When is “Good Enough” good enough? (Lifehacking at 50+)

It seems like these days, we’re caught up in evaluation. No matter what we’ve done, we have to go over it – either by ourselves or with others – to see if we did a good job, and how we can do it better the next time. Sports fans call it Monday Morning Quarterbacking. The military calls it After Action Reviews, or AARs. More and more, I’m calling it a waste of time.

Because I refuse to get into a cycle of evaluating everything, and finding that Nothing Is Ever Good Enough, Everything Could Be Better. This business of constantly saying “You could have done better,” or – even more damaging – “I could have done better” is tearing down a lot of people I know. While I worked in Corporate America, I sat in too many meetings where ham-fisted management tore well-meaning workers (me included) to shreds by way of evaluation. Never Good Enough, and never praise. Only “You could have done better.” (Not going to get into grading systems here, or merit pay, or benchmarks like that. I’m just saying that endless evaluation, this feeling you are Never Good Enough, will kill your motivation quicker than any merit pay grid.) As if anything less than perfect is slacking.

Then people start applying it to their lives, their material things, their entertainment, their circle of friends, their children, their careers. And I’ve actually had people say to me, “Nothing is ever good enough.”

I can’t live in a world where nothing is ever good enough.

In my life now, there is such a thing as Good Enough. If I serve a good meal to my dinner party, but perhaps the mashed potatoes were lumpy, too bad; the mashed potatoes weren’t the point of the effort, so the meal was Good Enough. If everyone had a good time, that’s what counts. If I can’t get the weeds out of my front yard by summer, no matter; I was probably off doing something more worthwhile. I was putting my resources into something that matters more to me. And if I do my best, then, most of the time it is Good Enough.

Oh, once in a while, I will discover – after I’ve done something – that my best wasn’t good enough, and that there would have been a better way to do it. Maybe an evaluation is called for then: will I do this particular thing again? I might. Can I incorporate that better way into it? Maybe.

But even then, sometimes the extra time, muscles and money that I’d have to expend shift it into the category of Not Worth My While = Good Enough The Way It Is.

I guess I bring this up now because I don’t want to get to the end of my life and start The Evaluation, and realize that I just Never Was Good Enough. Or that my efforts were all half-hearted or lacking in some way. I work hard and give it my best where it counts. And on the other stuff? I can live with…Good Enough.

Can you live with Good Enough? Can you settle for less than perfect and be happy?

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More Reasons Why I Love the Internet (Lifehacking at 50+)

My husband laughs when I sit down to plan travel. I spend hours at it; he thinks I spend more time on the planning than I do on the trip – and that may be true. I love to pore over the websites and guidebooks, take virtual tours, peek at possible hotel rooms and read reviews. So much so that, usually, I know a lot about the destination even before we get there.

That wasn’t the case on my most recent trip – and I regretted it. A crowded schedule (thanks to some serendipitous events) left me so short on time, I did little more than grab a plane ticket, book a hotel room and register for the writers’ conference I wanted to attend with my sister. So when I got to the city where I was going to spend eight days attending the conference, I knew very little about it.

Item: I called the hotel and asked the best way to get there from the airport. The perky lady on the other end assured me that the train was best. Upon arrival, she assured me, we just get off the train, walk a couple of blocks, cut through the parking lot for the cinemas, walk another block and a half, and we’d be right at the hotel.

Item: My flight took eight hours and when I arrived, it was raining (not to mention, getting dark). No way I am taking that train. Luckily, I know from the Internet that there is a Blue Star Shuttle which will drop us off at the front door of the hotel, costing a little more but saving us in dry cleaning bills and shoe damage and keeping our luggage dry.

Item: Two days later, when we do take the train, it is a mix of unfortunates – homeless and drug addicts. The drug addicts leave us alone. The homeless do not. The heroin addicts pass out. The homeless panhandle us, or scream at us not to touch their stuff. As if we would. The city is very proud of its rapid transit system, but still has an immense traffic problem – probably because no one wants to take the train.

Item: A quick look at Yelp tells us the best burger in town is at the pool hall. It is correct. A great stop and wonderful people. Once again, the Internet steers us correctly. But after the train episode, we take taxis.

