Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Physical Fitness

I just upgraded to my 2.0 version

I’ve been having a rough time lately with, well, lots of things. The low grade depression I’ve been experiencing for over a year–it might be two at this point–is more noticeable and yet….It’s hard to explain. I’m not outwardly depressed, but my body has been wrecked for a while now. The last week, I’ve been sleeping seven to nine hours a night except for two nights, and that’s a lot of sleep for me if I’m not sick. Am I? I don’t know. My nose is a bit prickly and my throat is a bit gummy, but nothing more than that. Oh, and I’m exhausted, but that’s par the course for me.

In addition, we’re renovating the house, which means I have to clean the bedrooms. I’m a slob. This is not an easy task. Well, one of the three rooms is clean, so that one is fine. My bedroom is a disaster area, and my computer room is worse. I’ve been working on my bedroom employing different strategies. The first was to do something every time I got up to do something else. Throw the clothes on the floor down the chute. Pick up papers from the floor. Or, in the case of my computer room, gather up all the stuffed animals. Then, I started to be more specific and take on larger chunks. Fill up this storage box with books from the bookshelf in my room. It’s a small bookshelf, but it’s already filled two medium-ish size storage containers. Today, I’m going to focus on cleaning out the top row and making sure everything is off the floor. Tomorrow, I’m going to tackled my desk. Which means getting more storage containers. Which means going to Target. I also need to get masks because there is a lot of dust I’m stirring around. A LOT.

I’ve heard of the Pomodoro method which is setting a timer for fifteen minutes and then doing whatever for that amount of time. The theory being that once you start, you’ll keep going. Or, if you don’t, at least you got fifteen minutes done. It’s a good method, but it still felt overwhelming enough that I chose to do it my own way. The bottom line is that if I put any kind of stricture on it, I wouldn’t have done anything. Now, I’m nearly done with my bedroom, and it’s more work than I’ve done on that room in over a year. The trouble is that I can only do so much in a given day, and it’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because of all my health issues. Which I’m still having a difficult time grasping as ok. Or rather, I’m having a hard time not thinking it’s all in my mind.

My family is very pro-work yourself into a grave. Both my parents work way more than they should, and when my father was forced to retire, he withered until he started an association into which he pours all his time, energy, and heart. My mom will never retire and if she does, she’ll volunteer most of the time, anyway. My brother works fifty to sixty hours a week and seems to have all his spare time crammed with interesting activities. Me, on the other hand, spends most of my time plunked on my couch. The work I’ve been doing on my rooms has been difficult, and it doesn’t help that I’m chastising myself for not doing more.


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Being challenged physically and emotionally

Day three or four of waking up with a migraine. I’m lucky in that I can stand reading and writing when I have a migraine, but I have to keep all the lights off and any sound I have on low. Even then, I have a low level thumping in my brain and a general queasiness. Still, I consider myself very fortunate that I can function at all when I have a migraine; I know many people can’t. I just went to the store to stock up for Snowmaggedon (current prediction 7 to 12 inches, but it’s been all over the place), and I’m exhausted. That’s the downside to trying to operate while migraining–it takes everything out of me. Again, I’m lucky that I can function at all, but now I’m down for the rest of the day.

Is this my life? For the past few years, I feel as I’ve been operating at 75% or less* more often than not. I have a few days or weeks of feeling good, and then it all comes crashing down around me again. I know I need to get a thorough slate of tests, but I’m just…so tired. Going to the doctor is an ordeal for me in the best of times, which this is not. Why? For a plethora of reasons. Let’s start with the fact that I had thyroid troubles since I was young. I was hyperthyroid, though I didn’t know it at the time. I just new I was hot and cranky and couldn’t sleep. There were other reasons for it, of course, but the big one was discovering I had Graves’ disease when I was a tweener. Back then, it wasn’t really well understood (this was in the mid-eighties), and they treated it by shoving pills down my throat. I’m not sure what they were, exactly, but I was taking 27 pills a day. Nine pills three times a day. That didn’t work because my whatever levels were extraordinarily high. They decided they needed to go to the nuclear option (literally?) of radiation. They were quite forthright about the fact that they were giving me their best estimate, but that radiation wasn’t precise. Most likely, they were going to give me too much and destroy my thyroid. This is exactly what happened, and now I have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life.

