Finding Nine by Author SUKI LANG
Suki Lang lives and writes in British Columbia. A story teller by nature she has a strong belief in miracles and a certainty that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way – This writer has no trouble finding happy endings.
This is the story of John, a 16 year old who loses his mother to cancer. During the last year of her life she writes a series of eight letters for her son to read after her death. Designed as a treasure hunt, the letters take John to a place his mother left long ago, where he meets a family he knows little of. The object of the hunt seems to be to find a perfect spot to place his mother’s ashes. But John soon discovers the letters are his mother’s way of helping him move through his grief, and of letting him know she will always be by his side. The journey he takes is about finding hope in the love of two people who welcome him with open arms. And John’s arrival is a gift never expected but long hoped for by two of the people his mother did not forget. Through the natural order of things a son is given the opportunity to fulfill a mother’s last wish and to discover her many secrets yet untold.
TO PURCHASE – FOLLOW LINKS BELOW
Well it looks like I fell off the 100 days of Happiness commitment wagon. In fact I have not written about happiness since June 25 or day 25 of my 100 days. How about this, I will pick up where I left off? I’ll start day 26 right here right now. Someone once asked me, “do you want to be a quitter or a failure”. This question was in relation to my desire to pack the BC real estate course in. I’d come to the stage in the course where I had to learn to use a business calculator. Math not ever having been my forte I froze every time I tried to do an assignment. The course was taken via distance and so I’d snail mail my assignments in once a week. And most times I’d get every thing almost right. It was so long ago I can’t recall how many wrong answers you were allowed before they’d make you redo that weeks assignment. During the math section my work was sent back every week. So, as I was saying some smart person posed that question to me. Today I am asking myself that question. Is it important to follow through with a promise immediately or in this case within 100 days. Or is it enough to check in from time to time to say “yup, I had some happy days”. And I did. I did. Today though I feel really happy and that is why I’m writing in my blog. Just to reach out and say it’s ok to find joy in the mundane. I found my happiness today and the last few days, cleaning out my closets, sorting through junk and tossing what I don’t need. Soon all will be in order and I’ll feel even better than I do this day. This day, I feel grateful to recognize joy when I feel it. And I feel go to remember how good it feels to just start again as if there were never a break and also to remember what I said that day so long ago, “I’d rather be a failure than a quitter any day”.
If yesterday didn’t present me with an obvious happy or spectacular moment today already has. For the past fourteen years we’ve provided care for a young woman with autism spectrum disorder. She is lovely and provides me with many insights and lessons on communication and human nature too. She lives in our suite and has complete access to the whole house; having her own suite just makes sense for all of us. Though I do all the cooking and cleaning, having her own place gives her a semblance of independence and also gives her privacy and time alone. Each morning she phones to ask what’s for breakfast and today she stuck to routine and called as usual. When my cell phone rang, I was writing in my journal a Happy Father’s Day message and how we miss our son Jason on days like this. So when I answered, I asked her if she would like to wish a happy Father’s Day. She giggled and asked what she should say; just what ever she might write in a birthday card I told her. She began to sing a song to the tune of “we wish you a Merry Christmas”. And it began like this, “we wish you a happy Father’s Day” and ended like this “…..and a happy new year”. Her voice is sweet and high and hearing her made us laugh out loud with absolute pleasure. A Happy Father’s Day for my man and happiness for me to see him have such pleasure.
Do you have a sister? I do, in fact I have a few more than one. I am the youngest and truly at times I feel ancient compared to any of them on any given day. Very busy women are my sisters. Today one sis took time out of her busy schedule to entertain me and my dog. She took us for a walk through the neighbourhoods and along the alley ways, of the west side of Vancouver. We took our time and had a peek at the many lane way houses that are popping up all along the way. We wended our way back to her place and as usual she served up a yummy vegetarian lunch. Her culinary expertise is well know; add to this, her intrinsic way of making the dishes she rolls out taste even more delectable with the attention she pays to the presentation of the meal; she did not disappoint today. A well set table, beautiful looking colourful food and good company. Even the dog was happy.
