The year is coming to a close and we are all looking ahead to 2016. What will it bring? Will it be different or better than the last year? I know a couple of people who inevitably at this time of the year, say the same thing…”Boy am I glad that this year is over, what a terrible year, good riddance!” Every…single…year.
Before we are so eager to throw out the old, let’s pause and take a deep breath. What about the year can you be grateful for? What challenges did you overcome? What were some big “wins?” How did you generate a more fulfilling life? What relationships were healed? Did you create more self love? Did you do something on your “bucket list?” And if this year was one of the most challenging years to date, what did you learn from it? What were the unexpected gifts that surfaced? How did you grow?
In some ways I had a very challenging year. I had to come to grips with the fact that I may lose my son to an insidious disease. Lose as in die. How does a mother resolve that, ever?? In all of that pain, sorrow, hopelessness and powerlessness came a huge gift. I searched out resources to help me process it. People, books, blogs, audios, Ted talks, and groups, you name it. About a month ago I was talking to a friend who knew someone who was going through something similar. “Have her call me! I know how she feels, I can help.” My friend said that although we were going through similar situations, she felt that I had so much peace and grace in spite of it. “Well here is the truth,” I told her, “I feel that my son’s disease has been my biggest gift.” Not that I would want ANYONE to suffer as he has or I have, EVER. But I certainly would not have grown to the depth that I have if life would have been easy this year.
During this time a stranger (I don’t know him personally) in a meeting came up to me and said “I have a book for you.” I was a little surprised as we haven’t ever really spoken to each other at the meeting. “Wow, great! Thank you so much!” I said but I was really kind of wondering “why me?” So I took the yellowed paperback home and read it in two days, I was leaving for New Zealand and I needed to finish it and get it back to him. As I was reading I kept wondering “what is the message he wanted me to hear?” It was a very spiritual book, almost religious and I was intrigued. I wouldn’t have bought it on my own or even borrowed it from someone based on the title (which eludes me even now!) and back cover. Here is the message that I got…You (ME!) must be THANKFUL for EVERY thing. Good or bad. Happy or sad. Up or down. Easy or hard. ALL OF IT. I must thank God for EVERY thing. And I did. From that point on. Especially the hard parts. And I meant it because I know that there are no mistakes. I know that I was meant to be this boy’s mother for a reason.
Nobody gets a free pass from suffering. Minor suffering or sobbing on the bathroom floor, heart blowing suffering. But it is what you do with the suffering, how it moves you to the next phase of growth that is critical. And, can you actually be grateful for it ALL?
So for me, it isn’t OUT WITH THE OLD. The “old” is just part of the journey, the richness of life. The juiciness of this lifetime. Be thankful for it all, and usher in the New Year with a full and grateful heart.
The following poem is not my own, but it is SO powerful that I wanted to share it with EVERYONE! Because there are poignant times in our life when letting go (in whatever form) is the healthiest, sometimes most painful, and graceful (as in full of grace) thing we can do. Blessings on your journey.
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…
~ Rev. Safire Rose
I just wanted to take a big deep breath. And write a little something. Life has its way of, well getting in the way, every now and then. I have been wanting to sit and write for about a month and each time, WHAM…sidetracked. Gotta do this, gotta do that, gotta rush here, gotta handle that. And then…I got…the Shingles. Nothing like a nice bout of excruciating pain, no sleep, no energy, itchy (not to mention bitchy) and more pain to make one finally say, “OKAY I GIVE!!” But I couldn’t give, not for a week while I had a houseful of family visiting. It is crazy how we put ourselves on the back burner. Oh right (I am remembering helpful suggestions from a past therapist), I really ought to state that in first person…”It is crazy how I put MYSELF on the back burner!” I didn’t let on how sick I was, how crappy I felt, how I was only sleeping 2 hours a night. Not until I just couldn’t fake it anymore. And what a relief. Being able to say, “I really need to go rest for a while because I feel like dog doo” was what my body was screaming at me to do. LITERALLY SCREAMING.
