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What I learned from being (temporarily) very busy

EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

I was way busier than normal over the course of the last two months, and lemme tell ya, I learned some things.

What was I so busy with? I was co-producing an immersive theater show about family, ancestry and white supremacy. Every night we hosted 25 people around our forty-foot-long table to see the show, eat a meal, and share in conversation about the themes of the performance.

It was about 7 hours of my time (and like, triple that in energy) every night for two weeks, not to mention all the running around and late nights and early mornings and short fuses and minor crises of the two months that preceded opening night. I learned lots about race and whiteness, got some new skills in facilitating difficult conversations, and gained lots of knowledge about producing avant-garde theater.

But unsurprisingly, I also learned a lot about myself in all of this busyness. Here’s some of it:

1. When I’m very busy, I quit taking care of myself.

Instead of letting go of the actually extraneous things (scrolling Instagram, for instance), I let go of the things that keep me sane and happy. First I quit seeing my friends, quit going for walks, quit going outside to look at the sky (can’t stop, too busy!!). Then I quit cooking for myself, doing laundry, making the bed, etc.

By the end of May I was wearing the same outfit for three days at a time and eating frozen dumplings for dinner at 1:30 in the morning. Not cute.
 

2. I relied waaaaaaaaayyyyy more on caffeine and alcohol than I usually do.

I’ve been off of coffee for about five years now (Email me if you wanna talk more about this--it drastically improved my anxiety symptoms). I generally drink alcohol once a week or so, sometimes a little more, often much less. Though I don’t drink coffee, I do sometimes use caffeine recreationally (afternoon chai latte is me living on the edge).

But in May, I was drinking tea most mornings because I was so exhausted. Then I was drinking with the cast and crew after the show every night for camaraderie and decompression.  And then I needed caffeine in the morning to function, and then I needed alcohol at the end of the night to wind down.

It was a self-perpetuating cycle, and it was draining and expensive and made my skin break out.

 

3. I realized that my free time makes me richer than money ever could.

My favorite thing is waking up and knowing there is nothing on my agenda for the day. My second favorite thing is having space on my workday mornings for yoga, meditation, journaling, breakfast, and a walk before I ever send an email or talk to a client.

These both went away when I got busy.

(NB: Though I make relatively little money, I recognize the degree of privilege I’m coming from here. My whiteness, my currently able body, my lack of family requiring my care or financial support all contribute to my privilege, which contribute to my ability to have the kind of schedule I do.)

Having a spacious schedule with enough down time and ample breathing room is worth so much to me and I’m willing to say no to things in order to protect it.

 

4. Finally, I learned that other people are really freakin busy all the time. Like way busier than me.

How are y’all doing that?

When I complained about how busy I was in April and May, other people reflected that they were that busy all the time. I seriously don’t understand how y’all are managing being so busy all the time.

If you feel like this, would you write me back and tell me how you manage? And what you struggle with? Because I think I can probably help with this issue but I need to know exactly what’s going on for y’all crazy-busy-all-the-time types.

Do you have thoughts about busyness or spaciousness or the lack thereof? I’d love to hear em! Leave a comment below! 

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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How To Survive When You're Stupid-Busy

EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

I’m really busy right now.

I”m generally not superbusy. It’s one of my core values to try to have spaciousness in my life as much as I can. I hate feeling like I’m being pulled in a thousand directions. So that’s generally not how my life is.

But right now I’m in the final weeks of a two-year long process to bring to life a new, original theater piece. (It’s called Jubilee, thanks for asking. You can find out more about it and buy tickets over here: newnoise.org) There’s a hundred moving parts and a ton of demand on my time in additon to all the stuff I normally do: writing, teaching, client work, etc.

For a couple of weeks I used my old coping strategies. I got pissed off that I had so much to do and the I avoided doing the work. I got stuck in this all-too-familiar cycle of resenting the work, procrastinating on the work, and then loathing myself for how I wasn’t getting anything done.

I feel annoyed that I have so much work to do so I avoid the work, but then I feel bad about myself for avoiding the work. And then I feel bad so it’s even harder to get anything done.

Resentment breeds procrastination. And procrastination breeds self-loathing.

So this week I had to have a come-to-Jesus moment about it. If I’m going to maintain any degree of mental health or sanity, I had to adjust my attitude.