As I get older more and more people begin to die. First my friend Don Jacobson died of lung cancer on my birthday, then my dad died of heart failure, then Don’s wife, Jean died almost because she couldn’t go on without Don and willed herself to die too. Shortly after Jean, my aunt Yvonne died of lung cancer then my mum died of cancer of the esophagus. Jason, my son died August 30, 2011 of colon cancer. At very sad times a little sing song phrase has rattled around inside my head, a phrase that I worry will bring on more deaths of those I love….”death surrounds me”. But I know death surrounds all of us, it’s common to hear about a death from cancer or heart failure. We are meant to die, it’s our destiny, there is no escape. And it doesn’t matter, really, how we die. What does matter is how we live. And thinking these thoughts today led to my happy moment. There I sat on my adirondack chair overlooking the world I see, watching over Jason’s memorial tree, feeling the sun on my face and the wind swirling my long greying hair around. Knowing my dog is near, she won’t leave my side for long as her need arises to periodically go off to investigate. My husband too, wanders out to see me, bringing pillows and mats to lay on so I could get a tan if I wish….In that moment I knew this was the life for me, a life and activity that brings me pleasure. To just sit and contemplate the life that is unfolding for me while I am in the here and now, by living more in the moment there is time to see and explore and know my inner self. My happy self…
For the past two days I’ve been scrubbing the house. Making it all clean and shiny so when a realtor comes tomorrow they’ll say “oh wow this house shines”! And then they will tell me it is worth far more than I ever thought and our retirement will be settled. My yard work and cleaning has left me sore and stiff. Gardening, washing floors, vacuuming, hauling trash and moving furniture all take a toll on this body. My work almost complete I sat down out on the deck to read a few pages of a book, have a coffee and put my feet up. Immediately I note there is a presence in the yard, the stealthy movement through the perennial garden has captured the attention of my dog, Cozy. She is making soft whimpering sounds while she tracks the slow, smooth, shape that sashays through the growth. We both know what is there but wait for Tibble the cat, to languidly make his way out into the open. There he rolls and lays stretching out in the sun; looking up to tease the dog on the deck above, from the safety of the ground below. This is what I love. A day in the sun laughing at my helpless Cozy as she lays crying in frustration on the deck or racing along the railing, watching every movement all the while wanting to give that cat a chase. Laughing out loud I put my book down, fold my hands around the warmth of the coffee cup, lift my face to the sun and just enjoy the moment. To look for the happy moment of the day and then to find it too; This is the life!
There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way…
Well here I am again, I couldn’t not blog and I do have a new project to share. Recently while at a friends home I casually admired two chairs in her living room. She is a bit like me and doesn’t get attached to “stuff ” so she said she’d sell them to me. A short negotiation ensued and now they are mine to do with as I please. When she offered to help lift them into the car I realized they were heavier than wood. They are lovely though and have great potential to become very glamorous…. A little different than painted art cards, this project will keep me creatively occupied and mindfully in the moment as I work away. My tendency is to hurry through when I’m working on a piece of furniture. This time I’ll try moving slowly, taking pleasure in and paying attention to each step. Watch this spot!
“What good shall I do this day” is one of two quotes found in Benjamin Franklins daily journals. His other quote is a follow up, “what good have I done today”. Two questions he asked himself, one first thing in the morning before he began his day and the second, in the evening as he reflected on his day. Yesterday I felt guilty for being too busy, for filling my time up with productivity and not enough quiet reflection. Today, the good I can do is to find pleasure in each task I set out for myself, by being in the moment with each task. “True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” Quote by Antoine de Saint
With my thirty day commitment almost at an end I wonder “what have I learned or accomplished”? When I began this project I envisioned moving forward to this point on the calendar where I’d be arriving at enlightenment, of a sort. That my mini masterpieces would be inspirational in themselves, they would be startlingly beautiful with new and imaginative subjects. Not so, I’ve not reached that point. What has happened though is I’ve reached a point of wanting to make mini commitments to myself for myself, making me stronger, healthier, more dependable, self reliant, somehow more complete a package. A person I can feel proud to be, a person who follows through, meeting deadlines. It has been a struggle gathering myself up each day to write a blog from a new perspective, trying to sound interesting and interested. In the end I’m satisfied with both; my mini masterpiece art trading cards and with the effort it has taken to agree to making a commitment at all. One thing I have learned about myself is, if I say I’m going to do something, I do…. My word is gold. The issue has always been, even saying I’ll do “something”. To me the word commitment is just another word for promise. And a promise, is a debt unpaid.