So now I am two or so weeks down the road and it is slightly better. And I have the space to ask myself what’s the blesson (the blessing in the lesson)?? For me it is this: if I, big fat capital I, don’t ask for what I need, how am I to get it? The thoughts that ran through my head when I felt so incredibly bad were “hang in there, buck up, don’t be such a wussy, get it together, quit being such a baby, you only have one more dinner party to throw like Martha Stewart, and it’s only a week and then you can rest.” Yah, well by doing that I ABSOLUTELY stressed my system more and probably made myself sicker! The second blesson? If I don’t ask for help I don’t give people that love me the opportunity to care for me and serve me.
Life never really slows down until you consciously make the effort to SLOW LIFE DOWN. Eliminate what really doesn’t need to get done, let it go, don’t be such a perfectionist that you stress yourself out, ask for help, ask for help (we all need to hear that one twice), BE HONEST and breathe. What is REALLY important in life is in the moment…even in the stressful chaotic moment. If you can be present in the peace, in the chaos, in the beauty and in the sorrow, that is LIFE. The striving, the franticness, the catching up, the rushing, the never being unplugged from the screens…that is killing us. My body SCREAMED to me “SLOW DOWN, TELL THE TRUTH, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OR I WILL MAKE YOU!” Until I got it. Luckily it was just Shingles. Thank you Shingles for this blesson.
My theory is that TO DO well you must BE WELL. So I thought about the times in my life where everything was clicking and for the most part, working. What were the commonalities? Here’s the list and I know that it is incomplete, so please add your remarks and share with me your thoughts!
1- Nourish yourself: eat better, supplement regularly. Your brain and body will thank you…now and later!
2- Sleep better: more and more studies are coming out about the benefits of sleep. No you are not cooler the less sleep you need, but you may be fatter! Google it, it’s true.
3- Exercise consistently: it is good to blow it out with some cardio but also strengthen your body, the stronger you feel in it, the better you perform in all areas.
4- Laugh more: kids laugh an average of 300 times a day, adults…5! What? Play more and get away from that god awful boob tube, it is rotting your brain.
5- Sit at your computer less: Except to read this blog. Some people spend 7-8 hours a day at a computer, some because of their job. But if you have a CHOICE, cut back. Physically it is a killer, and most of the time it is just a time sucking waste.
6- Develop and improve your relationships: Brian Grazer (the Hollywood producer) said that his success is totally attributed to the fact that he tries to meet and learn about one new person a day (no, FB stalking does not count.) It is good for your head, your heart and can’t hurt your career.
7- Stop complaining: Complaining is draining. Try to change a complaint to gratitude. Instead of “this traffic sucks” shift it to “this gives me the chance to enjoy this beautiful drive.” Or something like that. Let me know…traffic is still the ultimate button pusher for me, especially those tail gaiters.
8- Create more: Have you set your creative juices to the side because you don’t have the time? Bad idea. Create more, however that looks to you. Energy out…energy back. It will pay off in so many ways.
9- Sit in silence: Our culture loves the type A personality, the grinding, GO GO GO, don’t stop until you achieve it person. What we don’t appreciate so much is the sick and broken down person, which inevitably happens after you dissolve in a puddle from the stress of the perpetual grind. SLOW DOWN, sit, breathe, pray, meditate. Silence is such a gift. Try 10 minutes a day.
10- Listen/read/watch good stuff: There is so much poison out there that we have to offset it with some honey.
It is all about progress, not perfection. Because the last thing we need is to feel stressed out about not laughing more, right?! Have a laugh, watch the video, I love the monkey dentist! And then get up and go create some fun!
Want to get something done that is a challenge? Or maybe you are faced with a scary interview or audition? Got a really bad ass test coming up? How about speaking about it like it already happened? When you talk from the outcome of how it could be…your mind pictures it as possible. When you talk about it like it already happened, your mind sees it as a past event and therefore as a fact!
