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Posts Tagged ‘intentions’

Today is September 21st, the first day of autumn, a time of year when the leaves turn to gold, scarlet and umber, when the geese fly in V-formation to their destinations in the south, when summer officially ends. Change. And with that change, and the endings that the final days of summer brings, comes the opportunity for many new beginnings.

Space is created in your life for other activities, interests and pursuits. Having divested yourself of activities and responsibilities that no longer serve you or hold your interest, you can begin exploring what it is you truly want to invest your time in. It is a time to cultivate your curiosity as to what the new possibilities might be for your Third Act; to develop your sense of what the possibilities are for you.


Getting Started
What do you want?

As a coach, I have come to understand that this is the question most people cannot answer. So let me propose a strategy for you in approaching this question.

When asked, ‘do you know what you don’t want?’, most people are clear that they do. This is a time in your life to re-focus, to ‘flip’ your ‘do not wants’ into ‘do wants’. Why is this important? Simply said, clarity. Any new journey is much more effective if you know what it is you want to experience. By the way, this does not mean you need to have goals per se, it simply means you will benefit from being intentional. Here is how it works:

  1. Name what you ‘do not want’
    I do not want to be bored. I do not want to be a couch potato.
  2. Flip-It
    I want to be fully engaged. I want to feel like I am contributing/making a difference.
  3. Create an intention – bring what you want in to an active state.
    I am fully engaged in my life and living my Third Act.
    I am curious and open to new ideas and opportunities.
    I am attracting opportunities that align with my values and what is important to me.

Intentions provide you with a framework for your Third Act.

You will notice that they differ from goals as they have no specific or concrete outcomes attached to them. They are designed to be expansive, to clarify what you want and to allow for options to show themselves to you.

I always liken intentions to placing an order in a restaurant. In this case you are placing an order for your life and putting it out there. I do suggest writing them down and sharing them with others. Every step you take to shine a light on your intentions, magnifies the energy behind them and by the way, once stated and shared, be prepared to be surprised.

Vision Boards
Once you have your few intentions in the hopper, and I recommend creating a vision board. Not only is this fun and creative, it brings further clarity and energizes your intentions.

To get started you simply need the following:

  1. a few good magazines, especially ones you enjoy reading.
  2. scissors, glue stick and a large piece of bristle board

With one of your intentions in mind, such as I am fully engaged in my Third Act, begin flipping through your magazines. Any time you see a quote or an image which speaks to you or attracts you, tear it out. Continue for 15-20 minutes. Follow your intuition and do not question why this or that.

Next trim the images and quotes and begin pasting them to the bristle board in whatever fashion you prefer. There is no need to group them although you can, simply cover the space with the images and quotes that inspired you. Once completed, step back and consider what you have chosen for your board.

I highly recommend doing this activity with someone else or a group and then sharing your vision boards. Ask others what they see. Encourage them to ask you questions about your choices. Listen for additional insights that you might gain through this discussion. Then place your Vision board in a place where you can see it for the upcoming days and weeks.

Watch for the SIGNS
Breakthrough happens when you realize that your intentions really are shaping your life. This cannot happen though if you are not paying attention. Sage advice is that once your set an INTENTION, pay ATTENTION.

This implies watching for the SIGNS –  a hint, a suggestion, a shift, an answer that responds to the intention you set. These may be subtle and they may be like a hammer on your great toe. Whatever it is, it requires a more mindful approach to your life and recognizing that the energy you have unleashed through the power of your intentions is actually beginning to shift your life in a new direction.

Breakthrough
In this fourth phase of transitioning to the Third Act, you are invited to explore, to stretch, to question, to reflect, and as previously stated, to be curious. I encourage you to trust the process, to relax and be in it. Set your intentions, pay attention and when the SIGNS appear, be open to the realm of possibility.

 

We have agency. We are the subjects of our own lives. But very often, many, if not most of us, when we hit puberty, we start worrying about fitting in and being popular. And we become the subjects and objects of other people’s lives. 

But now, in our third acts, it may be possible for us to circle back to where we started, and know it for the first time. And if we can do that, it will not just be for ourselves. … 

If we can go back and redefine ourselves and become whole, this will create a cultural shift in the world, and it will give an example to younger generations so that they can reconceive their own lifespan.

