book reviews, celebrities, royals

My long awaited thoughts on Prince Harry’s “tell all” book, Spare…

Smirk…

I doubt many people have long awaited my thoughts on anything, let alone Prince Harry’s “tell all” book, Spare. I do have a few die hard regulars, though, so here’s my promised review of Harry’s controversial tome about life as the “spare” to the heir of the British crown. At this writing, Prince Harry is currently sixth in line to the throne. When Harry was born to the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, September 15, 1984, he was third in line. Charles had famously joked about having an heir and a spare. Harry’s older brother, Prince William, and his lovely wife Catherine, now have three darling children, so the “spare” has lost some status… in terms of his royal rank, anyway.

For me, personally, it’s been awkward watching the fallout of their exile from the kingdom. I have never had a problem with Prince Harry. Before I read Spare, I didn’t know that much about him. I didn’t have a problem with Meghan Markle until I started paying closer attention to some of her behaviors. Regardless of how I might feel about either Harry or Meghan, or the two of them as a couple, they’re basically competent adults who should be allowed to chart their own course in life. My main issue with Harry and Meghan is that their actions don’t correspond with what they say. I kept hearing them talk about being hounded by paparazzi, and yet they seem very determined to be in the public eye.

Writing a tell all book about the secretive British Royal Family seems counterintuitive to the idea of avoiding the press. Harry has repeatedly expressed disgust for the press, and yet here he is, courting the press with a book that the Palace clearly didn’t want him to publish. My initial thoughts were that Spare was going to be a heartfelt “fuck you” to the British Royal Family. For the same reason, I have avoided watching their Netflix series. But then, although I continue to pay for Netflix, I hardly watch it anyway.

Originally, I wasn’t going to read Spare. I’ve grown tired of hearing about Harry and Meghan, and their constant complaints about the British Royal Family. I changed my mind when I happened to catch a video of CNN’s Anderson Cooper talking about Spare. It’s not even that I’m an Anderson Cooper fan. I just thought his comments about the book made it sound like something I’d want to read. So, on January 10th, I joined the many thousands of people who bought Harry’s book.

I finished reading Spare yesterday. Today– January 18, 2023– marks the third anniversary of the day when the Palace released the statement telling the world that Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, would be “stepping back” from their official roles representing the Queen. For three years, Harry and Meghan have lived outside of the United Kingdom. The couple currently make their home in an expensive mansion in exclusive Montecito, California, where they live among A-list celebrities. They have two beautiful and reportedly healthy children. They also have gobs of money, even though the Palace has cut them off, as Harry bitterly complains. Still, as I read Spare, I found myself empathizing with Harry. He’s clearly a very troubled man. Trauma is a bitch for anyone, regardless of their station in life.

So… about the book…

Hiring a competent ghostwriter is one thing that Prince Harry did right when he decided to publish Spare. I think Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist, J.R. Moehringer, was the right man for the job. Moehringer seems to have a penchant for sentence fragments that ordinarily would have annoyed me. I get the sense that he used that style to capture the essence of Harry. By many accounts– apparently even Harry’s own– Prince Harry isn’t a reader. Although he went to “fancy” private British boarding schools, he does not excel at academics.

Harry was forced to act in the Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing, to satisfy a graduation requirement at Eton College. It was an activity Harry didn’t particularly want to take part in, as he doesn’t share his father’s love of Shakespeare. Harry was much more a fan of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, a much shorter and more readable book with characters that were relatable to Harry. It’s been many years since I read that book myself, but it seems kind of inspired that Harry would relate so much to an American novel about an “odd couple” navigating life in 1930s California. So, although some readers don’t care for Moehringer’s fragmented writing in Spare, I think it makes sense. In fact, as I read the book, I could practically hear Harry in my head.

I found Spare very engaging and readable. At times it was funny for the right reasons. Moehringer manages to capture a charming and humorous side of Harry that makes him seem likable and “regular”. Other times I laughed for the “wrong” reasons. I went over some of them yesterday, in my post about why Meghan Markle makes my “N” chimes sound. There were more examples that I didn’t include in yesterday’s post. Sometimes, Harry just seemed incredibly naive and immature to me, especially given that he was an officer in the British Army.

Harry relates a story about taking Meghan to meet Fergie. She supposedly doesn’t know anything at all about the British Royal Family. Harry tells Meghan she must curtsy to the Queen and call her “Your Majesty” and “Ma’am.” Fergie demonstrates the curtsy once, and Meghan tries it. Then, when the big moment arrives, Meghan performs perfectly. Harry acts all amazed about this. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that maybe Meghan isn’t being truthful about not studying up on the British Royal Family.

It’s not like Meghan hasn’t told a whopper or two, since she first arrived on the royal scene. But, I suppose that’s what makes Harry so appealing to her. He takes her at her word and never questions her. I think Harry’s apparent blind loyalty to Meghan is what seems to upset Prince William so much. William is the heir to the throne, and his station in life depends on maintaining the status quo. Some British people would like to see the end of the British Royal Family, so their survival depends on people toeing the line. Meghan hasn’t been obeying protocol, so of course that upsets the powers that be.

Harry is firmly on Meghan’s side, and doesn’t seem to think she can do wrong. That even applies to her curtsy, which she apparently learned on the fly, just before meeting Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. As frustrating reading as that might be for me, I think it’s an authentic aspect of Prince Harry’s personality. So kudos to Mr. Moehringer for managing to capture that so expertly. His role as a ghostwriter is to make the book seem like it came straight from the source. I think he succeeded.

And the content?

There are some parts of Spare that I genuinely enjoyed reading. I found Harry’s descriptions of exotic places in Africa enchanting, especially when he meets wild animals in Botswana. I liked reading about Harry’s Army training, especially since my husband is an Army veteran. It was fun sharing some of Harry’s insights with Bill, who could relate and expand upon Harry’s comments. There are some aspects of military service that transcend all nations.

