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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


The CEO with the stripey socks (part 2)

Oh, boy. Cliff-hanger city!

Well, not really. But kind of.

Last Thursday we were talking about what it means to biggify what you do while staying in sovereignty.

And I mentioned that I’d spent a week of my Extremely Necessary Vacation working on one tiny piece of my own sovereignty puzzle.

Sovereignty, in this context, meaning the quality of:

  • not caring so much about what other people think
  • not caving in to other people’s expectations
  • being able to rest in the safety that comes from knowing that my space, my body, my energy and my life belong to me
  • remembering that these things will always belong to me because guess what? I get to be the queen of my fabulous pirate-ey queendom.

The challenge:

“To approach every single interaction you have with the question, ‘how am I going to comfortably and confidently ask for what I want?’, knowing that your sovereignty thing doesn’t diminish theirs.”

And my own personal challenge:

I was a bartender for five years. I know about people asking for what they want.

The majority of my experience with other people asking for what they want? Mostly involves people handing me shit, and expecting me to smile and say thank you.

And that’s true whether you’re coordinating a fancypants cocktail party or ducking flying ashtrays in some dive bar in south Tel Aviv.

So I had to do some work to differentiate between the people who made my life hell with their insistent give-me-what-I-want stuff on the one hand, and my own practice of recognizing that I’m allowed to want things, on the other.

What I got (and this kind of needs to be its own post) is that this practice is really about the need behind the ask.

So … when I ask for what I want because my need is to connect with my own sovereignty, that’s healthy.

When I’m asking for what I want as a way to distract from my need for acknowledgment or recognition (or to establish power over someone else), that’s not being in sovereignty, and it’s not good for anyone.

So that was one of the themes I was working with, and meeting my Fear of Becoming The Asshat was my challenge.

Speaking of challenges, the “every single interaction” part turned out — surprise! — to be a bit much.

But I did practice. And I took notes.

In which I practice in the safest environment possible.

So my gentleman friend and I have been having dinner in the hotel restaurant all week. Which is already weird because we hardly ever go out.

And then it’s one of those places where they replace your silverware every five seconds (because yes of course I need a new knife after having just eaten soup).

Anyway, the waiter always pulls out my chair for me (ladies first) and it’s invariably the chair I don’t want to sit in.

That’s because if one person gets to have their back to the wall, I want to be that person, please.

And this is exactly where my highly sensitive stuff meets my “but I don’t want people to think I’m crazy or annoying” stuff.

A perfect example: Some of my family came to visit Portland and we all went out for dinner. We were too many for the booth, so my gentleman friend and I were seated at the end.

It seemed at the time that just dealing with it would be greatly preferable to asking someone to switch places with me. Too much fear (or experience) of people thinking that I’m fussy, weird or insane. Fear of having to explain.

But then I spent the meal in hard-core tension mode, trying not to completely panic every time a waiter’s hand snaked out in front of me from behind my back.

So I’m taking this week as an opportunity to practice the sovereignty thing by experimenting, but keeping it small: getting the seat that helps me feel comfortable and feeling okay about wanting that.

And yeah, it was a practice. Also I should add that — fortunately — we had a different waiter each night. Much less awkward that way.

Here’s how it went.

Day 1

What happened in my head:

Crap crap crap. Look at me, I’m one of those people who makes the lives of waiters miserable. Come on! You waited tables forever! Do you want to be one of those fussy, horrible people who always have to have things their way? Okay, just say something. Say anything. Oh, never mind.

What happened in reality:

  • Panicked completely.
  • Lost ability to get out a complete sentence.
  • Motioned awkwardly for my gentleman friend to sit there instead of me.
  • Got a “no, no, no, ladies first!” from the waiter.
  • Gave a rambling, apologetic, irrelevant explanation.

Day 2

What happened in my head:

Crap crap crap. Don’t make trouble. Get what you want, but don’t make trouble.

What happened in reality:

I took the seat offered me and as soon as the waiter was gone, I asked my gentleman friend to switch places with me.

