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[00:00:00]

Hi, everyone, I'm Bernie Brown, and this is Unlikeliness. So if there's one thing that I've learned from 20 plus years of research on how we as humans think and feel and behave, it's simply that if something is on my mind, you're more than likely to be thinking about it, too.

[00:00:23]

If something's bothering me, it's probably not just bothering me. If I'm worried about something, it's probably a worry shared by many people. It's like what I'm teaching in that one brave student raises their hand and asks a question. And you can see 90 percent of the people in the classroom just melt with relief.

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You know, they don't know the answer to the question either. They're stuck to it, but they don't want to ask.

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The hard part is if we don't raise our hand or share what's on our mind, it's so easy to convince ourselves that we're completely alone. And if you go back to the data, you know, we're almost never alone in our experiences. So in the spirit of sharing what we're thinking about, I thought it could be worthwhile to record an occasional on my mind episode to check in and tell you what I'm learning, what I'm holding onto right now for dear life and some of the things I'm trying like hell to let go of.

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Now, my mind is not a place for the faint of heart. It's a very strange place. There's a lot of weird stuff that goes on in there. So I'm just going to keep it to like my top three things.

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So an on my mind episode. All right, so, of course, the thing on the very top of my mind is the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that has just got like on my mind and on my heart. I actually have this. It's so weird. I have this small painting of her in my entryway. And when I came downstairs this morning, I guess I had temporarily forgotten about her death on Friday. So when I saw the painting, it was like this sinking grief and anxiety all over again.

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You know, that feeling, I remember this feeling growing up, I remember having, like a first boyfriend and you would break up and you would cry yourself to sleep. And in the morning you'd wake up and for a split second you'd forget and everything would be like, oh, good morning.

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And then it would just wash over you. That's how I felt when I saw that painting of. Justice Ginsburg, and it's hard to because the grief that I'm experiencing can't spread out and take all the space that it needs, because my anxiety about this, what this means for our democracy, is the biggest space hog in my head right now.

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I'm like, let's just be quiet and contemplative and prayerful. And then the anxiety is like, what are you going to do? What are you going to do?

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So I've got grief and anxiety, top of mind around Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I'll tell you that one of my favorite quotes by Justice Ginsburg is about the power of dissents. So dissents are written by one or more judges expressing disagreement with the majority opinion of a court.

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And the dissents are not law. They're not case law. I don't think they're not binding, but they can carry significant weight. And they're often cited and used to make changes and even reversals in the very laws that they're written about.

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And so she has this great quote about dissents.

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And she she said, dissents speak to a future age. It's not simply to say my colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way. But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually, over time, their views become the dominant view. So that's the dissenters hope that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow. Oh, God, it's beautiful.

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I love that quote from the very moment I first heard it. But today, in this shame and blame environment, it means so much more to me because it pushes me further into one of my personal prayers. It's a prayer that I've actually shared on social media before, and I think I shared it in a book, but I can't remember.

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It's a prayer that I you know, I say it all the time, actually, and I say it when I'm frustrated in a bathroom stall. And I say it in the morning when I wake up and I often say to bed at night before I go to sleep. And it's just at the end of this day and at the end of my life, I hope I have contributed more than I criticized. And. Thinking about Justice Ginsburg's quote, really, I think sometimes dissents are the most important contributions that we can make, just like actual criticism, not like a cheap seat, chickenshit criticism, but really thoughtful criticism and dissents.

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Can have real value if there are thoughtful and intentional and if their future thinking and I think this is important, maybe the most important part, they have to be able to stand on their own. They need to be completely formed.

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You know, a criticism like you suck or you're wrong or that's a stupid idea. Those are not contributions and they don't speak to the future. I actually think that those are mostly like the cheap seats, the cheap seats criticism, I think that's mostly offloading fear and emotion, but a dissent or a thoughtful criticism that makes a real contribution, takes so much time and effort because they're not reactive, they're proactively creating what's next. I think I'm went to work on this in a couple of ways, one, I think I'm going to be more thoughtful.

