Tag Archives: Family

These swords we wield

Arguably, we’re always talking… whether verbally or by the use of gestures. But question is, how often do we take a moment to contemplate the effects our words have on others? Do we build people or we destroy them? Our tongues, like Joel Osteen was saying in a sermon I was listening to last week, are like swords, depending on how we use them. If we use condescending words on others, to make them feel small and insignificant, we destroy. On the other hand, when we utter polite, encouraging words, we build them.

Take the case of a young child; every time the parent tells them they’re bad, these words, though not always said in bad faith, but for chastising purposes, create a negative mind-set. If it’s a statement that’s made repeatedly, the child starts to internalize it and they grow up with a low self-esteem. The same also happens, where two people are in a relationship, and the perceived dominant partner constantly tells the other that they are unattractive. Such words have the potential to impact someone so negatively, that their self-esteem ebbs, leaving them completely devoid of any sense of worth…

Joel Osteen looked at the issue from both sides; it could be a person in authority using their words to demean their subordinate, or it could be the latter, lashing out at their senior in a moment of rage during a heated altercation. “You might experience a high for about ten minutes, high five other colleagues because you drove the point straight home… But a few minutes later, you’ll realise the boss still has his job and you don’t”.

Hurtful words said in anger could torment one for years, though they might have been uttered in just a second. The one saying them might live in constant regret, whereas the one on the receiving end will always feel scarred. Sometimes we might say sorry, and that is good; nonetheless, the sorry, however sincere, will never erase the scars caused. That is how deep our tongues could cut. The damage caused might be irreparable.

I remember this one time my mom gave me a piece of paper, where she had written a story she had stumbled upon while browsing online. I don’t remember the particular facts, but it was about a young girl who was given a small plank of wood and a set of nails by her mom. She was instructed to hammer in a nail every time she said hurtful words to someone.

As per the instructions given, she drove nails into the plank of wood whenever she offended someone. One day her mom asked to see the plank, which by then was full of nails. Handing her a hammer, she asked her to pull them out and again, she did as instructed. As one would expect, when the girl had completed her assignment there were several holes visible on the plank.

Subsequently, the mom went on to explain what the little assignment was about. “This is what happens every time you say hurtful words to someone. You can take the words back, but you can’t erase the scars.” This in my opinion, is similar to what Joel Osteen was trying to explain. Words have the power to scar someone, inflict excruciating pain… and you know that saying, “You can forget the words, but you can never forget how those words made you feel.”

This is what we need to remember when we’re addressing others. It should be a personal reflection which we’re required to make before we speak. Furthermore, when others say hurtful things to us, we should just take a minute to contemplate the effects of the words we intend to throw back at them. What’s worth noting is that nasty words can’t be used to put out a fire; they only fuel the flames.

Contrary to common belief, an honourable person is he who walks away from a fight. Taking the high road doesn’t automatically imply that one is a fool or weak for that matter. Contrariwise, it shows one has enough grace to walk away.

Furthermore, Joel advised people not to be like the Israelites. Their sword-like tongues and negative mind-sets made a journey that was initially meant to take 11 days from Egypt to Canaan turn into a 40-year old journey. He said they went around the same hill for 40 years, would you believe that? They complained incessantly and resorted to idolatry. Such, was the height of their ingratitude.

We, have the chance to make different choices. God blesses the humble, so while we’re contemplating hurling insults at someone, we should keep that in mind. It may take all strength trying to will away the negative words waiting at the tip of the tongue to spill out, but the rewards of withholding them far outweighs any momentary gratification one might have gained from letting others have it.

Truth is, we don’t always have to say what we think… and some things, in all honesty, are better left unsaid. This is the fundamental mentality we could use to turn these swords we wield into instruments of building others, and ultimately, the world around us.

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Red flags? Run, baby run… Part 2

In reality, when one loves for real, they lack the willpower to pull the plug on a relationship that already feels dead. One keeps holding on, tolerating all the pain, in the hope that the relationship will work out somehow. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that a failed relationship is just that; a failed relationship. Most of the time our instincts warn us, but we choose to ignore them.

I’ll keep saying it over and over again; sometimes it’s better to walk out than hold on to a relationship that’s already dead. The consequences are just not worth it. For instance, the friend of my friend’s sister is only twenty six years old. That’s too young to be going through marital hell. She knows her husband cheats on her but she doesn’t seem to find that an issue, and why you ask? Because she loves him.