Item: TV show had recommended another restaurant, which we tried a few days later. TV show did not say that there are two entrances to the restaurant, and that we should use the side entrance, which enters into the main dining room, where everyone under age 50 eats. Anyone who uses the other entrance, and is over 50, is shunted into a booth in a little dining alcove. When we asked to see the main dining room, we were met with sighs and grudgingly taken back, but quickly ushered back to our booth in Siberia. After the trip, I checked the reviews to see if others had the same problem, and they did. I should have checked online before going here also.

Long story short: when going to an unfamiliar city – or even one where you’ve been before, but want to try some new stuff – check it out online. Thoroughly. It’s not worth your time, your money or your safety to just go and investigate on your own. I believe you’ll have a much better time if you know where you’re going, how to get there and what you’re getting into.

How do you investigate things to see, do and eat in a strange city? Or do you check them out beforehand? Can you share a travel experience that would have been made better (or was made worse) by Internet research?

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Are you brighter than an LED? (Lifehacking at 50+)

In the parking lot at my post office, there are two light poles. One has an incandescent light source at the top, and the other has an LED source. The difference between the two is dramatic: The incandescent light illuminates a huge portion of the lot, while the ground beneath the LED is as dark as if the light were completely out.

Therein lies the problem with some uses of LEDs, I think. While LEDs are great to look at – say, in holiday lighting displays or monitor screens – they don’t give off enough light to be a safe source of illumination. I can point to several driveways in my (otherwise pitch-black) neighborhood where the LEDs outline the borders of the drive, but do not light up the ground.

In other words, you can see the light if you look at them, but they don’t shine any light on you.

I know people who are the same way. They’ve accomplished a lot; they’ve seen famous paintings in international museums, ziplined their way through Costa Rica, had foie gras on a little farm in France and stood on the deck of a ship in the South China Sea. But they haven’t done anything for others, save maybe put something in the Salvation Army red kettle at the holidays. When you look at them, they shine brightly enough, but they don’t give their light to others. When you’re with them, they light up, but you feel left in the dark. They go out of their way to proclaim themselves individuals, but once you look away, you don’t see their influence. They melt into the darkness like, well, like an LED light.

How much brighter the world would be if we all shone our light on others, so that they could in turn find their way. To make that human connection, to find our family, our tribe, our purpose and then give our gifts to that – is to light up our lives and the lives of others. And in the process, people will see us as shining beacons in turn.

Incandescent. Halogen. Xenon. Or dimbulb LED.

How much do you light up the world around you? How does your life’s purpose help illuminate others?

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New Year’s Reinventions (Lifehacking at 50+)

Reinvention: I’m not an expert, but I play one on TV (Lifehacking at 50+)

Okay, so the start of a new year means a fresh page in the Things I Want To Accomplish book, and that includes quitting bad habits and making new, good ones. Not resolutions – I’m not sure if those work – but more like Reinvention. Looking at life from a different perspective and saying NOT “what do I want to be?” but “WHO do I want to be?”.

Admitting that I need help sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), I’ve been doing a lot of research on reinvention lately. I find that a lot of it applies to retired people, so I’m including the findings here in the hope that it will give us SecondLifers some direction and hope. Now, if I can only follow these steps myself!

Steps to Reinvention

Keep in mind that we constantly reinvent ourselves. It is how we grow and improve over our lifetimes. There are some steps which, if you know them, will make the process easier.

You will probably fall apart first. Feel like nothing is working any more. Health problems, job loss, retirement stripped away your identity. That’s okay, it’s even good and healthy. Breakdown clears the way for change.

Learn the power of letting go (of the past, of bad programming, of futile hopes). Think about the future and who you could be if you let all that go. Who you want to be. Deep down inside. Choose that person over family, over bad upbringing and bad stuff you were taught in school, choose freedom from resentment and the desire for revenge, freedom over people-pleasing. Which means…

Don’t worry about what people think.

Admit fear.

Come right out and say, “I want to reinvent myself.”

Start by being honest with yourself and others. Clean up your life. Keep your word.

Describe your passion. See if you can get it down to ONE WORD.

Do research. Learn from the best, positive, role models. Read stuff about them.

