Declarations, toxic masculinity & protecting our feminine borders

This Father’s Day I declared that I no longer hold, accept or take responsibility for the insecurity of men, or the ignorance about their sense of superiority and dominance over women.

Whether that insecurity and ignorance takes the form of verbal, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse or is just a mindset, I am now one less woman to create a safe and generous space for it. This occurred to me on my daily walk yesterday. I wore a romper. As I walked across the street, a man in a truck waited at the stop sign and (in my head) watched me walk. Instantly, my head dropped down in shame- hoping he was not noticing my menopausal belly and find me unworthy. The next instant my mind flooded with all the times I do this on my walks. And then it flooded with all the major and minor abuses women and girls, including myself, have received by men.

As a young girl, my father made a pig sound when I ate. He also did not talk to me much when I was young and that made me feel ignored and unseen. I have watched male family members treat my two daughters differently— where once they were adored as children and then abandoned once they grew breasts and hips. I have heard stories of fathers laughing at their daughter’s “mosquito bites.”

Girls gain their sense of self-worth from their fathers so what do we think is the message a girl receives from a father who makes fun of her developing body? A father who oinks when she eats? A father who doesn’t say, “Hello, how are you” after a school day? A father who works all day and then is angry at the dinner table? A father that only disciplines but does not love? A father who is absent?

These girls become women and some of them marry men. They marry men who cheat. Men who ignore. Men who abuse. Men who laugh at them. Men who drink too much and do drugs. Men who try and find ways to make them wrong. Men who dismiss their experiences and do not think they can come up with ideas of their own. Men who call them crazy. Men who are silent about other men who abuse or worse, defend them.

As anger, regret and sorrow filled me, I further declared that my sense of worth no longer comes from a man be he a stranger or someone I sleep next to every evening. My sense of worth comes from me. And further, my body, mind and surrounding energetic field will not support, sustain or allow the projections of man’s insecurities.

Men have a lot of work to do. A lot of inner, introspective work. I dare anyone to show me one man who does not have ANY toxic masculinity running through him.

If we women continue to protect men, which is more about how we protect ourselves from possible abuse or abandonment, then I have little hope men will awaken to their ignorance and insecurity on their own. I say this because I believe it is an unspoken expectation that women are here to either accept or enable a man’s toxicity or it is her duty (a false belief we might have) to love or teach him out of it.

None of this is our job as women. It is up to men to love and teach themselves out of it. The only thing keeping toxic masculinity going is fear and ignorance- fear of the truth that men actually are not better, smarter, stronger than women. Fear of the truth of their own pain of having to be better, stronger, better. Fear of being equal and what that mean for them as far as sacrificing their unearned privileges. Fear of all their insecurities being exposed once women stop protecting them.

Donald Trump is the poster child of toxic masculinity. Only those men that are like him, and the women who protect them, believe in his bravado. The rest of us see what an insecure, wounded and sad little man he is. We see that what he does is all a cover for how insecure he is, how shitty he feels about himself and how full of fear he is. The role of Melania and his children is to protect him. They create a facade that this man deserves a wife and children by his side. They shoulder the burden of his shame because he cannot face it. I wonder how many men use their wife and children for these same things….

Let us take take pity on that, and yet know there is no excuse!

Men, put your burden down of upholding the lie that you are better, stronger, smarter. You’re not. You’re human, just like we women. We are more than capable and do not need you to be anything but equal, to be humans. We need you to reflect upon your unearned privileges, to take inventory of all the subtle and not so subtle ways you have hurt women and to show up having experienced and atoned for all of that.

Women, set your boundaries, protect your sacred borders and no longer allow the insecurities, the wounds of men, to infiltrate you. You need to mend, to heal, to love yourself, to know you are worthy because you declare it to be so.

~The Soul Reporter

White Silence, Sacrifice & Doing the Right Thing

I do not remember the year I began saying on social media, in many different ways,  Black Lives Matter. But I do remember what happened when I did. Friends were lost, of course. But it was the loss of family that disappointed me most. 

I spent every summer and thanksgiving with my Italian family in Chicago. We ate. Laughed. Ate again. Shared stories. We especially loved ghost stories. As an only child, those gatherings filled me up with a sense of togetherness and connection that defined family for me.