Other parts of Spare were more annoying to me. As I mentioned yesterday, I find some of Meghan’s behaviors triggering and all too familiar. Like, for instance, before Harry and Meghan were married, and Meghan was showing Harry how to roast chicken. He’d never done it before, nor had he ever been exposed to the music of Nina Simone or, one of my favorites, James Taylor. During that evening, Meghan evidently made a comment that came across as an offensive “crack”. Harry describes it thusly:

This was a passage that triggered me, mainly because my husband’s ex wife tried to convince him that he “hated women” and needed intensive therapy. Now… I’m not saying that either Bill or Harry didn’t need therapy. In fact, for as long as I’ve known him, I’ve encouraged Bill to speak to someone besides me about his trauma. I’m happy to report that he finally did seek therapy from a Jungian analyst. But it was entirely in his own time, when he was ready to do it. He chose his own therapist and therapeutic model. It’s been very successful and rewarding for Bill.

When I read the above passage, I hear Harry taking all of the blame for what happened in that situation. Meghan implies that Harry is a damaged soul, and if he doesn’t seek therapy, she’s going to dump him. It was the same threat my husband got from his ex wife. Of course, in Bill’s case, Ex’s decision to dump him was a huge blessing. But, at the time, Ex’s declaration that he was a dangerous misogynist was not only totally untrue, but extremely damaging and traumatizing for Bill. She really had no right to do that. Neither did Meghan have the right to insist that Harry see a therapist.

I think Meghan knew very well that Harry was, and still is, totally smitten by her. I have a hard time believing that if the situation were reversed and Harry felt that Meghan was disrespectful to him, she would take kindly to being ordered into psychotherapy. Therapy works best when it’s approached voluntarily. Ideally, people should seek therapy as a means of helping themselves, not because they’ve been threatened or bullied into treatment. Moreover, when a person is coerced into seeking mental health care, it can set up a narrative that the person is somehow “unstable” or even “sick”, which can later be weaponized.

Therapy probably has been helpful for Harry, if only because the therapist told him that she thinks part of Harry is trapped in 1997, which is when he lost his mother, Diana. He’s obviously still traumatized by losing his mother at such a young age. The trauma was such that he’d forgotten a lot of things about his youth. Harry reports that therapy has helped him recover some memories, some of which have been pleasant. Therapy has also helped Harry cry, which I’m sure helps him process his 25 years of profound grief. For years, Harry believed his mother was still alive, but in hiding. Now he accepts the truth.

Some of the sob stories kind of made me queasy…

I know some of my readers follow my personal Facebook page. They’ve seen some of the passages I’ve shared there. Yesterday, after noticing how many times Harry found Meghan “sobbing” and inconsolable, I decided to share brief snippets related to the sobbing incidents with friends. Most of my friends got where I was going with sharing about all the sobbing. I had some trouble reconciling the reports of Meghan’s “sob stories” with Meghan’s image of being “tough”, independent, and assertive. There were so many “sob stories” that I don’t want to share them here. Suffice to say, it was very noticeable and bordered on oversharing.

I think I might need to hurl, too…

Early in their relationship, Meghan got food poisoning because she ate bad calamari. Harry writes about holding her hair while she vomits. I’m sure that sharing this anecdote is supposed to convey Harry’s deep love and concern for Meghan, but again, it verges on oversharing. Ditto to Harry’s long winded stories about getting frostbite on his penis, as well as the disclosure that he and William were circumcised. On the plus side, it was the first time I’d seen the word “todger” used outside of the Monty Python number, “Penis Song”.

There’s also some controversy over Harry’s discussion of his military service in Afghanistan. Harry claims that he killed 25 members of the Taliban. Sharing that number was probably ill advised, especially if he’s truly concerned about his and his family’s personal safety. On the other hand, it really is too bad he couldn’t stay in the military. It seemed to suit him.

Some of Harry’s complaints are valid…

Even though he’s currently sixth in line to the throne, Harry was expected to ask his grandmother’s permission to marry the woman of his choice. Somehow, in spite of his upbringing, no one ever explained to him that Queen Elizabeth had to approve of his wife. When Harry awkwardly approached his Granny, she left him unsure of whether or not she’d actually approved of the union, even though she had clearly said “yes” to his request. That’s certainly a dilemma that most “normal” people never have to face. I do wonder, given what’s happened, if Queen Elizabeth II ever regretted giving Harry her permission to marry Meghan.

A lot of people might have some trouble mustering much sympathy for Harry and Meghan, but I do think there is some validity to some of their complaints. Besides the obvious lack of privacy and safety risks faced by all famous people– not just the Royals– Harry makes the case that he was kind of infantilized. At the end of his book, he writes:

At another part of the book, he writes:

Here’s this guy, who from birth, was expected to support the monarchy and raised to do what he was told. For that privilege, he enjoyed every material luxury he could ever want. When Harry dared to try to make decisions for himself, he suffered reprisals. Harry was essentially cut off from all he knew, with no room for compromise. Making matters worse was the fact that people who weren’t in the family got a say– the Bee, the Wasp, and the Fly, three advisors to the Queen, were heavily involved in the decisions regarding Harry’s and Meghan’s departure from official service to the Crown.

It reminded me of my husband’s former stepson, who at age 21, demanded that Bill continue to send him $850 a month in “child support”. He sent Bill an email demanding “timely payments” of the money. Legally, Bill wasn’t even his father, and he had a perfectly just cause for cutting off the support. When it was clear to former stepson that Bill wouldn’t acquiesce to his demands, the young man made one last pathetic plea for a final payment of $500, with the promise that he’d never “bother” Bill again. It was very embarrassing and heartbreaking for Bill to get that email. And, on some level, I’m sure it was humiliating for ex stepson to send it. That incident taught me that “helping” adult children too much often does them a disservice.

Likewise, Harry sounds humiliated as he complains about being financially dependent on his father. I don’t think Harry had a choice in the matter, even though he says he “agreed” to support the monarchy. The monarchy clearly expected Harry to loyally support it by all means. Because Harry’s life was mapped from birth, he was not taught certain essential life skills. That’s a poor reflection on his family. They should have prepared him better.

However, Harry is now a 38 year old man, a husband, and a father of two. Many people are ready for him to grow up and take responsibility for himself. Yes, he’s missed out on learning a lot of skills he should have learned decades ago. It’s past high time for him to pull himself together and catch up with his peers.

I, for one, am ready for Harry to stop complaining about money. Even if his father cut him off, his mother left him millions. He and Meghan could certainly buy a home somewhere less expensive than Montecito and live life independently. Hell, they might have enough money left over to pay for the security they say they need. They could live almost anywhere. That’s a freedom that most people will never know. And while writing this book is going to potentially cost Harry his family, it will also make him a lot of money. So now is the time for Harry to learn how to manage his affairs and act like the grown ass man that he is.