Jane Fonda

Until next time….

Betty

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The Struggle

The struggle of transition to the Third Act is a familiar one for me, one which has been embedded with fear and loss. Likewise, the journey has opened new horizons to explore and opportunities to embrace. This is the Struggle Phase of the Third Act, creating space for what is to come while releasing things from the past that no longer serve you.

Key to success at this phase of the transition experience is understanding that there can be no new beginnings without endings. Beginnings and endings are two sides of the same coin.

This is the point where you recognize that you are a creature of habit, that fundamentally you like things the way they are and have been. You really don’t want your life to change and yet it has. There are choices to be made – hang on tight and refuse to budge or take a deep breath and dive into the deep water not knowing what you might find there.

Craving for the comfort of desired events and outcomes, we ignore the uncomfortable but exhilarating gifts of living life as a continually unfolding process in which all moments are valuable. Absorbed in our ‘inner movie’, we miss the many minute transformations that enrich and ennoble our lives”
Julia Cameron, Transitions

Julia Cameron in her book of reflections and prayers for transition, suggests that you trust your own resilience and trust in the generosity of life. For me this also goes to the power of intentionality, reminding myself that the transition to the Third Act can be arduous and difficult or it can be fueled by ease and grace. I personally prefer the latter. So yes, you are in the struggle and yes, you can guide your own journey with an intentional choice.

I am transitioning into my Third Act easily and effortlessly,
enjoying the many moments of this journey,
fueled by curiosity and the power of ‘what if?”

 

Shift Happens

I began writing this blog posting over a month ago. Yes, time does fly and ‘shift’ was happening.

Jim and I have been discussing releasing our current home and property, which we call Tigh Shee (house of Peace) and what would be the best timing for this. This is a natural part of our transition to the Third Act as we have stepped away from offering retreats and we have downsized our business. We no longer require this much space and, as we grow older, the property, all 2.5 acres of it, is placing more demands on us physically as our bodies age.

On a recent trip home from Niagara on the Lake, Jim said he thought we should consider putting the house on the market next spring. Silently I said to myself OMG then drew a deep breath. That soon? We have been discussing this move for a while now and yes, sooner or later this release will happen. I found myself fully in the struggle, in a wilderness of grief and anxiety. Overwhelmed, I turned to meditation and reflection to understand what I was experiencing and why.

There are three qualities that define my persona and guide my life: purposefulness, responsibility and loyalty.

As I retreated into my struggle I began to appreciate that so much of my life here at Tigh Shee was connected to my purpose, the work I had been engaged in for the last two decades. Releasing the property feels like releasing a huge part of who I am.

Then comes responsibility – Jim and I built this place together, the gardens and our labyrinth, as a gift to ourselves, Mother Earth and others. How could I give up this responsibility now? Were we, was I, finished with this work?

And finally, loyalty. It is a challenge to release anything, anyone, that I have dedicated my life to. And yet….

I share this because while in theory I understand the struggle and the art of letting go, this past summer I have experienced the depth, width and pain of the experience. I have also come to understand that my purpose is intact and will continue to be expressed, albeit in another form. That my responsibility for our beautiful Tigh Shee has been fulfilled and now it is time for another person or family to assume the stewardship of this property. All of this understanding has been guided through reflection and prayer.

 

Space Management

So now it is your turn. The struggle is about managing the space you have in your life and questioning what you want to move forward with.

Without realizing it, you, like me, have accrued a backpack of responsibilities, beliefs, attitudes, and belongings that may or may not continue to serve you. It is time to empty the backpack, to examine fully what the contents are, to discern what continues to serve you as you move forward and to divest yourself of the rest.

I can assure you, this is not as easy as it sounds. Give it all the time, reflection, meditation, prayer, and conversations with yourself (and a higher power if necessary) to examine the contents and begin the release process.

Remember that when you release, you create space. You experience endings and you invite new beginnings.

In the moment, the decisions you make will challenge you, perhaps make you sad. Grief is a natural part of the process. All of this simply lightens the load and I can promise you that levity, optimism, and curiosity live on the other side.