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When it comes to my dissents, like what's the why behind it, what's the alternative, maybe make it less personal and at work when there are dissenting opinions, I'm going to ask people to push beyond, like, I don't think it's a good idea or just feels off to me or I've got a bad gut on that.

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I want them to flesh it out with the future in mind.

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I mean, think about how powerful that could be if. We made space for intentional, thoughtful. Well planned out descent. That was future thinking, I don't know, it's just so contrary to what would you see in the world today. So thank you. Thank you.

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Notorious RBG may your memory be a blessing and a revolution, OK? Second thing is this article that I came across on Medium. It's by Tara Haley, who is a science journalist, also a storyteller, educator, photographer and writer.

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And the name of the article is Just take a deep breath right now.

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Like, if you're driving, if you're out walking, whatever you're doing, just take a deep breath. The name of the article is Your surge capacity is depleted. It's why you feel awful. Subtitle Here's how to pull yourself out of despair and live your life.

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Now, I probably don't even have to say anything else. I'll just send you the link to the article like you get it right. By the way, the link to the article is in the show notes on Briney Brown dot com. So don't worry, you'll be able to find the article easily.

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For me, this article is the perfect follow up to remember my very first podcast on Footy's F and first times. First time we've been in a pandemic. Don't you know? Don't overestimate how you're going to get through this reality.

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Check your expectations. Take a deep breath. During that podcast, I said that we were not going to be able to get through the pandemic. Are a few ourselves on adrenaline for a long time because there just wasn't. There's just not enough. By definition, adrenaline is for a short period of time.

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And like all wobbly, vulnerable first times, I knew this pandemic would require us to name what we're feeling, gather some perspective and reality, check our expectations.

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Then I launch season two of this podcast with talking about day two that, you know, that was just like a minute ago.

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It feels like, you know, where we've hit a very predictable wall now that we're at the six month mark and we can't turn back and we're not sure how we're going to move forward. And it was so funny the other day. I was at work and it just it was just Kluster after Kluster. It was a complete shit show.

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And one of my colleagues looks at me and she goes, I'm having an FFT wrapped up in a day data.

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It's like, oh, yes, ma'am, that's exactly right. And fifty wrapped up in a day, too. But like we're now six or seven months into this pandemic and we're hitting a wall that is inevitable. It's normally all like this is the wall. If you talk to disaster relief people, if you talk to people that, you know, work in war zones or trauma zones, this is a six month wall.

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The good news is we're going to get through it. The bad news is it sucks. I know deep inside of me that we're going to get through.

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But when I read this article, I was like, oh, my surge capacity is depleted. And that's why it really does feel awful. Like some days it's like my feet each weigh 40 pounds.

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I can't get them over the side of the bed to get out. I can't get in. I just can't move. It's just terrible.

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So Haley interviews several experts, starts with an interview with Professor Anne Mastin, who's a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota. Super helpful information. Am I going to read the article to you? Because that would be weird. But I'm going to tell you what I was sticking to me, so then you can go read it and figure out what sticks to you. But it was helpful.

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So Mastin, who studies resilience and surviving trauma wars disasters, explains that surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems, mental and physical, that humans draw on for short term survival, an acutely stressful situations such as natural disasters. The problem. So this is the problem that we're facing now is that a pandemic, in my opinion, is both. An acutely stressful situation like a disaster and a slow unraveling of every one of the systems and rhythms that keeps us tethered to our lives into each other, family gatherings, faith communities, school work like it is.

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It is like as someone who, you know, lives on the Gulf Coast and has been through my share of hurricanes. It's like the wind is breaking the windows and we're in cleanup at the same time. There's too much to ask some days, so our search capacities maxed out and we need to find a new source of energy. So the first thing we have to do now, listen to this. As I've said this a million different ways and everybody I've interviewed who has had expertise in everything from grief to mental health has also said this.

