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  #11  
Old 02-18-2012, 03:13 PM
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Wow... communication BEFORE doing things that could potentially be hurtful, resisting temptation rather than breaking boundaries, fairness and lack of jealousy between you and your wife over your OSOs... it is SO refreshing to read about things working well.

You're right that poly is hard, but I've just gotta say it seems like you're off to a great start!
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  #12  
Old 02-18-2012, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by AnnabelMore View Post
it is SO refreshing to read about things working well.

You're right that poly is hard, but I've just gotta say it seems like you're off to a great start!
Thanks, Annabel.

I guess I would just say things are working well . . . so far. It's early days yet. Things are just starting to get . . . interesting, and I don't want to be overconfident.

My wife has a forceful and direct personality, which will be a help. I'm also glad I've found G, who not only seems deeply compatible with me, but who also has experience with successful poly relationships . . . and at least one less-than-successful poly relationship.

The more the three of us can work together on setting and maintaining our boundaries, the more secure I'll feel about all this.
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Old 06-04-2012, 03:44 PM
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Much has happened since my last post. Most of it has been very, very good.

A few weeks after I posted, G . . . wait, I need a better nickname for her. For complicated reasons that must remain obscure, I'll call her Nyx.

Anyway, a few weeks after I posted, Nyx had a talk with her OSO, and made the momentous decision to open her bedroom door to me.

We had joked that, once the door was open, wild horses could not keep us from her bed.

And so it was: we have become enthusiastic lovers. We spend the night together, at her apartment, once a week.

The mode of our intimacy is gentleness and generosity and the intoxication of touch . . . which is something of a departure for both of us, though in different directions.

Nyx has generally been in relationships that involve some degree of kink; in particular, she enjoys receiving pain. In fact, much of her current social circle is centered on kink, a group that often attends Frolicon together. Her relationship with me has met with the bemusement, not to say the consternation, of some of her friends: "You mean he's vanilla?!"

For my part, I've long been extremely, painfully ticklish, which has led Vix and me to put less emphasis on touch in our relationship. This has been hard on Vix, who very much likes to touch and be touched. Somehow, through my relationship with Nyx, my ticklishness has all but vanished, replaced by a trembling pleasure when I'm touched.

And so Vix has benefited directly from my relationship with Nyx!

Nyx and I also spend a lot of time in quiet talk, learning one another's stories, finding our common interests and values, and finding also our interesting points of divergence. I've learned quite a lot about kink, for example . . . though I still have not one shred of inclination toward it!

The sum of all this is that Nyx and I love one another, and have said so.

All of these developments have been a delight to Vix, who has been having further adventures of her own . . . about which more in later posts.
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"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" - Charles Darwin

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Last edited by hyperskeptic; 06-04-2012 at 04:08 PM. Reason: Thought of a better nickname . . .
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  #14  
Old 06-05-2012, 04:12 PM
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Default Not ALL smooth sailing . . .

I mentioned that my wife, Vix, has been having further adventures.

Where I last left off with her story, she was traveling with a companion in the Mid-Atlantic states, and their interaction had turned intensely intimate.

That didn't last beyond the trip. Her companion has an unusual communication style that led to misunderstanding and conflict and, in the end, he seemed overwhelmed by the experience and the idea of poly and all but shut down the relationship.

Vix and I have seen him since then, on our travels together, and they have cautiously begun to interact again as friends or acquaintances. He doesn't seem entirely comfortable around me, though.

A month or so later, Vix traveled out to the West Coast in pursuit of her avocation, and had an intense encounter with a much younger man. He and his partner are both profoundly, consciously poly, and he was also aware of his own boundaries and prior agreements. They spent the night together, but with a limit neither would cross without the consent of his partner.

Vix and I have an agreement about travel and opportunity: if she doesn't have a chance to seek my consent ahead of time to have sex with someone, she can tell me about it afterward. I trust her judgment, and her good sense about risk mitigation.

The young guy's partner met Vix, and likes her, so if Vix ever travels that way again, or if he travels this way, they have consent on all sides.

In the mean time, Vix had been developing a relationship by correspondence with an older gent - call him Doc - whom she has met here in the States but who is an ex-pat living and working in Europe for at least the next two years.

Doc traveled to Georgia back in January for an event of interest to Vix, and they attended together. He then invited her to visit him in Europe in late April, paying her air fare and other expenses.

They had a very fine long weekend together, traveling together as friends and lovers. She is planning to go back to Europe for two weeks in August, to spend more time with him.

Some trouble and strife followed her return from her April trip.