During that time and thereafter, I had to get my blood drawn quite often. It was on a monthly basis for a while, and I have terrible veins. Again, this isn’t something I knew before I had to have my blood drawn so regularly, but I came away from it quite wary of anyone poking me with a needle (except my tattoo artist). I have many negative memories of that time, including the (male) nurse who insisted he could find my vein from inside my arm and kept wiggling it. It hurt like a motherfucker until I wanted to punch him. He kept saying he wanted to not poke me again (to prevent further pain), but at that point, I would have welcomed a thousand extra pricks. I mentioned that he’s male because the other time I had a really difficult poker was after I was in a car accident. The person doing the MRI was a man, and he was pissed that I hadn’t been poked already before I got to him. He was grumbling the whole time he poked me, and I ended up bruised and sore.

Side note: I am keloid. This is yet another thing I learned through experience. This means that I scar twice as bad as other people, and any time I got my blood drawn, I ended up with a massive bruise that lasted several days if not a week. I still have to get my blood drawn every year, and I tell the phlebotomist to use a butterfly needle and take it from the back of my hand. I don’t know when I learned this was a thing, but when I did, it was a life-changer. I remember a feeling of awe as my blood flowed with ease from the back of my hand. And, the prick was nothing–I barely felt it at all. I still have a few phlebotomists who insist on doing it the old-fashioned way first, but they always come around to the butterfly needle in the hand trick.


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I got my weapons on my mind

Let’s talk weapons. Not the gun kind that has been making the news with distressing frequency, but the kind that doesn’t shoot projectiles at a high velocity. We’re talking swords, sabres, canes, and fans. We’re also talking escrima sticks and karambits. I mentioned this before, but I want to delve more into it.

I never wanted to try weapons when I first started taiji. While I was all about the martial arts application, I thought weapons were…uncivilized. More than that, they scared me. I was a ball of rage at that time, and I felt if I did weapons, I would just beat the shit out of everyone with said weapons. It wasn’t rational, but it was how I felt. I kept a tight rein on my anger, but when I slipped, it exploded all over the place.

I’ve told this story a million times, but I fobbed off my teacher every time she brought up weapons for an uncomfortable amount of time. It was only when she put a wooden sword into my hand that I realized what the fuck I had been missing. The second I closed my fingers over the hilt of the sword, I knew this was what I was meant to do. It felt like an extension of my arm, and I bought my stainless steel sword pretty soon after.

I would like to say that I practiced diligently once I started learning the Sword Form, but this isn’t a fairy tale, and I didn’t experience a radical personality change. I still dragged my feet, but I *did* enjoy learning the Sword Form more than I did the Solo Form. I learned it fairly quickly, and I loved every minute of it. When I was learning the Solo Form, there were several times I questioned what the fuck I was doing and why the hell I was doing this thing called taiji? I don’t mind saying (and my teacher doesn’t mind hearing) that I resented the hell out of taiji, and one of the reasons I went to more than one class a week is because I didn’t practice at home at all.

Side Note: I have a new classmate who is challenging to me for many reasons. The one I’m going to focus on this right now is because she’s so gung-ho about taiji, especially weapons. I am the weapons person in my class, and it’s a poke to my ego to see her learning them before knowing the whole Solo Form. Back when I started taiji, my teacher was told by her teacher that weapons could not be taught until after the Solo Form. That is no longer the case, and while I think it’s a good change, it’s hard for me not to feel resentful. I know I sound very much ‘back in my day’ about it, but it doesn’t help to hide it. I try not to have attitude around her, but it’s difficult.

Anyway, after the Sword Form came the Sabre Form, and that was a rocky road. It was nothing like the Sword Form, which shocked the hell out of me. Ignorant me thought, “Hey, it’s just a slightly bigger sword. It should be a snap.” It was not a snap. Not a snap at all. It was the opposite of a snap, and it upset me. There are very few things I’m proud of when it comes to myself, and one of them is that I learn things quickly*. Whereas the sword instantly felt at home in my hand, the sabre was just…dead wood. It never came alive. It never sang to me. It never thrummed with excitement, and I hated it.