There were also times I knew racism existed in my family. There were comments about the violence in black neighborhoods as they lived safely in white neighborhoods. There were some inappropriate “jokes” and the n-word used freely to describe a certain nut. There was the narrative about how “blacks took over our neighborhood”- the south side of Chicago. There was, “Is he black?” every time I met a new guy.

When I got pregnant at 19 with a black man I was afraid to tell my Chicago family. Surprisingly, they were more supportive than I feared. I thought, maybe my daughter and I would be accepted. 

Fast forward to the time I started speaking out against police brutality and white privilege. The family list decreased. Heated discussions took place on timelines. More family fell off the list. But those were just the distant cousins. Then the sickness spread to the first cousins. Ignorant memes were shared and one was specifically called out by my husband, my daughter and myself. When that happened, not only was I unfriended and blocked, but so was my daughter and my husband. I called on the entire family to speak up. To stand for my family. To be the family they so proudly admire.

One called and talked over me about how my daughter is also white and how she was not raised to be racist. Another called and didn’t mention it at all. The rest: silent. Today, even after a few more white people have chosen to be awakened by the lie of white supremacy and the reality of white terrorism, they remain SILENT.

The motto of our family, as told by my father, is to do your duty/to do the right thing.

I asked of my family to do their duty, to do the right thing, to live by our motto, to actually stand for famiglia. Instead they choose to be dutiful to the lie of white supremacy. They choose to be complicit. They choose not to sacrifice comfort and being right. They choose to shy away from conflict. They choose silence. Because of this they have willingly sacrificed members of their own family— the ones that obviously weren’t fully accepted. And, of course they would adamantly disagree.

I too have willingly sacrificed these people, and the day I chose to do so was the day I knew exactly where I stood and what I was willing to sacrifice to do so. It was my duty. It was, and continues to be, the right thing to do, and I do it proudly.

A white woman on Twitter asked how she can be an ally without risk. The black woman she asked responded: Good luck. As Allie (above) said, if you aren’t willing to lose friends AND as I’ve experienced— family, then you are not ready for what this journey of dismantling the lie of white supremacy will require of you.

My ask then of we white people is this: do your duty, do the right thing and get yourself ready. And do it knowing there is no amount of sacrifice, not enough apologies, no amount of money or anything that is of value to you that can make up for centuries of white terror and white silence. Our awakening beyond this false construct of whiteness is way past due.

Re Post: White Spaces~ A Mother’s Reckoning

Original post from August, 2019

The parade in our town today clarified what I have done as a white woman with bi-racial children…

To all the times I brought my children to white spaces, moved to white neighborhoods, enrolled them in white schools- I am sorry and deeply ashamed of my ignorance.

I feel it now, more than ever- these words: “white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water. “ Guante

I get a small taste of the terror and discomfort, the trauma of being a brown body in this water. I am angry, which is a privilege of white skin, at the levels of energy it takes to accommodate and appease this white nonsense- to play nice in white work places- and can only imagine their exhaustion.

I feel this whiteness in a way I never have and I’m horrified. As though I’ve fully awakened from a spell that made me live as if this water was made for everyone. It’s not.

This awakening was and is a process that I want ALL white people to be responsible for. To believe in white superiority, to attach to whiteness is one of the biggest lies ever believed. It will crush those who don’t realize this. And so be it because the water is changing.

To my children, I wish I had understood sooner. It was thoughtlessly out of touch of me to be blind to this part of you. I fell in love with a black man. I wanted a family. I believe in the divine within us and most of your upbringing I ignored your experience as also a human being in brown skin, barely swimming in this water, but mostly isolated and struggling not to drown in it.

No apology can erase the impact of this. And I’m not here to give false hopes and promises in a nation still deeply young and divided, struggling to know itself. But I do see you and hold the space for all of you and all of your experiences more than I ever have, and it is my deepest desire that this water nourishes, supports and allows for splashing, deep dives and takes you to wherever you want to go.

~Mom

The Soul Reporter

Re Post: White Spaces~ A Mother’s Reckoning

Original post from August, 2019

The parade in our town today clarified what I have done as a white woman with bi-racial children…

To all the times I brought my children to white spaces, moved to white neighborhoods, enrolled them in white schools- I am sorry and deeply ashamed of my ignorance.