Associate with the right people. Meet with them as often as you can. Join a group if it will help. Network. Find mentors if you can. BE AWARE that some of your current relationships – family, friends and so on – will try to sabotage you, because they are jealous that you will succeed where they haven’t, or they are afraid they will lose you as a buddy. Cut them loose (as much as you can; sometimes you can’t entirely avoid a family member, so ignore them to the extent that you can, or allow their snarky comments to roll off you). Stay with people who lift you up.

Size doesn’t matter. It may be a small change that sets you on a different path.

Put your money where it counts – invest in your happiness, not just in your financial future.

Do stuff that inspires you. If it keeps you moving ahead, keep doing it. If it makes you dwell on the lack in your life – education gaps, personality deficits, bad upbringing, lack of money, lack of relationships, lack of job, etc. – stop it and do something else.

It takes practice. You won’t get it right the first few times. And it takes a long time; especially if you are starting over in a new field, it will take about five to ten years. But those years will pass anyway; wouldn’t you rather spend them pursuing your dream? Begin again. Fail, start over. Begin again. Fail, start over. Begin… But be persistent. Keep at it.

Trust uncertainty. Seek your passion, then set out toward it, being open to possibilities and buoyed by the belief that you have what it takes to get you there. Get out of your comfort zone, but trust that you can do it. Yes, you will fail sometimes (see above), but if you keep at it, you will succeed. You’ve done it many times in the past.

And don’t fall back into your comfort zone by doing stuff you know you can accomplish well. Your day will be eaten up with housecleaning, grocery shopping, dog walking, emailing and making dinner, and before you know it, it will be gone.

The fast track is find your passion and chase it. That will help you focus. Break it into workable tasks and work toward the completion of a task every day. At the very least, once a week.

But! If you’re stuck, change direction.

THIS IS DICEY. IT CAUSES MENTAL ANGUISH TO QUIT ONE BEHAVIOR UNLESS YOU HAVE A BETTER BEHAVIOR TO TAKE UP AND REPLACE THE OLD ONE.

If you don’t have a passion, or don’t know it, just do SOMETHING POSITIVE. It will get you moving. If nothing else, work on your health and getting into shape. Fill in your education gaps. Learn a language. Volunteer somewhere. However, it must be positive and IT CANNOT BE WITHIN YOUR COMFORT ZONE, BECAUSE THEN IT WILL BE BUSY WORK/PROCRASTINATION.

If you’re still looking for a passion, go back to your past and reflect on what used to float your boat. See if there’s a modern path that can re-ignite that flame. Were you in the middle of something when you got off track?

Then here’s the deal: you are going to rebel. You will do one or more of the following: (a) fall back into procrastination and busy work, and think that because you are accomplishing stuff, you are being positive. It doesn’t work that way; (b) get volatile and yell at people. Yes, reinventing yourself is frustrating and you will do a bad job at first, but you need to keep at it if you are to fulfill your dreams and your potential; (c) become very, very tired. You will want to sleep all the time, but recognize it for what it is – avoiding change, and tell yourself to keep working on your dream; (d) want to go out drinking and partying. Again, please recognize this as avoiding change.

But finally, you will see progress. And then the heavens will open and the angels will sing. And so will you.

Have you reinvented yourself? Will you share your story with us?

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No Noel (Lifehacking at 50+)

Okay, so I promised I would talk a little about holiday decorations, so here it is in a nutshell:

We don’t.

No, that’s right. We don’t put up anything at all. If you came to our house on Christmas Eve, it would look like any other day of the year.
Here’s the backstory on that: the husband has decided, for whatever reason (and believe me, I have tried to wheedle it out of him, and been stonewalled every time) that he does not care to celebrate the holidays. He will, if I tell him what I want, buy me a present. But he insists he does not want anything, and does not want a stocking, and does not want a Christmas dinner, etc. etc. In the past few years, I have coerced him into doing our electronic Christmas cards (since he is better at online publishing than I am), but he will not sign a single hard card. I do not know the reason for all this. It saddens me beyond belief, because I really like Christmas. But I am not going to fight over it any more.
For a few years, I took it upon myself to put up a tree and other decorations. I would spend an entire day decking the halls and hauling out the holly. All I got out of Himself was a shrug and a “huh.” So, as I was the only one enjoying it, it soon paled, and when I had to spend another entire day taking it down and cleaning it up, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
So here’s the deal. Behind his back, I do celebrate. I do secret things that make me feel like I am carrying out the true spirit of the birth of Jesus. I listen to carols, talk to friends and play Santa for folks that need it. It’s sad, but it’s the way I cope. If I could change his mind, I would, and we would celebrate again together, but until then…

We don’t.

Do you?

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Pop me a Coronita, Senorita (Lifehacking at 50+)

When I was young, and beautiful, and rich, I drank whisky. (And I spell it that way because what I drank was Scotch, which is spelled whisky, while only Irish and American whiskeys have the “e” in them.) Anyway I drank Scotch, and a lot of it, which I thought made me look very sophisticated while I staggered out of the bar, drooling on my blouse and wiping the cocktail-nut grease on my slacks.

When I wised up and realized that I didn’t look all that worldly, much less together, I switched to wine. Became a real connoisseur, in fact. Spent hours poring over the Parker ratings, took a class, visited the wineries and caves in France and northern California, bought in bulk and enjoyed a glass of wine every day when I came home from work. Until one day – ONE DAY – I got home, dropped my purse and tote bag, shucked my coat, grabbed a glass, poured some red, took a gulp and immediately got SLAMMED with a migraine that would last a week.

When the pain was finally gone, I tried again. Another glass of red, another devastating migraine.

I mentioned this to friends and co-workers, who informed me that red wine is, indeed, a migraine trigger, and all I needed to do was switch to white. Maybe only for a while, maybe for good, but white – they assured me – would do the trick.

So I went home and poured a glass of white, took a tentative sip and guess what? Was bushwhacked by the migraine and spent the following week doing a different kind of staggering, the kind one does when one has had a migraine for three weeks and it shows no sign of abating.

These are not mild headaches, my friends. These are not the simple dizziness that comes with a good wine buzz. No, no. This is full-blown, gut-wearing pain that takes space out of one’s day and keeps sleep away at night.

I railed at the friends and co-workers, who were baffled, until one of them said, “No, it isn’t the color of wine. It’s the sulfites.” So I raced to the wine warehouse, bought up all the wine with No Added Sulfites and tried that.

Chalk up week four of the migraine pain.

Well, I don’t know about you, but four weeks of grinding, blinding pain is enough for me. I swore off wine and used the bottles I had on hand as hostess gifts for the next three years. During which time I found I could drink only sparingly. Even one cocktail with gin or vodka would give me a hangover. The only thing I could enjoy was a margarita – and even then, only one per occasion. Which was difficult; try going to a Christmas party and asking for a margarita when the selection is red wine…or white.

So I switched to beer. Which is a fine line to walk for me. I can’t do dark beers, or wheat beers. I love the taste of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. But lately, I’ve found that I really just don’t care to drink a whole 12-ounce beer. I’ll open it, take enough sips over an evening to consume slightly more than half, and toss the rest. It seemed like a fantastic waste to me, so I bought some of those little things that cap the bottle, but they really don’t keep the beer from going flat overnight, so the bottom half of the beer is, truly, down the drain.

Then I found Coronitas.

The Mexican brewer of Corona has, miraculously, done all the work for me, in bottling 7 ounces of Corona in a smaller bottle. It’s enough for me to enjoy while I fix and eat dinner, or for one half of a football game, and I don’t have any left over. It’s a nice, pale beer, so I like the taste. I don’t get buzzed – not even a little bit – but I like the taste (there are some nasty blogs out there about Corona and Coronita; I don’t care – this is about me, not about them). Right now it’s perfect for me – about twice a week. Because in my dotage, when I am not so good-looking and can’t afford a huge liquor budget, to have a 7-ounce beer twice a week is, really, all I need. And – best of all during this holiday season – I can tuck a bottle in my purse for those Christmas parties where they serve only red or white.

Do you have a personal favorite drink that is your signature ask at the bar? Or is alcohol a thing of the past for you? For me, for a while, anyway, pop me a Coronita, Senorita. If the headaches come someday, I’ll move on to something else. YOLO.