A lot of people seem to think Harry is a bit “thick”. Some have even called him stupid. I don’t think Harry is stupid. To me, he seems gullible, naive, and surprisingly immature about some things. For instance, he used up all the laughing gas intended for Meghan when she was giving birth to Archie. Besides being immature, that seems pretty inconsiderate to the woman whose hair he’d once held back as she puked up British squid. I’m sure Harry presented that anecdote to be funny– just as he wrote extensively about his frostbitten pecker. But even though it was kind of funny, it also revealed a childish, sophomoric aspect to Harry’s personality that may later prove to be embarrassing. Hopefully, he will evolve some more in that department, too.

Overall

Spare was worthwhile reading for me. I think the book will help me spawn a lot of content, if nothing else. I have mixed impressions of Harry’s story. Overall, I think he needs to grow up and get wise. But I also have some empathy for him. His situation is very unusual, and perhaps it does present a case for doing away with the British monarchy. Or, at least, maybe some changes need to be made in the way the highest royal family members raise their children.

Harry’s situation is unique, in that he lost his mother at such a young age, and she was an extraordinary woman who was world renowned. Her death was, in part, directly caused by being hounded by the press. But it also happened because Diana’s driver was drunk, and drove recklessly at excessive speeds. Diana also wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when the car crashed. Harry seems to overlook that part of the story as he blames the press for all that is wrong in the world.

In any case, I recommend Spare to the interested. I will probably seek out more books written by J.R. Moehringer. He did a fantastic job writing Harry’s story.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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memories, mental health, psychology, stupid people

Spanking is for losers, leches, and lazy people…

This morning over breakfast, I saw today’s featured photo on Facebook, shared by the Retro Wifey page. I don’t often think of that page as controversial, as the woman who runs it usually shares nostalgic pictures of old toys, retro clothes, ads for discontinued restaurants and businesses, and the odd meme. In fact, I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to what she posts, and I almost never comment. I wasn’t going to comment on the photo about spanking. Instead, my first reaction was to X out the picture and snooze the page for thirty days. I often do that with Father Nathan Monk’s page.

I decided to leave a comment when I noticed the dozens of people who were championing the physical punishment of children. You see, I have noticed that when it comes to spankings and similar punishments, results tend to vary. My southern, conservative, alcoholic, Air Force officer dad raised me like he was raised by his own alcoholic father. When my dad decided I had misbehaved in some way, he would often employ spanking as his “go to” discipline.

Because I was a bright, high-mettled child who could be sassy, I got a lot of spankings. They didn’t happen daily or weekly, but they happened often enough that I couldn’t count how many times they happened in my childhood. I don’t remember my father ever being calm when he delivered them. He never had a talk with me about why what I did was wrong. My dad never offered me a hug or encouragement to “do better”. Instead, when he felt correction was necessary, he would fly into a rage, grab me, and spank (or slap) me with his hand as hard as he could. I would scream and cry, and he would just keep hitting and yelling at me.

My father’s spankings were terrifying experiences for me every time they happened, from the time I was a toddler, until I was an adult. Yes, that’s right. The last time my dad raised a hand to me, I was almost 21 years old. That was when I told my father that if he ever laid another finger on me in anger, I would call the police. Although my dad was outraged by the threat (which was actually a promise), he must have known I was serious. The next time he tried to hit me (when I was 26 years old), I reminded him about my promise, and he wisely backed off. That was the last time he ever tried to use physical “punishment” on me. I decided that from now on, anyone who hits me had better kill me.

I’ve written a number of times about why I don’t think spanking is an effective disciplinary method. I’ve thought a lot about why I feel the way I do. I’ll tell you one thing. When my grown man father unleashed his frustrations on me, a little girl, I didn’t feel respect for him when he finished. Instead, I felt a mixture of rage, sorrow, pain, fear, and hatred for him. To me, it doesn’t make any sense to demand “respect” from someone by hitting them. Physical punishments may inspire immediate compliance, but the violent imprint is hard to erase.

Decades after my last “spanking”, I still have a lot of unresolved anger toward my dad. I still deeply resent him for the traumatic memories I have of those discipline sessions, and the way they made me feel. If my father had done to my mother what he did to me, people would call him a wife beater. And yet, people on Facebook still champion spankings as good parenting, claiming that their parents were “right” to hit them. They claim that spanking is what taught them “respect for others”. I’m sure it hasn’t occurred to them that hitting another person isn’t a respectful thing to do. Especially when the person is as powerless on every level as most children are.

My dad died in 2014. I didn’t cry much, which surprised me. I think I had a lot of mixed feelings about his death. Yes, it was hard to lose my dad on the most basic of levels. Over six years, I watched him go from an independent man, to someone completely dependent on my mother. He had lost his ability to think clearly and move freely. So, in a sense, I was relieved that he died, just to free him of the terrible reality of living with Lewy Body Dementia. There were also some good times, when he was thoughtful, funny, and kind. I remember he could be fun, especially when I was little. Sometimes, we had some interesting discussions.

But, I was also legitimately glad I didn’t have to see him again. Never again would I have to hear him complain about my laugh, or make comments about my body or hair. I would never have to see his reddened face again when he was angry. He would never again try to compete with me or resent my successes and failures. I wouldn’t get another unsolicited phone call from him, criticizing my life choices or demanding an accounting of how I spend my time.

I’m sure if I had asked my dad if he loved me, he would have said yes. In fact, he did tell me he loved me somewhat frequently. So that’s why it’s confusing to me that a man who supposedly “loved” me was okay with hitting me. Would he have encouraged my husband, Bill, to hit me whenever I made him angry? What would happen if that was Bill’s way of dealing with everyone who annoyed or angered him? He’d probably be unemployed, and possibly incarcerated.

My decision to write about spanking again today came about because, when I saw that photo on Facebook, it triggered me. Before I knew it, I was once again spilling my guts to Bill about old, traumatic memories. It can’t be a good thing to still be angry about things that happened 40 years ago. When I’ve talked to spanking proponents about this, they’ve implied that I should just “let it go.” As easy as that suggestion is to make, it’s not always an easy thing to do. If it were easy to just “let it go”, I would have done that years ago.

