Conversations with a Human Heart.

Category: a living drum.

the preacher man.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 10.14.14 PM

on a Tuesday I woke to a preacher preaching.

he dipped figure eights inches from a hazel gaze—spreading the good word of salvation.

I felt myself transform that morning—the womb keeper of sacred secret things. and I carried his gospel through weeks of quiet ritual, days upon days of bible thumping. and the truth, it would set me free.

I saw signs like diamonds break through the grey shades of my deepest fears. I listened as blessed truths sweetened the breath of the daily hum.

but on a Sunday the crimson came; wiping clean the pages of well-intentioned prayers. the preacher man is dead, and the good word’s gone with him.

this post was grown on the gram


moth prints.

mirror mirror

There’s a different kind of mortality in a doctor’s office.

We see our faces more clearly—the fine lines, the tired eyes, the not-supposed-to-be-there pounds. We fear the march of days in a suddenly-palpable way. Our wings don’t quite have the span we had imagined.




Were these thoughts always so heavy?

And in a doctor’s office every-little-things mean everything; another symptom, another “mmhmmm,” another visit closer to the whole shit storm winning out.

“Based on the data we’ve collected these past few months, I’m concluding that this is lupus.”

Strong or weak, ready or not, a click is a click is a click.

And girl, you’re sick as a sick as a sick.

p o k e s | p r o d s | b l o o d | v i s i t s | o b s e r v a t i o n s | a d v i c e

All the nuances of ill.

It carries you away—a sweet sacrificial lamb for the diagnostic gods.

But you’ll survive it.

And after seven years you’ll be too tired to be angry; much preferring to wonder at the many shades of grief.

Some grief will look like rain. You’ll weep when he’s close and you’ll sob when he goes because he’s the last one on this earth who insists you’re going to be fine.

Somehow, after all this, you’ll be safe.

Some grief will look like dance. You’ll spin wildly in on yourself—imploding like a dying star—until your spirit weighs more than lead. You’ll take one look around this technicolored world and you’ll say a little something for the woman you used to be. Ready, you’ll exclaim, ready to fill this universe with pirouetting smithereens.  

For some reason, after all this, you’ll be quieted.

Some grief will look like fire. There will be times that you explode with such rage that the fury will tingle across your skin; you’ll forget for a moment why you’re angry because the sensation is so close to pleasant. A warmth that envelops you and singes away the metallic taste of sick.

Then, after all this, you’ll be fueled.

Some grief will look like art. There will be other times, when you’re still and fetal on the bedroom floor; in this particular moment, you’ll look up to the ceiling and you’ll see it: a moth, so delicate, so confused, pressing herself again and again against the non-sun centered in that vast, white square.

And you’ll lose yourself for a little while; the brushing of her wings carrying a just-detectable rhythm, a pulse to set adrift upon.

But with this music comes a dusting of her every essence—wherever and whenever she makes contact—one impossible without the other. And you’ll feel sadder than you’ve ever felt in your entire life. The sadness that had been so-selfishly reserved for memories of you will spill out on her behalf and you’ll feel surprise in your heart when the wet starts to gather in the corners of your eyes.

Eventually, your life will call you away from that delicate girl and you’ll click the light off. You will hope for her safe passage, but will dread her departure, too.

You’ll return to the everything you had paused for that girl and open your own wings in her honor—ambivalent to the dust you will surely leave behind.

Across every surface you graze.

Against each moment you touch.

Somehow, after all this, you’ll be free.

the feel of bare-footed uncertainty.

into the mystic

Last night I sat in a familiar place in an unfamiliar space.

I sat next to my moon—the man who shares his life with me, the daily bits, the exciting bits, the everything is everything bits—and I tried to speak from my heart but found her closing.

I rested my bare feet against the too-wobbly metal banister and tried to explain the distance between us, unsure if I meant my mister or my delicate drum. I tried to explain the isolation I’ve felt amidst all of this spinning activity—hours logged, conversations held, errands run, bodies fed and words consumed. Cycles coming and cycles going, leaving their scar against my perceived sense of steady.

We’ve been busy in this tiny house and I’ve felt disconnected. I’ve felt more space between my own person and the things that are taking place around me.

