The Art of Sentimentalism

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[Crossposted to Medium]

The collection of “me” stuff began in my late teens after one of my mother’s manic episodes when she tossed out most of my brother and I’s childhood. Since then, pictures, mementos, and anything helping to define who I am or was I saved no matter how insignificant it can or could be. (I saved the certificate for the year I won the school spelling bee which cracks me up years later as I’m a terrible, terrible speller. Long live autocorrect!) There is not much that marks my childhood other than spotty memories, a small wooden box of things I saved from grade and middle school, my baby book, and a handful of print pictures. My younger brother has fared much worse as his amount of childhood things is even less than mine.

I think often of what will happen to my stuff when I die. While my sites will go dark (no one would be paying the bills), I diligently have them crawled so one day, I hope, someone will stumble across my work and say, “Goddamn! This woman was prolific! (And far interesting as well.)”

Like most, I want to not necessarily be in the index but at least a footnote to the memories of the world.

As I continue packing, I occasionally find bits of past Lisa and now I debate, “Do I keep it or do I toss it?” While I have not read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I do know the book posits you should only keep things giving you joy. Imagine the shock of my bookish friends when I told them, since October 2014, I’ve donated nearly 1500 books to various library systems. My collection remains mostly of my Austens, my Pratchetts, my collection of Anglo-Saxon/Medieval/Viking histories, my Salingers and Fitzgeralds, and my TBR pile which is too fucking enormous. I got rid of books I didn’t see myself reading again, or referencing, or even in some cases, caring about. My Austens, my Pratchetts, and the rest of “my” books spark joy so those got kept. I slashed through my DVD collection as I spent several long nights converting the 100+ collection of physical to digital media to be placed on my server with 90% of the physical media to be donated. If I want to watch Bridget Jones’ Diary for the 900th time, it is simply a matter of a few clicks rather than digging out the DVD and going through that ritual. These are things bringing me passion and joy where as 4-Eyed Whores does not. (It’s nerd girl porn. Literally.)

(4-Eyed Whores was given to a friend and not buried in the pile to be given to the library. What kind of monster do you think I am?)

The book cull will get even more severe as I sort what I’m taking to my next future home versus what is going in storage until it can be retrieved – again. My Austens, my Pratchetts, and most of the books bringing me joy will be snuggled in their cardboard homes while a smattering of them will be placed in my new home while even more will be donated to the local library system.

(And for those nearly hyperventilating, I was vaguely smart into cataloging this current collection before the donated books went into their box. I did not do this to the first culling back in October 2014, which is my shame but I’ve already come to terms with that.)

(And I haven’t gotten into the details of the hundreds of books I lost when my brother’s basement flooded in the winter of 2008. My stuff was stored there between moves and I lost most of my paper everythings.)

Even with the great cull of books and physical audio / visual media, there are many, many boxes I have cataloged (of course, I am a librarian) simply labeled “office knickknacks.” Lanyards from the many conferences I’ve attended. The remnants of the Etsy shop I used to maintain and the items I cannot get rid of. Tchotchkes from vacation pasts like the miniature of the Pieta from when I was in Rome. (The Vatican has a killer gift shop, yo.) Plastic photo boxes of things saved from trips like brochures, plane tickets, and other small items (one plastic photo box for each European trip = six boxes). Stuffed animals made or bought for me. Various electronic doohickeys that belong to something but I have no idea what and I should probably not throw those things out. I am keeping those things, though those cardboard boxes outnumber the book boxes 2:1. Those things do give me joy and mark me as a person.


Lee Randall, in her piece “For the Love of Stuff,” furthers my argument stuff is a narrative of one’s life and “my things are me and I am my things.” I felt some relief in reading this essay because I was growing tired of the constant barrage of pieces written on the new “minimalism” and you’re saving the world when you get rid of things that you no longer “need.” Not want, but “need.” I want people to get a sense of who I am when they come into my home, to get a feel what I like and what makes me happy. White walls, sterile furniture, and smattering of arty pieces just don’t cut it.

I want physical reminders these are the things “sparking joy” which also give deeper meaning to my person.