Day 3

What happened in my head:

Sovereignty, sweetie. You’re allowed to want what you want. It’s not an irrational thing for someone to want. Anyway, it’s what you want. You can be gracious and you can still get what you want in this situation. Deep breath.

What happened in reality:

Me: “Um … would it be okay if I sat over there tonight? Because I’d really rather sit over there. I mean, if it’s alright? You know, if it’s not a problem or anything?”
Waiter (staring at me): “Of course. Please.”

Day 4

What happened in my head:

Okay, let’s see if we can do this without putting a question mark after every sentence. In fact, can we skip the “sentences” part? What if I just asked for what I wanted?

What happened in reality:

Me (with a smile): “I’m going to sit over here.”
Waiter: “Enjoy your meal.”

Postscript #1:

In a fabulous little Richard Brautigan moment, I just found the following scribbled on a napkin: “Simplicity is key. Also, sovereignty: it’s easier when you’ve been drinking. ”

Um, that’s also probably the subject of another post, but I’m pretty sure it refers to Day Five, when we had whiskey before dinner and the only thing happening in my head was “Yay, dinner”.

Postscript #2:

On Day Six, an older couple (man and woman) were seated at the table next to us. I watched as the woman gracefully and wordlessly took the seat she wanted — the same one I would have wanted — with nothing more than a confident tilt of her head and a generous smile.

Awesome. I’m trying that one next time.

Comment zen for today …

What I would love: thoughts, musings, reactions related to the stuff I’m talking about and the sovereignty thing in general. What I’d rather not have: critique of the topic, to have my stuff judged or psychoanalyzed, advice.

Thanks for being in this with me!

37 Responses to The CEO with the stripey socks (part 2)

  1. Carol Logan Newbill
    Twitter: 2fishweb

    AWESOME. Can I just stand and cheer and applaud?
    .-= Carol Logan Newbill´s last blog ..Two Great Ways to Send Your Readers Fleeing into the Night =-.

  2. Lynn says:

    Here’s how that other lady did it – she waited only until it was apparent which table was hers, then walked over to the chair she wanted and looked expectantly at the waiter. It’s not necessary to wait for him to make his move – you can make yours first.

    I’m older than dirt and I would be embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to figure this out.

  3. YES! Itybites or in this case ity nods and huge smiles.

  4. Darcy
    Twitter: darxyanne

    I had the same reaction as Carol. I just want to cheer for you for getting what you wanted. And for telling us all about it. I love how you give such a concrete example as a preferred seat in a restaurant and make it seem so possible (only five days!?) to make a change that makes life happier, easier, better. Thank you.
    .-= Darcy´s last blog ..Book: Jacquard’s Web =-.

  5. Emily
    Twitter: emilyroots

    What a simple way to practice being in your sovereignty! And to explain it. (I loved your Brautigan moment postscript…)

    I can’t wait to hear more about how all of this plays out for you. So a yes-please-more vote for me to yesterday’s questions about the series on sovereignty!
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..More Garden Metaphors – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly =-.

  6. Kel says:

    Yeah ! Go Havi !!!!

  7. R. M. Koske says:

    Oh Havi! Totally not what the post was about, but you put your finger right on something that has been bugging me a while! This:

    I was a bartender for five years. I know about people asking for what they want.
    The majority of my experience with other people asking for what they want? Mostly involves people handing me shit, and expecting me to smile and say thank you.
    YES! THIS is why I’m afraid to even CONSIDER my own business. What I want to do, what I love most, is almost inevitably a direct-to-customer thing. I don’t think I can do my stuff with a reseller (I may need to biggify my thinking, it could be possible). And direct-to-customer terrifies me because this. I simply cannot imagine it not being like this.
    I knew that, but your phrasing has made it more concrete for me, so maybe I can start chipping away at that stuckness.

    Oh. If I get to ask for what I want, too, then I want to not smile and say thank you in that situation. Ooooh. Lotsa fodder for thinking there.

  8. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga

    Yay, Havi! What a wonderful progression from Day One to Day Five. Clear intention has its own healing momentum. When it’s followed by action–no matter how clumsy or uncomfortable that feels–miracles abound. :-)

    Thanks so much for sharing your Adventures in Sovereignty. I look forward to reading more.