My body has slowed in its efforts to clean and rid itself of the harmful bits it has accumulated over these years; we strive together to rid ourselves of a diagnosis—of a life fettered by discomfort and restriction and sadness.

But the shedding of these pieces has clouded my once-clear intention. My path, hazed by the particles of this former, weakened self, weaves away from me and for the first time in a long time my bare feet are unsure.

And so I spoke to my moon as best I could and listened to the kindness that hummed from his heart and believed it to be true, somewhere, even if I could not pinpoint where it felt most real.

Past weeks have felt quiet and quiet makes me worry. Words haven’t poured; and so, I’ve felt a little paralyzed. Without words “progress” has the edges of a specter, as hazed as my path.

I’m stepping carefully—toes feeling for sharp edges to roll off of, for shards of glass to avoid, for the smooth spots I can rest with—even though I don’t want careful. I want to crash into the wood as rogue branches slap against my skin, as leaves and moss pad each joyful, certain bound, as my lungs and heart pump forest air. I want to yell and have the trees receive my song.

But I’ve been assured by the voices that matter most in my life—like his and hers—that quiet, careful stepping is alright at times. That finding my way through the dust of all that I am breaking free from is to be honored.

And so, I step today. I step bare-footed and with wishes in my heart. Wishes that will be fulfilled another day.

[image: discovered here]

it’s just a little rain.

raindrops and piggies

Rain does nasty things to my bones—coated in ache, glazed with resentment, they know little quiet on the dampest days.

Today, before the rain, I ventured out into the world with my mother, a willing participant in the marathon errand running she loves so. We laughed and shared details about our lives—boring details, exciting details, any details—made so much richer because they were shared in the same physical space.

When we crossed the final item off of her list and stepped through the automatic doors, we faced a downpour. And because it was Mom by my side, who had nowhere to be but with her daughter, we waited.

We waited together and enjoyed the spray from rain pounding pavement mere feet away. We waited together and talked slowly, with intention. We talked as if it wasn’t raining, as if we were old friends enjoying lunch, probably soup, at a cafe. We waited and watched as people filed out of the store and broke into a trot, disgusted at the weather that met them.

We waited.

And when the rain slowed to a pour un-torrential, my mother decided it was time for me to fetch the car. So without discussion, I slipped the keys from her fingers to mine and took a confident step away from our little shelter.

When rain falls to our skin we usually put hurry in our stride. We create emergency umbrellas with whatever our hands happen to hold. We wince with each rouge drop that kisses our face.

But today I took slowed, deliberate steps. I let each drop fall where it may, surrendering each inch of this frame to the sky and its free-falling nectar. I refused my brain the satisfaction of hurry, I needed to feel it all. I insisted. I forgave the rain for being rain and accepted the wet on my skin as freely as the air in my lungs.

And when I arrived to the side of my mother’s car I let my arms hang limp at my sides. I felt the weight of each drop. I heard the plunk-plunk-plunk fall flat to my head. I let the rain collect like tiny moats—dividing skin from flooding shoes—and I smiled.

All this. All this experience hidden in just a little rain.


this post was grown on the gram

to wash it all away.


“For truly we are all angels temporarily hiding as humans.” 
― Brian L. Weiss

The morning and early afternoon were spent on her favorite chair, draped in her favorite quilt, while the warmth from an electric heating pad radiated against her skin. Her body wouldn’t let go of the ache; the fatigue was embedded too deep.

As hours slipped through her fingers, she released all hopes of being an active participant in this day; she’d wish instead. Wish for new days that didn’t resemble this, as this type of day brought so much conflict.

Awake again. An hour had passed. Two.

The light pouring in from the window meant afternoon; what did that mean for her? Hunger? No. Thirst? Maybe.

I have to pee. I should get up and pee. 

Her body protested; but with awkward limbs, eyes that winced and a mouth turned downward, a figure removed herself from a favorite chair. Barefooted steps took her through the kitchen where she found him. He was roasting vegetables. Parsnips, broccoli and beets—in case she was hungry when she woke. Something about this made her exceptionally sad.

A hug.

Before she shut the bathroom door behind her.

She rested in the bathroom for minutes. Knees to chin, she sat against the bathtub staring at her favorite picture. The one from the wedding; they were brilliant at weddings. She looked at her own smile and wondered when she would feel vibrant like that again.