Say to yourself: “I remember last week, auditioning for the play and I just nailed it, they were laughing and they were engaged, it was awesome.” Or how about: “Earlier today when I took that brutal test, I remember how the answers just flowed from me and it was really effortless. I knew I had done well as soon as I finished!”
I have been using this technique for over a week because I found myself getting stressed out about speaking at the Association of Network Marketing Professionals. This is the first time that I am speaking with Tom to a LARGE (thousands) group of people who are outside of our own company. Eek! But so far when I reframe my thinking this way, it totally takes away the knots in my stomach and I always get end up with a smile! I will let you know how it goes after this weekend!
So picture the event as it happened yesterday. Your mind will see it as fact and will want to close the gap between what was said and how it happened. Then your mind starts scheming about the details. BRAIN: "Oh really, I did well on the test? How did I do it? What did I do? I must be brilliant!" HA! It changes your confidence. So remember to keep your comments positive…”thoughts are things!” Check out this video by Kyle Cease...
I once heard the statement “your marriage will only be as healthy as the least healthy partner.” AND “what is yours, is now ours.” Your baggage is now mine and visa versa! Does that hit home for you?! That can either be good news or not so good news/sucky news!
I have been in a few relationships, especially during my dating spree of about four years after I was divorced. I was around thirty years old and I had done plenty of personal growth. In fact I had spent a few years teaching a personal growth course entitled “Understanding Yourself and Others.” It was through the Dreikurs Relationship Centers International. UYO was a weekend course that started Friday night at 7 pm and lasted about 33 hours, ending around 10 pm on Sunday night. I often taught with my ex-husband! We taught a small group of 25 people and it was incredible what we were able to accomplish during that time. People often walked out completely different. They were freer from their past which had drifted unknowingly into their present lives.
So I was no stranger to the world of personal growth. I also had a son who was about 3 years old and I knew that any long term relationship was not just for myself, but for this little one too. Plenty of good guys came into my life, a few whacky ones also. A couple of them might have been fine husbands but when I thought about any of them as a stepfather to my son, none passed that important test.
Until I met Tom. We had been friends for a few years and when he finally met Dominic for the first time in a Mexican restaurant in Boulder, he brought him a Batman toy. Dominic was 3 years old. He still remembers that. Check mark for thoughtfulness and consideration of the most important man in my life at that time, Dominic! Next check mark came in the personal growth category. Tom had spent years with Landmark Education, the evolved EST of the 80’s. He loved introspection and was open to continual evolution in that realm.
Fast forward sixteen years later. Tom is the most amazing father/stepfather/husband that I could have imagined. But here’s the deal. I went into the relationship with my eyes wide open. And I had done a lot of work on myself previous to our marriage. Sixteen years together has not come without challenges, as you can imagine and some of you know. But what I have learned is that the first gift that you give to a relationship is the pursuit of your healthy self. You need to clear out past relationships (ex’s, mother’s, father’s, uncle’s, etc) so that they aren’t in the space of the current relationship. There is no space for holding back or withholding. Don’t keep a scorecard. And ask yourself “what are my issues UNDER the issues?” Everything you ARE (consciously and unconsciously) you bring into the space of the relationship between the two of you. One thing that Tom has often said is that “it is not what you give in a relationship, but it is what you are willing to give up.” Meaning: ARE THE DIRTY SOCKS ON THE FLOOR, AND THE TOILET SEAT UP really worth getting into a stink over (no pun intended!). Give it a couple of hours and see if it’s still a deal breaker. Probably not.
It is my belief that the work never stops if you really want a powerful and spiritual journey together. One plus one does not equal two in a relationship, the third side of the triangle is the relationship itself. Water it, love it, sing to it. A great relationship is a miracle that is created, not bestowed. It is SO worth it.
From Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project"
I love a great novel. I am in the middle of an epic novel right now, “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts. It is beautiful; the language is poetic, the plot is addictive, the characters complex and identifiable, and the setting is palatable. I wish I could write like Gregory David Roberts. I have bought a good dozen books on “how to write.” I have never gotten close to the level of GDR. Sigh. And then I read Anne Lamont’s book, “Bird by Bird.” What I love about Lamont is her honesty and humor. I can aspire to that. She insists that “shitty first drafts” are just a part of the process, I can aspire to that too! And, most importantly she writes about subjects that are not easy to write about…loss, sadness, addiction, disappointment, death. But I always finish her books feeling hope, inspiration and meaning. Tears sometimes wrapped up in a belly laugh!
