EP110 Relationships with Ari of Saltwater and Stars

Ari and Andrew talk about relationships, hierarchy, and understanding our own desire. 

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Andrew McGregor
Everybody, welcome to another episode of the Hermit’s lamp Podcast. I am here today with Ari from salt water and stars. You know, last year, just lift it up about a year ago almost to the day we recorded a podcast on you know, love spirit polyamory was titled for it. And we’ve been chatting some in between them. I kind of thought that during this quarantine time having an episode about relationships might be an interesting thing, you know, because there are a lot of people in a lot of situations that are suddenly different in one way or another. So, you know, as well as all the sort of other differences that are happening. But you know, I guess in case people don’t know who you are, why don’t you introduce yourself again?

Yes, introductions.

So I’m Ari, as he said, I’m an astrologer.

Oh boo Ha.

I live in central PA. My family’s from Puerto Rico, and New York. Um, yeah, I’m a writer, a poet. pretty much sums it up. Cool.

So, I guess I guess one of the things that we could maybe start by talking about is

Andrew McGregor
what’s, what’s going on for you or What do you care to share around, like, your life and relationship? You know, we’re all we’re all in lockdown, you know, or we’re all ideally, socially distancing or you know, as I hear, they want us to call out, physically distancing because they don’t want to under us undermine social part.

You know, social spaciousness, social spaciousness,

Andrew McGregor

You know, what’s, what’s going on for you with this?

Yeah, this is Actually, interestingly has me thinking so much more about relationship, or so much more clearly because I’m always thinking about relationship for me, so I practice relationship anarchy, and just really trying to consciously deconstruct hierarchy and capitalism in relationships. And I feel so grateful to be in that practice right now. Because it’s allowing me to tap into support system and be available to support system in a way that might have been more challenging if I was trying to operate in hierarchies and kind of be under this premise. Like, okay, so I’m in lockdown with my partners. So like, I really only need to rely on my partner and

that’s the beginning the end of it,

but being able to tap into broader network of care and mutual aid and solidarity because I have my understanding and my belief that every single relationship is a living entity and they’re all equally important. And so the way that I’ve been investing into that practice over the last several years, I’m feeling really grateful for right now because I feel like I’m at a point where I can lean into that, like I can lean into friendship and romance and spiritual relationship like all these moving parts, without like, I don’t feel like I’ve had to reorient much. So I know that a lot of people are reorienting towards relationship right now. Because they have the time or they have the awareness that it seems like it’s more urgent than usual. But I think it’s always urgent to be in right relationship and it’s always urgent to be investigating

how we

how we understand and how How we perpetuate and create and collaborate with others.

Andrew McGregor
Mm hmm.

So, you know, I think that one of the things that’s really always interesting about talking about Paulie is that you know, there are these ideas are these words to these labels, models and stuff that float around. And, you know, I think it’s, I think it’s always kind of helpful to try and talk as explicitly as possible what we mean by that because, you know, it’s one of those things where one person’s relationship anarchy might be another person’s, you know, something else, right or, or the, the level of anarchy or the level of whatever in their, in their definition of it might not be the same, right. So can you can you try and like sum up what that approach means for you?

Yeah, it’s funny that you Ask

me that because I’m currently trying to do that for something. And I’m writing now. So I have to do it for this community that want to be a part of.

And so I’ve been trying to

pinpoint what my definition is right now. And I think that that’s like you’re saying, like, that’s one of the tricky and challenging things about it. But it’s also the thing about it that I like is that the definition is always evolving. Which kind of brings us into the whole, like, reality, our relationship, the fact that it’s always fluid, it’s always changing. And when we’re trying to pin it down when we’re trying to contain it, or control it, that’s when it becomes destructive, or it becomes a struggle rather than a challenge.

And so, for me, relationship energy, right now is

the phrase that I’m using to indicate Absolutely, the way that I’m committed to not.

Not looking at relationships as

places to extract are places to just get my needs met or to even just meet other people’s needs. And

also detaching from outcomes. And so I think that’s one of the ways that capitalist shows up in relationship. It’s like, Okay, so what is this? And what are we getting out of it? And what’s the future of it? And, you know, what are the rules? And what are the

expectations. And

I don’t know how to put much more language to it, other than not doing that and just sinking into trust and moving at the speed of trust, as Adrian Marie Brown says, and allowing things to emerge and unfold are not things but allowing people and allowing myself and allowing relationships to become whatever, whatever they are, and so on.

