Archives for posts with tag: self esteem

“Every tree has got her root and every girl forbidden fruit
And has her demons.
And the path I chose to go,a different girl so long ago,I had my reasons. In all the black, in all the grief… I am redeemed.” -Charlotte Martin

Are all sins or mistakes ones from which we can gain redemption? Are there ones that are so malicious and so far-reaching; negative actions that affect so many that they are beyond the parameters of gaining any sort of redemption? Can anyone be saved or is it just not in the nature of some?

I’m inclined to think that nearly everyone can be redeemed; that everyone can change. But, let me qualify that statement with the following: everyone can change, but not everyone will. An important, albeit slight, differentiation.

There actions perpetrated by others that have caused me immense pain; that have left an indelible mark on my psyche and have colored the eras that proceeded them. I suffered painful and searing betrayal, deceit and abuse. There were years that I found myself fighting a constant inner battle to wrest control of my life from the victimizations of my past.

Like an exhausting tug of war, I strained myself for years before I gained any semblance of well-deserved peace.

And then there were my own wrongdoings. Now those were demons that required every ounce of my inner fortitude to surmount.

And it’s a process. It’s not overnight. It’s not instantaneous. It’s an arduous, ongoing, time-consuming, growth-inducing experience that involves days, weeks, months even years of your life. It’s the journey that makes the ultimate destination less and less predictable and less and less relevant.

This is what I do–literally–daily:

I look in my mirror and I imagined myself garbed in some sexy–albeit highly-effectual warrior costume composed of some mystical leather-esque material capable of deflecting deadly onslaughts from my wily, demonic enemies.

Something very Lara-Croft-meets-Keira-Knightly-in-King-Arthur.

I give myself a rallying pre-battle pep talk. It entails a list (some days I come up with longer ones than others) of my greatest attributes; of all the trying hardships that lie conquered in my past. A sort of, “Hey, Holl, you can totally do this! You’ve already been through so much more, etc. etc.”

Then I imagine myself slaying these metaphorical dragons and mounting them on the imaginary walls of the great trophy room in my mind.

A current dragon, cancer, has a place already awaiting its anticipated arrival post-battle.

This visualization makes me giggle, it ratchets up my confidence, it induces strength.

I find the process of overcoming my trials and flaws gives me perspective; it allows me the opportunity to gain forgiveness for myself and others and that–I’m discovering is the key to finding peace.

The years are great teachers, so are our enemies. Struggles and trials serve an effective, though mildly- irritating, tool for growth. And, ‘growth,’ is just another name for happiness.

So I work on redeeming myself from my past wrongs and simultaneously endeavor to offer that same courtesy to others when my human heart can. I am not always successful; in fact as I write this I’m somewhat mired in a place of mild self-criticism. But it’ll pass. I’ll work through it.

I am nothing if not resourceful and tenacious. Some call it stubborn. I call it adorable.;)

So, because I can’t over-state it, let me publish again–forever to nestle its place into the world of all things cyber:

I am a work in progress.

I’m growing increasingly more comfortable with that.:)
XOXO

hollie

“For my part I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.” -Adlai E. Stevenson


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“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you imagined.”-Henry David Thoreau

Inspiration is everywhere. Everywhere. It lies dormant in every fragment of the human experience and in the simplest, most mundane of interactions. I found a sliver of it recently at

Taco Bell.

Recently my hunger-ravaged tummy found itself jonesing for a Beefy 5-Layre Burrito, so I took Agnes, the Rover, for a short drive to the nearby Taco Bell. (Spelling layer, “layre,” makes me feel like I’m eating foreign fare rather than something that is likely laden with trans fat and sub-standard ingredients. Is it obvious yet that I have a tendency toward over-thinking?)

Because the drive-thru line was abnormally long, I ventured into the establishment in hopes of procuring said burrito. Made nearly opaque with grimy fingerprints and smears of heaven knows what, the glass door presented a germophobe, such as myself, with a serious quandary: do I forgo burrito bliss in an attempt to avoid touching the handle that without a doubt harbors at least as much bacteria as the door’s windowed surface? Or do I chance dying of some communicable disease spread by people who at best wash their hands every other day then go to public places and insist on spreading their disgusting germs for all of the rest of us to contract? Yes it’s mean, but so is spreading E. coli.

