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Each day, I open my eyes with an awareness that life as I know it is gone or if it’s not it will be soon. Nothing lasts forever. . . . everything changes and evolves. That thought often leads to initial despondency, but ultimately I can’t stay in that place or I won’t be able to move my spirit and body to where it needs to go.

With each breath, I realize that moments of calm are fleeting. My once content loved ones may be wrestling with serious illness, broken hearts, or devastation over the course our country has taken. I am also be aware that the people I once felt loved by may have drifted away. Or perhaps the body that allowed me to run miles and miles can no longer move in quite the same way. Or maybe a practice that always helped me find calm isn’t working as it did.

 

img_2747And even with all of this knowledge and sometimes pain, I am impacted by the very real possibilities that waking up may open for me. