Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye hurts.  Every time. I feel intense sadness. A big tug in my gut.  This tug resists.

I hate saying goodbye.

I’d like to live the rest of my life without saying goodbye.

I wonder if my shrink would say I don’t like goodbyes because I don’t want to accept reality?

Probably.  He’s always right.  Back to me.

These days when I drop off Holden and Phoebe at doggy day care, I take them inside and Becky, Michael, Victoria, the amazing dog lovers who care for the pups, greet them.  Tails are wagging.  Holden is fixated on fetching the ball.  Phoebe is focused on how much attention she can gather.  They bolt into the play yard.  I stand and watch.  They don’t turn and look back at me.  I smile with awe at their joy and sheer freedom.  Then I quickly look down and walk directly to my car with tears.  I hate saying goodbye.

Whether summer camp, going off to college, visiting home from college, visiting home after grad school, visiting home at any age – at 25…30…38, I always felt homesick when away, then angst anticipating saying goodbye at the end of my visit.  I dreaded goodbyes, especially to my mom.

My freshman year in college, in 1989, Katie introduced me to prized skills.  Katie lived next door to me on my freshman hall.  We spent countless hours sitting in the hallway between our rooms talking, laughing, giggling, talking more, creating different looks, expressions, walks, dance moves in the mirror, laughing more, talking more… girl stuff.  The best!

Katie was my first best friend in college.  Our depth of friendship, our soul-sisterhood is the rich fabric of a coming of age novel.  From Tupelo, Mississippi, Katie taught me how to flirt.  I thought I knew how before, but no!  Katie taught me the real skills of a southern woman.  I taught Katie to shake it up – not simply smiling and agreeing.  Whether talking about boys, English class, walking the loop, going to get frozen yogurt, or what we did best: sitting on the floor in the hallway having the best time of our lives!  Katie understood me.  I understood her.  She is the sister I’ve always wanted.

Thanksgiving break was our first break freshman year and we had a week off.  We packed up our cars to drive separate directions — me 4.5 hours North and Katie 4.5 hours South.  At our spot in the hallway I dove into Katie’s arms and hugged her. With tears were rolling down my face, I told her I was going to miss her.

Katie gently withdrew from my grip and said; “see ya in a little bit.” Her eyes sparkled and her smile glowed.

“What do you mean in a little bit?” I demanded.  “We are going to be away for one whole week!  That’s not a little bit.”

She stared walking backward, stepping away from me, gently, lovingly, not letting go; rather, she eased into distance and soon faded down the hallway.

I stood there; fixed in place, jaw on the floor, tears rolling down my cheeks, after I could no longer see her, her sparkles remained and her smiles still held my heart.

Learning how to flirt was much easier than saying goodbye.  Katie and I graduated in 1993, and after four solid years of practicing saying bye to Katie, I struggled every time.  “See ya in a little bit” wasn’t in my bones.  My DNA rejected it.  But damn I wanted to absorb it and relish the freedom from the tugging angst.

Fast-forward almost 20 years.  This morning I have a pit in my stomach because I’m meeting Katie for breakfast in about one hour.   I can picture her as we spot each other in the long hallway of the hotel where we’re meeting for breakfast.  She will glow and sparkle.  I already want to jump into her hip pocket and stay there and never say goodbye.

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City of Angels – meeting Paris in LA

I always love going to Los Angeles!  While people in LA are often stereotyped as “plastic,” and “in the business,” I must have a secret because all my friends in LA are down-to-earth, open-minded, non-to-minimal plastic, and true soul mates.  I feel blessed to have so many friends in LA.  When I’m there, I feel a freedom like nowhere else (except San Francisco of course, but I’ll save the whole nor-cal v. so-cal thing for another time).

LA has fantastic Bar Method studios that I frequent for classes, teaching, evaluating, training, or simply hanging out and being with my Bar Method family.  And last week while in LA on a business trip to evaluate some Bar Method teachers, I learned why LA is nicknamed the City of Angels.