I felt like I was in a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” book (which, consequently, I consider to be some of the finest American literature to ever hit bookstores) and was faced with a decision that could either lead me to the unraveling of a sordid and exciting mystery, or guide me to a certain death.

I decided to take a chance and enter the fast-food, “restaurant.” Does anyone else think that when fast-food establishments are referred to as, “restaurants,” that perhaps that’s a liberal use of the term? I generally reserve the term, “restaurant,” for places where the “furniture,” (another liberal use of the word) is not composed of some hard plastic that likely will be discovered to exude copious amounts of carcinogens.

At any rate, after braving the door handles of not one, but two doors (why do they have to have double doors? Is is just to ensure that you have double the opportunity to contract H1N1?) I headed in the direction of the counter. Bedecked in a color scheme of teal, mauve and a lovely shade of peach, Taco Bell was the perfect picture of late-eighties, southwest decor. Planters teeming with faux greenery that unsuccessfully attempted to “cascade, ” from their boxes, adorned the tops of pony walls designed to guide throngs of eager eaters into a serpentine line where they were expected to await their turn at ordering all the tacos and burritos their expanding waistlines could handle.

As I waited for the woman ahead of me to conclude her ordering, I watched as the employee struggled with the cash register. “I’m sorry,” the employee apologized. “It’s my first day.”

There are certain things that a person can say that will IMMEDIATELY garner my complete understanding and unparalleled sympathy. “It’s my first day,” is one of them. I have had enough jobs (I often tell people that short of pole-dancing and prostitution, I’ve done it all. Hyperbole, of course, but it certainly elicits an entertaining response.;)) that my heart goes out to anyone making a concerted effort to forge a path for themselves in a new, “career.” Again, perhaps liberal use of the word, but to each his/her own.

Once my turn arrived, the employee and I engaged in the banter of ordering and discussing the difficulties of beginning new employment when, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a woman–the manager–watching the exchange. I noted immediately the high cheekbones and fine brow of the manager. She also had the most beautiful eyes. They were a crystalline shade of smokey gray and had the most indefinable twinkle.  Her lips were this pale shade of mauve and curved to a perfect pout.  She looks like a she could be a model, I thought. I hadn’t noticed that she had been studying me as closely as I had her.

“You are such a beautiful young woman,” she said to me. “And you have amazing eyes.” Okay, so that was weird. She was thinking some of the same things about me that I had about been thinking about her. You know what else was funny? That the most flattering thing about her compliment was not that she called me, “beautiful,” but rather that she called me, “young woman.” I guess my vanity’s leaning in the direction of preserving my youth at this stage of the game.:)

We began a brief, but enlightening conversation in which I returned her compliments with even greater emphasis than she had delivered hers.  Then things became decidedly unexpected. Delightfully unexpected.

After I told her for probably the third time how beautiful her eyes were, she said matter-of-factly, “I used to be a model.” Well duh, I thought. Of course you were. That much seemed obvious. The trainee who had rung me up, however, found this little revelation to be shocking and made no attempt to disguise that fact. Her mouth parted and her eyes widened and the surprise her face wore was nothing short of insulting. Turning to address her subordinate, the manager spoke with an amusing sense of irony.

“I haven’t always worn a Taco Bell uniform,” the manager said, her voice barely able to contain a cynical laugh

I haven’t always worn a Taco Bell uniform. The words bounced around in my brain like an echo in a cathedral. Sure, that was clear, but there was something in the way she said that incredibly obvious statement that made it seem so much more poignant. Something only her voice, her tone, her inflection could convey.

And I walked, then, my steps heavy with thought. I absently planted myself in a hard, plastic seat enmeshed in layers of filth and bacteria and assimilated the story that I had just heard. I cannot look at people and not wonder at their stories. I can’t help but find my mind meandering down silly paths of, “I wonder if…” But this woman and her life, the twists and turns it had taken that seemed nothing short of unexpected, they somehow struck me with a surprising impact.