The next words she spoke were sent in the direction of the door. “I feel like my body is full of tar.”

And it was all she could imagine: black. toxic. slow.

She didn’t hum. She couldn’t sing. And in some places the tar had hardened, clay turned nearly ceramic. Resin blocking entire channels of her little frame. And in those places where the tar was the densest, her skin screamed, distraught with its own existence.

She stood with the thin door between them and took a deep breath. Being near him was hard sometimes. Being loved and cared for required submission—to the disease, to the moment, to him.

When she stepped back over the threshold, back into the kitchen, he turned from the sink, allowing her to shuffle into his open arms. And that’s when she felt her heart give a little. Her arms wrapped under his, around to his back, where her hands moved up and down, up and down, up and down. Methodically, she combed over his shirt, as if to thank him for being so strong when she felt so weak.

The air around them shifted as his arms tightened. She stood tiny and safe. And as tears began to stream down her face he sent rings of light, with each strong beat, from his center into her hers. With her eyes closed, she could see it; the light moving through her brittle sternum, softening the tar in places, returning space to her eager body.

With their chests rising and falling together, she could sense the edges of his heart: its fullness, its strength, the sheer volume of blood and tenderness that pumped through this drum. In that moment, they were more than lovers. More than soulmates. A conversation between cells. An exchange of precious resources. A heart connection.

Pure love.

She kept silent. She listened to his breaths. She waited until the light faded back and she was there in the kitchen once again, the smell of roasted beets filling the air.

“That should help a little,” he whispered; and she knew that he was right.

She broke away to collect a towel before returning to the bathroom.

As she stepped into the shower, she felt the water—as hot as her bare skin could take—pour from her head to her neck to cascade down every weeping inch of her skin. She eased herself to the floor, flush with the ground.

Her head made contact and she found stillness. And as the water pounded over her torso, she opened her heart to the air above. She closed her eyes to to see them, tiny pieces of sickness, like paint chips, wash away from beneath her skin.

today, I’m willing.

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there are days we feel well enough that we nearly forget there was malady at all.

we forget about the war being waged under the smoothest surfaces of our skin.

I have not had many of those forgetful days as of late; but the quiet of this morning, the cool promise of the air, the hours that roll out before me on this day I call ‘mine’ is enough to make me honor the pain, even the pieces I’ve fallen to.

I’m still here and I’m still willing.

today might not be so different in the realm of silent wars, but today I have peace on my mind and gratitude in my heart. 

this is how we heal.


this post was grown on the gram

She Came From the Stars: A Story for a Perfect Baby Girl

vintage pram

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a soon-to-be momma and papa bear prepared for the arrival of their perfect little girl.

Baby would be perfect, they knew in their hearts, because she was made with such love and the most-tender care. She was pulled from the stars and grown from the earth. She was infused with the delicacy of the wind and would shine, like the rising sun.

Baby had a room in their house and a room in their hearts. She devoured their thoughts and wishes and hopes and intentions. She made them smile and plan and laugh and think—all before she was welcomed into this world.

She had a family waiting, too—a great big family with grandparents and uncles and aunts—who couldn’t wait to hold her tiny hands and coo at her tiny face. She would stir ancient feelings in the hearts of the women. The men would soften and smile and remember how lovely life could be.

And cousins! So many little cousins who waited patiently for their new friend to arrive. They waited so they could tell her about all the wonderful things in the world: how happy and perfect this family could be, how much love was passed from person to person, an endless circle of bleeding hearts that pump the same precious blood.

She will know celebrations, how exciting and overwhelming they’ll be. She’ll feel joy and eagerness. And all the things in the world will be new to her darling eyes, everything will sparkle as brightly as the stars she came from.

And so, they waited.

One night, not so long ago, Baby slipped into her parents arms under the cover of night. As she took her first breaths, she stole theirs away. She had the twinkling eyes they’d seen in their dreams. She had perfect little hands that wrapped so easily around Papa’s great finger. She took up the perfect amount of space on Momma’s chest, where she felt safety and love for the first time in this vast, new world. And they trembled and laughed and cried because she was finally here, where they hoped she’d be for all these months.

And soon, not so long after she arrived, the doctors and nurses whisked her away. They checked fingers and toes and her little heart beats. They used their magic to check invisible things, too.