We have come to the point of things given to us by boyfriends past. There is a tiny collection of Beatrix Potter mini-books M. gave me which I kept, the love note still inside. The picture of P. and I at his brother’s wedding and we both look extremely happy. The nightclub t-shirt given to me by A. when he was working as a graphic designer. The earrings given to me by TheEx though their matching necklaces have long since been donated. These trinkets do not pain me and for most of them, I smile at those memories. These are things kept.


When I got to my apartment in Connecticut, I found many things given to me by TheBassist which got tossed into a box. The breakup was still too fresh and I was indecisive on whether or not to keep them. Friends suggested, since the breakup turned out to be brutal rather than amicable, I burn them. Instead, I kept them. They’ve been taunting me since with their presence in my storage locker a reminder of a time in my life when things weren’t going so great. When I was unpacking, and now packing again, I pushed that box out of mind to be dealt with at another time. Now that time has come where I must ask myself, “Do I keep, toss, or donate these items?”


Memories are sneaky bastards. What seems so clear one day can be muddled the next.

I strive to keep a positive attitude on the relationship between TheBassist and I as a whole as it wasn’t all bad and we did love the other, but clearly not enough to give the relationship a foundation it needed to keep going. I have these things that while they no longer give me pain at times, I have given them some kind of value and I wonder if I get rid of them, will the memories fade even faster and soon to be forgotten? Do I want to forget him as completely as possible? How important was he in my life that keeping those items won’t intensify what pain is left even in their innocence of just lying in that blasted box? Will I “find joy” in getting rid of them?

These may seem like insignificant answers to many of you — the obvious answer would be, of course, to get rid of them. But these things, I’d argue, are not things to be easily replaced. The signs he made me when I got off the plane or his band’s CD he has lovingly inscribed to me or the Neil Gaiman book he gave me years ago, also inscribed. Once those things are gone, they can never be replaced since their tangibility and worth is only for me.

But I must reframe these questions to how keeping these things will affect my relationship with TheExHusband. As most of you know, he and I are working on getting back together and when I land in Louisville in October (after spending September at the cabin), we are seeing a couple’s counselor to work on the things we should have worked on in our marriage. TheExHusband has been and always will be my always. Is it fair to him for me to keep the mementos of TheBassist, even if I claim their innocence in value? Are they worth keeping as a potential sharp thorn to what has happened these last few years?

What fills me with joy?


For many, if not most, the building of one’s personality through things seem kind of silly, maybe even trite. We should be known, it would be pointed out, for what we have done and how we treat people rather than what decorates our homes. But I cannot agree to that point, at least wholly, just yet. My mother erased much of our childhood when she threw almost everything out and while many have things that spark them with joy about their growing up years, those years are empty for my brother and I. Keeping things, no matter how insignificant, allows me to fill in the holes of my life where once nothing existed. But I ask again – should I save anything or everything? Curate my memory to be only of joy and light and not negative reminders of things gone wrong?

Aren’t I, in effect, whitewashing my own history to satiate whatever I think will help me be whole?

I have issues with people wanting to erase our social history by, for example, taking cigarettes out of movies from 50 years ago now we know cigarettes are carcinogenic. The past isn’t always sunshine and roses and the idea of “the golden years” is a myth.

Each generation has its own atrocities and in the attempt to remove the bad, we’ve gilded the good and gilt can flake off.

In the end I will more than likely keep the book and the CD (and the Joy Division t-shirt I left at his house since it’s my favorite one) and the rest will get tossed. I don’t need the hand-lettered signs, the letters, or the random knickknacks he has given me. They are just “things” where as the book and the CD have whole different set of values. I’m sure, knowing me, the tossing of the rest will be some kind of exaggerated march to the bin shoot and the ceremony of dumping the items down the incline into the bowels of the apartment building. Those items blur the line of worth between keeping and donating and in the end, they are just simply junk.

palindrome birthday

 
 

Dear Internet,

A couple of admin things before we get going:

  • Item the first: I’ve minimalize the site design after listening to a podcast on brutualist websites. Long time readers may have noticed the site design has been getting less cluttered over the years and now it’s stripped down to as basic as possible unless I dropped out of WordPress entirely rendering all entries static but with nearly 1300 entries that is not happening anytime soon. Let me know in the comments if there is anything broken or missing.
  • Item the second: You may have also noticed there is now an audio option in addition to the text. Starting this post going forward there will be mp3 available to download of the entry. In short, I’m turning my blog entries into a podcast and don’t be too surprised if the podcasts are a bit rough in the beginning. You (should) be able to download the mp3 here, iTunes, and LibSyn SoundCloud. Why now? Numerous articles and research discuss the changing ways of how people access content online. This also mirrors how I, and my peeps, access information. Newletters (you will find the subscription to mine at the bottom of this entry) and podcasts are now the new hotness. Lastly, turning my blog into a podcast has been something I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

On with the show.