I feel it now, more than ever- these words: “white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water. “ Guante

I get a small taste of the terror and discomfort, the trauma of being a brown body in this water. I am angry, which is a privilege of white skin, at the levels of energy it takes to accommodate and appease this white nonsense- to play nice in white work places- and can only imagine their exhaustion.

I feel this whiteness in a way I never have and I’m horrified. As though I’ve fully awakened from a spell that made me live as if this water was made for everyone. It’s not.

This awakening was and is a process that I want ALL white people to be responsible for. To believe in white superiority, to attach to whiteness is one of the biggest lies ever believed. It will crush those who don’t realize this. And so be it because the water is changing.

To my children, I wish I had understood sooner. It was thoughtlessly out of touch of me to be blind to this part of you. I fell in love with a black man. I wanted a family. I believe in the divine within us and most of your upbringing I ignored your experience as also a human being in brown skin, barely swimming in this water, but mostly isolated and struggling not to drown in it.

No apology can erase the impact of this. And I’m not here to give false hopes and promises in a nation still deeply young and divided, struggling to know itself. But I do see you and hold the space for all of you and all of your experiences more than I ever have, and it is my deepest desire that this water nourishes, supports and allows for splashing, deep dives and takes you to wherever you want to go.

~Mom

The Soul Reporter

The Shire in the Woods

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My kids call me a hobbit. So it’s appropriate I’m spending a few of my days during spring break at a retreat center called, Shire in the Woods. It was once called The Dwelling in the Woods and from 2006 or so to 2010, I visited the “hobbit hole” called The Loft, once or twice a year. It is a small, cozy cabin complete with kitchen, wood stove, screened in porch, 1/2 bath, and a small spiral staircase up to the loft/bedroom—all surrounded by woods and trails. It’s intention: to get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

staircase

In those years between 2006-2010, I would enter The Loft and sigh a relief of suddenly being alone with myself. It was a relief to be away from the needs and wants of my family. It was a relief to feel and know myself again. This time there was no relief. Although it was nice to see The Loft again after several years, I was somewhat dreading being with myself. It hasn’t happened since the last time I was here in 2010—and a lot has happened since then.

One thing is I no longer need to get away from my family like I once thought I did. I have worked through enough of my “stuff” and I love being with them—no longer feeling resentment that I can’t be myself with them. And so alone on a Thursday night, fire burning in the wood stove, a cup of hot tea next to me, I find myself texting them just to see what they are doing, almost wishing I was with them watching Parenthood on the couch. But, I’m here and although I feel a little foreign to myself after all these years, I’m hanging with me anyway.

So far I made myself lunch and dinner, using only the toaster oven provided. I took a two hour nap. I have written a a couple of articles, including this one. And, I went snowshoeing. Yes, I went snowshoeing in April on my spring break. I am in northern Minnesota and it still looks like February in these parts.

lunch

After lunch, I stood in The Loft over-thinking the possibility of snowshoeing—Is it cold? Will the snow hit my face? Will I get lost? Stranded? What if there are bears or wolves? Then, I just moved. Put on the snow pants I have never worn, that unfortunately were a bit too tight in the gut, wrapped a scarf around my neck three times, put on my pink hat, my green jacket, which quite frankly I am sick of wearing and ready to store away, and then my boots. I grabbed the orange vest provided by the staff so I wouldn’t get shot by hunters (even tho it is no longer hunting season) and a ring full of bells for that wolf or bear (as if that might scare them off). I went outside The Loft, struggled to put on my snowshoes with my tight snowpants and hit the trail.

snowshoeing

The snow was hitting my face and I wasn’t cold, but sweating. Not only were there no bears, wolves or hunters there wasn’t even a bird or a squirrel. I was the only one in these woods, which didn’t stop me from looking around for someone watching me when I kept falling in the snow.