    Love, Hiro
    .-= Hiro Boga´s last blog ..Refugees: Remembering 9/11 =-.

  9. Lydia, Clueless Crafter
    Twitter: Art_Style

    The restaurant seating thing is my specialty. I know what I do and don’t like when dining out, but that fear of being a pain in the ass monologue runs through my head.

    I always ask to switch, always assert my right to have what I want. I proclaim loud and clear that I will stand up for my needs.

    But then I feel guilty and ashamed. Like I bulldozed through everyone else, husband including, to do it. I create the resentment for my behavior (or do they think I’m a pain?).

    Wowwwwwwwwww! I just had a thought. Resentment and being a pain or two different things. I, yes I, create the resentment where others just may be annoyed!

    Havi, this just may be one of the biggest breakthroughs for me in recent memory.
    .-= Lydia, Clueless Crafter´s last blog ..Curate to Differentiate? =-.

  10. Tracy says:

    Go Havi!!! The tiniest baby-step changes are catalysts for Really Big Shifts, which ripple outward. This chair-choosing thing is a world-changing practice!
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Reflection: Stitching Meditation =-.

  11. Torrey says:

    Havi — I love your description of the step-by-step progression. And you made progress fast!

    I can tell you from my experience that eventually working the sovereignty thing starts to feel smooth and natural and I can totally see you incorporating your sense of humor into it at some point (e.g., “My duck wants to sit here.”) Also, once you are fluent at it, sometimes you might choose not to assert your sovereignty in a given situation and that in itself is working your sovereignty. If that makes any sense. Inhabiting sovereignty leads to more and more freedom to choose and also more and more choices to choose from.

    Here’s to sitting where you want to sit!


  12. Meg
    Twitter: khunmeg

    Wow, this made me chuckle and feel all schmalzty at the same time. See, a lack of sovereignty is the Thorn In My Side. So this little vignette hits me right in the heart.
    I really can’t express what this means to me right now – the experience of watching someone else practise their Sovereignty Thing. It’s only when I can read/see it in action and done nicely (yeah, I’m hung up on that shit) that I feel it’s doable for me. At this time, I’d just be happy to be at Day 3.
    But my singular goal in life? To be that older lady from day six. Woah. Yeah, baby. I can damn well do it.
    Thank you, darling.
    <3 Meg

  13. Sanders says:

    Aw Havi, you’re just awesome…

    When I first learned about you, I fell in love with you because of Selma; your quirkiness; the authenticity that shone through your willing to share your process, however vulnerable you could look; and your ability to seem to speak exactly to my issues–and at the right time. And did I mention Selma?

    Then, I discovered that your ways (even though weird and wacky and zany–yay for weirdness and wackiness and zaniness) were–are– the ONLY ones that have been working on my stuck, I began to worship you, and I’m afraid I’ve kind of put you on a pedestal.

    Then you post something like this and it shows me how just like me you are, and I now know why your posts are so healing (at least for me): You’re not that goddess on the pedestal, but that pirate queen who has scars (is that a patch I see on your right eye?), in the middle of life (battle?), modeling for us what she preaches…

    I hope I’m making sense trying to explain just how awesome you are. Thank you.

  14. Sherron
    Twitter: sherronann

    Yay, Havi!! {standing and cheering}

    I love the example the older woman set! I want to be like her when I grow up. :-)

  15. Nathalie Lussier
    Twitter: NathLussier

    Way to go Havi!

    I love how we’ve all got something to look forward to as we grow older: superb confidence and stuff, yeah?

    Oh and I totally get your wanting to have your back to the wall. I don’t know where it comes from for me, but I feel so much more at ease that way.
    .-= Nathalie Lussier´s last blog ..How to Make a Festive Raw Pumpkin Pie Recipe =-.

  16. Janet Bailey
    Twitter: janetbailey

    Havi, thanks for taking us with you through Days 1-4 (and 5!) — it’s really helpful to see how practice looks. And yay!!