Other people have excused spanking, claiming that what my dad did wasn’t actually spanking. They tell me it was abuse. A couple of people have even gone as far as calling my dad’s spankings “beatings”. But who decides what constitutes a spanking, and what constitutes a beating? My dad called what he did “spanking”. I don’t think he ever learned about spanking from someone knowledgeable about the subject. I think he did to me what his father did to him. And, I distinctly remember that my father had very negative opinions of his father. He very rarely spoke of him. When he did, it was usually when he was drinking. I don’t remember him having good things to say about my grandfather (whom I never knew). In fact, at Thanksgiving, when family members would speak of Pappy, my dad would usually leave the room.

At 50 years of age, I still have a lot of issues with my self-esteem. I don’t feel lovable to most people, and expect most people to dislike me, so I don’t make an effort to make friends. In my experience, making friends with people usually ends in disappointment. While I didn’t have the worst childhood, and many have had it worse, I still feel quite angry about the way I was treated. That man was half responsible for my being here. The least he could have done was treat me with basic respect. Especially if respect was what he expected from me.

I know it’s water under the bridge. I will never get an apology for the way I was raised. There is comfort in knowing that at least I won’t pass this crap to a new generation. I’m also grateful that I married a very gentle, disciplined, and kind man, in spite of his career choice. I don’t have to worry about physical abuse anymore. But dammit, it still hurts when I see people praising corporal punishment, claiming it’s the way to save humanity by instilling “respect” in children.

Children don’t learn respect from being hit. They learn fear. There is a HUGE difference between fear and respect. I just wish more people would stop and think about how they’d like to be remembered by their children before they raise hands to them. I doubt my dad would like knowing that I still resent him for treating me the way he did.

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communication, healthcare, holidays

Today is the first day of the rest of the year…

Happy New Year, y’all. I will do a write up of our personal festivities on my travel blog; because let’s face it, that blog needs some love. For this blog, I’ll just say we had a basically nice time… except for the point where I got into a rather serious discussion with Bill about the logistics of my living in Germany and accessing healthcare. It’s not that I have an immediate need for it… but I’m not getting any younger. Because we’re here at the pleasure of the U.S. military, I could either go to a German doctor, or I could go to Landstuhl (U.S. military facility). And because I never go to the doctor, I literally don’t know what I would do here if the need suddenly arose for me to seek medical care. On the other hand, I do know how to call 112, and that’s probably what it would take before I would willingly go see a doctor.

I think this subject came up because we were talking about what our plans will be after it’s time for Bill to quit working so hard. We were talking about younger daughter, and how her husband has launched a good career. They hope to move sometime soon, because the apartment they live in is too small for their family. Bill mentioned that it wouldn’t be long before they might buy a home of their own. And I kind of wistfully said, “They’ll probably be homeowners before we will.”

I always thought by now, I’d own my own house somewhere, and I’d be settled, perhaps with a family of my own. Instead, I’ve been in this weird kind of limbo, where half my stuff is in the United States, and a lot of my friends and most of my family are there… but here I am in Germany, where I’ve been for close to half my marriage. It does feel kind of like home, and yet I don’t really speak the language… and I don’t have a lot of friends. None of my family, except for Bill, lives here. It’s not a bad thing… It’s just not what I expected for my life. Nothing has really turned out the way I figured it would. Well, except for the fact that I went to graduate school.

I do remember in high school, being asked on some kind of government research thing– maybe it was a standardized test– about the level of formal education I expected to attain. Even back then, I assumed I’d get a master’s degree. However, I thought it would be in equine studies, or something similar. I don’t even know if such a program exists. But I do remember, back then, feeling daunted by the prospect of getting a master’s degree. I thought it might be too hard for me. I sure didn’t expect that I would get two of them at the same time, or that they would be in either social work or public health. When I was a teenager, I probably had a better idea of what I was good at, academically speaking. But when the time came to go back to school, I was simply trying to become employable, so I could launch my typical “American dream” lifestyle. And look what happened! I bumped into Bill online, and became a nomad, which made launching that career very difficult.

So anyway, we were talking about home ownership when Bill retires, and Bill said that he would like to buy a house in Europe somewhere… maybe Italy, Spain, Portugal, or even France. Germany is also, of course, a possibility, although I think it might be more expensive here. We do know Americans who have retired here, though. And Bill said that he wanted us to own a home so I wouldn’t have to deal with renting anymore. He says he thinks he will predecease me. I said I wasn’t so sure. Bill goes to the doctor, and I never do. I was very traumatized by an Air Force gynecologist years ago, so even though I “know” better, it really takes a lot to get me to see doctors. I despise military healthcare.

I understand logically why it would be a good idea to go see a doctor and get checked for certain things, like high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes. Hell, I even studied public health, where I learned about the value of screenings and preventive healthcare. But psychologically, I just have a very difficult time with it. And it’s even worse in a country where I don’t speak the language fluently, and people tend to be blunt about certain things. I can’t imagine my taking it without getting really upset. I know that putting it off only makes it more likely that I won’t have a choice in providers when I finally see one, because it will be in emergency circumstances. On the other hand, I’m not sure how I would choose a doctor here, anyway. And I’m not even sure if it’s worth the time and energy to go to one.

I know Bill would be devastated if I died before he does… but he has people who will be there for him. He has two daughters, and one speaks to him. She has children who call him “Papa”. I don’t have any descendents. I just have a bunch of cousins and three older sisters, who always felt more like aunts. So, I guess I just don’t see why I’d need to hang around. I certainly wouldn’t want to live as long as my Granny did. She was almost 101 when she died. When I consider how stiff and painful I get in the mornings, I truly dread being that old… particularly with no one around who cares about me. I guess it’s just the pragmatic/depressive side of me coming out again. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have to die anyway, right? So why prolong the inevitable?

I asked Bill if it bothers him that I don’t see doctors. He said it does, although he never says anything about it. He is respecting my “agency”, I guess. So I asked him what he would do if I told him I’d found a lump in my breast (not that I have). He said he’d want me to have it checked, and would probably insist. The idea of that makes me cringe, though. Because it’s been so long since I last accessed the healthcare system that there are many screenings I’ve missed. I know a lot of them would be suggested and encouraged. Or maybe not. Either way, I’d probably end up stressed out and upset. In fact, thinking about this topic is very unnerving to me, so I think I’ll move on.