Every day was packed with classes, meetings, driving to-from studios, and my must-have visits to Joan’s on 3rd.  On the Wednesday of my trip, I discovered 90 minutes of free time while driving down Montana Street.  The perfect parking place in front of Pinkberry and Bellacures called my name.  What’s better than some Pinkberry and a mani/pedi?  Bonus:  my parking meter gave me free time.

The receptionist at Bellacures seated me without a wait (miracle).   My feet were soaking.  I felt relaxed and entertained watching the women in the salon.  I thought about flipping through a magazine but decided I just wanted to read life and watch faces and behavior (one of my favorite hobbies).

She walked in with perfect posture, her little doggie by her side.  She understood me at the deepest level and we hadn’t even met.  I knew her pain and her path, yet I didn’t know her name.  I couldn’t take my eyes off her.  She was led to the chair next to mine.

“What kind of dog is that?” I asked

“A (word I forget) terrier.”

“Oh I miss my dogs,” I said as I reached down to pet her terrier dog.

“Do you want him to sit with you?” she asked.

“Oh yes!” I answered with delight.  I was craving some snuggling.  I picked up the little guy and he cuddled right next to me

“His name is Dodger,” she informed me.  The most perfect name for this little guy.

We locked eyes, shared life stories, heartaches, dreams, ideas, tears – everything.  My nails were dry for a while but I couldn’t leave.  My angel sitting next to me, let’s call her Paris, was sent by the Big Guy.  I have no doubt.  I’m not Shakespeare or Virginia Wolfe, so I’m struggling to describe the magic of this experience.

In the midst of our exchange, Paris took my hand, held it with her strong hands and said, “I am not some crazy woman in LA.  I am legitimate.”  Indeed.  She is a legitimate angel (LA).

Magic is in the eyes of the beholder.   So are angels.  Paris, in my eyes, is just that – a magical angel.  Some believe life is full of coincidences.  That’s boring.  I believe in miracles and magic.

Paris has strength beyond Hercules.  She is winning her battle of addiction and working her 12-step program with every fiber of her being.  She is fierce and will not back down.  She will only win.

Angels are spiritual beings often depicted as messengers of God in the Hebrew and Christian bibles.  Some roles of angels include protecting and guiding human beings, and carrying out God’s tasks.  Islam is clear on the nature of angels in that they are messengers of God. They have no free will, and can do only what the Big Guy orders them to do.

As I was studying Angels when I returned from LA, I read about various religions and their principles.  One that stands out to me is the three core principles that establish a basis for Bahá’í doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humankind.  From these postulates stems the belief that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers, such as Paris, whose purpose is to transform the character of humankind (me) and develop, within those who respond (me), moral and spiritual qualities.

Unity.  I don’t think I’ve ever used this word, or really ever thought much about it.  I like it.  I really like the notion of unity of humankind.  Unity is the state of being undivided or unbroken.  I feel unity with Paris.  We are hiking the same path.  We shared our spirits and souls during that 60 minutes in LA and have continued to with multiple daily emails.

Life is a gift.  What’s better than meeting an Angel during a mani/pedi with Pinkberry?!

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Living Out Loud – all upside with mom and dad

Part of living out loud – my intention for writing this blog – is the reality that my parents read this.  Almost all upside and while I was about to say, “there is some downside” – strike that from the record.  There isn’t downside because one of the gifts my parents gave me is courage.  I’m not seeking my parent’s approval of what I write; rather, I simply want to share.  In sharing I look for more and deeper ways to connect with them and everyone else.

While I’ve never been shy about communicating with mom and dad about my ideas and feelings, writing this blog communicates to them in a new way.  It’s one-way.  I’m telling and saying.  They (mom and dad), and the readers, read.  It’s very different than having a discussion.  I’m not saying, “Hey mom, I’m a restless soul and I wish I’d stop hunting for chocolate ice cream.  What do you think about this?”  “Dad, what do you think about the fact that I live in the Mexican ghetto?   Aren’t you psyched about that?”

My blog has a comment field and when (more like if) I get a comment I feel like it’s Christmas morning and I’m 7 years old – tickled with excitement.  A comment means someone actually read what I wrote – or at least skimmed it.  Or, fuck, maybe didn’t read or skim, but commented.