Today is a palindrome birthday – I turn 44. Celebration will be chill until TheExHusband comes to visit in a few weeks for the ever continuation of Lisa-mas. However, presents and cards have been rolling in and I feel beloved by many. Thank you.1


No one is going to be shocked (and some might argue this is a long time coming) TheExHusband and I are, again, moving towards a romantic relationship. Part of the reason why I moved back to the east coast was to deliberate on whether starting a romantic relationship with TheExHusband was because I truly loved him or he was a crutch or he was a familiar.

In the last six months as my brain became less fuzzy, I ruminated what it meant to love and be loved. Many years ago I asked Rob G. if he and his partner stopped having sex for whatever reason, would he stay with her and he answered a quick “yes.” I swore to him I could never be in a sexless relationship, or a passionless relationship, and I would find someone who could fulfill both the sexy times and my intellectual hunger. All but TheExHusband had failed to fulfill both requirements. (I can feel Rob’s virtual head pat as if he knew one day I would know the truth about love.)

As I started unpacking at my new abode, I came across diaries from years ago where I do nothing but complain about how men seemingly only want sex and nothing to do with my brain. This complaint goes on for years, regardless of my relationship status at the time of the writing. It became interesting to me how the tables have now turned: I want nothing but sex (so I think) now and fuck all the intellectual side.

I know the psychological reasons why my behaviour is this way (sex = being loved) but at the end of the day this is not what I really want. I urgently need brain stimulation which leads me to having better sex and we shant be surprised it is never the other way around.

So I’m in a pickle. Sex with TheBassist was out of this world but I felt as if I could never get him to talk about anything other than day to day events.2 Sex, on the other hand, with TheExHusband had become nearly impossible and unfulfilling but he could stimulate my brain like no other. After our split in August 2014, he hied himself off to a therapist, got on Wellbutrin, admitted what he has always known – he was depressed. He has reported back to me now that Wellbutrin is coursing through his system, his sexual drive has returned 10 fold from its previous state.

I lived with TheExHusband from September 2015 until last month. During that period not a sexual event happened other than benign snuggles, forehead kisses, and the occasional hand holding. We both agreed participating in any kind of sensual romps would be detrimental to my mental health while spurring on more confusion for him which obviously neither of us wanted so we remained chaste. Pinky swear.

When I was offered my current gig, there was a lot of discussion between my brain and I on whether or not to take the position. The more I pro and conned it, talked it over with TheExHusband and friends, the more another thought took residence in my brain: I was deeply in love with TheExHusband and leaving him would tear me apart.

TheExHusband loves me. He really loves me. He has never wavered his support of me. He has taken care of me when I hit rock bottom and cheered me on as things started to progress and get better. He always has my best interests at heart; he likes making me happy. He likes making me laugh. He wants to go on adventures with me and eat the world (another criteria I have in a potential mate). His love isn’t the love of fiery suns but a slow burning ember that never seems to fade.

Most importantly, he never left me when things got really bad.

I heavily took stock in this. Isn’t this what most of us want? Someone who is our companion and mate, who understands us near completely, makes us laugh, and gives us unwavering support in our choices and our life? I know I do. I know I never stopped loving TheExHusband, never wavered for my own support of him, never not wanted to make him laugh. I could never imagine my life without him and even wrote that if you date me, he comes along as part of the package.

TheExHusband and I have our own rituals, our own language, our own sense of security in the other. Our own world where we happily accept others to visit.

TheExHusband has his faults just as I have my faults, but at the end of the day if there is anyone I want to be with, it is him.

TheBassist may have been the one, but TheExHusband is my always.3


Long time readers may be puzzled by these turn of events. For months I banged on TheBassist was the one, I would take him back in a heartbeat, and I was tragically in love with him. Those were things I believed then and those were my truths. I could forgive myself for my behaviour during the course of our relationship, I could even understand some of his behaviours such as the birthday incident4, but I cannot shake the pain of him dumping me onto TheExHusband’s lap because TheBassist could not take care of me when I was so very sick and then wiping his hands of me. What also breaks my heart is that after the big show of telling me he wanted to check in on me to make sure I was okay after we broke up, he never did. How do I know? I asked his best friends. I told TheBassist all that time ago, in the beginning, I was his ideal on a pedestal who he could not handle the real and everyday me. Even his mom agreed. TheBassist vehemently disagreed with my observation and yet, here we are, a fantasy who has been put to rest.


It’s now going on two months since I planted myself in Connecticut and while I’m an hour away from TheBassist’s home, nothing has propelled me to attempt a visit. There has been a single time I have driven past his exit, on my way to IKEA, and I flipped it off in true Lisa fashion. Childish? Sure. But boy did it feel good.

Another indicator my attitude has changed is the slight PTSD I have of olive green Subaru Outbacks. They seem to be car d’jour around these parts and I am forever checking to see if one’s back window is covered in stickers. So far, the coast has been clear.

I am human above all things and I cannot tell a lie that I do want to see him if only to tell him off. Lisa Rabey Is Always Right™ and my ego must never be bruised. TheExHusband predicted ages ago TheBassist dumping me had less to do with me being in love and more to do with a dent in my believed perfect ego. I am begrudgingly hold this may be slightly true.

I still maintain TheBassist breaking up with me was one of the smartest moves he has ever made and without that breakup, the crash would have been much worse.


I often need to experience things to get the things to stick no matter how many times someone tells me it is so. e.g. I need to touch the hot stove to believe it is a hot stove.

Most of the human population, upon reading my exercise in love on TheExHusband may be thinking to themselves: This is what is known to be love. We know that it ebbs and flows. This is a universal truth. It is not always just the hot burning passion but it is also vomit and money woes. If you want the treasure you have to fight the orcs.

I hurt a lot of people getting here and there is rarely a time I haven’t cried when thinking about everything I put TheExHusband through but he will tell you two things: The first being I was mentally sick for a long time and much of my actions were based upon the disease and not the real me and his depression caused a lot of rift he refused to believe was there also for a very long time.

TheExHusband and I discuss this on occasion and we’re brutally honest with the other. I am not afraid to admit that in some warped way going through all of this is what smacked me in the head about love, I am every so glad it happened.

xoxo,
Lisa

P.S. The track isn’t bad but it’s still little rough. I’ve been editing for about six to seven hours today so next time it will be better.


1. Last year’s birthday was interesting. TheBassist took me the mall, bought his children presents, and couldn’t even be arsed to make or get me a card. He had a snit when I rescued a rather dismal day by helping his family sell strawberries and shortcakes at a church fete. When I told him how I felt, and that I wanted a birthday do-over, he promised with a “sure, sure” and yet, nothing happened.
2. Let’s call this a truce on the he said/she said. This is and was my truth.
3. When I first mentioned to TheExHusband he was my always, he thought it was terribly sweet yet he could not get the image of the Always maxi pad brand out of his head. One day whilst shopping  I came across the lady parts aisle, took a picture of the brand and sent him said image. He giggled.
4. What was the point of doing anything special for me if I was only going to leave and break TheBassist’s heart over and over again. Thin, sure, but I understand this may have been his reasoning.

 

 

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 20142012, 20021999

 

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shut the fuck up and be happy

Shut the fuck up and be happy

Dear Internet,

When you’ve been friends for a fairly long time with someone, you organically create your own schticks. As TheExHusband and I have known each other for 20 years (!), we have many schticks of which one is where we create songs and dances using melodies from popular songs except with our own lyrics. I have, for example, a dance and song routine when I get ready to shower.

Recently I created a song while waiting for my breakfast to heat up, TEH chimes in with his own lyrics and I start, as one does during these instances, laughing. It was, however, not the canned laughter we typically do when we find something to be funny, which comes and goes as if it was never there in the first place. No, this was genuine laughter that came from my belly and it felt authentic (as much as I fucking hate that fucking word, it applies here). My peripheral vision, my face mirrored on the microwave door, reflected a broad smile.

The days when I found my body beautiful are getting closer together. The return of myself in the mirror showed a face not so much glowing but perhaps calmer. More relaxed. (Except for the greys that are creeping up again (TIme for a new dye job!), I’m pretty satiated with my looks.)

Is this happiness?

The more I yoga, I find my day feels more complete. There is a hop to my step and a harmony to my life, even if  I am working from home. Days away from doing yoga don’t feel right. Something is missing. I have a routine in the morning and that routine I must stick to. I like knowing my body can now do some flexible things. When I started back a few months ago, I could only lean half way down in bound angle pose but this week I’ve been able to almost get the girls to touch the floor. Slight change, sure, but it is still something.

Is this what joy feels like?


“Happiness,” “mindfulness,” “gratitude,” “self-care,” “humility,” and another 44 descriptors1 I could come up with in a short amount of time are the hot trends in our lives. A reporter recently asked, When ‘mindful’ is a mayo, a diet, a mantra, does it actually mean anything? and I found myself asking that very same question of my own practice. Is what I’m doing — the meditation, the yoga, the journaling, the being mindful as much as possible — really working or is it some kind of placebo thin band-aid covering up my real (chemically imbalanced) ills? Perhaps it is the drugs and I’m just placing woo-woo around it to make it more palatable to others and myself?

But the real question we should asking ourselves, no matter where it comes from, is doing these things make us happy regardless of what other people think? I can certainly answer with a resounding yes. DBT, which is the science backed set of techniques to make one mindful, works. Yoga keeps me centered and lets me push my body into ways I didn’t think it could — see the aforementioned getting the girls to the floor. The little changes in my life that keep me going strong: the continual exercise (no matter how minute), the quitting smoking, the journaling, the meditation, and for the everything else that is important to me continues to push forward. I have a proven track record of making these things work in the past and I am determined to make them continue on that path. So for me, whether or not someone “gets it” is not important. It’s not important what others think. What is important is how and what I feel as I move my life forward in my own beautiful and fucked up way.

Is this being blissful?


A good friend, C., flashed a comment on Twitter recently about her gentleman caller. Piqued, I wrote her a note2 with only the words, “Who is this gentleman caller??” A week or so later, we gossiped online, though privately, about her new love life. He was a local to her boy. He had pursued her for some time, they met, fireworks occurred, and now they are a couple.

I was thrilled for her. C. is one of those people you KNOW is going to get snapped up by some lucky person and it finally happened. I am a nosey wench so I poked and prodded about their love life, how they were doing, any future plans, that kind of thing. C. and I may both be in our 40s, but it is never too old to gossip about lovers like we did in high school. (There are a lot of things we never grow out or tired of.)

Form C.’s side, there was a lot of swoony hearts emoji when the gentleman caller did something to win her affections. I loved and still love talking to her about him because her happiness is so infectious. C. never struck me as a person who needed others to make her happy but with a new lover, I needed sunglasses from her thousands of miles away glow.

But this is not about that story.

What struck me, and got me thinking the most about these new developments, was C.’s discussion of at least one of her local friends seemed to be getting tired of C.’s delight in talking about C.’s gentleman caller. We’ve all been there – we meet someone we think is the bee’s knees, everything they do is perfection personified, and all we want to do is talk about them. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, everyone who has ever been romantically involved has done it.3 And we all know of that one person or maybe several who get tired of our nattering and want us to quietly shut the fuck up. The reasons for our friend’s behaviour can range from general annoyance or bitterness at their own life.

Just like gushing about our new lovers when we meet them, we are bitter cynics when the relationship ends. We are done for; relationships are terrible; love is a joke and so on. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, everyone who has ever been romantically involved has done it. (See 3 below.)

I totally got where this friend was coming from — hell, I’ve been in that position recently myself and one could argue I’m still there. The last 18 months have been both the most wonderful and the worst in my life. I can still taste the heady high when TheBassist and I found each other again and I can still feel the deepening well of pain when we split. I’ve seen both sides of the coin in such a short amount of time, I could commiserate.