As I waited for my number to be called, I watched a man and two sweet little boys arrived. With eyes the color of ash, there was absolutely no mistaking the parentage of the boys. The man and two children were the manager’s family. She beamed at them as she took a break from work to enjoy this unexpected surprise and I watched the scene with rapt attention. There was no wistfulness, no regret, no insecurity in her gray eyes. If there was ever a doubt as to which path she should tread, it seemed to have flown with the arrival of her children.

I just found myself feeling sad, not because I would be arrogant enough to know what’s best for someone else, because the older I get the more that becomes a moot point. And, as I’ve blogged in the past, I would NEVER trade being a mother for anything. The thing that was just a little heartbreaking was that she seemed to have given up on her dreams; that she had written off any life that diverged from her current one.  I think that anyone who works hard to make an honest living is someone to be respected and Lord knows that I’ve had far crappier jobs than nine out of ten people you’ll meet (not, unfortunately, hyperbole) but, I just hate seeing people discount their ambitions and relegate them to a place of impossibility. The annoyingly persistent optimist in me refuses to let that idea go. I understand the need to be realistic and to put food on the table, etc. I have made sacrifices I would never want anyone I care about to have to make . But I know–I know–that there’s something more; that life is more than some pragmatic need to live hand to mouth. It’s not easy–I know that better than most–but I just want so badly to see people move in the direction of their dreams.

At any rate, I guess I just had throw this tale out there into the great recesses of the cyber universe; to know that other people had heard the story of this beautiful woman and her current circumstances. I suppose I just had to express my hopes that, whatever her life becomes, that somehow her dreams find some small place in it. Maybe I’ll be able to use it as an effective reminder to make room for some dreams of my own.:)

XOXO

hollie

“Even if I don’t reach all my goals, I’ve gone higher than I would have if I hadn’t set any.” -Danielle Fotopoulis


“You’re only popular with anorexia, so I turn myself inside out; in hopes someone will see.” -Tori Amos

There’s a societal problem that has become a virulent disease; a pervasive and detrimental ailment striking much our culture, specifically women. The issue at play here is that of body image. Our self esteems have become so intrinsically linked to, not only our appearances, but more accurately our perceptions of our appearances. I think we all know someone whom we consider to be beautiful who insists that she’s not. It’s funny how two relatively sane people can look at the exact same image and see two contrary things. I myself consider my viewpoint to be the tiebreaker and say so on more than one occasion.

It is estimated that one in four female college students engages in at least one form of unhealthy dieting including fasting, excessive exercising, self-induced vomiting (bulimia) and laxative abuse. As a conscience-driven human, this concerns me; as mother of a young daughter, it terrifies me.

I want to take this opportunity to provide a disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been anorexic. As I have a mortal fear of vomiting (God and I have a recently arrived at agreement that this will never be required of me again. I’ll let you know how that goes), I can also attest to the fact that I have never been bulimic.  However, if we’re being honest–let’s face it, I generally am on this blog–I definitely suffered from a recurring fear of weight gain. Not just a fear, rather a phobia. It becomes less and less severe as I age, but for all of my teen years (damn those teen years) and a decent portion of my twenties it was a haunting specter hovering in the rear portion of my mind, mocking me. “What if you become fat?” it taunted, bastard that it was.

In round after round I battled this ghost that seemed determined to get the better of me. Part of my awesomeness I attribute to being stubborn. While stubbornness has an ugly side known as being pigheaded, it has several other less negative adjectives that fall under its umbrella: driven, resilient and tenacious to name a few. It was these more appealing characteristics I endeavored to affect as I fought an exhausting battle to not give into this insidious little monster of poor self esteem. And then the Universe stepped in.

I was given the opportunity to work as a personal trainer and it was a phenomenally cathartic experience. It kind of reminded me of when Scrooge and the ghost of Christmas present go to visit people completely unseen. They witness the tribulations of people and the dire circumstances of lives to which Scrooge had never been privy. I served as a therapist of sorts to the women I worked with and became a spectator in the growth they each were endeavoring to experience, both physically and emotionally. I heard all about marital problems and issues with children as well as the day-to-day struggles involved in losing weight and creating a healthier existence for themselves. In case it wasn’t obvious, I love people and I’m very observant. I love the stories they tell, especially the inadvertent ones. This experience was like hitting emotional pay dirt.

