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When Familiarity Breeds Contempt:10 Friendship Enders

love hatePhoto courtesy of Rory Finneren

Last week, a friend and I were sharing the traits we liked most about each other, and we remarked that time has given us a new perspective on friendship. In addition to getting older, living mindfully has also given me a pretty good handle on the type of people I enjoy being around.

For me, a typical ‘friend interview’ goes something like this: I’m introduced, in any number of ways, to someone new.  I almost immediately begin evaluating this person’s friendability. My scoring system is simple: if I get a good feeling when I’m around you – boom – we’re friends.

Nine times out of ten, going with your gut instinct works pretty well, but it is possible to get the wrong first impression.

Unfortunately, you often won’t discover someone’s annoying traits until the two of you get more familiar and comfortable with each other. As long as her worst habit is biting her nails or telling really bad jokes – you’ve got nothing to worry about.

It’s when familiarity breeds contempt rather than closeness that you’ve got a problem. Breaking up with a friend is hard to do, but putting up with more than one item on this list is enough to drive anyone straight to Friendship Divorce Court:

  • Chronic interruptions – Let’s face it – we’ve all interrupted someone before. However, when someone makes a habit of cutting you off mid-sentence, it shows that he or she honestly doesn’t care what you’ve got to say. Someone who is worth having as a friend wants to hear what you’re thinking, and they respect your opinion enough not to interrupt while you’re sharing your thoughts.
  • Habitual lying – Honesty is (almost) always the best policy, whether it’s between friends or lovers. Most of us turn to someone we trust for advice, and we really do want to know if those pants make us look fat. If you’ve caught a friend in several lies, you can be sure that there are many more lurking in the shadows of your friendship.
  • Unannounced visitsTHE POP-IN is an act of disrespecting someone’s schedule, time, and privacy. The type of person who practices frequent pop-ins puts their time at a much higher level of importance than yours.
  • Constant attempts to make you look bad – Whether to your face or behind your back, if you’ve got a friend who has such incredibly low self-esteem that she wants to bring you down to her level, show her to the door, and fast. You deserve to be surrounded by people who boost you up instead of weigh you down.
  • Perpetual guilting – This type of person never seems to handle her responsibilities, in and outside of the friendship. This can be extremely tiring and frustrating, because oftentimes you will end up as the scapegoat.
  • Continual complaining – Unless you share a mutual love of grumbling – nobody likes a whiner, right?
  • Bossiness - No friend of yours has the right to tell you what to do. Friends should give advice, not orders.
  • Excessive gossiping – Know that if she’s talking about other people when she’s with you, she’s talking about you when she’s with other people.
  • An inability to be wrong – Do you know what having a friend who’s ‘never’ wrong means? It means that you’re ALWAYS WRONG – and that’s just no fun at all.
  • A total lack of self-awareness - This type of person has trouble with social cues, overstays her welcome, invites herself to your house (with or without your knowledge – the POP-IN), and rarely shows up to scheduled events on time. Her worst crime? She has no idea she’s committing friendship murder.

Don’t waste your precious time with someone unless you feel pretty darn great when you’re together. Oh, and if you get the distinct feeling that you’re being given the slip, perhaps it’s time to look at your own friendability score.

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We Have a Winner!

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We are thrilled to announce that Sandy Cain from New York is the lucky winner of our March Meditation Mastery Kit. Sandy’s awesome meditation gear, resources and gift card will reach her this week, and we look forward to hearing how she incorporates them into her meditation practice. Om shanti.

Stay tuned, faithful readers! Our next giveaway isn’t far away, and you might be the next lucky winner.

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Mindfulness and Compassion Go Hand in Hand

look within2

Photo courtesy of Adriel Socrates

Mindfulness is a way of living in which you learn to become attentively aware of yourself in the present moment. Generally speaking, learning to live more mindfully allows calmness and acceptance to prevail over more reckless or negative emotions. For me, the practice of mindful living has helped alleviate physical pain and many of the negative emotions that I used to associate with pain.

Myself included, most people take strides to live more mindfully in order to improve their sense of self-awareness and self-esteem, along with getting more enjoyment out of life. Ultimately, many of us set out to live more mindfully to improve how we feel.