When they talked to Baby’s momma and papa next, they brought heavy words that took their breath again; but not they same way their princess had, this was a heaviness rank with fear. And their hearts fractured for their sweet child, because this wasn’t the life they had promised her, this wasn’t the plan they had set forth.

The foundation had shifted beneath them and they cried new tears of pain.

And the news of their heartache traveled to family, near and far. And their hearts ached, too. But the ache turned to love and reassurance and courage and hope. And they sent these feelings straight from their centers, over the miles, into the hearts of these hurting parents with a message for Baby:

Dear Baby, 

You are magnificent and perfect and everything we could have hoped for; there is a great big family waiting for you in this great big world. And you will know us and we will know you.

We will listen to the doctors and learn about how special you are and we will watch in awe as you grow and thrive. Because you don’t know this yet, but you are destined for things, incredible things, that we can’t even fathom.

You are destined to transform the hearts of your parents; you will worry them and make them laugh and make them feel more deeply than they knew they were capable of feeling. You will make warmth surge through their bodies as they watch you smile. You will babble and drool and it will be the most beautiful music they have ever heard in all their days on this planet. 

Life will be strange. Life will seem unfair at times—you didn’t ask for hardship, you didn’t ask for ‘different’ or limitations. But I promise you, Baby, there will be great wisdom in you, too—all because of your special brand of ‘different.’ You will meet other people in your little life—some who share the same precious blood—who know similar hardships; and they will reassure you again and again that you are perfect just the way you are. 

Do not fear the challenges, Baby, because life will be full of magic, too. In the midst of your challenges you will find beauty and wonder waiting for you in every corner. You just have to be brave and curious and daring enough to look. You will discover the magnificence of your inner strength. You will detect the power behind your sweet voice. You will unearth words—perfect words—that will express the deepest secrets of your heart.

You will learn of love—and there is nothing more magical than that. 

And so, Dear Baby, welcome to this enchanting, spinning world. Welcome to this great big family. Welcome to your parent’s hearts. Welcome home, baby. We love you and we are so glad you’ve come. 


 [photo: via somewhere, including here]

In the Company of Wolves: She Sings a Song of Sickness.


“And this is what happened, and this is why the caribou and the wolf are one; for the caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf that keeps the caribou strong.”

~ Farley Mowat

Before my eyes open, I can see the bedroom that awaits me.

The quilt is spread evenly and squarely, an indication of a rare, restful stillness; my right leg wraps clumsily around the sheets, the only full limb exposed to the morning air—’cept for my toes, which remain buried and unimpressed; I can see the filtered tint of the room, the most peaceful lighting it will know all day, all measured through resting eyelids.

I wager that the hour is somewhere between very-early and unusually-early, as the birds’ red-carpet melodies ring beyond my window. The house itself, silent—thick with the residue of slumber as a new dawn peeks hesitantly inside.

Slowly, reluctantly, I turn inward. To my body. To my skin. My joints; and finally, to my head, which had split wide open the night before.

Look, I mouth silently. The storm’s gone.

Being the only human present, the only one who could validate this truth, I whisper back: The storm is gone.

And now it is safe to move.

On this morning, I broke free of a three-day migraine, which came in the midst of a five-week flare brought on by my lupus. “My” sits heavy in the mouth—an almost-metallic taste to it—but any other pronoun would not do the relationship justice.

Though this disease has claimed the bodies of many others, in my story—in this story—she and I have forged an intimacy that has been unparalleled. I don’t know if that is something to lament or celebrate, but it is truth all the same.

Systemic lupus erythematosus: I have her and she has me.

In her most grotesque form, she is scientific jargon, an auto-immune disease, a plague that confuses my body into attacking healthy tissue. In her most enchanting, she is depicted as a wolf, fierce, yet lovely, in her mythology.

The romantic in me prefers the latter. The realist in me… well, there isn’t much of a realist in me actually, so I skate along, blissfully ignorant until she bites—and bite she does—this unsuspecting hand.

My courtship with this disease has, in many ways, mirrored my most-regrettable human relations. Though we get lost in our dance at a cellular level, the exchange is no-less real, no-less toxic, than that of the most challenging love affair.