You see, it was a bit deceiving out there. It seemed I was walking on solid ground, but then I would notice large, deep crevices in the snow. I soon discovered these were snowshoe prints from previous snowshoers sinking into the snow. I had joined their club and made my own prints in the snow. One of which I took a picture of, where not only did I sink into 2-3 feet of snow but fell hands and face first. That’s when I looked to see if anyone saw me because if they did I would be so embarrassed because obvioulsy I am perfect and I should never fail and fall.

falling

I even got so paranoid about someone seeing me I had the stupidest thought—what if there are cameras out here and someone is getting a real good laugh. Because not only did I continue to fall and my snowshoes kept getting stuck and coming off, I was shouting the F bomb all through the woods. At one point I sat down in the hole in which I sank and almost cried. I was becoming exhausted by this journey and it wasn’t even a long one—or that serious. It reminded me of the journey of the past few years, those years between 2010 and now. A journey I keep being exhausted by—but there was a song playing in my head that stopped those tears from falling down my snow covered cheeks. Shake it Out by Florence + The Machine. 

Shake it out Nikki. 

I got up, fell several more times but in place of exhaustion was determination to just get up, shake it out and keep going.

Tonight, 6-12 inches of new snow is going to fall and cover all traces of my falling and getting up. Such is life…

Goodnight Day One.

fire

 

Good Morning Day Two.

I wake up feeling happy, serene. I am relaxed with myself. This is a pleasant surprise. I made some cereal, eggs and toast. Cleaned up a bit and got dressed. My big outing—walking to the main lodge to pay my bill. After I paid though, I kept walking. Here she goes again….but this time with no snowshoes. At first I intended to take the longer way back to The Loft, but I had remembered a beaver pond off one of the trails I wanted to see in the winter time. I mean spring time.

destination

 

This (above) is what it looks like in winter time. I realized after the journey there it wasn’t about seeing this. That was just an idea in my mind that pushed me forward, like some conquest I had to conquer. Turns out I did more than my share to conquer this goal. I ended up walking much further down a path than I had to. Walking through the snow is similar to walking in sand—it’s a workout. At least for me who hasn’t moved much this long winter. I could not find the path that lead to the beaver pond, but then saw a map posted helpfully on one of the trees. I missed the turn off completely.

I headed back the way I came and found the path toward the beaver pond. And guess what, it was filled with those sink hole land mines again. At least this time I wasn’t losing my snow shoes, but I was soaking my sweatpants in the snow that went almost to my hips. Remember I am a hobbit so I am practically being swallowed by snow.

I was also getting exhausted—again. And this time there was no song in my head from Florence + The Machine—I cried. Hugged the birch tree beside me and cried. I bet no one has ever cried holding this birch tree before. Is anyone looking? My heart was beating so fast. I was standing at the beaver pond realizing some other force pushed me here because I knew it wasn’t for the view, even when I set forth toward it. It was about regaining my strength. Pushing my heart again against life and for life.

I am not sharing what the past few years of my life entailed, but I will share that I set out on another kind of journey and I expected not only the view, but the journey to be spectacular. It wasn’t. In fact many times it was horrifying. I have been exhausted, standing and sitting similar to what I have done on both of these days where I’ve ventured out on the snow packed trails, hesitating.  Should I go? Or should I stay? Should I go to that beaver pond? Or just head back? Even while on the trail, epseciallly at the birch tree I stood for a very long time—hesitating—not feeling like I could head back. I’ve been doing this with life. Do I dare venture out again and risk being disappointed, exhausted and scared out of my mind? Or could I have a new experience?

footsteps

In all this questioning and over-thinking, I just move. It just happens. Apparently, some inkling of hope there are new possibilities. That the past in in the past.

I stepped inside the same steps that got me to the pond. It made it easier in dealing with those sink holes. I continued on with my steps and my tears, allowing myself to cry out the disappointment and exhaustion of the past few years. It was all in place to gather strength, to transform my view, to shed me of what’s not needed—as are all my steps now.

Goodnight Day Two.

 

sunset

Good Morning Day Three.

Today I leave The Loft. Much of the snow that fell has melted in the sun that says, Spring! I look forward to seeing my family. My husband will have dinner made. We will all watch a movie and have good conversation.

Before I leave, sitting at the familiar round table in The Loft, eating buttery eggs, cottage cheese and raspberries I accept what I’ve made a significant flaw, a “flaw,” which has shown itself on this short retreat. My hesitation about life, my caution and slow way of moving forward—perhaps a stubbornness or fear or laziness. I accept how long it takes me to move. I accept it often takes a lot to get me to move. I get it. I accept it.