It’s true; I was turned on to one of my favorite mindfulness authors, Jon Kabat-Zinn, by my own therapist.  I’ve been a huge fan of his work and his theories ever since. Kabat-Zinn says that, to him, the concepts of mindful living allow us to embody and embrace who we already are rather than construct some identity for ourselves that may not be authentic.

In fact, there is an entire realm of psychotherapy based on something called ‘mindful self-compassion’. Psychologist Christopher Germer, PhD says, “the foundation of emotional healing begins by being aware in the present moment when we’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy, despair, confusion, and other forms of stress - and responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves.

Studies completed by the psychology department at UC Berkeley strongly suggest that, along with self-compassion, within us lies empathy for others; we have compassion written into our DNA. Practicing mindfulness meditation and mindful living is simply taking a look at what’s already within you and setting it ‘free.’

As it turns out, this theory is far from new! A century ago, academician Albert Einstein himself suggested that we as humans are imprisoned by thinking of ourselves as separate from the rest of the Universe.  He went on to say that, although we typically restrict our compassion to ourselves and those closest to us, that the ability to be compassionate toward others is already within us.

All we have to do is set it free by being aware of it.

Perhaps Einstein was an expert on more than the theory of relativity!

Another important point made by Kabat-Zinn is that the focus of mindfulness should be on living it rather than talking about it all the time. So I leave you with this:

“Perhaps the most “spiritual” thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

From Wherever You Go, There You Are

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Stop Fighting: How to Turn Any Argument Around

peace

Photo courtesy of Ion-bogdan Dumitrescu

I do my best to steer clear of people who argue more than they laugh, but sometimes interacting with antagonists is just something that can’t be avoided. If you’re unfortunate enough to have someone in your life that loves to use you as a figurative punching bag, you’ve probably tried (and failed) to win at least one argument against them.

Having disagreements with the people in our lives is totally normal, and once we’ve reached adulthood, most of us have figured out some good strategies to calmly resolve differences of opinion. However, this proves to be a little bit more difficult if the person just can’t stand you.

I know what you’re thinking. “What – me? Everyone likes me!” And, while I applaud your high self-esteem, your self-awareness may need a little tweaking.

Even if you do your damndest to say a friendly hello to all of your coworkers each morning, wave a cheery greeting to your neighbors every evening, and try to be the best employee/coworker/friend in between – somewhere, sometime, somehow – there’s probably someone who just – doesn’t like you.

Their distaste for you may be unjustified, or perhaps it’s mutual and the two of you just don’t jive well.  As Charles Colton once said, sometimes “we hate [people] because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them.” In my younger days, I lived less mindfully. I tended to decide whether I liked someone without really knowing them at all.

I later learned (by accident) that if we get to know someone we “hate,” the outcome is often surprisingly pleasant.

Nevertheless, if you’re currently on the receiving end of someone who has taken a strong aversion to you, any exchanges the two of you have are likely causing you a significant deal of anxiety. The more frequently you have to interact, the more distressed you’ll become. Being afraid to go to work every day (or anywhere this person is likely to be) is no way to live. Instead of displaying fearful, nail biting body language or blasting her back when she accuses you of something – stop.

Bullies thrive on intimidating others; antagonists love a good fight, and you are going to be the one to put an end to it.

Do you want to know the absolute, number one way to stop someone from arguing with you?

Simply take away their ability to argue.

Don’t interrupt her, but when she’s finished doling out what she feels is her winning end of a debate – smile. Take a breath, and speak in a low voice. Say something neutral, like, “Ok. I didn’t realize I was doing that. Can you clarify (this or that) for me, so I can work on it in the future?” Smile.

It’s (almost) impossible to argue with someone who won’t fight back. By using low tones, you’ll calm your opponent down, and by not firing back, you’ll be the one who took the high road. While you may not really agree with her, you’ll have diffused the situation while looking like the good guy, and you’ll have conserved your mental energy for someone who really matters.