The reasons for poor self esteem, especially as it pertains to body  image, are actually less clear than they usually appear to be on the surface. They often hearken to a time in a person’s past when they were abused, neglected or mocked. Or perhaps experienced a failure so detrimental as to damage them almost irreparably. Coping can take on the form of self-medicating through food and often times there’s an attitude of “I’m not worth being thin,”  or “I’m just fat and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

It breaks my heart that these are attitudes that some of our brains will accept as gospel; that there is anyone on this planet who believes she’s not worthy of being healthy. That there’s anyone who doesn’t deserve to look in the mirror and like what they see, is a sad and frustrating.

Karen Carpenter before (R) and after (L) losing her battle with Anorexia.

We all know the story of Karen Carpenter and her succumbing to the deadly disease of anorexia, but does someone’s suffering ever become cliche?

I have a high self esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of my flaws, perhaps more than most. I just don’t care much. I still have this undercurrent of fear regarding weight gain, because I’ve seen some people very close to me succumb to it and acquire serious health issues as well as an abundance of low self worth. But, overall I”m pretty good at accepting Holl as she is. I work hard to make myself better, but there are days when, after the rituals of daily preparation are completed, I’m surprised when I look in the mirror. I’m surprised that I’m not the physically awkward girl from junior high. That I’m not a head taller than the boys sporting a mess of frizzy hair and a bounty of tiny red facial bumps that can only be attributed to the ever-heinous culprit: eczema. Another instance of not being fair to myself; of not giving myself credit. Of refusing to let go of past self-image issues and embrace my strong suits.

It doesn’t matter whether its our weight, our skin, our teeth, our cup size, if we stay mired in a place of insecurity that place eventually will become one of self-loathing and eventually self-abuse.

So maybe when someone compliments us, we should cleave to those things. Adhere to the good things about each of us. Put them in our journals and shoe boxes; create a life’s scrapbook of all of our successes rather than a tally sheet of failures.  Create a better world for ourselves, our mothers, sisters, friends and especially daughters. One woman at a time.


XOXO


hollie

“Accept yourself as you are right now; an imperfect, changing, growing and worthy person.”  -Denis Waitley

“If we knew what we were truly capable of, we would astonish ourselves.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

I have a secret. It’s a deep, dark, terrible thing; a fear that boldly follows me to the very farthest reaches of my life. It’s viral. It’s insidious: What if I’m not good enough?

There. I said it. Well technically I typed it, which is almost worse because now it’s out there; permanently cataloged in the vast expanses of the cyber universe to be recalled and scrutinized at will. No givesies-backsies. No do-overs.

“What is she thinking?” you wonder. Stick with me and I think I’ll ultimately seem less crazy…perhaps ;o)

It’s a thought that barely occurs to me these days. I’ve never been a person lacking in confidence, but I have definitely been known to be self critical on more than occasion. Thank the Lord for the fact that your twenties don’t last forever. And your teens, well they barely warrant mention these days.

As many of you know, I recently moved and while I was in the throes of packing/unpacking, I ran across an old journal. It’s a veritable treasure trove of emotional exploration, covering the years between high school graduation and my daughter’s toddlerhood.

In it I spied a conversation I once had with a dear, old friend that had been filed away in my brain left to collect the layers of dust provided by years of life’s distractions. I feel compelled to offer a shout out of thanks to the Universe for guiding me back to this memory.

Perched atop the weathered oak of a reliable old bar stool, my friend–we’ll call her Annie–nervously fidgeted with a crumpled piece of paper she clasped in her anxious hand. The paper had definitely seen better days.  I still remember the look in her eyes as she raised them to meet mine–red, swollen, awash with tears, the pigment of her irises seemed so much more vibrant than usual. Annie was not a weak girl; she was tough and bold and daring. She was fearless and strong and this side of Annie was entirely new to me. I watched, a little shocked, as a tear seared a hot path down the contours of her face.  Annie was broken. She was broken and terrified and completely out of her element in this place of emotional vulnerability.

The conversation that followed was one I’ve had more times than I can count. With friends, family and even myself. She proceeded to share with me this great and terrifying secret that she carried around with her–the same one I myself had. This brave, self-assured girl who would later go on to become a confident, happy woman, shared with me her crippling fear of failure; of never being good enough. She told me of incessant self-criticizing thoughts that permeated every aspect of her life. She, like everyone, suffered from periods of insecurity, but hers could , on occasion, become so intense she felt debilitated. I can still feel my heart break a little when I remember the pain imprinted on her face.