These past few days alone, I’ve witnessed mom going through untold hell. Dad’s only getting meaner with each passing day. He’s already said he won’t be paying my sister’s school fee and mine. He doesn’t seem to care that I’ve only two semesters of law school to go. So now I’m putting all my faith in God. Only He knows why all things are happening this way.

One of my greatest consolations is that my big sister finished her masters degree and she managed to do it without dad’s help. So maybe after all, we won’t need his help either. I live for the day we’ll be freed from his imposed dominance. For instance, I’m unable to point out when he errs because he holds my school fee over my head, so if I openly disagree with him he threatens to cut me off.

Nowadays I avoid him like a plague because I won’t feel the need to lash back if I don’t hear or see him doing irksome things; and as it is, that’s who he is. Unfortunately, he still gets under my skin because he treats everyone else with utter disregard for their well-being. I’m pretty sure I hate him, but I’m constantly asking God to grant me the grace not let hate corrupt my soul.

My sister tried talking to him the other day after he publicly threatened to call some young men to beat mom up, and that was after he’d almost run her over. I knew he has a dark soul, but deep down I hoped he had changed. This wouldn’t be the first time he hit her in public, but the last time that happened was about a decade ago. My small sister is still traumatised by the events of that day.

One thing I’m pretty sure of is that if mom could go back in time, she’d make different choices. Lately she’s been saying constantly that there were red flags all around her when she and dad started going out; but she was a young naïve woman, who actually believed love conquers all. Apparently, it doesn’t always. In my humble opinion, love only triumphs when both parties in the relationship are willing to fight for their love.

Yesterday when we were leaving for church in the morning, dad was getting home after spending the night out drinking. He even had the audacity to ridicule us. According to him, God’s punishing us while He’s blessing Him. On a bad day, that might have crushed my spirits; because on the face of it, that’s how I’d interpret this dreadful situation we’re in.

Dad’s getting meaner by the day, yet he doesn’t seem to be suffering in any way. On the other hand, every day my mom, sisters and I feel like God has given up on us. But deep down I know He hasn’t. He acts in time, so we just need to continue hoping in Him.

The things dad said when we were leaving for church had me thinking he’s become the devil incarnate. Worse still, when we came back from church we found he’d locked the door from inside and had left the key in the keyhole. We panicked. I rang the doorbell a couple of times, hoping he would be kind enough to open. But he didn’t.

My small sis tried pushing the key out with another key but she failed. My big sis, who had gone to sit on the steps in anguish, afraid we would stay outside until dad decided to show mercy on us just rose, deciding to try her luck.

After a few attempts she finally managed. I just can’t explain how overjoyed we were. That felt like a major triumph. The possibility that dad might have fallen into deep slumber, given his inebriated state had us terrified. Worst part is my big sis had locked the door herself when she was leaving but dad – in an unnecessary show of might- opened the door and locked it from inside, so that had us reading malice into the whole thing.

When we walked into the house, mom obviously went straight to their bedroom and lo, and behold! Dad was just standing at the window, casually looking outside. Meaning he had seen us walking to the house, and even heard the doorbell ringing, but he chose not to open the door. Where I am right now, I feel like we’re living with the enemy.

Financial dependence is incapacitating. I can only think of one reason why my sisters and I are still living with dad. But where I’m at, I’m so convinced that when I move out I don’t want to remember I have a father. So in my humble opinion, one should run if the relationship they’re in feels dead. There’s no need waiting up to a point where everything just comes crumbling.

Red flags? Run, baby run… Part 1

You’re in a relationship, and there are red flags flying all around; alarms are just ringing… when is the best time to run? If you’ve been asking yourself that question, now might be the time to run. Don’t wait till it’s too late. A few weeks ago I was walking from class with a friend, and I was asking how she’d been the previous day since I hadn’t seen her. She went on to tell me how she had visited her sister and how she witnessed her sister’s friend, who was also visiting, go into labour.

She said it so casually so I just figured it was no biggie. It was just another case of an expectant woman realizing time had come for their bundle of joy to come into the world. At first I thought the lady’s labour pains were just a false alarm, until it hit me that she was actually going into labour. Only difference is, she hadn’t been rushed to hospital yet because she had rung her husband and was waiting for him to come drive her to the hospital.

My sister’s friend was nursing an infant herself and therefore couldn’t drive her friend to hospital. It took them a while to realise the dad-to-be, wasn’t going to be arriving soon. The lady obviously started panicking, afraid that her baby would die if she didn’t get to hospital soon. She had lost triplets before, so naturally she was afraid the same fate would befall this unborn baby.

Two hours later, on realizing that the friend’s husband had bailed, my  friend’s sister called a cab. About an hour later, the dad-to-be showed up, just when the cab was also arriving. Disappointingly, he was drunk. I had trouble understanding why the guy was acting so slothfully when the matter at hand sounded like it required urgent attention. If they hadn’t lost three babies already I just might have understood him, but realising what was at stake made me judge him harshly.

I’ve seen guys who are excited about the thought of being dads. It’s usually that excitement, coupled with the love they feel for their wives/baby mamas,. This particular dad-to-be however, couldn’t have seemed far from interested. He didn’t seem remotely concerned about the grief his wife would be subjected to if she lost a fourth child. My heart bled for the lady.

At first one would imagine the guy was just nervous about how this delivery was going to turn out; and in such a case, that would be perfectly understandable. However, what I gathered is that the man’s a philanderer. He’s always getting involved with younger girls because apparently he feels he’s very hot so in his opinion they find him irresistible.

“He must be on top of some woman, when his wife is here waiting for him,” my sister’s friend had speculated when she saw the panicky state her friend was in. Thankfully, the lady got to hospital safe but delivered through C-section as she’d taken too long to get to hospital since she went into labour. She had a bouncing baby girl. That was a miracle if you ask me.

It’s only been two years since lady got married to this guy. In my books, they should still be in their honeymoon stage, where they are still madly in love with each other. In other words, the marriage is still too fresh for the lady to have started living her unhappily ever after.

“Why is she still with him?” I asked my friend. “Does she depend on him in any way?”

“She recently took a loan to buy him a car,” my friend answered.

“So she’s financially independent. She can walk away now when it’s still early,” I replied.

“She loves him terribly. She doesn’t feel like she could live without him.”

I pitied the lady. She’s madly in love with a guy who doesn’t even seem to remember she exists. “That’s one-sided love,” I said. “At some point that marriage is bound to fail. Problem is, when that separation happens, it’s going to leave a very bitter and scarred woman in its wake. If that woman knew half of my mom’s story, or even the life my sisters and I have lived, she would take to her heels.”

Family life, not meant for all? Part 2

The entire week he didn’t call and he refused to pick up calls. Since he comes home on Fridays, we waited to see how he would handle that sticky situation. Eventually the week ended and as was expected, he called mom to tell her he was coming home and he wanted to find the car keys in their usual place. From what I gathered, he practically barked the order over the phone.

When he got home, he found my small sis and I. We didn’t have classes that day. First thing he did, he asked for the car keys. It didn’t escape my attention that he had alcohol breath on a Friday afternoon, meaning he’d imbibed before making his way home.

We told him we didn’t know where the keys were. Disappointingly, he dialled his brother and I must say I felt ashamed as I watched, and listened to him pouring out his heart to him about how we had hid his keys. According to him, we were colluding with our mother… which wasn’t entirely false. He went on to say some things I would have preferred remained unsaid since those are essentially family ‘secrets’; and all these he did, thinking we would be intimidated into giving him back the keys.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what authority he thought his brother had over us. He’s never come through for us when we’re in dire need of some assistance. Worse still, the last time he visited us while in the company of his mom and siblings, they tried to show mom how bad she was for dad and he (dad) blatantly took their side. Because of that and other unfortunate incidents, I do not feel his authority is binding on us. If at all he has any, it would only be persuasive.

As a daughter, I must admit I felt disappointed and ashamed. Disappointed that my old man was too blind to notice obvious things; that there are issues in our family which need to be addressed and it won’t be an outsider addressing them; and ashamed that by implication, he was giving up his ‘man card’. Because he was indirectly creating the impression he is not strong enough to handle his wife and kids, so only his brother could.