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How to Find Happiness After Divorce

walk after divorcePhoto courtesy of Ahmed Sinan

When a marriage ends, it’s normal for both parties to feel a wide array of emotions, including: anger, anxiety, confusion, disappointment, fear, freedom, guilt, loneliness, relief and sadness. Most people go through a mourning period after a breakup or divorce, even if the relationship had turned sour.  This happens due to the loss of a future that no longer exists.

Three years ago, my ex-husband and I just weren’t working as a romantic couple any longer. Deciding to divorce after ten years of marriage was a painful and difficult decision for both of us. During the time surrounding the separation and divorce, unanswered questions ate at me. How would I support my children financially? Who would I turn to for emotional support? Would I lose the close friendships I’d formed with my in-laws? How could I protect my children from feeling insecure during such an unsettling time?

Since the end of a marriage or long-term relationship is one of the most emotional hurdles that you’ll ever have to face, make it your goal just to clear this one without falling flat on your face. A little stumbling is to be expected.

  • Feel the pain. Like physical pain, being mindfully aware of emotional pain is crucial and will help you overcome the worst of it much faster. Allow yourself to sit with your feelings. Give yourself permission to let the grief and sadness wash over you. Sit with your pain and really feel it. In doing so, you release the power it has over you.
  • Then feel happy. Although it may not be as instantaneous or complete as you’d like, mindfully releasing your grief will make room for a degree of happiness to eke its way back in.
  • Accept the change. As you begin to feel little twinges of happiness again, you’ll also want to mindfully accept this new life as your life now.
  • Talk, talk, talk. Whether it’s a paid professional or a close friend, verbalizing your feelings is another great release. Speak your worries, and then let them go.
  • Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. Your life isn’t over; it’s just different. Although it may seem impossible at first, your life at the end of the grieving period may be even better than before.

Once you’ve been able to accept the changes that’ve transpired, you’ll want to focus on moving forward and living your new life to the fullest. Dr. Phil says:

  • Explain to your kids what Mom and Dad’s new relationship is. They need to understand that you’re still a team, but they also need some clarity on your new roles. Don’t try to “outparent” your ex. Do you really want your children to have a bad parent? Focus on the future and begin to see your ex from your children’s point of view instead of your own.

If you don’t have kids, you’ll get to the next part faster:

  • Make some time to get reacquainted with yourself.  This might take quite awhile; you’ve probably been getting at least part of your self-awareness through the feedback provided to you by your significant other. Re-visit some of your old hobbies or explore something new. Let yourself be a little selfish and take the time you need to strike a harmonious balance again.
  • Don’t play the blame game. Instead, focus your energy on what you can do to make your life better now. Keep your eyes facing forward and give yourself permission to be happy regardless of what has transpired in your relationship.

As a newly single person, you’re not up against the world – but you are up against two version of yourself. Whether you find happiness after divorce has nothing to do with the world around you. Dig deep, find your inner strength, and let your best self prevail.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Like a Dud

Photo courtesy of Melissa Maples

It’s become a popular trend to come from “a place of yes” in many aspects of the hustle and bustle of modern life.  The pressure is on to do good deeds, raise well-rounded kids, have a respectable job, serve on a multitude of committees, attend the right social events, and look good while doing it all seamlessly.

I support the idea of generally coming from a place of yes; in fact, one of the quotes I live by is: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” (Winston Churchill). I work hard to make sure my children know that they can do anything they set their minds to. I applaud their attempts at new things and their willingness to step out of their comfort zones whenever possible. And of course, I lead them by example.

With all of that being said, without the right boundaries in place, this can easily lead to a life crammed too full of all the wrong things. By saying “yes” too often to others, your life may suddenly seem emptier than ever before.

The solution sounds easy enough, but suddenly saying ”no” can be quite difficult. Your desire to keep the peace, fear of appearing rude, and a strong desire to be helpful are some of the reasons that may be causing you to overfill your plate, time and time again.

Surprisingly, many people report that others begin to show a newfound respect for them once they start declining, and that their own self awareness improves exponentially. The key is finding the right way to say “no.”