I have like,

several relationships in my life that like, are so incredibly intimate, but in our current socio political constructs that would just be, it would be in the container of, of a friendship. You know, or be like, Oh, this this relationship seems like it’s a partnership or seems like it’s something serious. And like those things can also be true. But just avoiding the whole or invading the whole pressure to compartmentalize things and to

try to control the way that relationships are

is the word

try to control the way relationships are showing up.

And so I think No,

Andrew McGregor
no after you.

You go get I already forgot what I was gonna say. I find

Andrew McGregor
it interesting because so I’ve also been sort of trying to think through what’s, you know, what does? What does my relationship model look like, you know, what is it that I’m what is it that I’m available for? What is it that I’m doing? You know, and and i think that you know, I like you I struggle with it right. Like it’s, you know, there are people who like, I’m, uh, you know, and they say like five things. They’re like they have this clear definition of it and it’s, it’s great. And I’m like, no, that’s not me. You know, and I think that I think that the idea of sort of working to avoid a hierarchy Key is one that’s definitely very important for me. You know, I’m really, I’m not interested in, in hierarchy over other people and you know, like, the only the only sort of prioritization that happens, or that can happen is, you know, it’s like, well, we, we had the plant first therefore we have the plan doesn’t matter what else. It’s like, that’s the that’s the prioritization, right?

The prioritization becomes energetic like it, it becomes like having nothing to do with, okay, well, this is my partner, so I’m going to choose them over my friend or whatever. Like, I’m so far removed at this point from that way of thinking that I can’t even really wrap my mind around anymore. But I know that most people are are in that. You know, and I bump up against it in a lot of ways. In my friendships, when I’m trying to cultivate intimacy that Forget people aren’t actually used to cultivating in, quote unquote, friendship, you know, or when I’m, like, really fluid with where I’m investing my time, attention and energy. And I think like, that’s actually part of what it means to not be operating in hierarchy and relationship is that what you’re doing is energetic management and what you’re doing is like, maintaining your priorities energetically like what are you like you said, What are you available for? And what can you show up to with integrity and that changes day to day?

Mm hmm.

Andrew McGregor
Well, I think that that

I think that maybe, either I have more work to do, regardless, I have more work to do on constructing the impact of, you know, capitalism and so on in my life and, and so on. But I actually would say that I am tremendously constant person. So, changes day to day. Yeah, not so much. You know, and this is where, where it’s interesting for me because I’ve definitely thought a lot about this sort of relationship anarchy is, is that what I’m practicing? And I’m like, I don’t know, maybe, right, like maybe it’s a it’s helpful language around it. But my life is also tremendously structured, you know, between being a halftime solo parent and running my store and and you know, all these things. My life has a really high level of structure. And so, so the sort of the fluidity with which you talk about things, is a thing that doesn’t really exist so much in my world. And my my instinct would be to say that that is in large part because of who I am and how I am. But again, it’s very, it’s very hard to be certain about that in all of these with all of these constructs, right, so,

yeah, I think that

what may be happening here is we’re talking about two different dimensions. So, my, like, I completely relate to that I’m a very consistent person as well. I take commitment very seriously, obviously, when I use that word I’m not talking about in conventional terms, but I believe in commitment as devotion, and that’s really important to me. And I also have a very structured life, you know, ever in a business and like, I just I like structure, but I like structure in the understanding that it’s what allows us to have freedom, you know, because like it eliminates unnecessary chaos, makes room for you to do what you really want to do. Are you to have the attention energy that you desire. So I actually completely relate to what you’re saying. And I think when I’m talking about fluidity, and I’m talking about changes in capacity, it’s much more

like emotional and spiritual, I guess.

You know, so like, for example, Monday, I had like 00 energy to talk to anyone and I had a prior a prior engagement to have a check in with a close friend. And so anything else that I was any other conversations or relationship chickens or whatever that wasn’t invited into I had to decline because of my capacity that day. Whereas yesterday, I spent like, however many hours on the phone with two different people, you know, and so that’s kind of what I mean. It’s like

basically, the only way

for lack of a better phrase, relationship anarchy is working for me right now. It’s understanding that it is, for me, it must be completely and fundamentally based in my relationship to myself. And my relationship to myself has very little actually to do with the external world or the material realm. Like that’s just the actualization of whatever alignment and whatever

I’m creating in the other dimensions.