I can say that now because I am past that hate and the resentment. Way past it, but I’ll get to that in a second.


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Chasing a unicorn

I’m fat. I know I’ve said this before, but it really hit home when I looked at the pictures of me from my niece’s wedding shower. Related, I looked up someone from college who I had a big crush on, and he looks fantastic. He’s two years older than I am, but he looks like he’s in his early thirties. I mean, I look younger than I am, too, but I’m still fat. Come to think of it, he’s also Asian, so maybe it’s partly our good genes. Anyway, I looked gargantuan in the pics. It’s partly because my niece is slim and gamine-like, but it’s also just that I’m fat. Have I said it often enough? I am fat.

I have spent almost thirty years battling eating disorders of one kind or another. Actually, my disordered relationship with food started ten years before that when my mother put me on my first diet with the words, “You would be so pretty if you would just lose weight.” I’ve also recounted my mother’s disordered thinking when it comes to her body and food, but I can’t emphasize how much it’s seeped into my subconsciousness. There was a stretch of time when every time we talked on the phone, she would mention her weight. She, of course, insists it’s all about health (also the excuse she gives for nagging about my weight until I put my foot down), but I realized it was bullshit because she never once voiced any concern when I was anorexic (both times). The only thing she said was, “Now your waist is skinnier than mine”, and it was in a jealous voice. The first time I deal with anorexia and bulimia, I got caught throwing up in the bathroom, and my mother was brought in to talk about it. I don’t remember how that actually came about, but I do remember my mom was not pleased and did not want to do anything about it. I’m sure it was embarrassing for her and that I brought  shame to the family. But, it also was chickens coming home to roost or however that phrase goes.

Anyway. The second bout with anorexia/bulimia included me fainting at First Ave. for a Los Lobos side project concert. Which was very disappointing because I admire Los Lobos so much. After that, I gave up on ‘dieting’ because I just could not do it in a responsible way. No matter how rationally I started (I will be honest that I wasn’t all that rational at the start of the second round, but I had at least tried not to be crazed), I spiraled out as the weeks progressed. I clearly remember how I set a goal of 150 lbs, and when I got to 155, I dropped my goal to 145. I kept doing that until I passed out.

Here’s the thing. I can’t do numbers. I don’t mean I can’t do math because of course I can. I like math. I liked everything except geometry and trig 2, and the latter was because of the teacher. I mean I can’t do numbers when I’m dieting because I lose all sense of proportion. During my first bout with anorexia/bulimia, I weighed myself twice a day. Now, this isn’t good in general, and it’s definitely not good for someone with disordered thinking. It’s not good in general because a person’s weight fluctuates on a daily basis. All the health rags say you should only weigh yourself once a week if you weigh yourself at all. It should be more about the clothing fitting better is the new train of thought, and while it’s better, it’s still too much emphasis on the actual weight loss. The second time I tried to lose weight, I tried to rely more on tape measurements than pounds, but it didn’t matter. I knew an inch was equal to five pounds, so if I didn’t lose a half inch a week, I’d be very depressed.


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Leveling up my veggie game

though not quite as tasty.
Better for me than chips.

I need to stop buying chips; I really do. I had given them up at some point, then gave into the impulse to buy them once, and the rest is history. It’s funny because while giving up caffeine was a nightmare at the time, I haven’t really missed it at all. I bought a thing of mocha coffee (with almond milk) last week, drank it for three days, then didn’t miss it when it was gone. Chips, on the other hand, are my weakness. Which is weird because I never used to be a salt person. I’m still not actually a salt person. I don’t add it to anything, and I wipe off my chips before I eat them. Or I get low-sodium chips.

I know the conventional wisdom is to eat in moderation, but that’s just not possible for me. I think another conventional wisdom should be to know thyself. One of the problems with giving advice, especially on the internet, is that the giver tends to look at the ideal situation. Look, you know I love me some advice columns. I consider them my stories, and I read them every day. But many of the comments are very black and white without considering the nuance. So, ‘eat in moderation’ is sound advice, but insisting that someone can do it through simple willpower isn’t.