Before painting my “kale 4 sale”, me and my dog spread out on a little bed we primarily use for reading, meditation and afternoon naps. Feeling a bit maudlin after days of living in the past and with worries about the future I needed to get back to the present, and on track with focus to the here and now. While meditating I had an epiphany, imagination happens in the moment, creativity happens right now, not in all the futures of the days ahead but right now. Recognizing my slip, out of the here and into the “there” fills me with gratitude. I deeply need the effect of this meditation to carry me into the future while I live day to day; for my epiphany to take root protecting me from further transgressions. Kale 4 sale was done in the moment and through my eyes is the most creative and imaginative I’ve been all week. I love it…
For those who know me well, yesterday’s post of a new location is no surprise. Going back as far as our first home purchase we have owned 13 properties. We find the ugly duckling on the block and from curb to bath we transform it. Never going large with a gutting of walls floors etc. we look for good bones and needed small updates, paint, flooring, an update to the kitchen, a new bathroom or two maybe some crown moulding and landscaping. It’s the project we love to putter with, over a year or two or five; when we are all done we seek something new. During my morning meditation this day a city emerged, complete with high rises, low rises, theatres, parks, beaches, a walkable community and I was sold. No lawns to mow, ground to hoe, just a lock and go. Another lifestyle for a future me to consider… country mouse or city mouse, which will I chose?
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I dreamt of Jason again. It was the middle of the night, when I woke up his presence was clear to me, as if he were in the room. So clear I knew I’d recall the details of his visit when I woke in the morning , and I have not. Not the details, just the hazy memory that he was here. My favourite dream is Jason coming out of the boreal forest to give me a hug. Remembering the forest and that very special Jason hug has gotten me through many days. Somehow this days painting reminds me of a boreal forest. My session began with ease, emerging to be bright and beautiful, fertile and full of growth while holding tight to hidden secrets. Lush, life sustaining, impenetrable, self sufficient.
And Wow I love this mini masterpiece. I’m drawn to the vibrancy and boldness of colour. Before I began to paint it I listened to restful, new age, meditation music and meditated. My frame of mind went from searching for a way to paint to instinctively knowing the way. I can understand why a routine of daily meditation has been adopted by so many. The music coupled with taking a few minutes to meditate before painting results in a feeling of double joy, double pleasure, double easy feelings while I paint and for the day ahead.
Early this morning as I slowly emerged from a sleep filled with dreams of Jason I wept for my own loss and for the joy of seeing him if only in my dreams. Yesterday on Facebook, I posted pictures of a tree I had the city plant in memory of Jason and pictures of our home memorial vegetable garden. Along with the photos I wrote messages too. I’m sure he heard all the resulting chatter of people whose lives he touched as they “liked” the posts or wrote comments of their own. Then Jason himself reached out to me in my sleep; reminding me he is always with me. And I know his visit was his way of thanking me for keeping him alive by talking freely about him ever mindful of including him in our daily lives.
The art trading card below does reflect how I feel this day. In a dreamy state of reassurance and bliss I return to my field of dreams to rest and reflect on Jason’s life; a life well lived.
Yesterday was a very special day, a tree was planted in memory of our son, Jason Langhorst, right on our boulevard! When I spoke with Steve in the parks department of the city we live in, and asked if this was something they would do he said yes. A Parottia Persica Vanessa now sits front and centre. The tree and all it represents puts me in a wonderful space for painting. The mini masterpiece below was painted in a deep and peaceful space, where my intellect said one thing and my brush said another. You see I’d never drawn or painted an orchid before. After the initial drawing which was very poor, I could have started over, instead I kept working until I found not all was lost and that a trick to success is to never never give up. I like the word – Sisu it is a Finnish word generally meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. …. fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. As Jason liked to say “fight like hell”.
I’ve got rhythm and my body does too…The past three days theres been a struggle to find a meditative spot where inspiration streams forth. While I sat and placed my pen on paper, just because that is how I start my mini masterpiece, with black gel pen I draw a few lines…. My pen moved seemingly all on its own and in the end I painted something new. Instead of relying on the usual acrylic paints, I tried out water colour pencils; the white spaces began to fill with colour and I felt like I was returning from the dark place I had been on day ten and eleven.