I have cleaned The Loft, leavning it fresh for the next guest. I am pressing publish on this post. Time to leave. Goodbye Shire in the Woods. Until we meet again….

The Soul Reporter.

Dear Mom, Why Can’t I Love You?

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I was in a workshop, my mother sitting a couple seats down. I am looking at her and I hear this question, Why can’t I love you? This question lived within me for the next several days—and then I sat down and wrote her a letter.

Dear Mom,

Lately, I especially notice I cannot look at you. I notice when I am around you who I truly am shuts down and I become broken and numb. But when you aren’t looking I do look at you. In these moments I feel sad for you. I wonder what it’s like to be you right now. Are you lonely? Are you afraid? I want to hug you. I want to tell you I love you.

I know one day you won’t be here. Or maybe I won’t. Either way I know there will be no one else in my life like you. No one to get on my nerves like you do. No one to give me newspaper clippings about the newest eyeshadow color or my birthday horoscope. No one to ask me how I am that actually wants to know and no one who will look at me like you do or give me a bag full of presents—some bought, some taken from your own shelves for my birthday. There’s no one like you.

And, yet I throw away those newspaper clippings. I criticize your bag full of goodies. I reject the look you can only give and the words to me you only say. I do all this while knowing someday you won’t be here. Mom, why won’t I love you. This letter is my attempt to at least try.

I love you mom.

The past is over. Who you’ve been to me, these reasons I’ve told myself why you aren’t worthy of my love are not real. With the past in the past, the present and the future now have the possibility of me having a new experience with you. I am open and ready for this. I invite you to be also. Thank you for listening.

~Nikki

SONY DSC

What I realized from writing, and than sharing this letter with my mom, and later that group of people at that workshop is I was relating to my mom from the past and the future. I was using stories I created about her from the past, even ones I worked through about her not being available for me to justify not expressing love to her because I fear a future without her. Isn’t it funny how we think creating distance with ones we love will somehow protect us….

I’m opening to a new experience with my mother because I know living a life of survival and protection from the past and the future is a small and isolated way to live. I do not want to have regrets and I want to experience another possibility with my mother.

Thanks for being a part of this exchange with my mother,

The Soul Reporter.

The Workday

What is it about the workday that appears to dull my sense of awareness—awareness of Self, spirit, others, life…? What is it about this lifestyle that produces fatigue, unconsciousness, a restrictiveness rather than space…?

 

For 16 years I was a homemaker. In this space, I lived in my own rhythms—doing what needed to be done for home and family—and what I wanted to do. And then I moved in to the work place. Mostly I liked my work, but soon I discovered what I didn’t like— the lifestyle the workday created. That routine of getting up earlier than I would following my own rhythms. The requirement to be in a fixed location for a certain number of hours. Then, home to homemake—cook dinner, pick up around the house… By the end of the day all I wanted (and still want) to do is stare at a screen showing a good movie while eating something sugary.

I work at a school and this week we are on spring break. Upon the first day I feel how lovely it is to experience myself (again) without the workday routine. I feel myself filled with a bit more space—becoming more present to my natural rhythms. Not being in a fixed location, adhering to a time frame I move about in accordance to that rhythm.

I notice variety, similar to the weather we had—tornadoes in the southwest and where I live watching a sunset in the west and dark skies in the east producing lightening and rainbows. Then, followed by snow showers at night. My day was filled with moments of self-expression, creativity, errands, homemaking, connection with my kids and husband and downtime to just stare at that sky and write in my journal. None of this variety breaks through the dullness and fatigue I feel during the workday week.

When Monday, April 7 comes and the 5:45 alarm wakes me from a sound sleep and I enter the workday rhythm I have some options.

Option One: Resume the familiar routine becoming unconscious and dull = no change.

Option Two: Tell myself how I am going to stay conscious within this routine = no change.

Option Three: Intend to create a new way to make a living which matches my natural rhythms = potential change.

Option Four: Accept the unconsciousness which occurs in a routine— not making it bad or wrong or unworthy of my life. It just is. Discover the value in a routine and create variety on the outskirts of this routine and be pleasantly surprised how that variety bleeds in to the routine = transformation.

Our minds tend to create separation. In this case my mind separates the workday lifestyle from the non-workday lifestyle. Often from here the mind judges one as bad and one as good. Then time is spend using mental energy fighting the bad one.