But I still might I still might be high from the bowl. I smoked last night, so, uh huh, disclaimer.

Andrew McGregor
I think I think you’re I think you’re making tons of sense. Yeah, I think I think perhaps we are talking about different levels right. You know, I mean, I think that

you know,

tending tending to oneself, and following one’s capacity is is super important, right? You know, and I think during this, you know, social distancing time more than ever, right, like, you know, what’s the what’s the reality? Okay,

you this time more than ever? Right?

most popular phrase.

Andrew McGregor
So what can I say? They’re cliches for a reason. Yeah.

Yeah. I mean, I think that, you know,

during any time of stress, right, you know, I think

there we go, that’s a good one.

Andrew McGregor
It makes way more sense to deeply check in with yourself about where you’re at what you’re available for. And, and then share that share that information with the people who are important to you. And you know, and adjust the sharing of yourself accordingly, right. So.

Right, exactly, exactly. For sure.

And I think like when Capitalism is running our relationship. So we don’t do that. We’re just like, Okay, I have to show up 110 all the time. 24 seven. Yeah. You know, or conversely, like, people have to show it for me all the time. 24 seven.

And that’s that’s a capitalistic expectation.

That’s an expectation of abstraction.

No, for sure. And so, for me, like the phrase relationship anarchy

is about flipping that on its head and being like,

you know, it’s anarchy against capitalism, actually. And not actually not any, necessarily any anarchy against concepts of relationship itself, but against the constructs that are constricting our relationships.

Andrew McGregor
Yeah, no, I think so. Right. And I think that’s also you know, I certainly really deeply identify with

you know, the

do not have any limits on friendship. And whatever, right, you know, like, the, some of the people that I’ve close with, I’m close at a level which would make, you know, maybe if people were jealous in relationships, they would be jealous of those relationships because, right, exactly, other than being platonic. They have all the rest of the markers of romantic relationship. Right, you know, Mm hmm. deep level of attention, you know, sort of,

and that’s unusual,

Andrew McGregor
right? barrier barrier free level of sharing for the most part, you know, it’s like, man talking about whatever’s going on, you know, and so on. Right. So, yeah.


and I like I said, I feel so far removed from that which as I feel is such a great blessing to be able to say that I forget that that’s the way people operate and so I bump up against it. And I think it’s like, capitalism and whiteness. Go Write in hand. And I think that that’s definitely those those barriers of intimacy. play a huge role in how whiteness survives and how whiteness perpetuates in our relationships because it’s all this illusion of separation. You know, and it’s like no friends over here in this box and you can’t do XYZ you can’t talk about XYZ you can’t, you know, before yourself and then, like romantic relationships and sexual relationships in this box, and

I just like, and I’m extremely passionate about smashing all that fucking shit.

Andrew McGregor
No, for sure, you know,


like, culturally, that’s not foreign to me.

Like culturally, so many of my my theories, like my ons, were my mom’s best friends, but I didn’t even know that for years, you know, but the friends were just family and that was just the way that was. And I know that a lot of us across cultures actually have that that shirtless, but we forget.

Andrew McGregor
know for sure.

Yeah, you know, I definitely had aunts and uncles who were, who are not that who were not actually related, right? Mm hmm. And my kids have those people who are, you know, they, you know, they refer to to one set of them, you know, a couple of my friends as their, their, their extra dads, you know? Right, you know, like, so they don’t call them, they don’t call them things in general in that way. But then when they when they talk with them, like, Well, you know, they’re just, they’re just like, my extra dads. That’s who they’re, you know, and so it’s beautiful. And I think that, you know, for me, this this idea of like, parenting from a place where, you know, I want them to have those good, deep connections with people who are wonderful, you know, and whether those are People who are, you know, their friends, like their school friends, whoever they’re their age, whether that’s, you know, teachers and mentors, or whether these people who are, you know, friends of the family and so on, right like this prospect of them having sort of the opportunity to have deep, deep connections with people who are going to a nurture this, nurture them from a real place of love and caring, like, absolutely, please bring as much of that into their lives as possible. And also people who are, in their, in their own various ways doing this work of sort of deconstructing expectation and, you know, relationship hierarchy or escalators and other things and so on, right to like, really allow them to have the options to see the world in a different way and to be you know, more authentic right to be unfettered by a limited, limited palette of options when they’re thinking about who they want to go their life with. And in what ways, right?

Yeah. Community. What a concept, right?

Andrew McGregor
Yeah, absolutely.

And I think that’s a gift that I been trying to give myself in

my pursuit of relationship anarchy,

because I have so much

fracture in my family of origin and like, fracture between myself and the concept of community.

And that’s

something that I’ve been thinking about a lot right now, when all this shit is going down and going up.


you know, it reminds me of the concept of chosen family, you know, and I think like, part of my

devotions are Relationship anarchy is about creating that chosen family for myself and creating community for myself and allowing myself to have those options and allowing myself to receive those gifts that I am estranged from.

You know, and so it’s it’s deeply, deeply

political and is deeply spiritual, and it’s deeply therapeutic.

You know, and so

in a lot of ways, it definitely has been about having more sets and having more pleasure. You know, without just a symptom of that deeper reasons and the deeper purpose of why I’ve even been

reconsidering the entire way that I’ve

been conditioned to understand relationship and to understand community and to understand love and romance and

even pleasure itself. Like I, I think that I get the,

like such a deep pleasure from communing with my friends and like cultivating these intimacies that are like socio politically

unusual with them, you know, and so

that that gift that your children have is the gift that I’m trying to give myself and trying to give my inner child and then, you know,

simultaneously trying to give everyone I’m in relationship with you yeah,

no, like, I don’t just have to be your friend. I can be your lover. I don’t just have to be your lover. I can be your friend too. You know, or like, I don’t have to just be your friend. I can be family and like, all the like you said all of these options that we can have. And also at the same time, I’m interrupting that escalator. Like, I like that you brought up escalation cuz I think That’s another way. That’s what I was trying to refer to earlier talking about how capitalism wants us to focus on outcomes and creating outcomes of our relationships, you know, so it’s always like, what’s next? Okay, what’s next? Okay, what should this be because of like, this level of intimate intimacy has to be matched up with a certain level of expectation and an output or whatever. Mm hmm.

Andrew McGregor
Yeah. Well, I think it’s, you know,

one of the things that I’ve been sort of looking at a lot over the last, while this is not dissimilar to what you’re talking about, probably is very similar, just in my own language, right, is going back and reconnecting with, you know, myself at different ages, and sort of offering myself those things that I didn’t get at the time, right. You know, and it’s, you know, and it’s very interesting, some of the stuff that returns from that, you know, and like, so like, one of the examples is like piano When I was teenager, I spent a lot of time by myself. I mean, I, you know, I spent time with people too, but like, in my house, where I lived, you know, there wasn’t a lot of like, if I if I didn’t want to watch the baseball, which I did not want to watch the sports stuff, then basically was just me in my room, listening to music and whatever, right. And same, and, you know, as I’ve been sort of connecting to that parts, you know, around some other stuff that brought it up, one of the things that I realized was, yeah, that part has some healing or something that I can offer it now to be different. But that part also knows a lot about dealing with isolation, you know, and like, through the through the, you know, social distancing stuff, I’m half time on with my kids and half time by myself, right, which is a which is a strange youyou have sort of everything and then nothing, right. And, and what I realized, you know, what, This older part of me or younger part of me, brought to the foreground was like, I know all about this kind of stuff. And here’s what works for you. Right? And so like, and so I’ve been doing some things like, tracking down records that I used to listen to during that time as well. And so it’s like, you know, my 16 year old self listened to Metallica or listened to rock or whatever, I’ve been like fighting very particular albums and like, playing them and stuff. It just, it’s amazing the transformation, you know, I throw it on the turntable, and I play it and then I go, whatever, do the dishes or draw or do stuff. And there’s such a colossal comfort that returns from those things, which is, which is very unexpected to me that, you know, sort of that that not only did those two, those pieces have a need for attention, but they also have a lot to offer, you know, and so it’s been Absolute visiting of those pieces that sort of access it, which has been very, very interesting. So


Yeah, I think it’s so funny that you bring that up because I’ve been doing similar work with myself and it is in no way in any shape or form unrelated to relationship anarchy you know, and it’s kind of like internal relationship anarchy and just like overthrowing the structure or overthrowing the hierarchy that my current my present self, my oldest self has the authority You know, when like, it would be straight up, like our, our little baby selves are running the show, like at least 50% of the time, you know, all the parts of us that never got our needs met or that like, weren’t seen and all this shit like this is this is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about healing. I don’t the work, you know. Doing a repair and being learning to be in supportive relationship with those parts.

