool, but I actually wear it because the quartz and amethyst calm me down, and the glass and metal binding them feels cool to my palm when I start to be too anxious. That night my nerves were aflame. It was our first real date.

Only a few weeks before, I’d experienced the panic of finding that a casual acquaintance was actually a kindred spirit. We listened to Neutral Milk Hotel and leaned against each other as we sang along to every word. On the way home that night, after hours of drinks and conversation and laughter, I looked out over the city skyline from the back of Wheels’ car and realized that my hand felt funny. I looked down, and saw with not a small amount of shock that your fingers and mine were intertwined. Like they were supposed to be that way. Like it was OK. It was not OK. But I did not remove my hand, any more than I told you that it was wrong, that I was not yours to touch. I just let my mind linger on the sparks that flew between our fingers. It needed the energy.

But that was before a year ago today, and before anyone is invited into the story. Let us fast-forward back to the intended beginning.

We walked into the theater. I think maybe I was in front. Did we stop so you could smoke a cigarette first? The black dress and purple sweater and boots were a good choice. I felt hip and sophisticated. I felt like we matched. What did you wear? Probably your black hoodie. And those amazing Union Jack Doc Martens, the ones you wore the week before at the comedy show.

Oh man, the comedy show. It could have been a date, had I not attended with Wheels (who did not tell me that you were coming, by the way). I saw you and your friends hanging out before the show, and instead of walking to your table to say hi, I made a beeline for the bar. I was still there, back to your table, waiting for my drink and rehearsing the proper nonchalant opening line when you walked up behind me. Don’t worry, you said, I had to take a Xanax. I laughed, and was immediately OK.

I think that was the last time I felt truly anxious around you. From then on, your presence has set me at ease. Just the sight of you makes me take a deep breath, unknots stubborn solid muscles in my neck, gives me the urge to let a smile scrape its way past my scowl. A year ago today, walking into the theater with you, there was just one thing that kept buzzing around in my mind, though – we hadn’t kissed yet. When would that be? What would that be like? Would it be tonight? I felt like a teenager again.

I can’t remember the shoes, the coat, the first cigarette. I can’t remember what we were drinking, though I’m relatively sure that you had a Jameson and water, and I had a Jameson on the rocks. We’re so predictable. I remember the balcony. We were sitting way up high, almost at the very top, so that we could step over the backs of our chairs and into the balcony bar area (so handy, we said). The people sitting just to the right of you were a mother and her teenage son. This is only important because of how annoyed she got with us after we talked all the way through the first act, and into the headliner, Broken Bells. We couldn’t stop talking! We still can’t.

As soon as we sat down, drinks in hand, I started to feel self-conscious. What next? We’d held hands that one time, but ever since then, we’d played it by the book. I hadn’t wanted to cheat on my boyfriend, and I especially didn’t want you involved in any kind of drama of that sort. I just wanted out of that relationship, and was simultaneously realizing that, even though it was completely idiotic and totally not the right timing, I also wanted in on you. Badly.

So now, three weeks after attending one concert as friends, we sat in a different part of the same theater, at a different concert, nursing the same drinks, thinking about becoming lovers. In my memory, it’s the longest three weeks in the history of the world. I used it to end a long relationship, figure out where to live, and listen the Spotify playlist you made for me overandoverandoverandover. Dry the River, The Nationals, Amanda Palmer, †††, Chvrches…

At the time, though, this night seemed much longer than those three weeks had – mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to get you to hold my hand again.

I tried to remember how holding hands had happened as a kid. What do middle school girls do when they want their crushes to grab their sweaty little palms and caress them skill-lessly? We talked, the band played, and my mind wrapped itself around this conundrum. Your hands stayed firmly on your own lap, well away from me. It started to feel like some kind of statement, one I wasn’t keen on letting stand. Finally I decided it was now or never. I put my hand on my knee, then slid it down my leg a bit until the pinkie finger side of my hand was touching your leg. At first, nothing happened. Nothing. You drank your drink, I drank mine, my hand lingered awkwardly between our thighs, fingertips enjoying the subtle prickling of a few stray leg hairs as they poked through my tights. I’ll be so glad when they perfect laser hair removal.

At last, you shifted a bit and placed your hand next to mine, fingers dancing over mine ever so softly. There it was. The electricity from that night in the car. Then we were listening to music and letting our hands explore each other. It was PG, but also intimate. Every time you caressed my palm with your thumb, shivers ran up and down my spine.

That’s probably why the transition from holding hands to kissing was so subtle. I used our tangled fingers as an excuse to snuggle closer to you in those uncomfortable wooden theater seats, leaning my head on your shoulder and breathing in deep. Can I tell you one more time just how amazing it is to love the very smell of a person, sans stupid colognes and body sprays and stinky deodorants, just plain old deliciously-scented masculinity? I had to kiss you. And I did.

A year ago today, we went to see Broken Bells play at the Civic Theater. I didn’t know who they were before we went to the show – I just said yes because you were going to be there. But you knew that. The show was good, but honestly I don’t remember all that much. Because once we start talking, we can’t stop, and once we start kissing, that’s all we ever want to do. I’m fine with that.