Here are my four best tips for how to survive when you’ve got too much to do.

1. SAY NO TO ANYTHING EXTRANEOUS.

Clear everything you can off your plate. Let go of projects you thought you were going to be able to accomplish, self-imposed deadlines you thought you could meet, etc. For me that has meant pausing work on my new website (including letting my designer and photographer know that I needed to take a break from the work until after the show). It’s also meant extending the deadline for my Patriarchy and Relationships project that’s been percolating on the back burner (coming July 2018).

 

2. GET SERIOUS ABOUT SIMPLE SELF-CARE.

I’m not talking about bubble baths. I mean, Am I drinking enough water? Have I eaten enough food? Am I getting enough sleep? The super basic, simple stuff. Commit yourself to these small things. If you’re gonna make it through the busyness, you need to be as well-fed, well-hydrated, and well-rested as you can be.

 

3. ASK FOR HELP.

I’ve reached out to friends just to let them know I have a lot on my plate. Ask for specific support that will help you get through this busy time. For me that looks like asking for reminders that I’m doing a good job, and accountability around my simple self-care. It also looks like accepting tangible support, like when a friend asks if she can drop off dinner for me, I say yes! This helps two-fold for me: I get the support I need, and I’m relieved of the self-imposed guilt of feeling like I’m being a “bad friend” when I’m not available for social engagements right now.
 

4. REMEMBER THAT IT WON’T BE THIS WAY FOREVER.

This is the simplest one, but perhaps to hardest to do. This moment will pass and another one will follow. And it will be less busy than this one. (If it feels like it will never be less busy, hire me for some life coaching, lol. I can definitely help with that!) For now, just keep inhaling and exhaling.

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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Patience is an action

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EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

It’s been said that patience is a virtue. It’s listed in the Bible as a fruit of the spirit. But who really likes being patient??

 

We tend to think of patience as doing nothing.

 

When a problem arises, the problem-solving part of our brains can snap into high gear, urgently working to fix the issue as soon as possible. It takes a large amount of self-control to slow down or opt out.

 

Patience can feel like just sitting around and waiting. And that can feel profoundly disempowering, like we’re backed into a corner and the only choice is to twiddle our thumbs and wait for something to change. But I want to reframe patience as a form of action.

 

Choosing to be patient is choosing to be actively present with what is, rather than what we wish would be.

 

It can seem like the only empowered option is to force the issue or to aggressively push forward. Others of us tend to turn away from an unsolveable problem to avoid the discomfort that might arise with it. Neither choice is effective.

 

But sometimes patiently waiting can be just as powerful and include just as much agency. Sometimes waiting can allow emotions to settle, creativity to strike, and hidden answers to be revealed.

 

When we force or avoid, we’re running from discomfort.

When we choose patience, we choose reality.

When we choose reality, we suffer less.

 

And that’s the point.

 

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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your joy is within your reach.

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EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

This is the second in a two part series on pain, joy, and how we can have less of one and more of the other.

Anytime there’s an injury, a heartbreak, a failure in your job, in your health, etc, what do we do? We start asking:

WHY?

Why did this happen to me?

This, I think, is an existential human problem, one that strikes almost everyone at some point or another. Through spiritual practice you might be able to minimize the “Why me?’ moments so that you only feel them with big things, like, a serious disease or a giant tax bill, and not say, when you’re stuck in traffic on the interstate.

Secondly we start to ask:

HOW?

How could this have happened?

We do this because our lizard brains know that if we don’t notice how this bad thing happened, it might happen again. It all goes back to the bad berries, you know?

What kind of berries were those? Where did I find them? Why did I think they were safe to eat?

And we apply this to everything: What kind of person was that boss or ex? How did I meet them? Why did I think it was a good choice to work for them/date them? What happened to make everything fall apart?

What can I do differently next time to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

And yet JOY seems like an anathema. Like, how did that happen??

We tend to think that joy is random. Impostor syndrome, anyone?

This week, consider that we may have more control over bringing joy into our lives than we give ourselves credit for. Even if you don’t think that’s factually true, do a thought experiment this week where you pretend it is.

When joy happens, notice where you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing. Can these circumstances be recreated?