When he was done, he said he was leaving and was never going to come back. That again, he thought would function as a threat, which obviously didn’t serve the intended purpose. Shortly after, he left. Of the things that really got me so worked up was the fact that he didn’t care to ask how we’d been doing since he’d been gone, given that he knew mom had told him we were experiencing some serious financial challenges. All he cared about was his mother. The rest of us could go to hell.

Later in the evening, his brother called mom. He didn’t tell her why he was calling and only said he was inviting her to join them in some trip they had the next day. The one that had dad taking an early off on a Friday. Courteously she refused because it was on such short notice. Even he, was surprised dad hadn’t told us in the least that there was a family event; not that we would have attended anyway.

Mom asked him if there was anything else he wanted to tell her and he said there wasn’t so she just told him she knew he wanted to ask about the keys. She explained to him why she had taken them and unexpectedly, he actually understood why she had done it. He even asked if dad was still going to church. It wasn’t hard to tell he was also concerned about his brother’s behaviour. She also told him she wouldn’t be giving dad back the keys until the underlying issues were resolved.

When dad came home from the bar later, he said he was washing his hands off of us. He didn’t want anything to do with us. I had trouble understanding where he had prioritised us as his family, seeing as he was readily going out on a limb for his extended family, yet when it came to us, he seemed unperturbed.

The other day he was drunk, he got cross with my small sis, apparently for something she did ages ago, when she was around six. “You asked your mother if you could go find a new dad,” he scoffed, “maybe it’s time you did. Go find yourself another dad”.

That got me really concerned. All these years, I never knew he heard when my small sis had said that. Clearly she hadn’t said it out of pride, or anger. It was an innocent child speaking her mind out as a result of the misery our own father was putting us through.

So why would he in his right mind, not take a moment to ponder over that? Why would an innocent six year old say that of her dad? Personally I would freak out if God-forbid, I heard my children saying they wanted another mom.

Family life, not meant for all? Part 1

Ever bumped into someone and after watching them for a while, the impression you formed of them was, “This one wasn’t definitely cut out for a family life?” That might be a sad analysis of an individual I know, but sometimes circumstances might have someone reaching that conclusion. Here’s my own personal example:

Last week, I found myself analysing the life I’ve lived, and especially the things I know about my dear dad. And oddly, I just reached one conclusion: not every man was cut out to be a family man; to be someone’s husband, or dad.

He seems to have been unaware of his responsibilities as a family man from the get go. I have discussed my dad in so many of my posts that everyone who reads them ardently has an almost perfect image of who he is, based on how I portray him.

What had me reaching this weird conclusion was a series of events that have happened at various points in our lives, the most recent being last week. As I had mentioned in the previous post, dad’s mom has been unwell for a while, and most of that I attribute to old age.

After the fuss I’d mentioned in the particular post about the issues dad and his siblings had when they were trying to decide who among them was best suited to take their ailing mom in, they finally reached an agreement.

Their brother, who’s deemed the most affluent of them all took the onus; the fact that he had married a woman his mom didn’t want notwithstanding. It had been a really stressful issue for them because each sibling seemed to have a genuine concern as to why they couldn’t let the family’s matriarch into their homes; the past played a major role in this- she burned so many bridges in her ‘halcyon’ days.

When she eventually moved in, the siblings started visiting her regularly since she was close to them and it was easier that way; at least no one would have to worry about stirring up trouble in their house by taking her in. For starters, she and her oldest daughter-in-law don’t see eye to eye, so that household was off limits. And ours… that’s a belaboured account.

About three weeks ago, dad called me on a Saturday afternoon. He wanted to know when we were planning on visiting his mom. Given the very wanting relationship we have with her, we were obviously reluctant about it.

Again, I’ve mentioned in previous posts that family gatherings with dad’s family don’t quite make me ecstatic because those people have the potential to break someone down…and I mean really. That’s the one event you attend and by the time you leave, all you want is to never attend social gatherings again. They’re too competitive; always focusing on tearing someone down so they can feel good about themselves.

Dad sensing my reluctance, threatened he was going to tell on us to his family if we didn’t go. So I just wondered why he would use such a card, knowing how ‘unmoved’ we are by his family. Based on the poor relationship we have, it just never feels like we owe them any explanations. Anything we do for/with them, we do out of goodwill. Apparently he’s never figured that out.