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The first thing to do to find a new source of energy is to acknowledge that the anxiety and weariness is normal. If we spend too much time thinking there's something wrong with us and thinking that we're the only ones that are feeling overwhelmed or that's a bad expenditure of energies, that the first thing we have to do is say, yes, my search capacity is depleted.

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I'm at the six month wall. This is normal.

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And it's really interesting because Hayley actually writes in here, it's different from a hurricane or tornado where you can look outside and see the damage. The destruction is, for most people, invisible and ongoing. I don't think I've ever whistled on the podcast before. What do you think I can make my own sound effects? Let me just read it again. If I were interviewing her, I'd say, hey, wait, stop. Say that again.

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It's different from a hurricane or tornado where you can look outside and see the damage. The destruction is, for most people, invisible and ongoing.

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Tough.

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So I don't think I've given myself permission to experience covid as a terrible long term disaster, but it is and I think we're doing that thing a lot of us, myself included, where we're looking for disaster relief while the hurricane is still blowing the shutters off the house.

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We just don't know how to do it. Which brings me to the second expert that Haley interviewed, Pauline. Boss, Doctor, Boss is a family therapist and professor emeritus of social sciences at the University of Minnesota, and she specializes in ambiguous loss. Haley also talks to Michael Maddis, who's an MD and a professor of thoracic surgery, also at the University of Minnesota. Now, I'll say I know a lot about ambiguous loss because while I've experienced it, I'm experiencing it now and again.

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I've experienced it in the past and I've also studied it. An ambiguous loss or ambiguous grief is really tough because.

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It can be a little. Crazy making, because there's not that kind of evidence that we need to show ourselves or show other people because we feel like we have to justify our grief. It's like. It's a loss that's hard to name. And, you know. Again, I'll let you dig into the article, because there's a lot more than what I'm sharing with you on the podcast, but I'll tell you what came up for me around ambiguous loss.

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And I wish you could see me right now, I'm clenching my fist because I don't want to talk about this, but I'm going to share it with you in case anyone else needs to hear it. I'm a problem solver. And a go getter. And. I'm also in recovery, so I try not to you know, Anne Lamott says that help is the sunny side of control. So I try not to orchestrate people's lives, especially my kids, but.

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I do help them when I see them struggling and I do try to problem solve and we have this kind of rule in our house where it's not our job to dream your dream or set your goal.

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Our job is to encourage you to set your own dream, set your own goal, and then we'll use our experience and perspective to let you know how we think you could achieve it and you can act on that or you don't have to act on that. But that's that's our job as a parent, not to set the goal, not to dream the dream, but say if your goal is to make this team or get the scholarship or get this job, here are some things you should think about that will be helpful.

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And then you can choose to do them and shoot or choose not to do them. Oh, my God. And when you choose not to do them. And I know that you're setting yourself up for a real disappointment. It's so hard, but I really try to step back. But this ambiguous loss that I'm experiencing right now that just hit me like a ton of bricks.

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And I was reading this is I feel helpless. Around being able to protect my children right now and. That's a really tough thing because it's not I feel somewhat helpless from being able to prevent them from getting sick, but also I feel equally helpless in. You know, facing the perils of not living their lives right now, like every decision is fraught, every decision feels scary, every precaution feels like it comes with a huge price around social connection, especially because we are so much more conservative than the parents of their friends and.

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I I don't know, it's we feel comfortable with our values and our kids believe in our values, but it doesn't mean it's just crushing. And so the fact that I can't make my daughter's senior year in college. What she hoped it would be or that. You know, I just can't help them, I can't change things, I can't control the environment, I guess I could never control the environment, but I could problem solve. And in this article, Dr.