So… that’s how we wound up on that topic. Bill would like to settle abroad, because the lifestyle suits us. I wouldn’t mind living abroad, either. I truly think it’s better over here, in many ways. It would come at a cost, I guess… weakening family ties and friendly relations, such as they are. But I can’t see myself wanting to live in an American subdivision somewhere, with homeowners’ associations dictating what color I can paint my shutters or whether or not I can have a garden. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But the truth is, there’s no telling where life will lead us. We have no reason to stay or go anywhere in particular. I don’t see us willingly moving to Utah, which is where younger daughter lives. I know it’s pretty there, but I like my communities less religiously oriented.

Fortunately, the subject soon changed, because we happened to be having it while we were enjoying the last of the evening’s libations. It was almost time for the proverbial ball to drop. And once it did, we went outside to watch the fireworks. There were a lot more of them this year, of course. Our neighbors were in the street, setting them off. They set one off very close to our car, which concerned me a little bit. I’m glad to report that no Volvos were injured during the fireworks display last night.

Well… I’m sure there are other things I could write about, and maybe I will later. But for now, I think I’ll go to the travel blog and write something a little less sobering.

I hope your first day of 2023 is shaping up well. Remember, today is the first day of the rest of the year!

The featured photo was taken last night. For some reason, I always seem to think I can capture fireworks on camera. It very rarely happens.

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family, mental health, narcissists

WordPress suggests… “Talk about your father or a father figure in your life.”

Fair warning, y’all. This post is a downer, and it’s brutally honest. Not everyone will like my candor, but I’m not one for sugarcoating things. I don’t suggest reading this if you’re not in the mood for negativity. The featured photo is of me and my dad in my maternal grandfather’s garden in Buena Vista, Virginia.

Good morning, folks. It looks like our part of Germany is finally emerging from the recent deep freeze. Unfortunately, I have an unpleasant reminder of the super icy conditions we had yesterday. I had gone out to the backyard to clean up any deposits left by Arran and Noyzi, as Bill was trying to chip the ice on his car and the driveway. Thanks to some melting and refreezing of the ice and snow, the road in front of our house was a sheet of ice. And, sure enough, I slipped and fell on my ass. Fortunately, I was wearing my soon to be retired parka, which somewhat cushioned the blow to my left buttcheek. It’s a bit sore this morning, which is too bad, because my right hip has been hurting since last week, when I repeatedly had to get out of bed to take care of Arran in the wee hours of the morning. I think Iโ€™ve got some tendonitis in my hip.

Nevertheless, it’s a new day, and we’ve got stuff to do… like cleaning the toilets, washing the sheets, and writing a new blog post. I was having a touch of writer’s block today, mainly because I don’t feel too much like ranting about the news. Lots of people are already doing that, probably better than I ever could. So, I decided to see what WordPress suggested that I write about today. And, as you can see, they picked a doozy of a topic!

I’ve already written a lot about my father in this blog, who passed away during the traumatic summer of 2014. Seriously, that summer sucked so much! Bill retired from the Army on June 30th, and we spent several anxious months wondering what would be happening next. We lived in a rental house near San Antonio, Texas that we didn’t like, which had a lease operated by a property management company that we’d tried very hard to avoid. They took over managing the lease two weeks after we moved in, and I soon found out that they totally lived up to their terrible reviews on Google (although at least we didn’t have to sue them). As the fateful last day approached, we worried about transitioning into the next phase. Meanwhile, my dad, who was 81 years old and suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, suddenly got very sick and landed in the hospital for emergency gallbladder surgery. He recovered from the surgery itself, but was unable to recover from the anesthesia. That surgery turned out to be his exit from a terrible disease that had completely stripped him of his dignity.

I remember getting the messages from my sisters letting me know that our dad was ill. As we rode in the car toward San Antonio to meet one of Bill’s former colleagues, I recall saying to Bill, “Oh shit. This could be the end.” I meant it was likely my dad was about to pass. While I wasn’t that upset about the prospect of losing my father, I did think the timing of it was most unfortunate and inconvenient. However, in retrospect, I realize that it was actually a good thing that he passed when he did, because we ended up moving to Germany less than a month after he died. And that was when we met our psycho former landlady, who proceeded to be extremely annoying and very toxic for the four years we lived in her property. I won’t get into that, though… that’s a topic for another day. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So… about my dad. We had a complicated relationship. As I get to know younger daughter more, I find myself empathizing with her a lot. My dad wasn’t a narcissist, like Ex is. He was, however, a pretty severe alcoholic. He had PTSD brought on by his time in the Air Force and tours in Vietnam. He was abused by his father, and rarely spoke about “Pappy” unless he was drunk. I didn’t know Pappy, because he died when I was two years old. What I do know about him was that he was also an alcoholic, and when he drank, he was very mean and sometimes violent. I heard about some incidents from my uncles that make me wonder if maybe alcohol made my grandfather a different person. My granny told me that Pappy was a really good man and very kind, but when he drank, he became the opposite. Again, my dad didn’t speak of his father very often, but I do remember him telling me one time that his father pulled a gun on him. My dad, at least, never did that. He never owned weapons.

I do have some good memories of my dad. I think he was, at his core, a very good person. He loved music with a passion. He was creative, and had a good sense of fun. He loved a good adrenaline rush, and had a daredevil streak. When he was in his 50s, he learned to hang glide. He loved roller coasters, white water rafting, biking, and jumping off steep cliffs into mountain water holes. He could be caring when he wanted to be. But he and I seemed to have a personality clash from the get go.

Some of my earliest and most vivid memories of my dad involve screaming and tears. I would get into trouble and he would yell at me or deliver a painful spanking. I remember that spankings were his go to punishment, at least when it came to disciplining me. And they usually came without warning, or any cooling off periods. I don’t remember my dad ever talking to me about the things I did wrong. My mom would often side with my dad, although there were a few exceptions. For instance, the time I got paddled in school in front of my entire class of fellow fourth graders, my dad had wanted to deliver another physical punishment. My mom stopped him, and said it was wrong for the teacher to paddle me, especially in front of my peers. But she didn’t go down to the school and raise hell, which is what I would have done if I had been a mom in that situation.

Whenever there were any problems involving me, my dad would often take the opposing side. He almost always blamed me when things went wrong, with a few exceptions. He didn’t protect me– not from the neighborhood pervert, not from bullies at school or church, and not from his own alcoholic rages. In fact, I seemed to be a gigantic pain in his ass. I remember him getting super mad at me for some reason and raging to my mom, “I’m SICK of her!” And another time, he looked at me and snapped, “You are an ARROGANT person.” He would touch my back and say things like, โ€œYou have some fat you need to lose.โ€ Or heโ€™d grab my head and comb my hair, none too gently, complaining that it looked bad. He called me names, too. One time, he called me a hog. Another time, he called me retarded. He frequently referred to me as fat, crazy, or unlikely to ever make more than minimum wage. And he would make me do things like give him back massages, which was rather inappropriate. Looking back on it, I think sometimes he came to me for affection, when my mom was freezing him out. Especially when I was a young child. It was never a sexual thing, though. In fact, my dad was very conservative about sex, at least around me.

My dad loved to sing and many people enjoyed his efforts. I was not one of his admirers. When I started singing, too, he would compete with me. When I decided to take voice lessons as a means of easing my depression, he got wind of it and decided to take lessons from the very same teacher. He would deliberately pick fights with me, and disrespect my property. When I was in Armenia, he went through my CD collection, got it all completely mixed up, and lost a few of my favorites. When I confronted him about it, he got all pathetic and shitty. He didn’t respect me. I was just a product of his loins. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Later, when I married Bill, it was clear that he liked Bill more than me. He wanted to see and talk to Bill, but would ignore me or get my name wrong. When Bill was deployed to Iraq, my dad called me– one of the few times he ever did that– and lectured me about being unemployed. He felt I should be working while Bill was gone, even though we would be moving in a matter of months. I told him my employment status was none of his business, which seemed to take him aback.

One time, we did my parents a favor by driving them to my sister’s graduation. It way May 2003, and I was 30 years old. While we were watching the commencement exercises, some woman was sitting near us and had a problem with us talking. The ceremony was in a gymnasium, and there were people screaming, cheering, ringing cowbells, etc. For some reason, the woman said something to my parents, and my dad turned and bellowed at me that I was “disturbing” people. I was absolutely mortified and humiliated; he spoke to me like I was six years old. I got up and stormed out of the gym, so angry that I told Bill I wanted to leave right that moment. It would have meant taking a train home, since we’d driven my parents’ car. Bill was trying to get me to calm down and change my mind. This happened during our “broke” years, and we didn’t have money to spare for train tickets. My mom tried to sweep the incident under the rug. I ended up being passive aggressive, by ordering several cocktails during our celebratory lunch. Oh, it also happened to be Motherโ€™s Day, so when the restaurant gave me a potted impatiens flower, my dad loudly pointed out that I’m not a mother. I was a stepmother, though. At the time, Bill was still able to talk to his kids.

And then there were the times when my dad was violent with me. He hit me in the face more than once, and one time throttled me after I rightfully called him an asshole. The last time he ever physically struck me, I was almost 21 years old. He hit me in the face and bruised my arm. I told him if he ever laid a finger on me again, I would call the police and have him arrested. That, of course, enraged him. But he knew I meant what I said, and the next time the impulse came to strike me, I asked him if he remembered what I’d told him the last time. In spite of his love of libations, he did remember and backed off.

I remember a lot of fights and arguments with my dad. I remember times when I would get so upset that I’d hyperventilate. My mom would hand me a bag and they’d keep fighting with me, criticizing me for everything from my appearance to my laugh, which my dad hated. I remember going to school with swollen eyelids from crying, and sitting out in the cold at the barn where I boarded my horse, because I didn’t want to go home and deal with him after a fight.

I don’t think my sisters had the same experiences with our dad that I had. I do remember there were some pretty epic fights involving the two middle sisters, but when they were growing up, he was often away on military missions. I, on the other hand, came around when he was at the end of his military career. He started his own business when I was eight years old, and ran it out of our house. So he and my mom were always around when I was growing up, and I grew up like an only child. My sisters were significantly older than I was. Consequently, when he died, they were sadder than I was. I’ll be honest… although I am grateful for the good things my dad did for me, and I realize that he’s certainly not the worst parent there ever was, the truth is, he really traumatized me. And when he passed away, it was kind of a relief for me. I’ve also noticed that in the years since my dad’s death, my mom has become a much nicer and happier person.

My dad was a well liked person in our community. He was a well loved member of our family, too. When he died, a lot of people came to pay respects. I sang at his memorial. No one asked me to speak. They wanted me to sing. There was probably a reason for that. A religious song written by someone else would be more appropriate than anything I might say about my dad. On the other hand, it’s kind of funny that I sang at his memorial. I don’t think my dad was proud of my musical gifts. I think he was jealous of them. I don’t remember him telling me that he thought I had any talent for music. Instead, he would usually criticize me, even as he’d ask me to sing duets with him at church.

I grew up wondering if there was something really wrong with me. I had a hard time relating to other people. To this day, I’m pretty weird and people don’t seem to know what to make of me. But as I’ve gotten older, and become part of Bill’s life, I now see that there was a place for me. I do have a purpose. Because maybe my life would have been easier growing up if I had been more of a people pleaser… but being a people pleaser and marrying Bill would have been disastrous. I needed to survive my dad, because learning how to deal with him made me prepared for dealing with Ex. And I think it’s given me a lot of empathy for younger daughter, who is “nicer” and “kinder” than I am, yet still very resilient and emotionally intelligent. She knows her mother is abusive. She has impressive boundaries. But it still really hurts to have to enforce them against a parent. I can relate. I had to do the same thing with my dad. I wasn’t as resourceful as she’s been, though. She’s a very strong person, with a kind, forgiving, heart. I, on the other hand, have a very long memory, and seem to hold onto anger more than she does.