Or perhaps it is how I started on those days. Wanting to try something new I skipped using the pen and went straight from brush to acrylic on paper. I didn’t use my pen at all to begin my mini masterpiece or during the process. The pen may be an integral part of my painterly and meditation style. And now I wonder if my three days have lacked lustre due to a poor meditative start. Just as these cards have become my morning meditation, so has my pen become my mantra. I love the result of this mornings mini masterpiece.
When I woke up this morning, my first thought was Jason and Mother’s Day; I survived. We invited friend Susan and her husband for brunch. A brunch for bereaved mums, a good time was had by all because it was on the agenda; having a good time was our intention.
To live intentionally or to live with intention could have been my mantra while I parked myself before an empty art trading card with a strong desire to paint. Jumping right in I settled into another field and slipped into the art zone where all time stands still, completely alone with my art and my head. The little bird in the right corner is a symbol of hope. And I am hopeful, of what I do not know but life is a series of opportunities and I plan to be open to many. Finally I am beginning to be glad I am alive.
Today is my third, Mother’s Day as a childless mother. Jason’s death left me unsure of what my role is and of who I am now I have no child. They say when a husband dies a wife becomes a widow, when a father dies a child becomes an orphan and there is no name for a parent when their child dies. 41 years being called mum by my son and being referred to as Jason’s mother by my husband, family and friends, then to have that name and role and those references abruptly end was utterly unreal; an added devastation, a source of grief. It has taken 33 months to know I am still a mother, I feel like a mother, I’ve still got stretch marks from my only pregnancy, I have my memories of Jason’s childhood, his adolescence, his adulthood memories of me as a mother making good decisions and bad, there are photos, family stories and letters to document the fact. I am a mother.
My mini masterpiece today is in no way a reflection of motherhood. It is the result of another day of me pressing myself into action. One day closer to establishing a habit of following through with a project. If I can do thirty days of art trading cards, I can do many things.
This day is as bad, in terms of lack of inspiration, as yesterday. The lesson here is to preserver, to never give up and something good will come..and in this instance it isn’t todays mini masterpiece. It is the fact that I did it, I followed through. This Nike ad’s message is as inspirational today as it was when I first saw it in the 90’s:
“Sooner or later, you start taking yourself seriously. You know when you need a break. You know when you need a rest. You know what to get worked up about and what to get rid of. And you know when it’s time to take care of yourself, for yourself. To do something that makes you stronger, faster, more complete.
Because you know it’s never too late to have a life. And never too late to change one.
JUST DO IT”
Lately I’ve been saying “just do it” to myself a lot, so thanks Nike!
Yesterday I was so sure of my ability to stick with doing a card every day. Today though, when I sat down to paint, feeling totally void of enthusiasm and inspiration, my incentive seemed to have left me. Reminding myself to be in the moment, I stayed seated, resisting distraction and the temptation to give up and waited for inspiration to strike. When it did not, I went to my comfort zone of painting a field. A field like none other I have ever painted. Normally the fields I paint, sketch or doodle are pleasant places where there’s evidence of growth and development, they are hopeful fields, not so with today’s field. Today field is a barren place of little hope. The little bumble bee I pressed into the left centre of it all is a reminder that if we humans don’t protect them our precious bees will perish, and then so will we. Although I’m not impressed with today’s rendering I feel success in lurching across the lack of incentive hurdle and just getting it done.
When I wake up each morning my son Jason is on my mind and his message of “I just want you to be happy” is like a mantra in my mind and heart. His message gives me energy to do my best for the day just to honour his wish. The key, for me, to a happy life is living in the moment and as the little Buddha says “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way”. This morning with happy anticipation and wanting to use one of my new “Postit” page markers, I chose one with a key. My mini masterpiece on this day has been a pleasure to paint all through the process a sense of calm surrounded me as I was reminded of what the key represents….happiness is the way:))
The phrase “A new beginning” went through my mind when I made the commitment to follow through with painting a mini masterpiece a day. So far in my life I’ve had trouble finishing what I start or maybe I hadn’t found something compelling enough to pursue. When I say follow through, I’m talking about doing something for the love of it with no apparent reward, no money to lure me to the end line. Without a monetary reward dragging me along to culmination of a project my interest often lags until it just fizzles out completely. I’ve had to find something within that makes me want to be faithful each day to this project and now it’s only day 8 and already I’m feeling pretty sure of myself. Except for one thing…today’s subject. Having a minor success yesterday I wanted to find and feel the same sensation of glory. In the end my attempt is another pleasing piece. All the while I painted I could hear the voice of my son, Jason, saying “just go do something mum”. And finally I am; it is the knowledge of Jason’s pleasure from wherever he is, that help will me reach the finish line with only 22 days to go.