Stephen King. I have never really been a huge fan of Stephen King. He has published 54 novels and over 200 short stories, so far! Where do these fantastical ideas come from in a single person? His imagination is incredible. I don’t think I can aspire to that!! But his book, “On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft” is one of my favorite books on writing. And my favorite quote in the book is: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Omit needless words. That I can aspire to. Make your writing concise if you want people to read it. More is not better.
This theory was confirmed by an article I read today by another great writer, James Altucher. Ever heard of the F-K Score? Nope? Me neither! The Flesch-Kincaid Score was developed to determine at what grade level you are writing. Now one would assume that “simple” writing would warrant a bad score and flowery and descriptive writing would warrant a good score. Wrong. The F-K score is a function of how many words per sentence (lower is better), and how many syllables per word (lower is better) in your writing. A 10 means you are writing at a 10th grade level, 12 at a 12th grade level and on.
Here’s the funny thing. More, bigger and longer words and sentences are NOT better. If you want your writing to be READ (the whole point!) then simple and to the point is KING! Gretchen Rubin is a NY Times best selling author of “The Happiness Project.” It has sold over a million copies. Her F-K score is a 5. Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea,” a 4. “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, a 6. Good sales writers have known this for ages. They aim for a score as low as possible. And anything over an 8 is considered BAD sales writing.
You might think, fine but I am not SELLING anything. Oh yes you are. You are selling if you want your writing to be READ. And if you want to be read then write below an 8th grade level. Eschew (ha, good word, but NOT effective) flowery language, semicolons, and run on sentences. EDIT. Eliminate words and sentences that are showy. By the way, the F-K score of this blog…4.5. Bam!
I travel quite a bit and I am in probably a dozen different taxi cabs a month. I love taxi drivers…almost universally. What I love about them is their honesty. If you ask a driver his opinion (I have only had ONE female driver, ever!) you will get his REAL answer. They are almost always an immigrant and they have an incredible work ethic.
Here are some answers to questions I have asked:
Me: How do you like driving a cab?
Taxi Cab Driver: It’s fine as long as I don’t pick up the drunk ones late at night.
Me: Are people nice to you?
TCD: Yes! People are for the most part really nice, except for the occasional drunk ones.
Me: Do you like driving a cab?
TCD: Oh yes, I do like it when it is busy and I get people like you in my cab. I don’t like working the late shift and having to deal with the drunk people.
It pretty much goes like that, and bravo to the “drunk ones” who have paid for a taxi ride home instead of driving…please just remember to be nice!
However on one taxi cab drive from our hotel in Brisbane, Australia to the airport, the dialogue went a little differently. The cab pulled up to the hotel, and it was hot. This cute guy about 5”5” hops out and hoists the 50+ bags up into the “boot” of the cab effortlessly. His big grin said “no big deal!” We jumped in, Tom in the front and me in the back. It was a twenty minute drive to the airport.
Tom: How is your day going?
Driver: A little slow, I was happy to get this fare!
Me: Do you drive a cab full time?
Driver: Yes but I am also going to nursing school.
Me: Do you have kids, are you married?
Driver: Oh yes, I am so happy because I have two children, a boy and girl and my wife is pregnant right now. But she is so sick this time with morning sickness, it makes me worried. But I am so so blessed in my life.
Tom: Oh that’s awesome! Where are you from?
Driver: (garbled) Rwanda
Me: Rwanda Tom.
Me: Do you go back home to see your family?
Driver: No, my family is dead. The only reason I would go back is take my son to see where I was born.
Me/Tom: I am so sorry…(my mind was flashing a yellow light, people don’t say DEAD when someone dies of “natural causes, they say “passed away.”)