The adorable and so-parent-like behavior of mom and dad is to send me emails with their thoughts about my blog.

Exhibit A:  From Dad, Aug. 12th

By the way, I didn’t know you liked to cuss!  I hope it is under your breath as many people might be polite at the time then tell others who tell others and soon their view of Catherine might be less.   Your choice, of course, but cussing never really impresses people.  There are other ways of expressing yourself.

Exhibit B:  From Mom, July 11th

Wow, just read your blog and need to read it again. It’s really moving!

The term ‘you can’t go home again’ comes from a novel. It’s the title of a book by Thomas Wolfe. You should read it; it’s one that’s hard to put down.

I was a bit sad to hear that the only time you felt unconditional love was from friends. I had hoped I offered that, too. I feel it in my heart even if it didn’t transfer. I know we had our hard times, but I never stopped loving you fully.

Maybe we can talk later today.  Love (unconditionally), Mom


Thanks mom and dad for reading my blog and sending me emails.  Keep them coming!  I love you and I’m blessed to be your daughter!

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Grass is all relative

Finding green grass is a regular pursuit of mine these days.  As I walk Holden and Phoebe, we search for lush clean grass to run, play and make magic.  (“Making magic” is what we call doing their business.)

Considering I live in the Mexican ghetto, large bucolic fields are not common, so we accept what we find – a patch here and there.   Eddie, about 4 blocks away, has a lot of pride in his yard – 8 feet long by 3 feet wide.  He has plastic daisies and roses, a large deer sculpture, and greeting signs for dogs and their owners in Spanish (no clue what they say, but I like his hand-writing).  We visit often and enjoy Eddie’s music, which blasts gospel-rock (a new genre for me) out of large fake rocks.

Just down the street is another neighbor-friend who vacuums his nice green grass.  We like to visit this patch of grass because it is super clean.  While not necessarily trimmed (don’t think the vacuum does that), Don’s nightly ritual of vacuuming his yard is comforting as we stroll.  Once Phoebe got tangled up in all the extension cords hanging down from the 3rd story apartment down into the lawn – but she danced her way out of it.

Almost every day as we walk I ponder:  Am I seeking greener grass?  Are my expectations too high?  Unrealistic?  Or, am I just walking my dogs?

If you’ve followed my posts, and you’re a savvy reader, you’re already thinking, “Catherine, this rings of chocolate ice cream.”  Yes.  The essence of seeking greener grass is an underlying belief that greener grass exists, and moreover that I WILL find it.

So I’m back exploring how my beliefs determine my behavior and choices.

My shrink Joel would say that my goal is to accept reality (no chocolate ice cream at this shop).  Believing grass to be greener, not accepting my current green-ish grass, keeps me searching and restless.  It also keeps me believing in idealized ways.   The idealized belief is that this magnificent meadow of lush, spongy, fertile, brilliant grass exists and it’s just waiting for me!

I might be deferring responsibility here, but I believe I was born this way.  My mom always tells the story that when I was born I held my head up and no one ever had to support my neck/head.  From day #1 I was looking. I came to the world with this temperament – restless and curious.

My curiosity and unending energy helps me pursue dreams, accomplish goals – work hard and play hard!  But, always a flip-side, huh?  Yes.  The flip-side here is that I don’t want to settle.  I want it all.

Ah, but that’s just it!  This desire for “all” is what Joel is talking about – it’s idealized.  It’s not real.  It’s my romantic idealized belief.

This desire for idealized greener grass would be a hot topic for Kant because he believed desire could cause humans to become obsessed and embittered.  Buddhism views craving (desire) to be the cause of all suffering that one experiences in human existence.  If we eradicate craving / desire, we are lead to ultimate happiness – Nirvana.


I just returned from walking by Eddie’s house.  Eddie was out front and we chatted while his three Chihuahuas provoked Holden and Phoebe.  In the stone speakers was Stephen Stills singing, “love the one you’re with.”


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Who the fuck are you?