Several years ago we upgraded to a large and lovely draw leaf refectory table to accommodate a growing family that in the end never used it. The table then represented unfulfilled dreams and I grew to dislike it and the ugly reminders of my loss. Recently I found a small round copper table for sale, it is the duplicate of my mothers kitchen table where wonderful memories were made. I bought it on the spot to replace the large and lovely and ugly table. Now I sit to eat, read, paint, entertain, write my blog, my journal, drink tea and coffee, share a telephone call or stare out the window in wonder at the view and all of this, while making new memories. Totally inspired by my new table and feeling full of painterly confidence I decided, on this day, I could stretch out of my comfort zone. While looking out the window I saw right in front of me, on top of my new dining table, a drooping vase of tulips from my garden. I’d found my subject for the day. Another memory in the making at this new dining spot that has become so much more. The knowledge that I can paint from something real has surprised me! Good surprise though eh?
I’m finding comfort back in the fields again today. Painting the familiar feels like a lovely meditative place where I can forget the pain of my grief, recalling all the things I love in this life and in the life I had when Jason was alive in this world. The brush strokes just came as free and as easy as I could hope for. Doing experiments with pastel colours and again using more of a colour wash than a heavy acrylic is new and exciting. Painting on these tiny cards has necessitated I learn to find a way to use the acrylics that is conducive to small spaces. I love this particular mini masterpiece; something about it makes my heart swell with happiness and love and a yearning to go there, to the place, to that field and make it my home. And I guess it is my home, my comfort zone, the place I love to go to. After all I keep painting in this or another field of my dreams.
Today when I settled down to paint I knew exactly what would happen when I began. With the knowledge of my own permission given yesterday I was excited and happy to stick with the old and familiar “field of dreams”. And there was a time when farm life appealed to me and I suppose that is why fields are my go to place. I was given some lovely little page marker post its, with birds or bees, dragons flys, a heart or and a key at one end. Clipping off the featured bird I pressed it into the corner of my mini masterpiece turning it into a piece I feel quite at home with. Adding the branch and fruit was a stretch for me but it seems to have worked too. My session with the cards this day was a free flow of pleasure. And as I had imagined, a perfect meditation. All my worries fell away and allowed me to be in the moment, for the moment. All the while I felt the glow of Jason’s presence and my own peacefulness.
April 28, 2014
Recently someone tried to give me a book on grief suggesting it would help me with the sadness I feel each day as the result of the loss of my son. I was taken aback as it is not a book on grief I need. What I need are books on joy or how to find joy and happiness? The quote below by Lao Tzu was one I had seen many times before without really taking notice. Then for some reason it took hold of me when I read it again about two months ago. The message has been instrumental in helping me manage to live with grief through seeking joy and looking for the good… by living in the moment.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
At the time I had just begun a journey of thirty days of art trading cards or what I like to call mini masterpieces. The art cards are hand decorated, or hand painted cards measuring 2.5″x3.5″, meant for artists to trade with each other. Hence the name “art trading cards”.
My art trading cards are not for trading, they are for 30 days of therapy. The 30 day idea was incepted after I had introduced a friend, with supposedly no artistic ability, to art cards.
We each did two on that first day and while we worked away we became relaxed and floated into almost a meditative state as we worked side by side. The art cards were a success on many levels. Soon I got an email saying she had enjoyed doing the cards so much she was intending to make a commitment to herself of one card a day for thirty days. I decided to join her.
As it happened the new month was March and that is when we started our cards. By chance we began our thirty days on a new moon, an auspicious time for starting a new trip or new venture. Today is also a new moon, a very lucky time for beginning new projects. Until the next new moon, I’ll be sharing the cards I painted, how the process went and what making these mini masterpieces has meant for me.