Andrew McGregor
Yeah, you wanna, you want to access something interesting about relationships. Go back and look at what was going on for you when you hit puberty. Right? What were you involved in? Or not involved in? What was going on around you? It’s like, man, there’s a lot of stuff that even after many years of working on things, there’s more that can be offered and learn from that stuff. Right? So.

Mm hmm. You know,

yeah. And so like disrupting, disrupting those internal hierarchies, is so central to disrupting the external hierarchies in the relationship between ourselves and other people. And like I was saying, like, looking at relationships as a places only where we get our needs met and meet the needs of others. doesn’t allow the room for other parts of ourselves. To show up, you know, and just its sensors, those parts of us that have unmet needs, and like that’s important, but it doesn’t need to be the center. You know, but so often that happens because in relationship we’re trying to do and we’re trying to provide for ourselves but associate politically culturally is absent. So, relationships like these intimate one on one containers, get

flooded with

all the pain and all the grief in the absence of community. Mm hmm. You know, and so there is so much medicine to be had in once again, having your relationship to yourself be fundamental to your relationship with everyone else. So that more more can be possible than just the

the strain of trying to check off all the boxes with each other all the time.

Andrew McGregor
No, for sure. Well, and again, you know, as also in parenting, right for me, this, this prospect of, you know, those, those relationships have different dynamics, you know, because I am responsible for those people. But, but that process of taking care of myself deeply in my relationship to them, also creates a big difference, right, you know, so, like, this idea of like, being really, really clear about, you know, you know, what do I need from that? Well, you know, I think the better question is, well, what I like for them, please clean up your your plates, you know, please take us up to the kitchen, please, whatever. But there’s a lot of ways in which in those relationships, when I see other people and I see people talk about things, younger people are denied the thing that older people would do, right? You know, it’s like If people want to eat oats, you know, like, not everybody, but like, you know, if the kids what do you want to, you know, want to eat it while we’re eating it or whatever, but if the adult wants to eat, you know, and like, so like just noticing those places where, you know, not not where not where the parenting needs to happen, right? But where the dynamics are actually, you know, ages dynamics, right dynamics around thinking, well, kids don’t know what they want. And my experience is, kids actually really know what they want. I knew what I wanted. You know, when my kids know what the escape group that I helped run those kids know what they want, right? Is it always possible is that what Well, that’s that’s a whole other question. But the idea that, that they know at least as well, it may be better that we do what they want, right? And like, when I say we do, I mean, then like grownups are able to articulate what they want, right? You know, and I think that it’s very, it’s very interesting to sort of see those kinds of dynamics, and look at that stuff and bring it into parenting as well. And then also, as you were kind of saying that idea of like, how do I make sure that I am showing up in a really, with as much capacity as possible, and with as much clarity about my needs and my needs and working to get my needs met in other places, so that I’m not trying to get the met in ways that are unhealthy through the kids. You know, it’s to me it’s an exactly it’s exactly the same idea that I had relationships, right. There are lots of lots of ways in which anybody, you know, myself included, might have an impulse to get something met in a relationship that maybe it doesn’t really make sense, right. Maybe it’s it’s better off actually being counseled about or met elsewhere or whatever, as opposed to you Looking for that to be found another way? So if that makes sense, I feel Yeah. drifted a bit there.

No, no, not at all. I mean, if you did it with all the right places, I think that it’s like alternative relationship models that allow those options even be possible of understanding like, Oh, I can get this me know, this need met over here

or you know, where is the appropriate place for this to take up space

and with the most consent, you know,

because I think often like what happens with hierarchy is that we’re conditioned to think hierarchy is a synonym for substance or a synonym for meaning or a synonym for quality. But it’s not you know, and I think, like you’re touching on that when you’re talking about parenting, it’s just like, okay, here’s the hierarchy. So Like I’m automatically, you know, in charge or automatically have the authority and automatically know everything you know and like, but that that actually removes us substance that removes opportunity for quality. And that removes opportunity for depth and meaning to actually take place in the relationship. And so that’s true for every kind of relationship. And we’re relying on hierarchy to give context and to give meaning and to give definition to relationships, then we’re missing out on

the whole point of relationship,

which is that it’s dynamic and it’s alive and it helps us tap into that part of ourselves that inner child part that does know what we want but is clear on our desires.