  • Get clear on your “Yes.”  Decide what is most important in your own life, and get your priorities in order. By putting your needs first (and the needs of your family), you’ll then have a better idea of how much you can agree to take on without cutting in to your own time, creating a sweet balance.
  • Think before agreeing. Some people feel pressured into taking on more than they can handle when put on the spot.  To avoid this, practice buying time. Tell the person that you’d like to think about it/check your calendar/ask so-and-so before committing. By putting a little time between the request and your response, you’ll have an easier time coming up with a reason for saying “no.” Anyone who is respectful of your time will be ok with waiting for a response.
  • Offer an alternative. Sometimes you may get requests for your help when you’re really not the best person for the task. If this happens, explain that while you may not be able to offer much help, you can steer them in the right direction to get the help they need.
  • Share your reasons. If you simply can’t help because you’re too busy, it’s ok to say that. Explain that you’d love to help, but that you’ve got x, y, and z going on at the moment, and that you don’t like to commit to something if you can’t devote the appropriate amount of time and effort required to do it well.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of bowing to others’ needs before your own, but it’s also really important to get out of that habit as soon as possible. Helping other people is admirable and can be an extremely rewarding part of life, as long as you leave more than enough time in your schedule to be able to stop and smell the roses on a regular basis.

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Are You Addicted to Food? (A Weighty Post)

Photo courtesy of Melissa Maples

The first step to recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is acceptance. We’ve all heard that saying before, and many of us probably know someone who’s dealt with a substance abuse problem. Once a drug or alcohol addict admits to having a problem, the solution is removal of the addictive substance and learning the self-awareness skills that will help them avoid temptation in the future.

Plenty of people use drugs and alcohol for a variety of acceptable social and medicinal reasons, but an addict has reached a sense of physically and psychologically craving their substance of choice. Did you know that a very similar addiction can also happen with food?

I started thinking about this topic when I read a few very disturbing news articles last week. One reported that 25% of women would rather be severely depressed than overweight. In fact, 15% would rather be blind. When I delved a little deeper into the topic, I realized that food addiction is a huge psychological issue for many people.

The culture that we live in glorifies emaciated and gaunt women (as well as thin, muscular, attractive men), and has created a sense of desperation in some people to live up to those glorified images. The problem? In order to do so they must kick their secret food habit, and that is much, much harder than it seems.

Food addicts need food to survive, so unlike alcohol or drugs, avoidance of the very thing that has become an addiction is nigh on impossible. Thus, these people slide into self-hatred at their inability to quit over-eating.

Guess what goes really well with self-loathing? You’ve got it – comfort food.

Thus begins a seemingly unbreakable cycle of self-starvation, hunger, binge-eating, and self-hatred. Pepper in a little depression, fatigue, and what you end up with is someone who sees food as an enemy and a best friend.

Breaking the cycle of turning to food for comfort is difficult because we’re surrounded by food every day. A food addict must continue to feed herself and her children in order to simply stay alive, whereas a drug addict can flush his pills down the toilet and begin “recovering.”

The secret to breaking the food-as-comfort cycle is self-acceptance. Come to terms with the fact that you may never be a size two. Love yourself anyway. Focus on all the things that you love about being you and get rid of negative influences. Even if you’re “overweight,” it’s ok. Stop the struggle. Just be you. Eat to nourish your body, not to comfort your emotions. Change starts on the inside, even when we’re talking about physical appearance.

By fully accepting yourself just as you are, and allowing for the fact that you may never be any thinner than you are right this very second, you release the pressure from yourself to be something that you’re not. Stop dieting and start living. Many food addicts can only lose excess weight once they enter into a healthier relationship with themselves. But even if you’re never as thin as you want to be, it’s ok. You’re beautiful how you are, here, now, today.

 

 

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The #1 Reason You Keep Procrastinating

Photo courtesy of Sophie

Some people are more notorious than others for procrastinating, but generally speaking, we all know what it feels like to put things off until the last minute. Especially today, with so many modes of entertainment right at our fingertips, staying on top of those less-than-thrilling tasks can be a challenge. While it has been said that “good things come to those who wait,” it’s easy to miss the sweet spot, and before you know it – waiting for the right time can turn into a less-than-desirable habit.

Habitual procrastinators have often been told that they’re lazy, irresponsible, or just plain dumb. The facts point in a different direction, however. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology investigated what exactly causes people to “put things off.”