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

I took the tube back out of town
Back to the Rollin’ Pin
I felt a little like a dying clown
With a streak of Rin Tin Tin

I stretched back and I hiccupped
And looked back on my busy day
Eleven hours in the Tin Pan
God, there’s got to be another way

Who are you?
Ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa …

Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?

I know there’s a place you walked
Where love falls from the trees
My heart is like a broken cup
I only feel right on my knees

I spit out like a sewer hole
Yet still receive your kiss
How can I measure up to anyone now
After such a love as this?

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

Ooh I really want to know

Come on tell me

Who the fuck are you?

I’ve always loved this song.   Pete Townshend wrote this song – struggling with his alcoholism.  It’s always tugged at me.   Starts with soft, almost mellow “who are you…who who…” trembling of the brass things on the drum set (symbols?)…Synthesizer magic… then Pete bucks up to the mic like a fighter and starts his story.  I love the dynamic roll of this song – it comes in and out.  Fades and then jumps back in my face.

If you know me, you know I like to cuss.  So of course Pete’s bold and aggressive “who the fuck are you?” gets me every time.   I can’t get enough of that shit!  I want to scream back “no! Who the fuck are you?  Don’t ask me who the fuck I am!  I don’t know.”

Do I want an answer?  Or, do I want to live the process of figuring it out?  What’s the advantage of having it answered? Maybe I’d like to answer it, then change my answer in 20 minutes, and then again and again.  Seems like we are supposed to have an answer, but as soon as I compose one, my impulses rise up and revolt.  My self doesn’t agree with my answer.  My head shakes sideways, brows furrow, “no not really that… it’s more like this…well not really that, but more like this…”

Who am I?  Is that the same as my identity?  How I describe myself – my attributes – seems different than my identity.  But you know what?  What the fuck is my identity?  I’m going to skip that question for now.  After all, Pete only asks, “Who the fuck are you?”  That’s all he really wants to know.

As I explore this question I hear how friends and family might answer, “Who is Catherine?”  She is intense (that will definitely come first), curious, a force to reckon with (that’s a quote from my friend Peggie), silly, curious, passionate, a teacher, difficult (I’ll stop there).  I don’t hear one concise answer – Catherine is X.

So there’s the duality.  Is my answer all about the sameness between who I want to be, and who (I think) I am perceived to be?  What if these are different?  Does that mean I’m a fraud?  I feel comfort as I write this because I’m confident that if 10 of my closest friends and family were asked “Who is Catherine?”  I’d agree with 99.9% of their answers.  But would I like the answers?  Prolly.  (Catherine makes up words.)

But what does this mean?  I’m a great performer?  I am authentic?  I am transparent?

Maybe time to bring in some of my academic knowledge.  (I am a social worker)  There is a term in cognitive psychology – schematic – describing a particular schema for a particular dimension.  For instance, a person in a rock band, like Pete, might have a rocker schema.  But if Pete worked as an accounting clerk during the day, he would have a “accounting clerk” schema during that period of time.  (And this would be scary for his wardrobe!

Once people develop a schema about themselves, there is a strong tendency for that schema to be maintained by a bias in what they attend to, in what they remember, and in what they are prepared to accept as true about themselves.  Bottom line – the self-schema becomes self-perpetuating.

I see this all the time as I train and coach my Bar Method teachers.  And myself.  A few posts ago I wrote about my “rocky time” – where I get myself amp’d up to teach – it’s a time where I’m reinforcing my schema of “I am a Bar Method teacher” and I’m getting into role.

So are we playing roles?  Partly.

Are we developing our own unique roles?  Partly.

Are we confused about which roles to play?  Partly.

So who the fuck are you?

I am Catherine.  That can be enough.  Because it just is!

Last week, in my bit “hold on loosely,” I talked about attachment – about the risks associated with attaching, or holding on too tightly.   If I were to answer Pete’s question and attach to my answer – “Catherine is X (full stop).” I’d risk loss.  My answer can’t exist in a vacuum and be sealed for all time.  Instead, “Catherine is” is organic – and alive.

I am Catherine.  That can be enough.  Because it just is!