Vix does not much like living in the Atlanta area. In fact, as an asthmatic, the pollen, air pollution, and her own medications are quite possibly killing her.

She is highly motivated to spend as much time away from the area as she can, at least until I find a job elsewhere and we can move our household. This may be difficult, given my academic field and the current economy.

Doc made her an offer she had trouble refusing: spend a year with him in Europe, and take our daughters with her so they could attend school there. He would cover their expenses.

At first his offer was to have all this happen the year after next.

Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, let me say I think the offer was well intentioned, not a play to steal my wife from me. The part of Europe in which he lives is much healthier than the Atlanta area, and Vix has long wanted to provide our daughters with an immersion experience in European languages and culture. For his part, Doc is divorced - he is staying in Europe to be close to his own children, who live with their mother, until they are out of high school - and he makes absurd amounts of money at his job and has a large house that is now mostly empty.

Even so, I balked. My understanding of our agreement regarding poly was that our household would remain intact, regardless of how either of us might venture from it. It seemed to me accepting Doc's offer would be a radical change to our understanding.

More than this, it struck me as foolhardy for Vix to commit to live for a year, on whatever terms, with a guy with whom she had spent exactly two nice weekends, and equally foolhardy to entrust the care and education of our children to someone they had met, slightly, once.

I'm not doing justice to the complexity of the discussion, nor to Vix's reaction to my reaction. Suffice it to say it was a tense and difficult time.

As tense and difficult as it was, I was blindsided by Doc's reaction to Vix's reports of my qualms: in effect, he doubled down, offering to host Vix and the girls this coming school year.

At that, I'm afraid to say, I flipped out.

Well, maybe that's too strong. I didn't rage or rail, but I was outraged and adamant.

I have never been one to put my foot down, to flatly say "no" to something. Vix has long been pushing me to be more assertive, but I think she was taken aback by the firmness of my refusal. Such an arrangement was simply unacceptable to me.

To his credit, Doc backed down when I flipped out. He had already expressed his intention not to disrupt my relationship with Vix or our relationship with our girls.

Even so, there followed long and difficult conversations between Vix and me, characterized more by missed communication than miscommunication, if that makes any sense: we were starting from different premises, and so talked past one another.

Days later, we came back to a kind of equilibrium. As difficult as it was, and as much as it planted a seed of doubt in my mind about Doc's judgment and his motives, it actually brought Vix and me to a clearer understanding of what we need, what we expect, and what we'll do from here.

The long and the short of it is that Vix won't be taking the girls to Europe. However, we have agreed to:

1. arrange things so Vix is more free to travel, to visit Doc, to pursue her avocation, and to protect her health from the worst the Atlanta area has to offer; this largely involves giving up home schooling the children and enrolling them in public school next year;

2. be more diligent in trying to find a job away from the Atlanta area - which doesn't make Nyx very happy, and will likely lead to some hard choices, down the road;

and, 3. prepare to divide our household, temporarily, in a few years, if Vix really needs to be away from the Atlanta area before I can find work elsewhere, even though the logistics of doing so might be nightmarish.

In the mean time, Vix is laying plans for her return visit to Europe, and also for a chance to meet up with Doc in the States sometime in the fall.
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Last edited by hyperskeptic; 06-05-2012 at 06:09 PM.
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  #15  
Old 06-07-2012, 11:49 PM
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Default Acid Test

Through a recent exchange of private messages, it has become clear to me that I may be giving the impression that my entry into polyamory has been easy and trouble free.

Could it really be that neither of us has experienced jealousy, insecurity, or feelings of being neglected or abandoned? Really?

Well, not exactly.

The impression may just be due to the fact that I tend to post to this blog when things are going well, and perhaps also due to a residual desire not to air dirty laundry in public.

First, though, yes, I think it's true that neither of us has experienced much jealousy or insecurity. By the time we started discussing polyamory, Vix and I had been through a lot of rough times, and had come back around to being secure and close in our relationship.

Really, if she was going to leave me, she would have left years ago!

She nearly did leave me, on a number of occasions. There was one time, when we were alone together in Europe in the year after we were married, that we reached a fearful impasse in which I realized the next words out of my mouth would determine whether she stayed or left.

I chose my words very, very carefully.

Vix and I have much in common, from our basic outlook on the world to our core values to our taste in food and company and activities. Our instincts about raising our children usually line up, to the point one of us would say in exactly the same words what the other one was about to say.

Heck, even our strides are perfectly matched when we walk together.

So, that was our starting point, coming into polyamory.