 

Until Next Time,

Betty

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Waking Up

 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
Mark Twain

 

A former colleague of my husband Jim extolled the merits of golfing and having the ability to golf everyday once he retired. He purchased a condo townhouse in a suburb of Victoria, B.C. that was affixed to a golf course. He began his retirement joyfully believing that golf was the activity that would fill and fuel his days. Three months later he contacted Jim and asked if there was any way he could return to work or perhaps work part-time. Of course, at the point the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed on his retirement package and pension, so there was no turning back.

What Donald had forgotten was that a hobby or an interest is great as a part-time activity. It is enjoyable and it is fun, and so many other things. It is not however something that will engage you full-time unless you have set your sights on becoming a master golfer in your age category. An interest/hobby quickly becomes boring. It has no inherent meaning.

A former coaching client of mine, Joan, contacted me because she felt she was on the verge of burning out. She had retired from a busy corporate position with CN three years prior. Upon retiring, she embarked on a mission to volunteer for everything and anything as this is what she felt she ‘should’ do. She filled her time. Unfortunately, before jumping into the ‘volunteer fire’, she did not take any time to discern what was important, engaging or truly of interest to her. Once having volunteered with various organizations however, the expectation was that she would be available for certain hours and uphold her volunteer commitment.

As I met with Joan it was clear that she was tired, frustrated and bored. Yes, she was ‘engaged’ in busyness, and she was not passionate about anything.

Both these examples demonstrate that busyness does not equal meaning. In approaching the Third Act, it is wise to take time before jumping into activities simply because they pass the time. The Third Act is a significant time in life, affording you the opportunity to shift mindfully from being busy to simply being.

I recognize this is a significant shift. The world of work which you are transitioning from had scheduled your time and filled your days for years. Now you look forward and you see vacant space. You fear being bored, disengaged, useless and more. Trust me – I have visited all of those feelings. Despite this, time is your friend not your enemy. It is an opportunity to explore, to ponder, to search for what’s next, understanding that just because you are no longer in the working world, meaning and purpose continue to retain their importance.

The Wake-Up Call
It is healthy and perhaps even necessary to pause before leaping into activities, just as Donald and Joan learned. It is a time to ‘unlearn’ the habits associated with whatever occupation you were engaged with, and time to learn more about ‘being” vs doing. Given time and space for this, there comes a time when you begin to wonder, “is that all there is?”

It occurs to you that there has to be more to life. As Joseph Campbell explains in The Heroes Journey, it is more than simply the meaning of life, it is the experience of being alive. What does being alive look like? You have the opportunity of defining this for yourself,

Most of us want to have a sense of being involved in something meaningful. Identifying what that might be is not always obvious. It requires some digging, some discovery regarding the question, “what is my reason for being here/my purpose?”

This might be a ground-breaking opportunity for you as it may be new territory. Not everyone explores meaning and purpose early in life. If this is the first time in your life that you have ever stopped to consider your purpose or your passion, relish the opportunity and the wisdom in doing so. Chances are you have a lot of years before you in which to pursue the opportunities that interest you.

And remember, so many of you went to work, and then you worked and worked, nose to the grindstone, in a routine that served you well and supported you and your families. Then one day you have a  J.O.B. Graduation (Justifiable Occupation or Business). The structure and routine created by your work has vanished.

It is only then that you find yourself asking these questions of yourself, to identify what is next for you. The opportunity is to match this with purpose, meaning and passion.

What Do YOU Want?
As you consider the question, what’s next, take time to consider what it is you want. As I have learned this is rarely clear for people. There is usually great accuracy in reciting what you don’t want but not the opposite.

Clarity is important. Now is the time to switch the ‘do not wants’ into new language. ‘Do not wants’ become reality. I don’t want to be bored and you are bored. I don’t want to be disengaged and you are.

A focus on what you don’t want only reinforces this energy and attracts more of the same.

Step One – be clear about what you want. Listen to your language. Convert any ‘do nots’ into a language that will serve you.

Start now – complete this sentence: I want…..