Do you believe in magic? I do…some time ago I spoke aloud , a wish to meet a like minded person, someone close to my own age, someone who lived close by, an individual who could share creative endeavours with me. I was as specific as possible then forgot all about my wish…..And wallah! Through what appeared to be chance I met Susan at a grief support group. A like minded person who had also lost an adult child, she is my age, and is living in my little village. The only thing she claimed was missing was an aptitude for art. And so one day I invited her for lunch with a plan to introduce her to Art Trading cards. She took to the cards and a day later in an email she shared her plan to do a card a day for a month. Loving the idea I decided to join her and from our separate residences we have begun.
I like to call my cards “Mini Masterpieces”. They measure just 2.5″ x 3.5″ and can have as much or as little detail as possible. I was no stranger to art cards and know the process to be quite meditative. Never being one to sit still long enough to actually meditate this instantly seems to provide a therapeutic element that may have the effect of a good daily meditation practice.
Happy Mother’s Day to you. This was another first for me – being without a child of my own to get a hug from. (Sadly not even our grand girls called or came by…. a topic for another blog perhaps). The week leading up to Mother’s Day was actually fine. I knew what to expect but when the day was here it was like being in a rudderless boat.
Now I should say here, Jason was not the most reliable when it came to pinning him down for a visit on Mother’s Day. He always called though, and came along sometime during the day. In his youth he brought along a bouquet of flowers, picked en-route, regaling me with a verbal picture of the amazing garden he had swiped them from. Pleased to see him and to get the flowers we would talk gardens and I would provide food, I loved to watch him eat!
When he had children of his own it would be an early morning stop for pancakes allowing the girls mother to sleep in. Last year he came all on his own, I’m not sure if it was exactly on Mother’s Day but it was our Mother’s Day visit; by then he was sick and on chemo too. He drove us to the beach for a walk and talk, this was one of the last times he drove me in his truck, he was wearing an orange T shirt.
Going through photos today, trying for a semblance of organization either chronologically or by category such as pictures with us, pictures with his children, or with his cousins or friends or with his dogs…When Jason was first diagnosed he spent three weeks in hospital. Most days the kids would come for a visit after school and I’d be there either to stay over night or for all or part of the day. On occasion his best pal Mac the yellow lab would make an appearance. The day Mac came and sat so calmly for this picture Jason could not wait to see him. All day he had it in his mind that soon Mac would be visiting.
Jason used to say there are two types of people, those who really like dogs and those who don’t like them so much. Jason and I are both in the first group. When he met his wife he already had a dog, a pit bull named Kato. She was gentler than her breed is known to be and I credit Jason for that. Mac is just a big softy by nature. Jason was born in 1970 which on the Chinese calendar is the year of the dog. He grew up to be loyal, loving, faithful with a kind and open heart…just like a dog.
I wish we had been aware Jason had such a short time and then our time might have been used in a different ways. Instead of planning for the future and looking ahead we could have looked to today. It wasn’t until his last three weeks that the good of each day was recognized in the moment. And I know how lucky I am to have had any moments at all. Which reminds me of an old Sanskrit message:
Yesterday is but a dream
Tomorrow is but a vision and
Today well lived Makes
Every yesterday a dream of happiness
and Every tomorrow a vision of Hope
Look well therefore to this day!
This past weekend was spent travelling to a memorial tea for a friends mother, Rose. Each time word of a death reaches my ear I am griped in an almost physical hold so tight I can hardly get a clear breath. No matter the age or circumstances my heart breaks for those left behind.
While Jason was ill he asked me not to weep, saying it (his illness) was about him, not me. He asked me to keep a clear head so I could be cheerful and offer support and speak of him as a man who would live forever. And I did and in my heart he will be with me forever. Well now his departure from my life is definitely all about me.
Each of us who grieve for him hold our grief as separate and personal to us alone. We are in one big house called grief; separated by the walls of the rooms we are in. We hear each other grieve and the walls we have erected prevent reaching out enough to touch or lend comfort to one another. Our pain is our own and moving beyond it to find joy, that is the challenge. Doing all the things that once brought smiles and quilt free pleasure. Taking a step, moving in a forward motion, making a start and Getting past go…