As it turns out, we share a lot of the same instincts about polyamory, too, from big ideas of consent and honesty, right down to the kinds of relationships we're looking for - it just made sense to each of us to date separately, as individuals - and how we would mitigate the biological risks of having more than one sexual relationship.

That said, polyamory has been a kind of acid test for our relationship, and it has revealed and forced us to confront basic differences between us, even a few deep rifts. It has also forced us to confront again, and much more deeply than ever before, the differences in our communication styles.

This last is something of which we were aware before we were married, before we even lived together. We have struggled with communication styles all along, and thought we had overcome the worst of it.

We were mistaken, and the rigorous demands of polyamory showed us our error.

My tendency has been to keep things to myself, to bottle up disappointment and resentment and anger, to let it fester and stew.

However, I had learned the kind of damage that kind of simmering anger could do, so I was at pains to suppress it, to be silent, to refrain from lashing out with passive-aggressive sniping. I could be successful in that, for a while, but I would end up withdrawn, sulking, not interacting . . . avoiding conflict at all cost, even if the cost was setting up much worse conflicts down the road! Or I would end up being passive-aggressive, in spite of myself.

In the beginning, 20 years ago, I could sulk for days.

Vix's way of dealing with conflict and disappointment and resentment and anger is just to blow up, then let it pass, then get on with figuring out what happened.

That response would send me scrambling. My response would leave her baffled and hurt.

And so it went.

I gradually got better at expressing myself, and standing my ground in the face of her flashes of anger, and more quickly talking things through to get to the core of the problem.

But, oh, can we not afford for me to bottle up my feelings, now that we're poly, or to keep things to myself just for the sake of avoiding conflict and avoiding her flashes of anger!

It's still very difficult for me, but I'm highly motivated now to improve my ability and willingness to be honest about things.

For example, on our first night together, due to a failure of communication on my part, Nyx and I violated a boundary I'd established with Vix regarding oral sex. It wasn't a major infraction, I suppose, but it did introduce a risk Vix considered unacceptable for very sound medical reasons: Vix is allergic to many antibiotics!

I knew I had to tell Vix right away, and see what steps she would want me to take next. I dreaded telling her, fearing a flash of real anger at the betrayal of trust.

I steeled myself for it, and brought it up cautiously, obliquely, though not (I hope) quite cringingly.

To my surprise, she was not angry. She was glad I'd told her, and we talked about what we should do about it. Nyx has herself tested regularly for STIs, and I was due to be tested, myself. Vix and I were more than usually careful for a while after that.

And that was it. Suddenly, I gained some confidence in the power of immediate, direct honesty.

But then, in the conversation about Doc's offer to host Vix and the girls in Europe, my immediate, direct honesty - my flashes of anger, even! - seemed to catch Vix by surprise. I had to keep reminding her that I should be allowed to express my feelings when I feel them, to not bottle them up for later decanting, and that my first reaction should not be taken as firm policy.

She's not used to that from me, though, which made the conversation that much harder.

But through it, I began to see some real differences in how we think about the world, about our relationship, about the meaning of our household, differences we'll have to continue to work through.

Now that she's making plans to visit Doc in August, I find myself a little annoyed by the inconvenience of her plan. ("Why'd she have to go and get involved with a guy in Europe, for pity's sake?")

But I'm also happy she's going, since I want her to be able to spend time with her new guy, just as she wants and allows me to have time with Nyx every week. I mean, fair's fair, right?

Further down the road, as I've said, I see some difficult times coming. Vix does need to get out of the Atlanta area, for health reasons. She may need to go before I can find a job elsewhere, so we may have to divide our household. Leaving the area also means leaving Nyx behind, which could be very, very hard.

I foresee hard conversations, hard choices, maybe storms of silence and anger and bad feeling, doubt and guilt and anxiety.

Regarding that, though, I could quote something I wrote in a private message, earlier:

Quote:
The anticipation of pain is hard . . . but, really, don't we all live with that, in one form or another? There will be pain, down the road, for all of us. But to the extent there are good things now, we should enjoy them for what they are.
Writing this brought to mind a quotation from Nietzsche, from one of his aphorisms in The Gay Science (that's "gay" as in "joyful" - froehliche - but make of it what you will!):

Quote:
Now, little ship, look out! Beside you is the ocean: to be sure, it does not always roar, and at times it lies spread out like silk and gold and reveries of graciousness. But hours will come when you will realize it is infinite and that there is nothing more awesome than infinity.
Just at the moment, Vix (and Doc and Nyx) and I seem to be enjoying reveries of graciousness . . . as long as they last.