I don’t know what option I will live from as I return to the workday life— or if I will find a new option entirely. But here is what I do know— in this workday break I find again what matters, what makes me alive and balanced. Writing. Hearing the seagulls screech in circles while the sun sets. Giving my husband a neck massage after a long work day. Reading. Listening. Being. Creating. My kids. Puttering around the house as if I have nothing else in the world to do—because I don’t.

Happy Spring,

The Soul Reporter

Have You Ever Wanted To Leave Your Family?

I left my family.

How many of us women, wives, mothers have left? How many want to? Need to?

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It was only for a couple of days. I went to my mother. The irony. Our past relationship is one of the reasons I have walked through the world protecting myself from the need to need anybody. But, I’m growing up. I went to my mom—anyway— and she was there.

She opened her door—could hardly believe her eyes I was standing in front of her. It felt good to be there. By day two, crawled up in a blanket she put on me, I began to feel a twinge of guilt. I was away from my own family and the guilt was probably a sign I was doing something I had not done in a while—take care of my self.

I don’t know all of the reasons I left, but my guess is any woman, mother, wife reading may know a reason or two. What I did discover: the pain that caused me to pack a bag and look into my husband’s eyes and say, “I’m leaving” was no longer seeing my reflection, the essence of who I am in my family—the one container I have put everything in to.

To put it another way— I lost myself in my family and not received a dividend for my investment except depletion and resentment. I desired them to fill me up as my cup ran dry, believing this reasonable, and I resented they couldn’t or wouldn’t. And when the water in our new home stopped working due to a frozen pipe, I had to leave.

For years I endured far worse than a frozen pipe. But, somehow this broke me.

runningwater

It was this pipe that brought me back home. I had to let the service technician in. The water is flowing again. As for me, I am restored enough to see with new eyes, remembering my gaze is needed here in this home because a mother and a wife is what I am. It’s what I have chosen to do. But—my gaze is also needed to stay within my very own soul, a place I must return again and again for restoration, peace, clarity and wisdom.

The Soul Reporter

Trying to be Alone

Today’s Soul Report: A Writing/Walking Meditation (written several weeks ago)

I am called forward by the sound of a bird. It is the only sound I want to hear. Soon I hear them all:

traffic noise that I don’t want to hear;

a wind chime;

an old porsche- the driver pushing on the gas to get it to rumble;

a child’s laughter, and the sound of water hitting the car as its being washed by father and son;

a weed whacked.

I see: 

a tiny lizard running deeper into a bush;

groceries being taken out of a car;

two friends talking loud. A young boy paaaes by on his cell phone;

a young mother walking her baby.

There are too many out today. But who am I? No one more special than the next. 

More birds. A place in the shade;

they turned on their front yard fountain. No one home to listen.

All of these beautiful spaces with no one to sit and listen, to the fountain. The birds. 

I feel:

it is hot. Sun exposing me;

I have a great opening line. I’m afraid to go deeper;

I don’t want to see people or have them see me;

like the lizard that runs to the dark everytime a footstep is felt.

I want:

a writing room. The one I see in my imagination. More like a cottage. Moved away from the main house. I walk there with my tea. Smiling. Ready to enter.

I am: 

selfish I’m sure. To want nothing but birds. Wind. Quiet. A cottage to write that only I enter into;

aware I created a life before knowing who I was. This life now makes me feel confined- in moments;

longing for a life that will one day come. But, only after the kids are raised and the money is raised. The career established. Or am I just being dramatic?

wandering the streets to try and find a space that is just mine.

I know the pursuit is selfish. The longing of it makes me unhappy. Soon I will enter my over priced rental. Family of four. No room to write. Only a wall space between the bedroom closet and drawers. My husband will probably be in there sleeping. It’s Saturday. I will feel pressure to join the family.

I hear be grateful being chanted from the positive thinking cult on my left, and on my right I hear some form of my dad and the Buddha tellling me it’s too bad I lost my desire to only be useful- and nothing else.

I find a place. I’ve been here before. It’s on a graffiti filled rock. Above the Rose Bowl. The only space where there’s shade. I see people have been here. But no one is here now.

What’s the rustling in that bush? Probably another lizard.