    During this sovereignty series, I’ve also been thinking about how, in my own fleeting experiences of sovereignty, how *simple* it feels when sovereignty is present. One of those not-at-all-easy-yet-simple practices.

    xoxo Janet

  17. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Wheee! Hey guys! *waves enthusiastically from the return side of Extremely Necessary Vacation*

    Wow. This is so cool. I (being in my own stuff, obviously) was thinking about how to best avoid all the people who would think that this is the dumbest thing ever. And of course that a post about an ‘accomplishment’ is mountains-from-molehill-ing. So of course it didn’t occur to me that anyone would like, cheer or anything.

    So all I have to say to that is NEAT! THANK YOU! I feel really happy and relieved to be reminded that this stuff is relevant outside of my own head.

    @Sanders – I completely adore you. You know that, right?

    @Lydia – look at you! That’s one hell of a realization. Wow. Nice!

    I can’t tell you (all of you) how reassuring I find it to picture all of us working gently and steadily on getting to know our stuff, each of us in our own way, all at the same time. It’s just beautiful.

  18. Sonia Simone
    Twitter: soniasimone

    yay, I love this! the day-by-day was, um, familiar.

    You know what I have this about, very big time? Selling stuff. As in, “god help me if I ever become that networking assbag who won’t stop calling me.”

    I’m sure no one else has that, of course.
    .-= Sonia Simone´s last blog ..What Makes Marketing Hard? =-.

  19. ginevra
    Twitter: Gin_ev_ra

    By the way, it’s not even remotely silly to want that seat: in Feng Shui terms, you need a turtle at your back (or at least that’s what my totally amateur reading indicates.) It’s the favourable position. But I also fully get why you don’t want people sneaking up from behind.

    Actually, try a Chinese restaurant one time, see which seat you’re offered!

  20. Mahala Mazerov
    Twitter: LuminousHeart

    Oh my, I have that “back” thing too. And not just in restaurants. There are some places I absolutely cannot sit lest I implode. (Lest. It’s a good word.)

    Sovereignty is a beautiful word. So glad Hiro brought it to us, and you have continued your explorations. This week the restaurant. Next week the world. Or something in between. Baby steps. In stripey socks.
    .-= Mahala Mazerov´s last blog ..The Friday Flower: Inner and Outer Light =-.

  21. spiralsongkat
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    @ginevera — I was thinking about the Feng Shui thing as well!

    In my own struggle with the asking-for-what-I-want part of sovereignty, I find there are several layers I need to work my way through:

    1. It is okay to want what I want. Seriously. Wanting something doesn’t make me a bad person. When, for example, I get home from a hard day’s work and want half an hour of quiet time for myself, even though my daughter is eager for my attention and my sweetie would like my help in the kitchen…it is truly all right for me to want that time. Doesn’t make me a bad parent or partner.

    2. It is okay to ask for what I want. (Though I can see that I’ll need to have a heart-to-heart chat with the inner critical voice — hi, Mom! — telling me how selfish that is. How dare I not put everyone else’s needs first?)

    3. It is okay to get what I want. As you say, Havi, my own sovereignty doesn’t diminish anyone else’s. In fact, my own sovereignty can even nurture the sovereignty of others!

    4. It is also okay if I don’t always get exactly what I want. Sovereignty means having the freedom to compromise as well — but mindfully, seeking the win-win solution, using non-violent communication. Compassion without caving in. Wow!

    It is a very deep thing, this journey to queenhood. I’m grateful to be in such very good company!
    .-= spiralsongkat´s last blog ..Wishin’, and hopin’, and freakin’, and copin’… =-.

  22. Bonni says:

    My family nonjokingly calls this seat the “Clint Eastwood power position.” (Never sit with your back to the door!!) We have a specific understanding as to who gets to sit in the Clint Eastwood seat(s) at the restaurant, waiting room, wherever. I think the concept is really a lot more powerful/important than people think. And yes, Feng Shui has the same concept. Typically :( (as I’ve noticed) the male of a male-female couple gets offered the power position. (I watch this go on at restaurants too.)