As C. and I talked about her gentleman caller, I mulled over the info she dropped about her cynical friend. I cannot lie and say I didn’t feel these feelings myself at that very moment — I fucking totally did. But a new thought came into my head as we talked: Was C. happy? Yes. Was her happiness important to me? Also yes. Why was I letting my own bitter heart take away her moment? I was being selfish and laying my own heartache to dampen C.’s excitement for gentlemen lover. Was that fair? Fuck no. So then I stopped.

Seriously, I just stopped thinking bitter and cynical things about my own life in comparison to hers. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. Was I bitter and angry at my own les amours? Yep. Was regret hanging out somewhere there too? Probably.

But this wasn’t about me, it was about C. Making it about me was one of the worst things I could do for her and it needed to be about her. I was also mindful this was not some kind of manipulation on my own part about the situation. I didn’t tell her what was running through my head, I didn’t give her lip service about her dating life, I just let her be and encouraged her to tell me more about her gentleman caller because it made her happy.

Is this humility?


Back to the posited statement and also a question: How does one just shut the fuck up and be happy? As you’ve probably get the gist of my thoughts on these topics lately, I hate, HATE, websites and authors and etc who slap on a one size fits all balm on what makes someone happy, grateful, or whatever. We’re told over and over again happiness and the 48 other terms are ours for a short step away. Do this thing. Buy that thing. Wear that thing. But our happiness is not one size fits all. What makes C. happy doesn’t necessarily make me happy and vice versa. We can be supportive of that person’s happiness but we are under no obligation to replicate what makes them happy in our own lives.

What these gurus also fail to tell you is happiness is hard work. It’s fucking really hard work and it will never fucking end. It will be painful and you’re going to want to smack people in the head. There will be times when jealousy reigns supreme or envy takes over your heart. You’re going to be spitting nails at your lover or willing your boss into a cave deep in the mountains.

And you know what? This is normal. Happiness is not a 24/7 thing. We’re human. We’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to fall down. A lot. You’re going to have days of glory. A lot. But what you do with what you learned, like me figuring out C.’s happiness in that moment was number one thing, is what’s going to make all the difference in the world.

And remember we are not perfect.

No matter what that guru tells you, we are not perfect. But do look for the times when small joys, no matter how  silly they may seem, make you smile. That is happiness. Whether it’s the smile of the stranger, the look of a lover, or the smell of freshly cut grass. The goal is to bridge more of these small things into larger and longer things. Look for those moments because they are everywhere.

And that right there, is the big fucking key.

And if you need a reminder, just learn to:

let that shit go


When TheBassist and I began again, he kept talking about coming to fetch me from Michigan to East Coast because that is what he does. I thought it charming and enduring but as the time moved forward, I could see his frustration. I kept leaving and he kept fetching me. The cycle was never ending.

I kept leaving and he kept fetching.

When the relationship ended, I remember he commented he needed to advocate for himself. Now, six months later, I understand what he meant. In that time since then, I held strong to the belief that it was I who needed to fetch him. Even if he kept leaving, I would always fetch him.

Today as I was running errands, a thought occurred to me that it was not one fetching the other. No, it was me fetching myself. He couldn’t do it. My therapists couldn’t do it. I had to do it on my own.

In that second I smiled and I was happy.

xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 2000, 1997


1. I am not joking. I have a piece of paper with 49 descriptors in that same vein on those related topics. And I’m sure there is more.
2. By “wrote her a note” I mean I put pen to a notecard, put the notecard into an envelope, added a stamp, and tossed it into a mailbox to wing its way to her. Not only is she an online BFF, she’s also one of my penpals.
3. If someone has taken a lover at some point in their life and has not bragged near and far about their partner, they are lying through their fucking teeth.
4. While I have been diagnosed by at least four separate doctors over 25 years I am bipolar, ADHD, borderline, and have general anxiety, what sets me apart from others with my gifts is I don’t exhibit traditional destructive behaviours. I don’t drink, do drugs, have wontan sex partners, or anything construed to dangerous. This is why I am a science experiment.

 

Want to be the first in the know when a new entry posts?
Subscribe to the mailing list, Bloglovin’, or
follow via RSS. Want Lisa goodness but less
frequently? Subscribe to A Most Unreliable Narrator.
Want to start at the beginning?
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