This is a marriage I never pictured myself in—one full of empty promises, endless last-chances, and let down after painful let down; yet, here I am, sleeping with the one I loathe, the one I somehow admire; waking each morning with caution, in fear, that I’ll be forced to face my day in the shadow of this beautiful beast.

When she lies dormant, I imagine a life free of her.

When she snarls, I walk quietly in her footsteps.

When she bites, I recoil, horrified and in pain.

She tears away the pieces of me, and I mourn each and every one.

She circles three times. She commits to sleep—her belly full, her hunger satisfied—and I watch, cowering, resentful, but with a quieted heart.

And now, each morning, as I turn inward ever-so cautiously, I shake the dust of yesterday.

With each new dawn, I disturb the quiet layer of doubt and fear and anguish and anger. So much anger. I let the fears of all the yesterdays settle where they may and I carry on—modeled after a greying memory of what former-me set forth.

Though it grows more difficult to remember what that life was, the one I had before she welcomed me into this unforgiving pack, I rise—and yes, sometimes I stagger, sometimes I kneel, other times I’m brought down on all-fours trying to remember what it means to pray, what it means to believe in the unlikely, to offer up your hope bravely, like some god-forsaken sacrifice—I rise again and again and again.

And when she fails me in her promises to relinquish that which is inside of her, that which is wild… I rise again. Not to tame her, not to make her anything other than that which she is, but to remind this beating heart, this exhausted frame, that it can rise again and again and again.

This wolf of mine, this captivating companion, this horrible witch, sings her song to me—a belly-howl that reverberates straight through my core.

Her song may guide the journey, but will never define this traveler.

I will shake this dust each morning, as I disturb my quilt upon waking. I will let all the fears of all the yesterdays settle. I will stand, because I can. I will stand because sometimes that is the only thing I can do to remind myself that I am not the frail, pathetic cub she threatens to make of me.

I will stand because that is who she taught me to be.


Originally posted on elephant journal and inspired (in part) by the above track. 

Conversations with a Human Heart.


The piece to follow originally appeared on You can visit it at its first home here

“Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. The way it stops and starts.” — Poe

In my weakest moments, when I succumb to her worry, I am sure I will die of a broken heart; not of unrequited love, but because my heart breaks slowly for herself.

Last night, the familiar sensation inched down my sternum and burrowed itself inside my lungs. The delicate intercostals did their best, but were permeated with ache—the sting that moves so gracefully through this tender cage and nestles into these porous lungs.

If it wasn’t awful, it would all be quite beautiful: the way the pressure bleeds down tired limbs, the way the tightness weaves slowly, symmetrically, toward a constricted center. A sinister ballet, choreographed to the timid beats of my center.

She bellows out, my heart. She pleads, not tonight. Not again, not tonight. She quickens in anticipation. She knows the pain creeps on—determined, resentful and proud.

The lungs, they’ll make way over time. They’re delicate and shy and don’t care for confrontation. They need to be nurtured. They need space—so much space and light and air and all of the beautiful things that I imagine as absent in this thoracic cavity.

And the thought pirouettes through waking consciousness: My heart chakra is a vacuum.

So the pain, it moves inward. It moves now from those obedient intercostals to the delicate lungs and it moves slowly, with grace, to wrap itself around a courageous heart. She’s brave. Belligerent. And terrified. Stuck somewhere between desperation and admiration, I use up each ‘wish upon a star, blow out the candles’ kind of moment for nights that aren’t tarnished with frustration.

When the pressure finally encapsulates this living drum, she still cries out, but her tone has changed somehow. Ringing truer than her words is her pitch—the quality shifted, turned untrustworthy; and I mourn another loss.

I hate her at times for what she’s done to me, for what she’s made of me—subservient, dependent, changeable; just as she quietly hates a piece of me for having this disease. It’s tiny, a mere sliver, caught in the side of her left foot. She doesn’t notice it most days; but then, it gets aggravated and she wonders how she’ll ever get along with it—how can she possibly endure?

I’ve witnessed similar slivers of harmony with her; but much of our time is spent arguing over the constitution of joy. The moments of continuity—though rarer than we’d like—remind us of our vintage selves. We celebrate when these shadows arrive. We dance together—strangers unaware, but for the radiating joy that can be glimpsed through hazel eyes.