    Also, hooray for giving us the steps/days practice. Very helpful. I say this as someone who’s eaten a vegetarian diet for 16 years but who doesn’t want to be too ‘fussy’ in a restaurant if, say, there’s nothing nonmeaty to order, or if there’s unannounced meat in the food. I’d often rather eat a dumb turkey sandwich than (rightfully) ask for something I would, say, enjoy paying for the experience of eating.

    Anyway, I do like the idea of practicing this — repeating the experience and getting comfortable and familiar with the process. Cheers for you!–now, from here on out, it will probably be ten times easier for you to make this happen at any place.

  23. Nancy says:

    I too loved to read of your progression, both for you and for creating a framework for how to go through stuff in small steps. Less scary, way.

    I don’t think I ever had this particular problem probably because it never occurred to me that the waiter really cared about where I sat. Otherwise it might have been harder. Hmmm, what else have I missed that might really matter?



  24. Dick Carlson
    Twitter: techherding

    I think it may be time to form a therapy group for those of us who demand to sit with our backs to the wall.

    After 13 years of marriage, my wife still laughs a bit — but she asks the waiter for the other seat because she really doesn’t care.
    .-= Dick Carlson´s last blog ..How To Handle Tough Questions From Reporters =-.

  25. Mark W. "Extra Crispy" Schumann
    Twitter: MarkWSchumann

    Hah! A great story, well told, and with sympathy for one of the coolest people in the world: you.
    .-= Mark W. “Extra Crispy” Schumann´s last blog ..A word about strings and pointers in C++ =-.

  26. I read this last night and loved seeing the daily progression. Some molehills are mountains. And if the are, it’s awfully nice to see someone going after them like this and making them just a bit less of a mountain.

    And this morning, I was thinking, and came back over. You know, restaurants, the good ones, want you to be happy. Good chefs would die of mortification if they thought for a second something was impeding your enjoyment of their food. They want you to come back, they want you to tell your friends, they want you to have the seat you want if it is available.

    Seriously, Ella Brennan and Ti And Lally would give you their own chair if you liked it better that the one you were sitting in.Want the Garden Room? Ask when you make your reservation. If they have a seat, you’ve got it. At Emeril’s, you can even sit at the Chef’s table with a view of your food being prepared. It’s like watching a slightly manic ballet, or a chef’s shiva nata, but you can have that seat, or one by the window, or one with your back to the wall.Or sit at the bar. Why so many different kinds of seats? Because they know we are many kinds of people.

    Part of their sovereignty IS seeing that you enjoy your meal. And that includes your comfort in picking a seat at your table. So in a sense we help them accomplish their goal if we express our preferences, yes? That just leaves our table companions, Hm, now someone surely can think of a game for that, should it have spinners or dice? Or rock paper scissors? :)

    A wish of my own: if someone could help me get over the awkwardness of selling my own work without “feeling” like the asshat that Sonia describes….well…I’ll let you win the seat with your back against the wall. Do you think it’s like practicing Havi’s daily progression?

    Oh dear, that was way too long, but I thought maybe, just maybe it might offer another way to look at the seat thing. My family was in the restaurant business.

  27. Darcy
    Twitter: darxyanne

    I have been thinking more about this post. I can’t stop thinking about it. My first reaction was just an uncomplicated “woo hoo, alright!” But the more I think about it, the more it strikes me as being at the same time something so concrete and quotidian and something that goes all the way up to this really advanced level of self-whatever, too. And I’m thinking about my own relationship to this issue, and how that maybe for everyone, we have these pockets of sovereignty and maybe there’s just something to finding the pockets and expanding them. Maybe in one place in life it’s easier to have that sense of sovereignty and then we can figure out how to apply whatever makes it easy in that area to other ones, which you probably already said in another post but for some reason now is when it’s dawning on me. I am honestly amazed by how much food for thought I’m getting out of the story of one woman’s journey to the chair with its back to the wall.
    .-= Darcy´s last blog ..Book: Jacquard’s Web =-.

  28. emilylime
    Twitter: emilylime

    @spiralsongkat this is the really juicy step for me, the one that just feels monumentally unscalable:

    4. It is also okay if I don’t always get exactly what I want. Sovereignty means having the freedom to compromise as well — but mindfully, seeking the win-win solution, using non-violent communication. Compassion without caving in. Wow!