After deliberating with my sisters, we reached a consensus; we’d be visiting her the next day after church. She is aging, and in spite of the way she’s treated us in the past we felt it was good to just check on her. Two wrongs don’t make a right after all. So the next day we honoured our promise.

Last Saturday but one mom needed some urgent cash, plus we needed to restock our pantry since we were running low on food supplies. She asked dad for some because he did have. She had seen it. He refused, completely. So mom was just stressed the entire weekend.

A few days before then, she had taken his car keys. This she’d done in the hope that it would hamper his drinking ways, seeing as he seems to be bonding with the bottle more with each passing day. It even gets worse when he drives to some nearby bars because he could spend an entire night out then come home close to noon. Like he did this past Friday. The risks involved here are numerous.

Neighbours complain he’s drunk and disorderly, and obviously when he gets home in that state, basic parking becomes a problem. It’s even horrifying thinking about all the accidents he could cause when drunk driving.

Lately he’s been spending all his weekends at his brother’s, where his mom is; however, that weekend he didn’t go since mom refused to give him back the keys. He slept on the couch the entire day; didn’t even talk to anyone. I felt he was behaving like a petulant child. Early Sunday morning he left the city so he could be ready for work by Monday.

Who’s more important?

Who’s more important? One’s sibling or a partner/spouse? A child or a spouse? A child or a sibling? One’s child or parent? This is a question so many would shrug off, but in a way, it’s a quagmire people find themselves in more often than not. No one will blatantly put someone in such a situation where they have to pick between loved ones, except in few cases where some people have the guts to go issuing such ultimatums.

Earlier today, my sisters and I were talking about the different relationships we humans are privileged to have. Filial relations between one and their parents, fraternal relations between siblings, parental relations between one and their children, romantic relations between one and their lover… of these, one can’t be asked which of those relations is most important because as it, each one is unique; different from the other.

For instance, I know the emotional satisfaction I derive from bonding with my sisters is so different from what I feel when I bond with my parents… and what I feel for a guy I’m involved with is a whole different story. So in my humble opinion, it would be inhuman to make one pick who they love most.

In a funny twist of events, mom came home in the evening and was telling us about a troubling conversation she had with a friend. As it turns out, the friend took her sister’s child in because she (the sister) got married to another guy, who said he wasn’t going to take care of another man’s child. Subsequently, the sister left her baby girl with her biological dad.

abandoned-child

Unfortunately, the girl’s dad died shortly after and life took a turn for the worst for her as she wasn’t getting proper treatment from the dad’s family. Moved by the girl’s predicament, mom’s friend (the girl’s aunt) took her in and now she is her legal guardian.

Since the girl wasn’t taken to school until recently when her aunt took custody of her, she’s around fifteen but only has the wits of a nine year old. It will be roughly five years before she joins high school; and that is, if she’s brave enough to stand disparaging remarks from her relatively younger classmates.

That story had me thinking; if I had a child with a guy, and then after breaking up with him, I got into another relationship where the guy insists that if I want to be with him I would have to abandon my child, would I submit to such a misguided ultimatum?

Not so far from home, I have a cousin who got a baby when she was only fifteen. Given that she was very young then, her parents helped her take care of her daughter. Unfortunately, a few years down the line, she met another guy, fell in love with him…

However, when they decided to move in together, she couldn’t take her child with her.  Her baby girl, who’s a teenager now, has been living with her grandparents all through. Her mom got another child with her new man… This was also the case with mom’s friend’s niece; her mom got more children with the new husband. They even relocated to another country so she has never met her siblings; worse still, there’s a very high possibility she doesn’t remember her own mother.

Such scenarios make me wonder, what does that imply for the children who are left behind by their parents as they forge new paths with other partners? My cousin’s daughter for instance; she has a sister whom she doesn’t interact much with and a mother she barely sees, all because her mom got into another relationship with a man who wasn’t her dad.

I’m cognisant of the fact that to some extent, this could be to the girl’s advantage. For instance, this might shield her from any form of abuse from the mom’s husband, who could maltreat her because she’s not his biological daughter. However, I can’t also ignore that a child who’s separated from his/her parent for such inadmissible reasons may have a very difficult life because they will always try to comprehend why their parent chose to abandon them.

The way I see it, no one should be made to choose between people they love. It’s unfair to ask a mother to ‘trade in’ her child for a new lover. This could be psychologically traumatising for both mother and child. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that anyone who claims to love someone will accept them and their children.