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Holiday Hypocrisy (Lifehacking at 50+)

We weren’t much help to the neighbors when they asked for a hand putting up the Hallowe’en decorations. We’re not big on decorations anyway (more about that at Christmas) but we were really more of a hindrance in the black-cat-and-ghost department.
They wanted to put up one of those “Witch hitting a telephone pole” vignettes. With the four of us adults working on it, however, the end product looked more like the lead character from Wicked doing a pole dance. In the end, we posed the witch on her broom alongside the pole, sort of riding sidesaddle. But she still had the pole-dance smile.
I remember years ago, when I worked for a television station in another city, getting a phone call from a viewer who wanted us to remove our “Happy Hallowe’en” greeting from the air.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it celebrates death,” she replied.
“It’s a 10-second message that says ‘Happy Hallowe’en,’” I explained.
“Hallowe’en is pagan,” she went on. “I’m a Christian and I demand—“
“The Church co-opted Hallowe’en from the pagans,” I began. “So, I hope you don’t have a Christmas tree at Christmas, because that’s a pagan symbol. And I guess you don’t celebrate Easter. The very name, Easter, comes from a pagan goddess. Easter eggs? Pagan. Holly and ivy? Pagan. Hallowe’en? Short for ‘All Hallows Even’, a church holiday.”
She hung up on me. Can’t imagine why.
I’m pleased to be in New Mexico now, where Hallowe’en is celebrated openly and without abandon.
Celebrate it, or don’t. But don’t be a flippin’ hypocrite.

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Stop nagging me about calcium (Lifehacking at 50+)

Get off my back about the calcium, already.
I am sick and tired of hearing from all my health care professionals, friends, foes, media and ads that I need more calcium.
I don’t. What I need is someone WHO IS AN EXPERT IN CALCIUM to tell me how to take it without f*cking up my entire life.
Here’s the deal: When I take calcium—
1. I get immediate, intense, crushing heartburn. The first time it happened, I thought I was having a heart attack. The pain goes all the way through to my back. It was unbearable. The people at the emergency room said, “Yeah, that happens when some people take calcium. Talk to your doctor.” The doctor, by the way, said, “Hm. That’s odd. But you need calcium, you know.” THAT WAS IT.
2. When I get past the chest pains, I start having leg cramps. Crippling. My feet curl underneath me and I can’t walk. Calf muscles (either the soleus or the fibularus longus, for those of you who care) begin to ache and then hamstrings tighten. If someone can carry me to the medicine cabinet, I can take some magnesium to help, but nothing else works (don’t bother telling me I’m dehydrated; I drink water till my head aches, which people tell me is also dangerous).
3. Then, I’m exhausted. I fall into a deep sleep from which it is hard to waken me. My blood pressure at this point is 80 over something (and no, I am not exaggerating, I have had it taken at that point and the taker panicked).
4. Blood pressure stays low for 2-3 days. During which time I can’t get up off the couch. I cry all the time, have no appetite (which is a good thing, because I am constipated) and am in the two-to-three-nap-a-day category. Trust me on this one, people: if I took all the calcium that “they” say I’m supposed to take, I would be a vegetable. A crying, sleepy vegetable.
Now I have told all of my health care people about this, and to the man (and woman) they all look at me like I am high on crack, and tell me how much I need calcium. None of them – NOT ONE – has given me alternatives, advice or solutions. But I’ll be damned if I am going to “live” like items 1-4 above, because that is no life at all.
I have tried calcium citrate, maleate, carbonate, and every other “ate” that calcium exists in. I have tried coral calcium, calcium blended with magnesium (worse than taking them separately), and green leafy vegetables. Someone told me that I need “chelated” minerals; I tried that and overnight developed a body odor of strong ammonia, like I had just wet my pants for the fifth time that day.
I went to a nutritionist, who came highly recommended. TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS LATER they did help me with several issues, but they seemed baffled at my reaction to calcium, and repeated the mantra, “well, you need calcium.” And when it became clear that I had no more money to throw at them, they hung up on me. Seriously.
So what do I do? In the mornings, I drink orange juice with calcium, and at night I have a glass of almond milk before bed. According to the labels, that gives me most of my RDA of calcium. But who knows? Who knows how much I am actually getting from that?
Has anyone out there had a reaction like this to calcium? What do you do?