Have you been called a procrastinator? Are you easily distracted? Have there been times that you’ve made commitments you’ve failed to properly fulfill?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be suffering from what is known as Self-Regulation Failure. And, while it sounds rather Doomsday, the bones of the issue are pretty easy to understand and fix.

Psychologists have noticed a pretty solid connection between procrastination and a high ego. Now how many of you just had a lightbulb turn on? I know I did. I definitely think pretty highly of myself, and have been known to procrastinate, so I can vouch for the connection in my case.

Having an elevated sense of self is fantastic, so if you’re feeling pretty good about yourself on a regular basis, let me be the first one to congratulate you. Don’t even think about changing how great you think you are. You can become more productive on a more regular basis without knocking any wind out of your sails.

Here’s what generally happens: A person with a relatively high ego agrees to a certain task sometime in the future. The main reason she agrees to complete the task (be it a favor, freelance project, or work commitment) is because she feels she can accomplish anything. Which she is statistically probably right about.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

As the deadline for said task approaches, she may suddenly see the task as above her capabilities, or out of her range of expertise, so she puts it off. If she manages to complete the task but fails to do it well, she considers herself a failure.

Because of her sense of failure, she then begins to procrastinate on more and more action items, until practically everything in her life is put off until the absolute last possible second. You see, she’s afraid to fail again.

If this sounds like you, becoming aware that this phenomenon is occurring in your life may actually be all that you needed. You’ve already got a good sense of self-esteem. Keep agreeing to demanding tasks like you’ve always done in the past, only instead of fearing them, embrace the element of challenge that they bring to your life. Try to glide easily over the little bumps along the way as you complete difficult assignments in a timely manner. As long as you apply yourself and continue to give your all, failure isn’t even an option.

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9 Tricks That Lead to Life-Long Fitness

Photo courtesy of Francois de Halleux

Currently, everyone I know falls neatly into two categories: those who kept up with their New Year’s resolutions and those who didn’t. Regardless of category, nearly all of my closest friends and family members want to get in better shape this year. Don’t we all? Every year?

If you find yourself struggling to get and stay fit, you’re not alone. According to Reuters, 36% of adult Americans are substantially overweight, and 17% of American children are, too. These figures mean that we need to make changes as a nation in order to get and stay healthy. Luckily, the changes can be subtle and still make a huge difference.

Perhaps you’ve merely put on an extra 10 pounds because you’ve reached that stage of your romantic relationship where everything becomes more relaxed – including your formerly strict diet and gym schedule. On the other hand, you may be looking to get fit for the first time in your life.

No matter what the reason, if fitness is your goal, you’ve got to have a doable plan that you feel good about. Otherwise you run the risk of burning out, getting bored, or never getting started in the first place. The following tricks have been recommended by some of the nation’s fittest, like Martin Rooney, an internationally recognized pioneer of strength:

  1. Treat exercising like brushing your teeth. It’s unavoidable, and if you don’t do it regularly, things are going to get bad in a hurry. If you make exercising into a (good) habit, chances are really high that you’ll stay fit for life.
  2. Take it to the playground. Let’s face it – no one’s overly motivated to do something they hate. Make your workouts fun again! Playing on playground equipment, joining a recreational sports team, riding your bike around the ‘hood, jumping rope with your kids – these are all great calorie busters while being fun at the same time.
  3. Make it a two-fer. If you’re more of a straight-laced guy or gal and prefer walking or running to the monkey bars – at least take your workout outside. Time flies by when the scenery is constantly changing, and you’ll burn more calories than on any treadmill. The varied terrain of the outdoors coupled with variable temperatures and wind conditions mean that your body will have to work harder, burning up to 7% more calories, according to Women’s Health magazine. Oh, and the two-fer? Vitamin D, of course!
  4. Mix it up. The saying “Variety is the spice of life” applies to exercising, too. Routines are beneficial (See #1) but as soon as your workout routine becomes overly strict, you’ll get bored. Experiment with different activities, even some that you’ve never tried before.
  5. Chat it up. By finding someone to work out with, you’ll not only avoid workout boredom with conversation, but you’ll also have instant accountability.
  6. Make a workout playlist. As humans, we naturally want to move to a tempo. As far back as 300 B.C., the rowers on the Roman Galleys were led and coordinated by a man banging on a drum. Something in the way our brains work makes us naturally want to walk, run or pedal a bike in synchronization with the music we’re listening to. Somehow, music reduces the perception of effort and can also increase our endurance by up to 15%, according to Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., from London’s Brunel University.
  7. Break it up. So many of us are bogged down by the notion that we have to spend a continuous amount of time exercising (and only exercising.) For people with a busy schedule, that can get stressful. It’s perfectly ok to work out in small bursts throughout the day, even combining exercises with other daily activities. Try doing crunches while you watch TV at night, or use your break at work to run up and down the stairs several times.
  8. Set goals. While it may not be essential for everybody, most people will benefit from a goal and reward system. This gives you a sense of accomplishment and will encourage you to stay motivated.
  9. Take a stand. Your friends may give you a hard time about your dedication to working out while on vacation, or eating healthy at a sporting event. Staying fit for life requires the courage to stand up for what it takes to get and stay there, even when faced with opposition.