Your homework this week is to actively go out of your way to cultivate some small moments of joy.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate. My personal example is that I know if brings me joy to be outside in the morning, so I can cultivate joy by sitting on the front stoop to drink my cup of tea rather than lounging on the couch with my phone.

Imagine if we applied the same level of scrutiny and over-analyzing that we bring to our painful moments to our joyful experiences.

How much happier might you be?

Much love,

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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your pain is not your fault.

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EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

In the mundane and the spiritual, we tend to think that our pain is our fault.

Big as cancer or small as papercuts, when something painful happens, we first blame ourselves.

This is no surprise when you consider that we live in a super victim blaming culture.

“What was she wearing?” we ask, as if male sexual entitlement wasn’t at the root of rape culture.

“Why didn’t he just comply with the cops?” we say, as if police brutality hasn’t targeted Black people for decades.

Victim blaming doesn’t come from nowhere.

Victim blaming is the logical counterpoint to the myth of the meritocracy.

Meritocracy is the idea that if someone is successful in our society, in terms of money or career or whatever, that it’s because of their own hard work and deservedness.

In the myth of meritocracy, the systems and structures (patriarchy, white supremacy, et al) that unfairly prop up some among us while holding others of us down are damn near invisible.

So if you don’t have material wealth or professional accolades or social status, it’s easy to think that must be because of your own personal shortcomings.

Victim blaming is everywhere around us, and we’ve internalized that belief.

We turn it on ourselves and each other.

And by extension, when you're unemployed or heartbroken or injured, it's a quick mental leap from taking responsibility to blaming yourself. 

And thus we suffer.

Start to notice when you blame yourself for your pain. Notice when you blame other people for their own pain.

And then instead, investigate where the blame really belongs.

Some pain is random. A lot of pain has a systemic cause. Very little of it is your fault. 

It’s not that we don’t have to take accountability for our actions. Far from it! But doing so without an awareness of how our individual actions exist in a larger cultural context not only damages ourselves and each other, but also allows a deeply flawed and unfair system to flourish.

When we aim our blame inward instead of upward,  we all suffer for it.

What if instead of self-flagellating, we turned that righteous indignation towards the powers that be? Imagine what we could do if we took all the energy we spend making ourselves feel bad and aimed it at dismantling the systems that oppress us.

Free yourself to free each other.

Imagine how the world might change.

Much love, 

Bear

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your feelings are never the problem.

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EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

Last week we talked about how our thoughts create our reality. (Missed that post? Catch it over here.)

Most of us, instead of trying to stop our thoughts that are logically, scientifically causing us pain, we think we need to shut our feelings down.

This anger is overwhelming, we think.

This sadness is misplaced.

This anxiety is stupid.

But the problem isn’t your feelings. It’s your thoughts.

Lemme say that again:

Your feelings are never a problem.

And if you try to shut down your feelings instead, turns out they don’t just go away.

They might get stuffed down and shut up (for now), but it doesn’t make them disappear. In fact, they do the exact opposite.

When you avoid your feelings, they get bigger.

And then your apprehension about feeling them grows too.

When you allow yourself to feel your feelings, they might feel huge at first, especially if you’ve been avoiding them for a long time. It’s like water bursting through a dam. It can knock you off your feet and make you feel like you’re drowning (see also: all of 2017 for me).

When we allow ourselves to feel our feelings, they get smaller pretty quickly.

When we honor our feelings without requiring them to explain or defend themselves, they dissipate.

Otherwise we get stuck in a vicious cycle in which we’re thinking crappy thoughts that cause us to feel crappy feelings and addressing it only by trying to pretend our crappy feelings don’t exist.

How’s that working for you?

Not so well?

Yeah, me neither.

So what do we do about it?

Be soft with your heart.

When feelings come up based on these old stories, do not, I repeat, do not try to control, reject or deny your feelings.

Remember, your feelings aren’t the problem. And rejecting them doesn’t work.

Meet your feelings with softness.

So what does that softness actually look like?

When you feel sobs rising up into your eyes and throat, let them out! Allow yourself the luxury of crying for as long as you need to.

When your rage clenches your belly, punch a pillow or go kickboxing or go smash some thrift store plates in an abandoned lot. (Ask me about this; I do it semi-regularly...I’ve had a lot to be mad about.)