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Bass, the ambiguous. Grief ambiguous loss expert even says that it's really hard for those of us who are problem solvers and really. Are used to getting shit done, so I guess I'm really struggling there, so if you're struggling to. I think the best thing we can do is just name it and normalize it and reality check our expectations. I feel like I say that so much, starting to feel like cliche or something, but the actual work of doing it is hard.

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One of the things there's a lot of advice offered by the experts interviewed in the article, and a lot of it makes a ton of sense to me. And a lot of it's familiar. And we've actually talked about some of these ideas on this podcast.

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But one explanation that really helped me understand my project obsession right now, like I've got a lot of big projects going on now in addition to, like books and research in this podcast.

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So Dr. Madis explained, this is the professor of thoracic surgery again at the University of Minnesota, where they got some resilient stuff going on.

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So Dr. Maddis explained why building things and creating is bringing some of us joy and real.

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Feelings of restoration and recharge, he explains that there are two ways the brain deals with the world, the future, including like things we need to go after and get done and the here and now seeing things and touching things.

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He explained that rather than being at the mercy of what's going on in the world right now, we can use elements of this natural reward system that we have and construct things to do that are good no matter what. So he says these kinds of activities to have a planning element, a real here and now experience element for Matus. He gave the example. He said it was simply replacing all of the shower heads and light bulbs in the house. He said it's a silly thing, but it made him feel really good.

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So, like the millisecond I get finished recording this podcast, I'm going to go back to my massive I mean, massive, like Texas sized photo project where I'm actually scanning and organizing all of our family photos and my family. I don't mean just like me, Steve Allen and Charlie. I mean like generations of family. And maybe I'll get Steve to change out all the light bulbs and showerheads.

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So it feels good to completely altruistic on my part. I've also actually, since reading this article, talked to Charlie and Ellen about projects like this that would be meaningful for them. And I have to say they were both, like, juiced up a little bit about it. They were excited. So this idea do things that are good no matter what. Like do things that are good, no matter how batshit crazy things are right now. That feels important and right to me.

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All right, the third thing on my mind, I told you all, it's it's it's the Wild West up here in my head, but. You'll let me know, you'll let me know if you like it, if you want an occasional on my mind episode or if you like just the facts, ma'am. OK, third thing on my mind, a new source of energy. So in my life, I have found that one of the greatest antidotes to despair and depression and a great source of energy is play.

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Now, I'm going to do a whole episode on play. I'm going to do a whole episode on play it, because it was this whole story is crazy how this came to be. And it's all in the gifts of imperfection. So but I actually forgot about play until a couple of months ago, was published six weeks ago when I was narrating the 10th anniversary edition of The Gifts of Imperfection, the audio book, because this was the first time we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the gifts by giving folks the audio book narrated by me before it was narrated by someone else.

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And people were like, We're used to your voice, can you do it? So I was narrating it and obviously reading through it. And I came across this quote by Stewart-Brown.

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The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play as depression, says Stuart Brown, M.D. play researcher. The most remarkable story again, I'm going to do an episode on play. So Brown explains how respecting our biologically programmed need for play can transform us and renew our sense of excitement in life. So I wrote the gifts of imperfection in the midst of my midlife spiritual breakdown. Awakening and Play was a brand new concept for me. And again, another long story.

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But I was like, what is this strange thing that these wholehearted people do? One of the ways that Stewart-Brown defines play is time spent without purpose. So back then, and if I'm being honest a little bit today, I call time without purpose an anxiety attack. But I started thinking about time spent without purpose.

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So 10 years ago, I really made a commitment to to incorporate play into my life. And let me tell you, it changed. Everything had changed me and my family and for the better. We even made a family playlist. So what we did is we all picked four or five activities that met Stuart Brown's definitions of play, time spent without purpose, activities where you lose track of time, activities where you feel free to be yourself like uninhibited and just freedom liberated.

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So we wrote down things and obviously we all had different things, but I was looking for kind of the van diagram.