And I think that I think people think

polyamory non monogamy relationship, anarchy, whatever it is, is about having more quantity. And like sure, that may or may not be true

It really fucking depends.

To me these these alternative relationship models are about quality over quantity. Mm hmm. You know, because even if you’re let’s say you’re in conventional relationship models, and you’re like, Okay, well I have, you know, my partner and I have my family and I have my friends, I have all this quantity. And so I should be good. I should feel like I’ve community, but you can be totally missing the depth and connection that you actually crave and actually desire.

Andrew McGregor
Yeah. Well, it’s, you know, I think it’s a one of the things I’ve been spending, you know, some brain cells on is what, what kind of attention do I want? What kind of connection do I do I want or need right now. You know, and, you know, and I think that it starts to it starts to you know, I mean, theoretically there are many people I could connect with, you know, I’ve been connecting with lots of people for sure. remotely and online and what have you. But it’s so great to be clear about what kind of attention I want, what qualities do I need to have, you know, because, you know, talking to my family, or my mom are talking to whomever is very different than talking to other people, right, you know, is very different than, you know, or structured peer counseling session. It’s very different than, you know, whatever else, right? So, yeah.

Mm hmm.

Yeah, it’s, it

brings us back in a really powerful and terrifying way to our personal ability to respond to ourselves, and to adapt and adjust and like the amount of discernment required to navigate unconventional relationship models or alternative relationship models with the least Time, takes time takes time together that discernment, it takes experience. And, and even when you have acquired some

the fundamental truth remains that

it’s always changing what you need and what you want will always be changing. And that doesn’t mean like day to day like the example that I was using earlier, right the seasons the season and periods of period, like, because you’re growing and you’re changing, hopefully. And so, for me, I think what’s cool about being in relationship with other people who are also devoted to relationship anarchy or anti capitalist relationship frameworks, is that we have the room for that understanding, have the room for that knowledge that we’re going to change and when you are in relationship with someone else who also understands that God has changed and change is constant You can change together and there’s a higher chance of longevity actually. Because you don’t need it to stay looking a certain way or stay feeling or being a certain way, or showing up in a certain way, it can evolve and it can mature and it can deepen. Or it can spread out, you know, like, just like nature,

like the examples are endless,

of what can happen when something’s allowed to develop organically. Mm hmm.

Andrew McGregor
Yeah, I think that’s it. The

the freedom in a relationship anarchy model is that relationship can look like anything like you You collectively decided it looks like right, that you collectively decided it makes sense that it looks like for both of you. And you know, and I think that that is amazing and found and I think That it also, you know, you gotta know what you really want that right? Like, if you’re not going to accept the defaults, you know,

yeah, if you thought the hierarchies out the responsibility increases because you have to, you have to shape it and you also have to be collaborative to

Andrew McGregor
know for sure. How do you how do you

how do you discover what you want?

I’ve been in the habit of discovering what I want by playing around with what I don’t want.

Andrew McGregor

I think I’m

more consistently choosing a different route to clarity, which has so far involved, a lot of contemplation and a lot of that surrender that I was talking about. of allowing things to unfold. And as they unfold, like paying attention to my responses and pay attention to what feels good, and what feels supportive, and what feels true, and what doesn’t. And so, allowing, like literally the process of being present and experiencing and experimenting to teach me what I want. So sometimes it is an excavation of an original desire that already resides within me and other times I learn it from things that are happening outside of me. So sometimes it’s contemplation and, you know, journaling, like just asking myself right and being like, Oh shit, yeah, there it is. And other times it’s like, oh, I don’t I don’t fucking know cuz I wasn’t taught once even care what the fuck I wanted. You know, or I just don’t know because this is all uncharted territory. And so I’m going to be open to not only allowing everything to unfolding emerge around me with this person or with these people or whatever, but to also look at the way that my desire is showing up in the process.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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