A few years ago, I had a revelation about my dad. I realized that he was very much a product of his upbringing. My Uncle Ed, who passed away earlier this year, was a lot like my dad in so many ways. They even looked alike when they were elderly men. Ed was younger than my dad was, but they both went to the same college– Virginia Military Institute– and they were both Air Force veterans. Like my dad, Ed was an alcoholic. He could be a lot of fun when he wanted to be. There was a really awesome, fun loving, hilarious, adventurous side to him. But he was also racist, and a proponent of MAGA… a total Trump devotee. Ed used to send me political emails, most of which I ignored. One time, I responded negatively to one he sent about how “great” Trump and Pence were. He sent a totally vile drunken screed to me that brought back awful memories of my dad when he was at his very worst. He called me a “liberal nut job” and spewed all kinds of hatred at me. Unable to tolerate that kind of abuse anymore, I told Ed to fuck off, and warned him to leave me alone before I delivered him a verbal ass kicking. Those were the last words I ever said to him before he died. I’m not sorry about it, either. But it was at that point that I realized that my dad and Ed, when they were going off on these abusive tears, they were basically vomiting up things they heard from their own father. I’ll be honest. It makes me glad I don’t have children to pass this baggage to. Because it’s pretty awful.

I’ve always loved my family, but for so many years I had a distorted view of them. I never realized just how fucked up it was, or how it affected me on so many levels. It took getting out of that environment to realize what I couldn’t see when I was growing up. And now, I’d just as soon stay away, which is what makes living in Germany so perfect for us. I don’t miss that traumatic shit at all. So, when younger daughter talks about her mother, and how the prospect of having to talk to Ex gives her nightmares, I completely understand. She just wants to have a healthy, loving, relationship with her family. But doing that is impossible when you have to deal with someone who is incapable of being mentally healthy… and can’t or won’t address their demons, take responsibility for their part in conflicts, and do what they can to be loving to people who are supposed to be their closest allies in life.

Whew… this post turned out to be a lot heavier and longer than I expected it to be.

Anyway… it may not seem like it, but I truly do believe my dad tried his best. I do think he loved me, in spite of the way he behaved sometimes (which wasn’t all the time). He did have a genuinely kind side to him, and he was always there when I was growing up. He was a good provider, and as responsible as he could have been, given his issues with alcohol addiction. I think most of his problems stemmed from being abused by his father, spending time in a war zone, and being addicted to booze. Ex, like my dad, was also abused, but instead of becoming an alcoholic, she became a narcissist and probably a borderline. Dealing with people who are damaged is very difficult. Maybe if I could have stayed a cute little girl, like I am in the featured photo, we wouldn’t have parted company on such sad terms. And again, I do have some good memories of him. But I sure am glad I married someone who only shares the military and the first name “Bill” with my dad (and actually, my dad’s name was Charles… he just went by “Bill” because my Aunt Jeanne started calling him that and it stuck).

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communication, language, lessons learned, love, marriage, relationships

It’s very important to use your words when you have needs…

I woke up this morning feeling oddly quiet. I felt like I just needed to shut up for awhile. And, for the past hour or so, I’ve been staring at the computer screen, wondering what I should write about today. I didn’t really want to write about the topic I’m about to tackle. But then I remember what Bill said to me as he was about to leave for work. He said, “You’ll write about it. It’ll help you process.” Then he gave me one of his meltingly sweet smiles, which never fails to win me over and warm my heart.

Bill and I had a little spat last night. It was kind of a sudden thing, not unlike the brief but intense storm that briefly provided us with a rainbow as the sun was about to set. You can see the rainbow in today’s featured photo, which I took as the rain was falling, but the sun came out. It reminds me of the spat we had last night, and how I feel today.

I didn’t say much to Bill today, when we were getting up. After he got dressed, he came into our bedroom and sincerely apologized to me. I told him I knew he was sorry, and I was sorry for getting so upset with him. I love him very much, and truly don’t want him to feel distressed. He works very hard, and really is one of the good guys. Nobody’s perfect, though.

Bill and I don’t have spats very often because neither of us likes to fight or argue, and we’re usually very compatible about most things. We have tons of chemistry, and seem to get each other remarkably well, even if no one else understands us. But every so often, an issue comes up, and we have a disagreement. There’s a spat– kind of like a storm, or a chemical reaction. And usually, our spats occur in the evening, as Bill is wanting to go to bed, but refuses to just go. He wants me to give him permission, or something.

My husband is very much a day person. He functions best early in the morning. When the sun goes down, so does his brain. Sometimes, he’s much too polite and non confrontational for his own good, and that can cause him to temporarily be a jerk. He doesn’t mean to be a jerk, and sometimes I “overreact”, by many people’s standards. I try not to do that, but sometimes I fail.

Last night, when Bill came home, he casually mentioned to me he needed to write up his dreams for his weekly appointment with Jungian therapist. He also needed to complete his time card for his job. That information went into one ear and out the other, since he always does those tasks without announcing them to me. Consequently, I didn’t realize this was something that was pressing in its importance, nor did I know how long those tasks would take. I’m also not a mindreader.

Most nights, Bill does online German lessons using Duolingo. I used to do those lessons myself, years ago. I quit doing them after a year or so, even though it would do me good to keep studying German. Nevertheless, Bill very diligently does his homework. He’s diligent about most things without input from me. I forgot about what he’d said about the things he needed to do. I assumed he’d already done them.

So, as the evening was winding down, I noticed that Bill was tired. I asked him why he didn’t just go to bed, if he was tired. I’ve told him many times that I hate it when he’s obviously exhausted and continues to sit there at the table, as if I’m obliging him to do so. I find it to be kind of passive-aggressive behavior. He could just get up and go to bed, right? But he insisted on waiting for me to finish my drink, and go upstairs with him. I guess I was taking too long, and talking about some subject that wasn’t interesting to him. Finally, he got up and was turning off lights and edging toward the stairs, backing away from me with a smirk, but still not saying outright that he has things he needs to do, or wants to go to bed. It’s left up to me to officially “call it a night”, as he was non-verbally “calling it a night”.

I said, “What are you doing?”

Bill said, kind of sheepishly, “I told you, I have to write up my dreams and do my time card.”

“Well, why didn’t you just say so?!” I exploded. Much to my surprise, I found myself getting really upset. Like… I actually felt like crying, because my feelings were hurt. And then I said, “This makes me not even want to go on the trip next weekend. I think I’d rather just stay home alone!”