Yes, of course, I know it’s because most people are limited in their capacity to look outside themselves (one reason I get so frustrated with conversations) and have a hard time truly understanding that other people may react to something differently than they do. I saw that in the Ask A Manager comments once when someone was talking about not being able to have their favorite junk food in the house because they had no control. People made sensible suggestions like divvying it up beforehand and freezing the parts you don’t immediately eat (in the case of chocolate) or hiding it away (for chips), which were very good suggestions. The problem is for someone like me–I won’t do it. I just know I won’t. We’re not always rational beings, and it’s difficult to explain why.

For example. One time while my mother was here, she said if I folded the paper bags from Cubs correctly before putting them in the cabinet, they would take up less space. Later, I told Ian that she was correct, and that I wouldn’t be doing that. He gave me a look of pure puzzlement. He said, “You know she’s right, and yet, you won’t do it?” I cheerfully said, “Yep!”, which just blew his mind. I knew it was irrational, but in that case, I also knew the reason why. Pure childish spite.

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Trying to be positive about health

I’ve been struggling with diet-related issues for some time now. By diet, I mean what I eat in general, not any specific diet. I don’t follow diets because that way lies danger for me. In fact, that’s one of the issues I have in trying to eat more healthily. I can’t count anything because it starts me down the road to an eating disorder. My brain has so many ways to trick me when it comes to eating disorders, and it’s part of my all-or-nothing personality. If I do something, I’m going to DO IT ALL THE WAY. The last time I tried to diet, I set it up in what I told myself was a reasonable way, but it wasn’t. And it only got even more unreasonable the longer I did it. I can’t weigh myself because of the numbers as well. I get too focused on them, and I get obsessed with them going down on a regular basis. The first time I slipped into an eating disorder, I was weighing myself twice a day, which is madness. It’s ridiculous for many reasons, but the biggest was that my mood would be entirely dependent upon what that number on the scale said.

The common advice for people who can’t handle the numbers on the scale is to only take your measurements instead. Boobs, waist, hips. In theory, it makes sense because those are truer numbers than the ones on the scale. Because muscle is denser than fat, you can weigh more and still be thinner, er, healthier at a higher weight than a lower one. There are a few issues with this. One, I know how much each half inch represents in terms of pounds. For me, a half inch is two-and-a-half pounds. So, I knew that when I lost a half inch (usually every week), it was two-and-a-half pounds. I would freak out if I didn’t lose the half inch, which meant I was just substituting one number for another.

I used to know the calorie count of everything I ate, and it was not a good thing. It’s why I don’t like having the calorie count so prominent on foods these days, even though I understand the reason behind it. In general, I think it’s a good thing for most people who may not be aware of how small a portion is or what the ballpark is for the calorie count of, say, a bagel. In addition, portion sizes are huge in America when we go out to eat, so it can be bracing to see the calorie count on the menu. I’ve learned how to stridently ignore the numbers, but it takes a considerable amount of mental energy to do so.

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With age, hopefully, comes wisdom

 

but not when i first wake up.
All of this looks soooooo good.

I’ve been thinking lately about all the things I learned as a kid that are not relevant to me now. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to stick with the ideas related to health, mental and physical.

1. When and how I eat. If you’re around my age (late forties), I’m sure you were taught the four food groups, how much you should eat of each, that you should eat three square meals a day, and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that all of this is different now. Some of it is just science. There are now five groups (fruits and veggies got split up), and in the old days it was 4-4-3-2, that’s the way to eat for you (or something like that). I don’t remember which number goes with what group, but that was taught to me as a kid. Now, it’s ounces/cups per day, and the amount of each group has changed. I don’t have an issue with that. Things change over time.

When I should eat has always been a struggle for me. I don’t like to eat when I first awake, and usually it’s more than an hour after I get up before I’m even remotely hungry. In addition, I take a medication that requires that you don’t eat for an hour after you take it.