There’s no doubt about it, getting in shape is something that requires commitment and effort on your part. Small changes add up to big consequences, though, so what starts out as baby steps today can easily turn into a life-long love affair with fitness.

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A Success Story that will Amp Up Your Motivation

Photo courtesy of CR Artist

I’ve found that motivation is rather hard to come by this time of year, and that (ironically) was the catalyst for today’s post.

If you’re like me, then you’ve realized how difficult it is to overcome the emotional hurdles that come along with being in a slump – the biggest of which is a feeling of hopelessness. Luckily, motivation is something that comes and goes, and as long as you don’t give up on your goals, you will feel motivated again soon.

Along with staying focused on the end result, there are some other things you can do until your motivation returns, and some of them might even bring it back sooner. At times like this, choose one goal to focus on. Too many things on your To-Do list is a surefire way to overwhelm yourself. Spend some time with your negative thoughts; let yourself feel them without judgement. After a few days, start writing yourself inspirational notes, even if you don’t feel inspired yet.

You can also use this time to be inspired by other success stories, like the one that follows.

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When Howard was just 8 years old, his father lost his blue collar job due to injury, with no opportunities for sick leave or disability pay. Howard’s parents became unable to pay bills, afford healthcare, or even put food on the table. Howard wanted a better life, but he also wanted to make a difference for others. As the first member of his family to attend college, he earned a degree in Communications, after which he worked his way upward with sales and marketing positions.

His incredible drive and work ethic eventually got him hired as Vice President of a fairly large housewares company. Among his clients was a small company that sold coffee beans, loose teas, spices and beverage accessories. Howard became intrigued by this company when they began purchasing more and more of his company’s products. On a business trip to their location, he fostered a relationship with the company owners and eventually became their Director of Marketing.

Soon after, while Howard was on vacation in Italy, he noticed coffee shops on every corner, all brimming with customers day in and day out. People used the coffee shops as meeting places and hangouts. When Howard returned home, he pitched the idea to his bosses. However, the small coffee company owners wanted no part of the ‘restaurant business’ and they quickly dismissed his idea.

Howard was disheartened by their response to his idea, so he left the company to start a chain of coffee shops on his own, called Il Giornale. Two years later, he had enough capital to buy the rights to the small coffee bean company he had left. It cost him $3 million to purchase and he quickly rebranded Il Giornale to combine the two concepts into a colossal money making machine.

Of course, the name of that small coffee bean and tea company was Starbucks, and as of 2012, it is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, and Howard Schultz has a net worth of approximately $1.5 billion. True to his promise to himself when he was just a youngster, every Starbucks employee working 20 or more hours a week receives healthcare options, which are also extended to their spouses.

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I often think about Howard when my motivation is low, and I realize that if he can accomplish such amazing feats, having grown up in a housing project in the Canarsie area of Brooklyn, then surely the rest of us can find the motivation to accomplish our goals, too.

Until your motivation returns, let the stories of people like Howard stoke your fire. You only need one ember burning to keep your dreams from going up in smoke.

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