She beats, though inconsistent in pace, even when this body of ours defies our unified wishes. It is in those allied moments that I know the meaning of pride. Though her tempo may waiver, she’s not yet concerned with keeping up with the world; for now, she settles for more reasonable markers of success: a morning without sadness or an evening without fear. The forever-goal. The exception.

With these fickle, waking hours, her beats quicken and slow as the messages that move between us expand and recoil like breaths. The conversation is not always clear, it rarely comes easily. But even when we quarrel, each evening she waits. And when the sleep finally comes, she unfolds in hopes that dreams will dissolve the memory of our pain.

I see it clearly on undisturbed nights, the image of perfection I’ve craved for so long. Not the teenaged-version of starved beauty, but the heart-longing. The song she taught me so long ago: freedom.

But it escapes me now, I can only sense the edge of that melody. Residual energy. The psychic imprint.

human-heart(2)The first sound—the ‘lub’—is made by the mitral and tricuspid valves closing at the beginning of systole (SIS-toe-lee). Systole is when the ventricles contract, or squeeze, and pump blood out of the heart.

The second sound—the ‘DUB’—is made by the aortic and pulmonary valves closing at the beginning of diastole (di-AS-toe-lee). Diastole is when the ventricles relax and fill with blood pumped into them by the atria.”

But none of that makes sense to her or me or anyone anymore. Her song is not the same.

Her lub used to comfort and ground when the strain of being was too much to bear. Her DUB used to free, melt through the darkness to let the light pour in.

On the good days, her irregularities aren’t a flaw or symptom. They’re tracks—changing rhythm, key, cadence—somehow unified. All undeniably hers, her beautiful productions, but she longs for that final song—the one to which I used to feel connected; the one he can hear because it spoke to his heart too.

Other days she betrays the words that are delivered by this tongue: I’m fine. It isn’t so bad tonight. And I can feel her shrug, disgusted. In retaliation, she weeps and she struggles and she pulls me down below the depths of what is comfortable, tolerable, safe.

She demands her audience. She screams a song, distorted. Like something feral, she lashes out and I’m left to define and redefine my commitment to her. Remember why all of this work matters, I say to the space I’ve found myself in.

Today I try to care for her, as I try to care for me.

Loving this heart means speaking to her, even when I’m unsure she hears my voice.

Knowing this heart means trusting. Believing that in her deepest fibers, she still sings a song and the song is just for me.

And then it becomes quiet. The message she sends with every beat arrives:

You must listen, actively listen. You have to sit still and listen. Be patient. We must heal in a way that is raw and full of discomfort; but it can be beautiful too, if we let it. We must accept the agony of growth with the ecstasy of being. Remember what it means to listen, and to speak my truth—because I know fear like you know fear. Even in pain, harmony can exist.

There are lessons deep inside her chambers. The heart has four, but they don’t know that; they are unaware of an identity independent of the whole. I imagine them as drifting voices. A vignette of song and pulse.

We must recognize what makes us independent, then cast it away to allow for magic. We are music makers when we surrender to the rhythm that drums steadily inside of us. It’s there. We need only listen and trust.

When I give myself over, she sings a new song. Her new song is gentle, yet imploring. She sings of honor and trust and faith. She sings of honesty, of reckless truth.

There is irony in clinging so fiercely to a freedom. Imprisoned by the notion of what was, what should be.

Let go, she whispers.

Freedom doesn’t mean traveling anymore. It doesn’t mean skipping between concerts or breaking up with lovers. Freedom means knowing that a physical affliction does not have to destroy a spiritual bond. Freedom means seeing her and I as chambers of the same beating drum.

Some mornings  I wake up and realize the pain is just physical. She isn’t distressed, isn’t confused. And on these mornings, I whisper to the DUB, thank you—not so loud as to startle her, just loud enough. So if she is softly resting, the words might find their way into her memory of me. On those mornings, I let words spill from my center, words she sends to the open air up above—words like these—to remind me that she longs to restore this marriage too. In those beautiful moments, she can sit with it, composed and firm, as it inches toward her sacred space.

And so, this heart has been on my mind a great deal lately: her physical function, her spiritual implications, how she grows and heals.

My heart has hurt a little; pulled between what my spirit wants and what my body is willing to give, she struggles.

This helps.

These words.

This intention.

Acknowledging the gap that I (we) want to mend.

This helps—always (always).