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Five months have passed since my last blog. I won’t record all the usual platitudes related to time passing too quickly; time has simply passed. the time needed to wonder and wander, to reflect and explore, to experience sadness and grief as well as curiosity and exhilaration. This is the great duality of any journey forward, of the inevitable changes that life offers us.

In my ‘weekly courage’ message this morning, was the following: Spirit has little regard for human comfort. The spiritual path is one of relentless change and letting go until you are stripped of all that is no longer working for you.

That pretty much sums it up. My experience of the last few months has been one of re-evaluating what occupies me. To the notion of what I refer to as ‘Space Management’, I am exploring what takes up space in my life and asking is it important, does it make a difference to me and others, is it something I want to continue to do and more. It is a challenge for as I examine each question I have begun to realize that many of my ‘doings’ stem from a sense of obligation, of duty, which I have to say surprises me. I had thought that my choices were predicated on what is truly important and engaging. Not always so!

What now, I ask. Back to the origins of this blog: learning to release what no longer serves me, relaxing in the space I am creating, allowing highest good opportunities to show themselves to me. OMG this sounds so easy and OMG it is not. I find myself in judgment, and occasionally worry. What if my new life is not as engaging as the life I am leaving behind? Yes this is silliness I know and yet, I am sure you will agree if you are on the journey with me, that it is real.

Here is the other side. I have released several aspects of business and with each release I do feel lighter. I am enjoying the freedom afforded me as the result of fewer clients and projects on the books. I enjoyed the opportunities the lengthy fall provided and hours spent in the garden.I recently qualified in a new psychometric evaluation called Lumina Emotion which I look forward to offering others. I have more time to paint and write, if I chose.

Here is my observation – it is easy to get bogged down in what you are giving up and lose sight of what is opening up. It is challenging to trust your intentions and let them unfold when the time is right. It is equally challenging to be patient with the process and forgiving of yourself when you have an emotional reaction to the changes in your life. All this to say, this is the journey, this is the experience of being stripped down and letting go.

So to all of you out there who are, like me, walking in your Third Act, I have simply this advice to offer you today. Love yourself and love the journey. Embrace what you feel, cry if you must. Allow yourself the opportunity of stripping away the stuff that fills your space but no longer fuels your spirit. It is your time; it is my time. We do get to choose and I for one plan to choose well. And I get it, now may not be the time for choosing as I am still releasing. The space needs some more de-cluttering and organization before I begin redecorating.

infusing-the-grid

Infusing the GRID,
Peace, love, courage, grace streaming
into the seams of  life.

This painting, Infusing the GRID with its companion Haiku,  is an apt metaphor for the experience of this journey. As you infuse your grid, chose that which fuels your spirit and helps you create the Third Act which is distinctly yours.

Until next time…..

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During the Positive Psychology conference, one of my favorite workshops was with a colleague of mine Marla Warner who led us through a number of mindfulness activates. She actually saved my day as this was the final workshop of the afternoon and I was feeling the fatigue of a full conference schedule. Her presentation and the activities were a clear reminder of how restorative mindfulness is.

Just to clarify, many people assume that mindfulness is meditation. In fact, meditation is a form of mindfulness, and mindfulness is so much more. As defined by Jon Kabat Zin, mindfulness means ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally’.

In recent weeks, with a full schedule and the task of working with Jim’s family to mover his parents to a Senior Citizen’s residence, I have engaged mindfulness in many ways. First, I have a daily routine which includes a number of exercises and stretches. At the end of the routine I have a mantra is use as follows: I am the Light of my Soul, I am bountiful, I am beautiful, I am bliss, I AM, I AM. This is followed by an Ohm and the setting of my intentions for the day.

Regardless of your choices, a daily practice such as this immediately brings you to a mindful state. Accompanied by breathing, this type of practice brings you to a place of calmness and clarity.

The second aspect which has kept me grounded throughout a time of significant transition, are the intentions set for new beginnings, in this case on behalf of our family. Living intentionally, stating clearly what you want to attract to your life, is a mindful act. Bringing yourself back to these intentions repeatedly, keeps you grounded, centered and focused. These are just a couple of examples of integrating mindful practices in your day.