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OK, I get it. The irony is not lost on me that I was created a Venn diagram of play, but whatever I was looking for the Venn diagram, like, what do we have? What is play, what, what play things do we share in common? So Steve Allen, Charlie and I were so surprised that we shared a lot in common. Swimming, outdoor time cards, movies, alone, time, piddling unscheduled time and hiking.

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Well, let me tell you, up until this experience, we did not plan a single activity that included most of those things.

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Like we we did other things for vacation and we did other things for time away. And so from that point forward, we started building vacations around these things. And it what a difference it made. We came home from trips completely restored and not exhausted from having seen every landmark and museum people. We'd come back from somewhere and people were like, oh my God, did you see to this or did you go to this museum?

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We're like, no, no. We spent the day hiking. They went to the pool. But you can hike and go the pool anywhere. Michette But we don't.

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So we did it there and it was like, amazing.

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So given that we're out of adrenaline in our search capacity is depleted, I thought about turning to play as a new source of energy.

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I asked myself these questions again, like these three things, time spent without purpose, a time where, you know, things I'm doing, where I lose track of time, things that make me feel liberated in an uninhibited and.

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Just wow, let me tell you, my list surprised me, so my photography project, pickleball, tennis, riding my bicycle, international films, fun TV and music, not hard crime documentaries, but like fun, TV and music. So the family overlap happens to be biking with me and Charlie and Steve.

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Elon's off at school, so we probably take biking out for her, but for all of us, pickleball, tennis, music and fun TV. And we have had such a blast and it is again been very restorative.

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You know, the energy you get from play is not like sugary as adrenaline. Wear it like it's hardcore and it spikes. It's constant and predictable. It's like less of a doughnut sugar spike and more like a green smoothie feeling, which I think is good. So make a playlist for yourself. You and your partner, your family, even a good friend, plays this incredible source of energy that's easy to forget about.

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And let me share something with you that's really important for me. And we can have different opinions on this. We can there can be dissent as long as this future thinking and planful, some people might say right now, this is no time for play. Our democracy is on the line. The world is falling apart. We've got work to do. Hell, yes. I agree on all accounts. But as I wrote about this in braving the wilderness.

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Our hearts are expansive and big and as the poem goes, contain multitudes. We can't fight on no energy. We can't fight for love unless we're experiencing it. We can't fight for joy unless we know joy. And so I'm not saying back away from the revolution or the fight because I don't plan to do that.

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But I do need an energy source, not only for the fight, but just to get me through my day and keep me in loving relationship with the people I care about. So this is the last thing on my mind, and I know I said three things, but really this is like three by Ted LASO, like this show y'all.

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It's on Apple and I love it so much. It's a family show for us and it's definitely play. It stars Jason Sudeikis, who helped create and produce and write it, and he plays this really goofy American college football coach hired to coach a premium league soccer team in the U.K., which is, you know, the fish out of water story. But it's just so funny because he's hired by this woman who got custody of this Premier League team after this bitter divorce cheating husband story.

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And she wants to run the team into the ground. So she hires this really just nutty coach from the from the US. And it's unapologetically fun and it's just earnest and the best ways. And it just, you know, we order dinner and we snuggle up and we laugh and we watch it.

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And we made a pact not to watch it without each other. And it's good. And I just have to say that I'm going to share my favorite quote and he's got this twang.

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So, of course, like it feels like home to me, but he's like I feel like I just fell out of the lucky tree, hit every branch on the way down and ended up in a pool of cash and sour patch kids.

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It's funny, look, that's funny. OK, friends, these are the things in my mind, I hope you'll have a great week. I hope you find a way to keep contributing, even if it's an intentional descent. Make sure if you're in the United States that you are registered to vote, let Justice Ginsburg's name be a blessing and a revolution, get to the polls, cut yourself some slack around your search capacity, play more. And I personally hope like hell that you find yourself falling out of a lucky tree into a pool of cash and sour patch kids, because that would just be the best.

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All right. I'll say awkward, brave and kind. I'll see you next time.