Personally, I wouldn’t believe a guy who said they loved me to the moon and back, but couldn’t accept my child because he/she is another man’s child. How does one reject my own flesh and blood, and still purport to love me? That doesn’t make any sense if you ask me. It’s unfair to say the least, to the innocent child.

In all fairness, where I’m at, I can’t pretend to know what parents who have encountered such mind-boggling issues go through; however, I can say with certainty, that people who give their partners such unfair ultimatums are driven by their own egoistic desires. They refuse to empathise with a blameless child, who will be unfairly separated from their family, and a mother (or father), who has to come to terms with abandoning their child.

Love presents itself in various forms, and each type is different from the other. We shouldn’t make anyone choose. It just ain’t right, in my humble opinion.

Burning bridges – Part 2

When dad suggested he was going to bring his mom home, we all voiced our disapproval. For starters, she has never acknowledged us as her grandchildren. The last time she passed by for less than hour, in the company of her three other children, things got ugly when she started attacking mom, treating her like an outsider. She threatened to take her son away, from mom…

We couldn’t fathom living with her under the same room indefinitely.

If God-forbid she came down with a cold or something, especially now that her health is frail, we could be accused of poisoning her or something. So to be on the safe side, we’re all avoiding the responsibility of taking care of her. God knows we’d really want to, even if for humanity’s sake, but that would most likely be to our detriment.

Now would even be the worst time to bring her to live with us since we all leave in the morning and come back home in the evening and as we’re in a financially tight situation, we can’t afford to seek the services of a private nurse. That means she would never have anyone to take care of her and that could earn us her eternal wrath. I doubt anyone in their right mind would want that.

Ironically, when my maternal grandma was alive, we were the ones begging her to let us take care of her. We had a tight relationship with her and because she was naturally kind-hearted, we didn’t have to fake anything with her. Whatever problems we faced in her presence, we knew she wouldn’t judge us; she wouldn’t resent us. We went to her for guidance and she was only too eager to give it.

When mom and dad fought, she never took sides. She would admonish whoever of the two was at fault. That’s something dad’s mom has been incapable of for ages. Where her children are concerned, she effortlessly takes their side. And that explains the wanting relationship she has with her daughters-in-law. According to her, they have always been the enemies.

The one daughter-in-law who at least seemed to like her a bit is the one she encouraged her son to ditch because she favoured another woman over her. So now, nature has put her in a position where she needs help, and though four generations have sprouted from her, she has had trouble finding a safe haven where she can spend her sunset years.

She called too many shots when she was strong and able, without caring whose toes she stepped on. Now those same people whose feelings she bruised are the same ones whose helps she needs. Life really has a way of shuffling things around. Problem is, tolerance and trust don’t just bloom overnight. Worse still, where trust is absent, in its place there’s too much suspicion, which could be disastrous when it’s unrestrained, like in my family.

What I’ve learned from all these is that no man’s an island. Furthermore, even when someone feels invincible because they’re financially stable and are in good health, they shouldn’t take others for granted because no one knows how tomorrow will be. We might need to use the same bridges we burned to get to the other side of the river.

never-burn-bridges

In addition to that, sometimes it’s better for parents to let their children make their own choices, however wrong they feel those choices might be. It would be too bad if a parent and their child are separated later in life simply because the parent couldn’t respect their child’s decisions. That happens to most people, especially where there are new members being introduced into the family by virtue of marriage.

The truth of the matter is, once the child grows up and leaves the nest, their better half will in most cases have a say in the decisions they make. That therefore means that when a child chooses a partner, if they insist that’s who they want to share their life with, their parents should respect that. For everyone’s sake.

I don’t know if dad’s mom regrets her past choices, but I can almost bet she’s feeling their effect now and I find it a tremendously sad situation. From what I’ve seen in my family, that simple act of parents not meddling in their children’s relationships could save generations tonnes of rancour. It could also spare aging parents the misery of having to spend those final days in utter solitude because they burned all bridges and therefore have no one to turn to when they’re too old to take care of themselves.

All we have to keep reminding ourselves is that tomorrow might be a very different day from today and the people we seem to despise or take for granted are the same ones we’ll be running to for help. That’s just how life is. Sod’s law of some sought.