Side note: It would have been nice for my first doctor to tell me that when I was fourteen–which was when I first started having to take this med. He didn’t, though, and he was a bad doctor all around. Then again, he might have said it and I didn’t listen because I was overwhelmed with the new information and was exceedingly depressed at the time. Either way, it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that my (new and great) doctor told me that I wasn’t supposed to take the medication with an hour of eating.

Anyway, I sometimes don’t eat for hours after I awake. It just depends. I have a history of eating disorders, so I’m trying to honor my body by eating only when I’m hungry. It doesn’t work all the time (or even most), but I’m working on it. As for the three square meals thing, I’ve found that I feel better if I eat a little bit several times a day rather than a lot three times a day. I think it makes more sense, too, to keep my hunger at a reasonable level, rather than have a feast or famine mentality. When I go out to eat, I never eat more than half, especially if I order an appetizer and/or dessert. I don’t like feeling stuffed, so it’s easier for me to eat many times a day.

I also have to take into account all my sensitivities. I’ve been gluten-free/dairy-free for almost two years, and I’m currently troubleshooting what else is wrong with me. Food-wise, I mean. I thought it was nuts, but now I’m finding it’s not. It might be hydrogenated oil? I’m not sure. I haven’t had a serious stomach issue in a week or two, which is nice, but I would like to pinpoint what made it happen.

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The pain of my weight

fuuuuuuck!
Itme begging for mercy.

Still having birthday thoughts (not thought about my birthday, but thoughts stemming from it being my birthday), and since today is Wellness day, let’s talk about health.

Currently, my back is giving me hell. Let me clarify: My back always gives me hell one way or the other. I store my tension in my back (and my shoulders), and I didn’t feel it for a few decades because I froze out my entire body. My taiji teacher has a saying that she got from her teacher–the first sign of relaxation is when you notice the tension. Most of us are so tense all the time, we don’t realize it any longer. We kinda block it out until something reminds us.

I’ve been working diligently on my back issues, and it’s much better than it used to be. However, I still had a problem in which I have a lower back spasm that came maybe a dozen times a week. It wasn’t too bad–it basically just caused me to clench up for a brief second, then it’d go away. I do a bunch of stretches every morning that are solely to help my back. They’ve kept the pain at bay–mostly.

Then, last night, I got up from the couch (I sit sideways so my legs are out in front of me. Shadow likes to perch on my legs as I type) and my back spasmed so hard, I screamed out loud. Not grunted. Not a ladylike yelp, but a full-body scream. Like I’m a cheerleader in a horror movie scream. I wasn’t *trying* to scream like that–it was ripped from the back of my throat. Every time I shifted, it would happen. I screamed so much, I scared my cat.

I don’t feel regular pain. I trained myself to block it out when I was a child. This pain was unblockable, and it was intense. I did not want to move at all because it hurt so much. When I was changing pants and standing on my right leg, the leg buckled as my back spasmed again. I almost fell to the ground but managed to stop in time. The pain was literally breathtaking, and I found myself moving much more slowly because I didn’t want to feel it again.

It was a warning sign to me that I had to change the way I sit. Right now, I am sitting the proper way on the couch with both my feet on the ground. Shadow is sitting to the right of me, gently thumping his tail. He tried to sit on my chest, but he didn’t have as much purchase as he would if I were lying down. I don’t think he’s mad at me, but I feel guilty, anyway.

This morning, I woke up to the same spasms. They were quite as bad as they were last night, but still caused me to double over. I did the series of back-stretching I do every other day (because I don’t love it), and the pain went away. Not completely, but roughly 80% gone. It truly was a miracle, and now, I’m going to do these exercises every day. I may do them several times a day. It truly feels like a miracle. I was not looking forward to another day of spasming and crabbing my way along, and it feels good. I still have the smaller spasms, but I can deal with that. I’m determined to make changes so I’ll never have to feel that kind of pain again.

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I need a doctor

I’ve been feeling pretty shitty lately, and I’ve been open about it–here. Not in my real life because I keep that shit to myself. I wish I could talk about it, but it goes against everything I was taught. My mom has been calling me more often lately, and it’s mostly to complain about my father. Sometimes, she will perfunctorily ask me how I’m doing, but even when I answer with anything other than ‘ok’, she’ll move it right along to whatever is on her mind.