This reminds me that I should write something, sometime about the connection I make between existentialism (like that of Nietzsche) and polyamory.

The short version is this: If it is the human condition to be alone and adrift on an infinite sea on which there is no shore, it seems sensible to tie our boats together and keep one another company while we can. More boats tied together more securely seems about the wisest course we can manage.
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"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" - Charles Darwin

"Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Last edited by hyperskeptic; 06-08-2012 at 12:26 AM.
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:17 AM
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Originally Posted by hyperskeptic View Post
This reminds me that I should write something, sometime about the connection I make between existentialism (like that of Nietzsche) and polyamory.

The short version is this: If it is the human condition to be alone and adrift on an infinite sea on which there is no shore, it seems sensible to tie our boats together and keep one another company while we can. More boats tied together more securely seems about the wisest course we can manage.
I'd like to hear the long version of this sometimes if you are so inclined. :-)
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Old 07-05-2012, 12:56 PM
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I'd like to hear the long version of this sometimes if you are so inclined. :-)
Okay, here goes.

I guess there are two main points that, for me, make existentialism and polyamory especially compatible.

First, the core idea of existentialism is that existence precedes essence: we are thrown into the world, we find ourselves here in the midst of things, but we don't know what we are or what our lives are for. We cannot look inside ourselves or out into the cosmos for some fixed point of meaning to which we can anchor ourselves.

That's actually pretty terrifying . . . like floating in space, without ship or tether, trying to decide which way is up. We are free to invent ourselves, to determine for ourselves what we are and what our lives will mean, but that turns out to be a heavy responsibility.

Arguments about what is or is not "natural" for human beings can't really get a lot of traction against this. If people take their own historically contingent and culturally conditioned views on certain institutions and practices - say, monogamous heterosexual marriage - to be universal moral requirements, then they are deeply mistaken.

So, existentialism opens up a moral space in which people can define themselves, find their own way and their own meaning . . . and pose a fundamental challenge to moral ideals and social institutions that others would impose on us on the pretense that they are "natural", that they have universal validity.

They aren't, and they don't.

At the same time, at least as I have incorporated elements of existentialism into my own thinking, the sense of human dignity (and the demands of human dignity) carry over from other humanist forms of ethics, like that of Kant. I am free . . . but so are you! This brings me to . . .

Second, we're thrown here into the world and we're always just muddling through, but we don't have to muddle through alone. Not all the big-name existentialists emphasize this, at least not in their most widely read works. Sometimes, they seem cranky or even downright anti-social ("Hell is other people," wrote Sartre.)

But there is at least the possibility of finding some meaning, some sense of security in the world, in relationships with others - and not just intimate personal relationships. I'm thinking of the sense of solidarity that developed among the main characters in Camus' The Plague, or the real-world solidarity between Sartre and Merleau-Ponty during the Resistance.

The old pop-existentialist saw is that we are all born alone and we all die alone - at least from the point of view of our own conscious experience: no one else can experience the opening and the closing of someone's personal window into the world. In between, there are limits to how close we can get to other people, how well we can understand them or see the world as they see it.

But we can keep trying. We can enrich our lives with friendship and affection, and with common causes. We can muddle through together, for a while, at least.

The standard model is that each of us has to find or choose one person to be the main co-muddler, and we should pledge ourselves to muddle through with just that one person until one or another window closes. There's nothing essentially wrong with it, but neither is it the only live option.

It does strike me as an especially risky strategy, though, and not really all that true to how things tend to work out. My wife and I are long-term co-muddlers and, as far as we can see, intend to stay together as long as we both live. But we are now both open to recognizing and joining with others we happen across who are muddling in more-or-less the same direction.

The nautical metaphor keeps coming back. We are, each of us, at sea in a little boat, with no land on the horizon and no anchor. Storms come and go; sometimes we are tossed around and swamped, sometimes all is calm. When someone else happens by, we may tie our boats together, even if just for a little while, and compare notes, and share stories and laughter.

The sea is still there, and storms will come. Bindings break, and boats will drift apart. Eventually, my boat, and perhaps my boat alone, will sink beneath the waves.

In the mean time, there is meaning and comfort to be found in the impromptu flotilla.
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"Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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  #18  
Old 09-01-2012, 10:33 AM
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Default I Don't Have Time for This!

It's been a hard month. I was away for a week at the beginning of August, at music camp. Within hours of my return, I drove Vix to the airport for a two-and-a-half week visit to her bf, who currently lives in Europe.