Of course mindfulness is linked to positivity. As a practice mindfulness can help you literally sever the link between negative thoughts and emotions. The practice forces you to stop and to notice what is rummaging around in your head and what feelings are associated with these thought patterns. Without noticing, without being mindful, you cannot begin re-programing your thoughts.

So what can one be mindful of on a daily basis? Breath, contact, movement (such as walking a labyrinth), bodily sensations, feelings and emotions, thoughts attitudes and beliefs. You begin to realize that there is so much you take for granted on a daily basis without examining what unconsciously propels you forward in life.

Mindfulness is a skill – it takes practice. Over time it changes the way your brain works – you can use it to break down the circuits that promote negativity and build the circuits linked to positivity, taking advantage of “neuroplasticity”, the fact that your brain can be re-programmed.
Research regarding mindfulness includes the following benefits:

decreased blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, reduced cholesterol, improved immunity, reduced pain and anxiety, improved sleep, and decreased inflammation.

Add to this, mindfulness leads to more optimism and decreased depression, greater self-awareness, the opportunity to change negative thought patterns, improved coping abilities, greater efficiency and productivity, improved learning capabilities and memory, and developing a sense of inner calm.

As you review this list, can you see the opportunities for all of us in our Third Act. The great gift of this time in our life is that you get to choose how you live. Many of you have the gift of more time. An important and useful part of this time is the investment in a few mindful practices which can serve to help you stay grounded, to intentionally explore the options for this time in your life and invest in your health.

Some Additional Mindful Practices: Meditation; Prayer, Yoga, Creative endeavors, Gratitude Practices, Mindful Eating (putting the fork down between bites and savoring the flavors), acknowledgement of others and what they bring into your life, washing dishes, gardening and so much more.

Consider this my invitation to you to put aside time every day for yourself for some type of mindful practice.

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In mid-June I attended the Canadian Positive Psychology Conference. One of the questions I carried with me throughout the conference is how can we engage the principles of Positive Psychology to enhance our experience of the Third Act.

It is interesting to note that, at least at the conference, there was little focus on or dialogue regarding this question. Of greater interest to the attendees is the impact of Positive Psychology in education and the workplace. Understood, as this is probably where the greatest opportunities lie. And let’s not be the ‘lost generation’ in this important field of study.

Which brings me back to the whole idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’. So let me share a few of my ‘take-aways’ from the conference and explore how these apply to the Third Act.

Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0, was the opening key-note speaker. I find her ‘Broaden and Build’ Theory very compelling, as she examines what positivity versus negativity offers us in life. Here is a synopsis of what I took away from her presentation and how I believe this applies to our experience of the Third Act.

Central to Barbara’s research regarding Positivity is what she refers to as the Broaden and Build Theory. BROADEN implies expansive. Unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s ideas about possible actions (eg. Response to dangerous situation) and outcomes, positive emotions do the opposite – they broaden your ideas about possible actions, open your awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions, sparking your interest and urging you to explore and learn

Positivity opens us…our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and creative.

When I consider this concept, I see the importance for Third Acters. Here’s why. Personally I have approached this age with some reticence, largely because of the beliefs I held regarding ‘retirement’. Of course my beliefs have been fed by society’s reaction to this stage of life as well. If however, we approach the Third Act with positivity and optimism, refusing to accept what societal beliefs have been, we have this great opportunity to broaden the possibilities of what is possible, desirable and engaging for us. Key to this notion then of broadening is our ability to exercise our curiosity and explore all the possibilities that light you up and which may have been lingering for a while.

The second aspect of Fredrickson’s theory is building, or more accurately resource building.
Again, if you approach life through the lens of negativity and neutrality you will constrain your experience of your Third Act, and your knowledge, of the world. Positivity does the opposite – it draws you out to explore, to mix up your world in unexpected ways. This leads to new learning and gains in knowledge. All of this may be useful during the Third Act, giving you the opportunity to broaden your sense of possibility, leading you to curiously explore what may be next and broadening your experience and desire to learn.

The Broaden and Build Theory holds that – Positive emotions were consequential to our human ancestors because over time those good feelings broadened our ancestor’s mindsets and built their resources for the future.