    @havi thanks as always for modeling so well for all of us! WOO HOO!

  29. Julie says:

    This is awesome! I come at it from the pov in which my partner is very heavy and needs seats without arms and tables instead of booths, and we’ve both gotten so much better about just saying “oh hey, can we have that table over there?” or, at this weekend’s wedding, “We’re going to need an armless chair at Table 9 — is there any way I can help with that?”

    But yeah, it’s taken years of practice to be able to just ask without any kind of brain commentary on it, especially for her.
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..Wherever You Go, There You Are =-.

  30. ilikered
    Twitter: carriemoore

    I’ve been thinking about and working on this sovereignty stuff a lot over the past month. There has been a lot of shifting in my personal relationships and a big wake up call to take care of myself. Making big changes and decisions in the spirit of gaining sovereignty has made it so much easier and less guilt ridden. Last Thursday this part REALLY stuck: “No one else gets diminished by you standing in your own light.
    When you act out of sovereignty, the result is always gracious because you’re respecting both your own space and that of the person you’re interacting with.
    The more sovereignty each person has and experiences, the more everyone gets.”
    I feel like I have worked through some really tough relationship stuff, found peace and resolution and am in the process of actively making the external changes that I need. NEXT UP: work on sovereignty as it relates to my stuckness, my art making (lack of). I am actually super excited to get in the muck and use this new thinking to take some steps forward. YEA for new tools! tools that WORK!

  31. claire
    Twitter: claireofRA

    I love this! What’s so great about confronting the seat situation each day is that you got to put what you learned into action without great delay.

    Your inner monologues sound very familiar to me though in the moments, I’m not quite as aware of it all. The catch is I’ll have the “I’m going to try that next time” thought but it might be weeks or months before the same situation comes up and by then whatever answer I thought I had is often gone.

    Having a good role model even for things as seemingly simple as getting the seat you want is a great help. I keep my eyes out for people who are confident and graceful in their interactions with other people. I hate feeling like I’m giving waitstaff a hard time, but I do want clean silverware or what I actually ordered. Still figuring out why it’s so hard to ask, what the thing is that’s stresses me out so much in the moment, makes me incoherent like Day 3 or just resigned like Day 1.
    .-= claire´s last blog ..Out and Proud, kiddos =-.

  32. JoVE
    Twitter: jovanevery

    That’s amazing. And the universe sending you that woman to show you how it is done without looking fussy? even more amazing. Though when you think of it “regal tip of the head” and “sovereignty” do kind of go together.

    Maybe your new mantra should be WWQE2D? or maybe not.
    .-= JoVE´s last blog ..Don’t let obligation get you down =-.

  33. Christine Myers
    Twitter: LadyChrisMyers

    In thinking about sovereignty the saying “don’t let people live rent-free in your head” keeps popping up. I heard this a couple of years ago and it really helped me do some positive mindset shifting.
    .-= Christine Myers´s last blog ..I Love My Cellulite =-.

  34. Sonia Simone
    Twitter: soniasimone

    Janice — “some molehills are mountains,” amen to that.
    .-= Sonia Simone´s last blog ..What Makes Marketing Hard? =-.

  35. Alicia says:

    Yay for practice and successive iterations! (It’s only one guy.)

  36. Kate
    Twitter: ingoodcoproject

    Awesome. Congratulations! I’m going to try this.

    Now if I can just get past the overwhelming desire to have a long rant at the waiter about the offensive practice of pulling out chairs for women… Any suggestions on how to cope with that? :)

  37. Mark W. "Extra Crispy" Schumann
    Twitter: MarkWSchumann

    Funny you say that Kate, my ex-wife used to love having the chair pulled out. (As drsweetie later said, “I thought we decided you needed a feminist!”)

    Sometimes it’s hard to know whether it’s the doing or the lack of doing that will be offensive, ya know? Even when the right way is obvious to you and me.
    .-= Mark W. “Extra Crispy” Schumann´s last blog ..Good ideas in a Daily Scrum =-.

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