I know that was a hurtful and kind of crazy thing to say, because Bill has planned my birthday trip to Antwerp, and we’ve been looking forward to it, even if it does mean I’m turning 50. But I honestly didn’t want to go anywhere with him for a few minutes last night. I just felt really injured and bewildered… like I was being rejected by someone I never thought would reject me. I know that’s kind of an irrational reaction, but I was honestly triggered by that look on his face, and his non-verbal communication. I legitimately felt disrespected.

I felt like he should feel alright about point blank telling me when he has needs, or wants to excuse himself. I’ve been his wife for about twenty years. I’m not going to be offended. And over the years, I’ve seen so many people giving me that “smirky” look he gave me last night… people who aren’t my husband… people who don’t like me, for whatever reason, and wish I would just shut up and go away. It honestly wounded me to see that look on Bill’s face. So, I got really pissed, and felt like rejecting him in kind. Impulsively telling him I didn’t want to go to Belgium with him was a quick way to do that.

Bill immediately looked extremely sorry as he explained that he had just wanted to avoid confrontation. And then when I asked him why he didn’t just tell me, he said he’d told me he’d mentioned it earlier. But he’d kind of said it in passing, in a matter of fact way. I didn’t realize the urgency of the situation, and for some reason, he couldn’t just use his words to reiterate his needs.

Seeing that pained look on his face upset me even more, because once again, I upset someone for simply being myself. At the same time, I had compassion for him, because I love him, and I’m not a mean person. I don’t like seeing him looking distressed, especially when it’s me who caused the distress. I was still feeling angry, though, so I said that maybe when he got home from work, I’d just stay in our room and watch videos instead of talking to him, since he has so many pressing things to do.

Again… I was hurt, because I really do look forward to talking to him at night. I don’t have people to talk to during the day. I don’t have local friends or family, and at this point, I’m not really inclined to try to make friends with people, because trying to be friendly with people usually ends in disappointment. I have a weird personality and inappropriate sense of humor that not everyone appreciates. Besides, around here, almost everyone’s German, so there’s sometimes a language barrier.

Bill said he didn’t want me to stay in our room and watch videos. He wanted to talk to me. He’d just had a couple of tasks he needed to complete before bedtime. So, again, I said, “Then why didn’t you just excuse yourself? You can tell me that you have stuff to do. I’m not a complete jerk, and I’m not a mindreader. What do I do every morning before you go to work, and I need to take a dump?”

Bill nodded and said, “That’s true. You do expressly tell me when you need a minute.”

Just as an aside… my body is remarkably efficient when it comes to necessary functions. Bill has remarked on it a lot, and has even told me he’s jealous. Most mornings, as he’s about to leave for his job, I have to say goodbye a few minutes early and take care of necessary business. Bill understands this and is fine with it; he doesn’t feel spurned because I have to go to the bathroom. However, for some reason, he doesn’t feel like he can say something similar to me. And I don’t understand why he doesn’t realize that I know he has things he has to do sometimes. Why can’t he simply tell me, his wife, that he needs time to get things done? Doesn’t he trust me, after almost twenty years?

I usually do notice when he’s trying to do something. When I see him with his computer, I don’t intrude. When he’s talking to his online therapist, I give him privacy. But last night, we were just there at the kitchen table, having a chat, and he suddenly gets up and backs away, looking awkward. I mean, if you need to excuse yourself, excuse yourself. Don’t give me that look. It’s not necessary. Just tell me what you need.

This is very much like my husband. He sometimes lacks assertiveness, is exceedingly polite and considerate, and wants to leave decisions up to me. But I don’t always want or need to make every decision, and sometimes I just don’t know what he needs, and I can’t read his mind. At the same time, he doesn’t want to offend or make ripples… and in the process, sometimes he offends and makes ripples. He never means to do that. He always wants me to be happy, sometimes at the expense of his own happiness. And when his needs are about to intrude on my wants or wishes, he’d rather be covert than just come out and tell me what’s going on.

This situation is kind of similar to one we ran into last year, when we were in Switzerland. Bill had expressly wanted to visit Carl Jung’s house and museum. This was the one non-negotiable activity on our agenda. On the other hand, I get very cranky and irritable when I’m hungry. Bill knows this, too. He has a habit of wanting to lead things, but then he gets “wishy washy”. We needed to have lunch, but Bill was focused on us going to the museum, since we had an appointment. And even though this was what HE had wanted to do, he hadn’t even decided if we would be driving or taking a boat, since the museum is on Lake Zurich. He had wanted to leave that decision up to me. But the problem was, I wasn’t prepared to make a decision, because I was just along for the ride. The whole Jung museum thing was his bag, not mine. I needed to eat before we went to the museum, and I didn’t want a hot dog at the dock. But that’s what we ended up having, because there weren’t any firm plans made so that everybody’s needs could be met.

And again, last fall when we visited Slovenia, on the way to Lake Bohinj, I had wanted to eat lunch earlier than Bill did. We kept going, and sure enough, I got hangry, and there weren’t any open restaurants. Bill ended up getting me a chocolate bar, because I desperately needed to boost my blood sugar. That put me in a foul mood, too. He’d wanted to lead, but then kind of failed… and then I had a candy bar for lunch, instead of something that was somewhat better for me.

Anyway, we were able to mend the conflict, and sure enough, I’m writing about it, even though I’d rather write about something else. We had a spat, and it’s over now.

Insightful stuff here… It’s not always a bad thing to be “triggered”.

I saw a really good video yesterday by Kati Morton, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist. It’s not so much about last night’s issue, but it does sort of address my feeling guilty for being “triggered” and overreacting. If I wasn’t triggered, I wouldn’t have told Bill what was on my mind. And as wonderful as he is, he did need to hear what I said. Sometimes, Bill is too nice, takes too much responsibility for other people, is too much of a people pleaser, and needs to assertively express his own needs verbally, instead of being passive-aggressive. These are things that I think would help him across the board, not just in his dealings with his old ball and chain wife. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But then, based on the trauma he went through with his ex wife, I guess I can see why he hesitates. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to teach him that we’re not all like her. It’s an ongoing process that I don’t think will ever end. He’s been scarred by her abuse, much like Noyzi the rescue dog is scarred by his traumatic experiences in Kosovo, before he came to live with us. Noyzi gets better every day, but I think he’ll always have some remnants from that time in his psyche. The same goes for Bill… and the same goes for me. So we’ll keep trying.

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