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Remembering Robin Williams (Lifehacking at 50+)

Okay so I was all set to post some lame-o August blog entry on Living In Small Spaces or How Much a Dog Actually Costs or something all helpful when Robin Williams died.
Damn.
Set me back a good ten days.
Yeah I’d heard that he had bouts with depression, but with his huge heart and his sense of humor and all that he had to live for – if he couldn’t do it, what hope do I have?
Stars die all the time (the old saw that these deaths come in threes is a bunch of crap; they occur on an ongoing basis and you can divide them up into threes if you want, but more will happen the next day, and the next). But this time, I actually sat down and cried.
Because right now the world needs Robin Williamses. There’s so much sadness and hate and brutality and downright meanness that we really need people like him. These are caring people, people who have good enough heads on their shoulders that they raise good kids, people who can look at the foibles of the human race and find the humor (or at least the irony) in them instead of using them as wedge issues to foment hate.
I always hoped I’d have the opportunity to thank him in person for the hours and hours of laughter and happiness, and the reflections on humanity that inevitably followed. Instead I am left with going all nihilistic and this “why bother to do anything, the world is crap” feeling.
The world let him down. He must have felt so alone.
What hope do I, who have a normal brain, and have to work for a day and a half to write a joke and then it’s not even particularly funny, and have to remind myself each morning to not be so stingy because everyone’s struggling, and have to deal with two unruly dogs because kids weren’t in my game plan – what hope do I have for leading any kind of life of hope and love and peace, and beauty and laughter?
Who will be our Robin Williams now?

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Celebrating (Lifehacking at 50+)

Last week was the birthday marathon, a seven-day fest of eating and drinking and doing things I’ve always wanted to do. Every once in a while I must indulge myself just to remind my mind what (and who) is important in my life, and what’s not.

Back in 2000, it was London. Great restaurants, trips to Greenwich and Bath, and my birthday watching Shakespeare at the Globe Theater. Could not have asked for anything better.

This year it was Seattle. I’ve always wanted to see the Space Needle, ride the monorail, go to Pike Place Market and just stand on the waterfront. So I did. My sis and I took in a Mariners game (they won), the Dale Chihuly Museum and Gardens, and some meals that were an insult to the poor and an affront to the gods.

And we celebrated. I personally celebrated three things. First, of course, was the birthday (the Mariners game). Second was leaving my previous life behind, throwing nostalgia out the window, selling my parents’ furniture and moving on (a fabulous meal at Queen City Grill on 1st Ave).

Third was the fact that I Did It. At a tapas bar I celebrated the fact that I made back every penny I lost in the crash of 2008. It took me five years, but now I am whole again, and in much better shape than I was back then because in those intervening five years, I have learned:

1. How the market works and that you cannot trust a broker to look out for you.

2. How to buy investments with your IRA (more about this in a future blog).

3. And most important – YOU CANNOT RETIRE ON YOUR SAVINGS. YOU MUST HAVE AN INCOME STREAM THAT WILL PAY FOR THE LIFE YOU WANT TO LEAD. I cannot stress this enough. Once you start spending principal, you are screwed. And you cannot leave that principal where it can be depleted in a day or two by criminal Wall Streeters.

So in that five years, the husband and I fired our broker and got out of the market, bought some great investment vehicles which create a nice income for us, and bought still more with my IRA. Now, not only do I have an okay retirement income (not rolling in dough, but pays for the groceries and health insurance), I am building my IRA back up again. And I am not spending principal. Principal, as a matter of fact, is appreciating nicely.

Uncle Sam still gets quite a chunk. Money is never free, and frankly, I enjoy the things taxes pay for (roads, schools and such). But the paltry sum left over is enough to live on and enjoy the occasional celebration.

It’s a great feeling and I’m still smiling to myself because I Did It.

Have you Done It? Have you recovered from the crash? If so, how did you do that? Or were you smart enough not to lose anything back then?

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