Driver: You have heard of the genocide? In 1994, all of my family was slaughtered in the genocide. All 24 members of my family were killed except for me, I was a boy, nine years old. My father paid for the killers to shoot him in the head instead of be executed by machete.
Me: (digging kleenex out of my handbag, weeping)
Tom: That is horrible, I am so sorry.
Driver: I spent almost ten years in refuge camps until I was finally able to immigrate to Australia. I love Australia, that is why I am going to nursing school, to be able to give back to this great country, and they pay for my education.
Me: Wow, you are amazing, what a big heart you have.
Driver: I am very blessed. Where are you from?
Tom: The United States
Driver: Yes, I LOVE the United States…TEXAS!!! I want to go to TEXAS!!
Me: (Laughing at his exuberance) Ha, yes, why Texas?
Driver: Joel Osteen, I want to go see Joel Osteen, you know Joel Osteen?
Tom: (the energy much lighter at this point) Of course we know about Joel Osteen! His is awesome! Why do you love Joel Osteen so much?
Driver: He saved my life, brought me hope.
We pulled up to the airport, I asked to see pictures of his wife and kids and he showed me with a huge grin, he was so proud. His name was Ashley, he gave us his card. He jumped out of the cab and once again lifted our bar bell luggage out of the trunk. We all gave each other hugs good bye, and Tom gave him a $100 tip and told him to take good care of his family. He was so happy, he stood there waving good bye until we got inside the terminal.
My heart was touched. I needed to go into the bathroom and sit by myself for a minute. I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness and at the same time amazement at the human spirit. After everything that he had witnessed and experienced in his 30 years, he still felt BLESSED. He still felt joy. He still felt hope. It was a moment I will never forget. The resiliency of the human spirit.
That night I could not sleep. Thinking about this sweet man with the huge smile…and Joel Osteen. The next day Tom and I both shared with each other how he had affected us and we decided to pay it forward. We decided that we would pay for Ashley to go see Joel Osteen, and his wife if she could make the journey. Not only that, we now have made contact with people who know Pastor Osteen in Houston and we will be able to have Ashley meet him personally. That is what it is all about, true human connection. Heart to heart. What an incredible man you are Ashley from Rwanda. I love taxi cab drivers.
Travel can be exciting and fun on a good day and travel can be an absolute soul sucking endeavor on a bad one. I am blessed to be able to travel when I want which is a game changer. I am not told which city I must trek to on what days, grrr, that must get very old! But even with the best mindset intentions, I have been witness to my other personality wanting to kidnap that little four year old sitting behind me...the one yelling at his sibling and using his tray (the back of my seat) as a jungle gym...and take him into the bathroom to duck tape him to the toilet seat. Yes, that happened from Brisbane to Perth, a quick little five hour flight. No, I unfortunately did not have any duct tape handy. TRAVEL CAN S-U-C-K.
However, along the way I have learned quite a few little tips that have absolutely saved my sanity, saved my wardrobe, and in the end, saved my marriage.
1) I am a pillow snob: I have spent too many sleepless nights with a foam pillow touching the ceiling, killing my neck and wrecking havoc on my beauty sleep. Therefore, I always bring my pillow. It is down, it is smashable, and it feels like home no matter where I am. It has been to Australia, New Zealand, Israel and India to name a few. I bring it everywhere, like Linus and his blankie. I should apply for frequent flier miles for my pillow.
2) Black is best: I like being prepared and the only way I can do it is if all of the pieces of my wardrobe can mix and match. Black, white, beige and denim. Not exciting but it works. You can bring a few fun and colorful scarves to brighten things up.
3) Cashmere is king: Cashmere is light weight, extremely warm and very snuggly. I bring a...wait for it...yes, black cashmere wrap everywhere, even in the summer. Air conditioning in hotel rooms and restaurants can be like an arctic blast and with a cashmere wrap I am never cold and shivering!