So, I fell into the routine of home, getting up very early to get the girls off the school bus, first preparing and then starting to teach my own classes, practicing with my bands. I started going to bed earlier and earlier, just to be able to handle it all.

In the mean time, Nyx was swamped by her own work life and by her other relationships and commitments, including her not-quite-primary partner's ongoing struggle with jealousy, the upshot of which is that she and I were unable to find time to see one another.

Something crashed. I withdrew and grew . . . well, not cold, exactly. Numb.

That's it. Numb.

Vix is back, and things are okay but slightly brittle between us. I still haven't seen Nyx - our planned date the other night had to be cancelled because of her work schedule and subsequent headache. Now, she's off on a long hike in the mountains, and I probably won't see her for another two weeks, at least.

My own professional obligations are starting to ramp up for the year, engaging more and more of my attention. I have several gigs to prepare for.

In the mean time, a young woman on whom I had a doomed crush last year showed up at the dance last night. The crush is (mostly) gone, but I was annoyed with myself for still being so distracted by her.

With all this comes the growing realization that, really, I just don't have time for this, actually practicing polyamory, and I can't really spare the energy to deal with the emotional turmoil of it.

I mentioned all this to Vix and the first words out of her mouth were a most unhelpful question: "Will this be the cause of resentment, if I'm off visiting my boyfriend and you're stuck alone?"

I answered neutrally, "I don't know." (It was late, we were both exhausted, and I didn't see much point in getting into it just then.)

I woke up this morning, certain that the answer to her question is an emphatic yes. I suppose I'll just have to find a way to deal with that, though.

The resentment may have little to do with her having an outside relationship, though, and more to do with the fact that she'd be off doing only what she wants, while I'm here doing what I have to.

The most worrisome thing, for me, is that I can feel myself shutting down, emotionally. One of the most exciting things about deciding to be poly is that I began to feel open to other people and to their possibilities; I had the opportunity to focus on connecting with other people, something I've only sporadically taken the time to do.

Now I feel myself slipping back into my old habit of hunkering down and doing my job, keeping other people at a safe distance, if only because I don't have the time or the energy to spare for them.
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Old 09-04-2012, 12:54 AM
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When you feel yourself isolating, distancing yourself, and feeding resentments until they grow huge, you can either give in to them and wind up feeling righteous but miserable OR you actively, vigilantly DO NOT GO THERE. Occupy yourself with other activities, thoughts, ways of treating yourself well. The degree to which we are happy and satisfied in life is directly proportionate to the amount of resentments we carry. Do you want to be alive, embracing what life brings you, or do you want to be right about not being able to cope with it? Will your live and loving be an exhilarating adventure or drudgery? You have a choice. Choose well.
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Last edited by nycindie; 09-04-2012 at 12:56 AM.
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Old 09-04-2012, 07:51 PM
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Default Responsibility

While this mood is on me, it seems to me there is something frivolous, even puerile, about most accounts of polyamory.

While this mood is on me, it seems to me poly could only have arisen in the late twentieth century, in a culture so fragmented, so commercialized, so decadent that only disconnected, rootless, aimless consumers remain, consumers who think their only responsibility is to satisfy their dear selves, to follow their f#%&ing bliss.

While this mood is on me, I'm inclined to respond to the enticements of polyamory - the insistence that I should pursue the delusion of boundless love - that, really, it isn't all about me. My aim should be not - or not merely - to see what I can get out of life, how much happiness or pleasure I can derive, but to contribute what I can to whatever is left of human civilization, to take up and shoulder my responsibilities to others and to society itself.

While this mood is on me, I will declare that autonomy, true human freedom, does not consist in doing what you want. If you are doing what you want, the great theorists of autonomy might say, then you are a slave to what you want.

In this moment, I have responsibilities, and I need to focus on them, not because they bring me immediate pleasure, but because they are my responsibilities. They have their satisfactions, even their moments of joy, but they require discipline, focus, time, and energy - which are finite.

I have responsibilities to my wife and children, to our household. This includes the responsibility of creating conditions in which we can move our household, preferably intact, to a healthier setting. This redoubles my already-growing responsibilities a work, where I have a broader responsibility to foster excellence in teaching and research in my field. I have chosen to take on responsibilities in a particular community of those who love a particular form of dance and its music, activities I judge to be of value for broader cultural reasons.

That's quite a lot to be going on with.

While this mood is on me, I note that sometimes carrying my responsibilities is a stone drag, and that sometimes duty is all I have to keep me moving, and that's just the way it is, sometimes.
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Last edited by hyperskeptic; 09-04-2012 at 08:18 PM.
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