Be soft with your heart.

Tell yourself kindly: this feeling is welcome here.

Allow yourself to feel fully.

As long as it takes.

As often as you need.

Be soft.

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK. Popular Posts

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your thoughts don't call the shots

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EVERY WEEK I SEND OUT A LOVE NOTE FILLED WITH RESOURCES, MUSINGS, AND INSPIRATION ABOUT WALKING THIS PATH OF YOGA AND LIBERATION. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

Your thoughts create your reality.

This isn’t just some woo shit, either.

It’s called confirmation bias.

When you hold a belief (even unconsciously) about yourself, other people, or the world, your brain is constantly looking for information that confirms what you already know. It interprets neutral (and even contradictory) information as supportive of your pre-existing belief.

If you believe that women are terrible drivers, your brain will naturally notice and remember examples of women failing to use their turn signals more readily than men doing the same thing.

If you believe that your friends are secretly annoyed at you most of the time, your brain will interpret your BFF’s terse text message (because she’s busy) as being pointedly at you (because you are so annoying.)

It stands to reason that if you hold some crappy beliefs about yourself, investigating your thoughts could improve your life. Figuring out how they are shaping your world might help you to suffer less.

And that's the whole damn point. 

Investigate and recognize the scripts that keep you suffering. Look at where they came from. (maybe with the help of a therapist?). Many of us have internalized beliefs from our families (particularly in childhood) and from the culture at large.

Figure out what you don’t actually believe.

Be strong with your mind. This story, tell yourself, is no longer allowed. Give yourself a boundary. Don’t let yourself cross it. 

Write some newer, better, truer stories for yourself. When the old narratives re-arise (and you know they will!), be strong. Firmly contradict them.

Remind yourself of the new story.

Don't let your thoughts call the shots.

Much love,

Bear

P.S. IF YOU LIKE WHAT I WRITE EACH WEEK, I'D LOVE TO KEEP IN TOUCH. SIGN UP FOR WEEKLY LOVE LETTERS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING HERE. IF YOU HAVE THE MEANS, CONSIDER MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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Just Show Up

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Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

Just get in the door.

Why is it that getting to a yoga class is so difficult? Getting yourself to the studio is usually the hardest part. There are so many obstacles, real and perceived, that keep us from being able to show up: work to be done, children to be cared for, errands to be run.

These barriers are real and I don’t mean to diminish them. (Also if money is a barrier, please let me know and I’m always happy to find ways to make it work.) But often, just showing up is deeply transformational on its own, without anything else having to happen.

Part of why it’s hardest to show up is that you have to choose to do it, over and over. For several years, I went to yoga class with my teacher most mornings at 7:30am. I am NOT a morning person. Once I got there, all I had to do was whatever she told me to do.

That was the easy part.

The hard part was choosing to set my alarm the night before. The hard part was choosing to keep my eyes open when it went off. The hard part was choosing to put one foot on the floor and then the other, and then getting dressed, and then getting on my bike and riding across town to the studio.

I feel better before the class even starts.

I feel better because I've chosen something good and healthy for myself. I'm surrounded by people who are seeking something similar, and that feels great. Whatever happens in the time between when I walk in and then walk out, I can high-five myself for getting my ass on the mat. Even if the class is challenging or frustrating, chances are I'll leave feeling better than I walked in.

I joke that going to therapy is good for me half because it actually helps and half because it’s so profound to opt-in to working on myself.

For sixty minutes every Friday at 3:30, I choose my own healing.

Maybe it’s yoga or therapy, or maybe it’s running or painting or fishing or meditating. Whatever it is that makes you feel cared for, do that thing. Even if you do it badly. Even if it kind of sucks today. Do it anyway.

Putting in the energy towards your growth,  affirming your own worthiness, is its own reward.

So remind yourself that. And remind your friends.

Just show up.

It’s worth it. And so are you.

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. If you like what I write each week, I'd love to keep in touch. Sign up for weekly love letters direct to your inbox by CLICKING HERE. If you have the means, consider making a financial contribution to support my work

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Your Yoga Teacher Takes Xanax

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Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

I’ve had panic attacks that crippled me.