The paper, she confided, was a list of reasons why she was an unacceptable girlfriend as provided by her loser ex-boyfriend. She, in her susceptible state, viewed said list as being nothing short of a detailed accounting of her failures as a human being. The two, she was unable to see, were unrelated.

What we discussed that day went a little something like this:

She listed all of her supposed deficiencies that, I suspected, were the same ones enumerated in that damn missive her ex had so compassionately provided her. With each newly-revealed flaw, she became more and more despondent; more and more hopeless. And I grew to love her just a little bit more right then and there. This wonderful friend of mine who had always been characterized by her hardened shell of immunity was now so endearingly susceptible. It made her seem so human and that made her an even more beautiful person to me. I learned a few valuable lessons that day, not the least of which was that strength and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin. Each compliments the other. A genuinely strong person will not see it as weak to, under the appropriate circumstances, disclose portions of him or herself to others simply out of fear of being considered weak or frail.

We muddled through the harrowing business of climbing out of the emotional holes we tend to dig. She regained her composure, but was changed a bit for the experience. She had gained some perspective. We discussed at great length the merits of her character; that she was not only good enough, but that she far exceeded such a trite characterization. We grabbed an old shoe box and I wrote her a new note to replace the crumbled piece of refuse she had clutched so tightly. In my letter, I sang her praises and held a proverbial mirror for her to reference in the future dark spots life would inevitably offer. We laid it into the bottom of the shoe box and I gave her explicit instructions to fill the box, one note, card or memory at a time, with more accurate opinions of her worth as provided by her loved ones.

A year later she paraded the box out for me to see its contents which included birthday cards and snapshots she had sought and received. As well as notes of appreciation penned on sticky notes and a drawing scribbled in crayon by her neice with the words, “To my favorite aunt. I love you!” scrolled across the top.

She wasn’t the same Annie. She was better than ever and radiated the lauded praise of those who knew and loved her best.

So believe in the mantra that you’re good enough as is–damn good enough. Don’t be afraid to be exactly one hundred percent whoever the Universe made you. Whatever you believe of yourself it had better be good, because that’s precisely who you’ll become. Drag yourself, bodily if need be, from the despairing crevice into which you have fallen and trudge the path to a better place knowing all the while that you are without a doubt supremely worthy of whatever wonderful things the world has in store for you. This paragraph exists as much for my benefit as for anyone else’s . ;o)

And if you ever want to, stop by my place and I’ll show you my shoe box. It gets dragged out on occasion when I have a crummy day and need to remind myself of the same things I told Annie all those years ago.

XOXO

hollie

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” -Oscar Wilde


“Self love is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.” – William Shakespeare

It’s been said that life is a series of meetings and partings. We greet new people and circumstances sometimes with enthusiasm, but often with trepidation. I mean who doesn’t have some mortal fear of the unknown? That’s human nature; the evolutionary imperative of fight or flight. We meet people and opportunities and assimilate them into the cozy folds of our life and in relatively short order accustom ourselves to their comforting presence. Even negative forces, parasitic relationships and destructive tendencies cozen their way into our hearts and the protective confines of our existences with alarming ease and somehow force us to become dependent upon their presence.

It’s these more noxious circumstances that are of special relevance to me right now. Less because of my own personal life station and more because of the current state of some of my friends’ lives. While the pain of enduring the negative effects of poor habits and pernicious relationships are always more daunting for those experiencing them firsthand, it is a difficult, often traumatic experience to be on the sidelines watching your dear ones withstand the onslaught of self-destruction. So grab a tea and let’s have an e-intervention.

I am a firm believer in the notion that the majority of poor judgement and life’s greatest woes are to some great degree the result of a lack of confidence; a deficit of self worth. Certainly it doesn’t account for all of life’s painful twists and turns, but I do feel strongly that if people had a greater sense of personal value, we would perhaps not visit so many of the dark places our spirits seem so wont to travel. There is a prevailing misconception that perhaps we would each be happier if only we would be less demanding, less picky; less exacting in our standards. However, that is a fallacy; the great deception. An observation I made some time ago, after much analysis, was that the happiest people I know, have high, but realistic expectations of themselves and those around them. Watch an episode of Jerry Springer and see how a lack of surety regarding one’s worth leads a person to a place of neglect, abuse, and bad hair.