Side Note: My father is a raging narcissist, and I’ve known this since I was a little girl. I might not have had the term for it, but I knew he was a self-centered man to the extreme. What I didn’t realize until very much later, maybe my thirties, is that my mother is self-absorbed as well. I wouldn’t say she’s as extreme as my father as she has some self-awareness, but she can’t see other people’s points of view very well, either, even if she keeps it to herself more. One time, she asked how I was doing. I said I had a cold, and after a minute of sympathy, she segued into how she had had a cold as well. Then, she was off and running about her travails with my father.

Side Note to the Side Note: I’ve gotten sucked back into being her confidante. I’d done better at setting boundaries, back when we had a more fractured relationship, but now that I’ve moved past much of the turmoil of our earlier relationship and let go of a lot of my resentment (which translates in me snapping much less at her), she’s taken to dumping all her problems on me again. It’s frustrating for more than one reason. One, I’m her child. Yes, I’m an adult and an Old, but I’m still her kid. I don’t necessarily want or need to hear about her problems at length, especially with my father.

Two, she has no intention of doing the hard work that would actually make her marriage better for her without sacrificing more and more of herself. She said something about her ‘not being allowed’ to do something or the other in her marriage, and I pointed out that she *could* do it, but it would just make my father extremely unpleasant to deal with. He’s learned that if he throws a big enough temper tantrum, he’ll get his way. He’s can be very cruel and downright mean when he wants to, and my mother is extremely conflict-avoidant as am I. She knows she’s enabling him. She knows that she’s rewarding his bad behavior when she does what he wants when he throws a tantrum, but she’s been doing it for fifty years.

Three, I know way too much about my parents’ marriage now, and there’s the added fact that there’s an elephant in the room as my mother pisses and moans about my father. His mistress. Who might or might not be his mistress any longer but who is still heavily involved in his project and therefore, they talk for hours every day. Yeah, they’re still involved, even if it’s not physical. I know about it because of his hubris (as I’ve explained in past posts), and my mother knows about it because she’s not stupid. She won’t actually say it, however, and when I’ve sideways confronted her about it, she’s both deflected and talked about it (without actually naming it) in equal amounts.


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My body hates me–and the feeling is mutual

I hate my body right now. This is not unusual for me as I’ve hated it for most of my life. I was a chubby kid starting when I was seven for many reasons, and my mother put me on my first diet. One of the things I remember her saying from that time was, “You have such a beautiful face if only you weren’t so chubby.” She was a big believer in vegetables and fruits, and she didn’t allow much junk in the house. All of this started me down the road of body shame to the point of body dysmorphia, It also gave me a food hoarder mentality, and I still don’t like to share my food.

Side Note: My mother has had body issues my whole life as well (yes, my life. I don’t know about life before me, obviously, but I suspect it was there from the start). She’s tiny–roughly 5’3″ and petite. She’s been heavier in the past, and she’s always obsessed with losing five pounds. It doesn’t help that she comes from a culture that is even more oppressive about women being fat (Taiwan) than America’s, so it’s something she unthinkingly handed down to me.

It shows up in small ways as well as big ones. Such as her talking about her diet whenever she was on one (which was basically thirty years). It was her policing my food to the point that I didn’t eat fruits and/or vegetables for years in my thirties because I was so pissed off about it. It was tricksy as her adopting the tone of ‘I’m only concerned about your health’ when I confronted her about it. Fortunately, I knew that was bullshit because she never said a word when I was anorexic/bulimic other than to comment jealously how my waist was smaller than hers.

It got so bad, I had to explicitly tell her that she couldn’t talk about my weight (this was when I was at my heaviest). Predictably, that’s when she wanted to make it about my health. Hell, she probably even believed it, but as I noted, she never had a problem with me being dangerously skinny other than to envy me, so it’s never been about my health. It’s been about how she hates having a big fat galoot of a woman for a daughter–except, she can’t handle having a too-small woman as her daughter, either. I don’t know what ‘just right’ would have been, but I suspect she didn’t know, either. It wasn’t about me, you see–it was about her.


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