I spent the majority of my twenties coasting along, having occasional bouts of low-key depression or existential ennui, but generally doing fine. I had been through plenty: a chaotic childhood, a traumatic adolescence, Hurricane Katrina (and the federal levee failures that followed).

But I was fine. Fine. Fiiiiiiiiiine.

At 27, it started catching up with me.

I had a series of panic attacks that put me in the ER four times within a span of six months. The racing pulse, the pressure in my chest, my hands that wouldn’t stop trembling. Unable to speak or get off the floor.

I thought I was literally dying.

It was as though every terrible experience I’d minimized, stuffed down and ignored suddenly broke through the dam of self-protection I’d been diligently building since I was very small. All the trauma I’d ever been through came rushing towards me like a wall of water.

Yoga helped some, but it wasn’t a magic bullet. Meditation and breathing could sometimes take the edge off, but it wasn’t always enough.

So I threw everything I had at the panic attacks.

I went to therapy. I took medicinal herbs (no, not that kind). I saw a psychiatrist. I got a prescription. I got acupuncture. I kept a gratitude journal (and scoff as I might, it helped more than I’d like to admit.)

For seven years and counting, I’ve been getting gradually better.

The anxiety itself has improved. The panic attacks don’t come as frequently and when they do, they’re not as severe. It’s no longer the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning.

But what has really changed is my ability to deal with myself in these instances of massive terror and all the tiny fearful moments in between. Mostly I work towards being okay with the fact that I can be present with whatever life brings me, with however I am in this moment, and the next, and then the next.

While yoga likely won’t solve your anxiety issues on its own, it can help, precisely because of its capacity to help us connect with the present.

Anxiety is anticipatory. It’s a future tripping unease about some unknown outcome.

Yoga is present-centered.

Donna Farhi says, “Yoga is a technology for arriving in this present moment. It is a means of waking up from our spiritual amnesia, so that we can remember all that we already know.”  

Much love,

Bear

P.S. If this reminded you of YOU, I’m teaching Yoga for Anxiety on Sunday and I’d love to have you there. We’ll learn poses, breathing, and other esoteric practices for calming anxiety. Click here for more info.

P.S. If you like what I write each week, I'd love to keep in touch. Sign up for weekly love letters direct to your inbox by CLICKING HERE. If you have the means, consider making a financial contribution to support my work

 

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Treating Myself With Compassion, Finally

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Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

My mind had wandered off for the 400th time.

I was doing my meditation practice one morning a few weeks ago, as I do most days. I was sitting cross-legged on my cushion. I was breathing in and out. I was watching myself breathe.

And then, I was somewhere else. My back hurt a little, which made me think of my massage therapist, which made me think of her house, which made me think of my own housing search, which made me remember.....

I exhaled.

I recognized that my mind had wandered off for the 400th time.

And then, perhaps for the first time ever, I met myself with real compassion.

“Oh hi,” I said to myself softly. “There you are. Welcome back.”

It’s slightly hyperbolic to say I’d never done this before. I have been kind to myself in the past, at least theoretically.

I cognitively understand that meeting myself without judgement is at the essence of the practice. After 11 years of practice, you’d hope I’d have that one down.

But somehow underneath my attempts at self-compassion, there lurks a condescension. A snarky voice that says, “Of course you got caught up in thinking.” That sneering you holds all my unworthiness, disappointment and self-loathing.

And last week, just for a moment, it dissolved.

I've been told that one of my strengths as a teacher is creating spaces where my students can show up in their flawed fullness and feel warmly welcomed. The nicest feedback I’ve ever gotten about my teaching is that I talk to my students the way they wish they could talk to themselves.

For the past eight years, I’ve been talking to my students the way I wish I talked to myself. And last week, I finally used that voice on myself. I’ve been teaching them how to talk to themselves so that I could finally learn how to talk to me.

A friend congratulated me on my breakthrough, but it didn’t feel like anything nearly that forceful.

It felt like sinking. 

It felt like melting.

It felt like rinsing off my salt-crusted heart.

It felt painful.

It felt sweet.

It felt different than anything else.

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. If you like what I write each week, I'd love to keep in touch. Sign up for weekly love letters direct to your inbox by CLICKING HERE. If you have the means, consider making a financial contribution to support my work

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