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Hold on loosely

Most of the radio stations in Chicago seem to be classic rock.  So when driving I’m often listening to these stations  – hearing oldies (but goodies) and I’m usually belting out lyrics, fist pumping and rocking out to Eddie Money, Rush, Van Halen and the like.

The other day while driving to my Highland Park studio 38 Special’s “Hold on Loosely” captivated me (yes, I really said that). I never expected to find quality advice from 38 Special, but after all, they are good ole southern boys (I have a thing for them) and they used to open for Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr.

This is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about music — any genre, at the right moment, with the right beat, voice, rhythm, volume – my mood transforms and I go places!  Listen to this:   (you have to listen to an annoying 30 sec ad first and then you’ll hear/see the tune)

You see it all around you
Good lovin’ gone bad
And usually it’s too late when you, realize what you had
And my mind goes back to a girl I left some years ago,
Who told me,
Just Hold On Loosely, but don’t let go
If you cling to tightly,
you’re gonna lose control

Whether it’s good lovin’ gone bad, good friendships gone bad, good ideas gone bad, good wine gone bad — when we hold on with a tight clutching grip we have problems.

Seems like an easy thing to learn, yet it’s exactly the opposite.  I’m still learning this tough lesson.  Why?  I’m scared to let go.  I’m scared of losing what I’m holding.  Or, what I’ve discovered is often the illusion of holding.  I can’t hold on to what I want or believe and never experience resistance or the need to loosen my grip and often drop the reins.

The desire and need for control – to seek security or safety through attachment – is an illusion.  It’s delusional really.  The notion that we can control if we hold on – if I tighten my grip, if I use both hands, wrap my legs around also, squeeze it with all my strength and will.  I’ll keep it.

Truth…the only thing I’m clutching is fear.  Fear of loss.  Fear of losing this false sense of security, safety and control.

A few posts ago, I shared the metaphor my shrink uses all the time – I think I can get chocolate ice cream at the shop that doesn’t serve chocolate.  The holding on to my belief that I can, and I will (!), get chocolate is an illusion of control, and this illusion actually prevents me from getting chocolate (what I want).  I have the tendency to get stuck – stuck in my determination of getting what I want at this shop that doesn’t have it – failing to accept the reality of this and go next store to 31 Flavors.

The Truth is by letting go we get closer to safety because we stay present and aware of our reality – our humanness, our limited ability to control, our opportunities to provide safety to ourselves (not through attachments to others/objects), and we accept our impermanence.

Last time I wrote about home and feeling like I can’t ever go home again.  It’s the holding on to the feelings of home – the attachment I have to memories, relationships, and youth – that keeps me homesick.  The letting go, loosening my grip, opens my heart to new attachments and new home-feelings.  The realization of this truth is wisdom. The past is gone and tomorrow is always the future, there is only now.

Some of that “past is gone.  All we have is now – stuff” feels extreme and just not practical.  There are times when holding on can be healthy, good and the right thing to do.  Like holding on to my puppies leashes when they get excited and want to chase squirrels.  Holding onto the steering wheel while driving.  Holding a child’s hand while crossing the street…

One area where holding on helps me is holding on to the big guy.  I never had this relationship until my friend I visited in India.  He taught me that the Big Guy is here for me to hold onto…and this holding on can be what I want and need.  No judgments and no denial.  A simple belief that the world is bigger than whatever it is that I’m struggling with and this too shall pass.  Holding myself with faith that the big guy is real and I’m going to be okay – I can find calm in an auto rickshaw in the middle of Delhi.

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Can’t go home again

Last weekend, 4th of July weekend, I went home with my mom.  On Independence Day, I was home.  A loaded concept – Home and Independence – rich, deep, and intertwined ideas.

My intention for this blog is to share my learning, out loud, hopefully growing and stretching myself through exposure.  Preferably measured exposure because I often have the pattern of diving in headfirst and cracking my skull.

So last weekend when mom and I drove home to Oxford Ohio, I felt the creepy crawly nostalgia of going home.  I wanted to leap into home, but life didn’t allow for that.  Instead, I needed to tip-toe because it was eerie and distant. I couldn’t reach out and grab home, then stuff it in my pocket so I could carry it around forever.  No.  There was a fence between home and me.