Positivity broadens and builds. It transforms people and helps them become their best. And when at their best, people live longer, and they have more fulfilling lives.

In other words, they flourish.

Positivity also offers you the following:

  • It opens possibilities,
  • improves cognition (that’s important!),
  • has the physical effect of broadening and opening our posture (less stooping!),
  • and affects how you view the world.

 

Like a good diet filled with nutrients, it builds over time, improving your resilience in the face of difficulties, improving your heart rate variability and your immune systems, all essential ingredients to healthy aging.

The Third Act can be a generative time in your life and your capacity to approach it with a positive attitude enhances your ability to broaden and build your life. So let’s imagine for a moment that we all agreed to begin this great experiment where we approached each day with a few simple questions/intentions:

  • I wonder what is possible today?
  • I have always wanted to learn more about….; why not now?
  • I plan to approach each day with optimism, gratitude and wonder; to be a positive influence for both myself and others
  • What a great opportunity I now have. My obligations and responsibilities have lessened. The only responsibility I have now is ME!

Speaking about this great experiment, are you not curious about what we as Third Acters can create when we take this approach; how we may influence the future? Just sayin’!

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“You need two things to get unstuck: Clarity and Courage. And, clarity is the reward of having courage.”

It has occurred to me in the last two weeks that courage is something to embrace as the opportunities for self-expression continue to unfold in my Third Act. Why courage? I am finding it challenging to crack open the eggshell of old habits and daily routines which have governed my life for so long. One of my greatest gifts in life has been my purposefulness and goal orientation. One of my greatest liabilities in life is my purposefulness and goal orientation!

It takes courage to face it down, to challenge it, to understand how I trip myself up by relying on what I have always known. It is a bit of a trap, for even though we can agree that purposefulness and goal orientation is a great thing, I also see the limitations, the blinders these habits impose.

Enough self-flagellation; this is not meant to be a critique of me. The question really is ‘now what’?

In a moment of clarity, the other day I realized that what I really wanted to release was the ‘need to work’. Yes need. I don’t know how it has been for you, but I was raised in the school of responsibility, obligation and ‘shoulds’. The reality for me is that I no longer need to work. Now on the government payroll with CPP and OAP, I may not be completely set for life and I know that our financial health is strong. So what is this need thing, this drive?

In its place I would much rather embrace the joy of work and be open to whatever that may be. I still love what I do and offer clients. I thoroughly enjoy coaching, facilitation and teaching. Am I not fortunate? And there are as many opportunities out there for me now as there were 20 years ago when I started my business, perhaps even more.

And here’s where courage comes in – saying ‘NO’ to the less than perfect opportunities, releasing the work that lingers that no longer engages me, because I don’t need to hang on. This gives me the space for clarity, the opportunity for opening new avenues of connecting with and serving people. None of this is a surprise; I have been ruminating on this for a while.

I am a person that also enjoys structure and routine and again I am asking if I need it. With summer upon us, I dream of morning walks, time on the front porch in the early morning sun, gardening and painting, hammock time with a good book, evenings in the gazebo sharing a glass of wine with friends. My usual work schedule does not accommodate these things or this life style.

As I envision the July and August landscape, I see great possibility. The second week of July is fully booked with a series of workshops we will be facilitating from Quebec City to Vancouver. Yes, it will be an intense week. More importantly, by having the courage to speak honestly with our clients, we will be engaged in work that we love and which we believe will make a significant difference for our client. Clarity was our reward.

Then guess what, the remainder of July and August is a fallow field. Will I have the courage to ‘BE’ in it allowing time for new possibilities to emerge and clarity to grow?

So onto you. Some things to consider. Are some of your greatest strengths also your liabilities? It is a great exercise to recognize this.

Is it time for you to address some on the repeating patterns that have governed your life and crack open the egg? What would you like to replace these patterns with? Remember if you can’t name it, it is unlikely you will get it.

Summer is such a wonderful time to relax and allow yourself to sink into the days. Why not do so? I plan to and hope you will join me, perhaps even share with me a few of your AHA’s that show up.

Have the courage to let go of what you have always known and create space for clarity to walk in the door.

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