4) I should buy stock in tissue paper: My Grandmother Swaim taught me how to pack everything with tissue paper so that you avoid creases and wrinkles. It works and I go through a boat load of tissue paper through the year. Place the garment flat on the bed, face down, place a piece of tissue paper on top and then fold as usual. I use tissue to separate different topics of clothing (workout stuff from the dresses etc.). And always finish with a piece on top before strapping everything down.
5) BYOH: Bring your own hangers. There are NEVER ENOUGH BLOODY HANGERS in hotel rooms. Especially if there are two of you traveling. I get to a room and I unpack, everything. Hang up everything right away and you will never have wrinkle issues. Then when I leave, I ditch the wire dry cleaning hangers so that I don't have to cart them home, sorry house cleaning maids.
6) I breeze through security: Apply for TSA precheck, if you're not a "I don't want the government all up in my bizness" sort of person. It will save you tons of time and headaches. You can leave your shoes on, sweaters on, not have to take everything out of your bags...it is WORTH it. Go on line, apply and set an appointment.
7) Just in case: I carry extra zip lock bags, lavender and peppermint essential oils (I spent a month in India using peppermint essential oil to brush my teeth because the travel size toothpaste that I had never tried gave me canker sores!), band aids, tampons, a nail file, and miscellaneous over the counter stuff like cold medicine, advil, and advil pm. Just in case. I once got a migraine in Mexico and thought I would die, that was 28 years ago...never been without advil since...it is peace of mind if nothing else. In addition I have a little baggie of bobby pins, safety pins and collar stays. Tom always needs a collar stay. I once had to swipe one off of a shirt in Target because they didn't sell any...shh, between you and me!
8) Final tip: Lay everything out on the bed, if you are going on vacation then you can really edit down because you can always buy something if need be. If it is a convention, wedding or combination of events, try to be prepared. Shoes are the trickiest...they weight the most but I hate not having the right shoe. If I am packing for a big event then I will literally try every outfit on, with the correct undergarments, shoes and pick out jewelry and write it down so that I can just refer to the notes on the specific day.
9) Wear a smile: Even when you have that little screamer behind you, the TSA agent who is yelling in your ear, or the hotel agent who can't find your reservation...put on a smile and grin your way through it. Because when your head hits YOUR pillow after you've dabbed a little lavender on the soles of your feet...you will know that tomorrow is another day and your smile got you through today. And you've got a big, wide world that is awaiting your exploration!
I too have found myself in tears sitting on the bathroom floor. Full disclosure…it is a heated floor in my current home. But nevertheless, just like in “Eat Pray Love,” I think we all can relate to those moments when you wonder “how in the world can I get through this?” AND “why me???”
I recently was having a spirit fatigued day, feeling broken and small and I thought ”why me?” But then after sitting with it for some time I got to “why not me?” We all have challenges. Some small and some so flippin’ big you feel like your heart might simply break open. But like the poster above, I realized that over my almost 49 years, my track record of getting through challenges is pretty good. Be it divorce, death of friends and family, disabling health challenges where I barely left the house for a year, addiction and continuing recovery of friends and family, and financial struggles including having a car repo’d and living on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup…a buffet of full-on CRAPPY days that sometimes lasted months.
And almost every time the mantra I muttered was “THIS TOO SHALL PASS.” It was the only thing that I could hold on to, to hope for. And it was true. Every time.
The beauty of living this full spectrum of life is that we get to experience ALL of it. We don’t get to choose just happy and easy, positive attitude aside. Noah Levine, a Buddhist practitioner says "Life is an internal journey of taking full responsibility for our own happiness and finding fulfillment through wise actions and compassionate engagement with the world as it is.” The three most important words in that statement are: AS IT IS. We get to choose AS IT IS or we can suffer. Boom. After choosing it, then we can figure out how to move through it.
We all have BLESSONS. My spell check is screaming at me! But no, that’s not a typo. A BLESSON is what happens when you see the blessing in the lesson that challenges you! So the next time you are suffering on the bathroom floor remember these three things:
This too shall pass.
What is the BLESSON in this?
What is my track record?
let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. -Rumi
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