“You can never go home again.”  I don’t know who said that – maybe my grandmother Cleo, maybe Nietzsche, maybe God, maybe the homeless guy who hangs out in the parking garage…whoever is was, she is correct.

While you can go to a place, a geography, you can’t go Home again.  I’ve known this for a long time, in fact I’ve been homesick for as long as I can remember.

Home – even the long vowel sound when I say “home” (“oh” and “mmm”) makes me pause, linger, open my eyes wide, all with hope.  My hope is to feel home – the associations I have with the place where I created attachments stronger than steel, and where I learned to love, think, create and be determined.

This place, home, gave me the most treasured gifts – freedom, spirit and roots.

Reflecting about freedom…why did I feel such freedom growing up in this place?  I believe it was part place (objective and tangible), but almost all attachment and belonging.   My hometown, Oxford Ohio, was the best place to grow up in the 70s – a small rural college town where we could run wild, explore, play, learn, all surrounded by our faculty parents and cornfields.

Part of growing up is learning self-reliance, building self-esteem and objection relations – attachment to “objects” (others) and also the separation from these objects, and still feeling safe and secure during separation.  Having this solid material in ones foundation provides an advantage in life — when life punches you in the face, you’ll rebound faster and with fewer bruises.  Knowing one’s center – navigating the compass of life.   Some of my friends had this – Kim, Stan, and Katie.  They had the magic of place (oxford) and the secure bonds of family.

When my family fell apart, my gang of friends rescued me – like a life jacket in deep ocean water.  Earlier Kim, Andy, Kelly, and Gabe.  Later, Scott, Becky, and Kim.

We rode bikes without helmets all through town – there was no where we couldn’t go on our bikes – the duck pond, each others houses, the pool, uptown – everywhere was accessible and we didn’t own bike locks.  Never wore a watch or even thought of the time.  We were told to be “home when it gets dark.”

Notice I started using “we.”  Home is not about me.  Home is about us.  We were a tight group, a gang of friends. My sense of we allowed me to feel free.  Knowing I belonged gave me the boost to leap into life and try – we were all trying – trying to understand or simply ignore why our parents were getting divorced, trying to fall in love, trying to move through awkward adolescence without too many scars, trying to hush life and just play (!) — trying to figure out who we were.  we experimented separately and together.

This was the only time in my life I felt unconditional love  — love from these friends.  I could make mistakes, say the wrong things, make bad choices, trip and fall on my face, and they were always by my side.  We made mistakes together because it’s all we knew how to do – to try, fall down, and then try again.

When I left home, life became a solo act.  My gang no longer had my back.  Homesickness started and has continued to haunt me.

Feeling homesick – missing the feelings I used to have – that I associate with home.  The place, my friends, childhood teachers, freedom, choice, a wide-open arena to explore, try and grow.

Last week, at home, flooded with self-reflection — Who am I?  Who did I become?

I close my eyes and can instantly plant myself at 505 Glenview Drive.  I see the massive sycamore tree in the backyard sheltering the yard and small red barn.   See the creek behind the trees and the cornfields up over the hill on the other side of the creek?  See the daffodils my mom planted all over the yard, front and back, surrounding the base of all trees, the rims of the house, and in wild random patches throughout the back meadow.  Do you hear U2’s October?  Can you hear it?  Listen!  You’ll hear robust sounds, see brightness, glory, innocence and forever.  Nothing contained and everything open.

Many artists write songs about Home but few do it so gracefully as the Foo Fighters in this acoustic song “Home.”  please listen.

Foo Fighters Home

Wish I were with you but I couldn’t stay

Every direction leads me away

Pray for tomorrow but for today

All I want is to be home

Stand in the mirror you look the same

Just lookn’ for shelter from the cold and the pain

Someone to cover, safe from the rain

And all I want is to be home

Echoes and silence, patience and grace

All of these moments I’ll never replace

No fear of my heart, absence of faith

And all I want is to be home

All I want is to be home

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