So after watching a dear friend of mine carry her precious heart down a dark and lonely path, I found myself brokenhearted. She gave her priceless soul to someone so unworthy of it and found herself in a state of pain so deep that neither Cymbalta nor Sephora could ease the sting. She had affixed herself to a man of low character who is sorely lacking in concience and clothing taste. Not to mention the fact that the VAST majority of his Facebook profile pics were ones of him flashing his shirtless form with his mediocre flesh greased to man-whore perfection. Girls, any man so in love with his own pectoral muscles is one to be shunned with all avidity. Run–don’t walk–to your nearest girlfriend and self-medicate with all the facials and mani-pedis your little heart can handle. He will break you; he will use you up and leave you withered. I don’t care who you are–you are better than that.

No one will respect your worth if you don’t.

Nostalgia is a two-edged sword. The good Lord gave it to us to file the precious memories of our pasts into the gilded recesses of our hearts. But it is a blessing that–if not handled correctly–can quickly mushroom into a full-blown toxin. It can be pervasive and seep into the negative memories we have regarding a person or experience and somehow airbrush them into a state of romanticized memory. In short: we can find ourselves remembering things better than they were. Humans can often succumb to the tempting lure of nostalgia and re-label painful experiences as positive. We neglect to remember the tears and the searing pain of neglect, disappointment and betrayal and cling to the belief that we are somehow depleted without the presence of this person or circumstance in our lives.

My suggestion? Cry your river of tears, build a bridge and cross it. Get over it. It’s succinct, but not mean or insensitive. It’s short and sweet to illustrate how simplistic it really is. It’s not impossible, in fact it’s very possible. Out of the billions of people on this planet, there are scores of people who can love and appreciate each of us–flaws and all. There is virtually nothing that we can do that can make us unlovable. The Universe is that perfect. God loves us each despite our tendency to occasionally be d-bags. (Holl-ebonix: slightly less crass reference to the ever-applicable word, ‘douchebag.’ Hey sometimes, it’s really appropriate. ;o)) If God can do this, I think it stands to reason that we can.

So, at least for the time being, embrace the bad memories. Remember with unerring clarity the negatives. This is NOT a long-term plan, as it can lead to a place of dwelling in negativity, but it helps get us over that bridge and out of the place where we go days without bathing and find our eyes distended from the copious shedding of tears. Then, once some perspective begins to gain momentum, we can start to let some of our forgiveness take over.

It’s that anxiety regarding the unknown. Sometimes we are so overcome with fear–fear that we’ll be nothing without that person–that we’re paralyzed. But using this tool of a more realistic memory, allows us to gets to a point where we can come to the incredibly obvious realization: “Hey, I’m going to be just fine. I’ll be better off without that dirtbag!”

And guess what: you will be. Know that it’s not a sin to love someone deeply. It is, however, among the greatest of sins to not love yourself. If you can love and accept someone else, why can’t you extend that same compassion to yourself? Why not cleave to the idea that maybe–just maybe–you’re worthy of being happy and making someone else happy. Someone in this great, populated planet who can love you for your quirks and foibles and embrace you–part and parcel. If you don’t think they exist, you are wrong; very, very wrong. Given my past, if I can say that then there’s some serious truth to that statement.

So, clean yourself up. Take that long-neglected shower and throw on your most glamorous makeup, despite whatever lack of desire you feel to do it. Trust me: you will feel better. Call your closest friends and let them rally around you. They love you and want the privilege of picking you up and pointing you in the right direction.  Exercise, laugh, take up a new hobby and write in a journal. In this journal dedicate a page or two to all the reasons why this person is not for you. All the reasons why you’re glad they’re now someone else’s problem ;o) Then, for good measure, maybe toss out a prayer to the Universe for this person and the poor unwitting soul who’s going to be stuck with them next. Sing at the top of your lungs and shave your sexy legs.

And remember this: something better is just around the corner. I promise. And I’m never wrong… :*)

XOXO

hollie

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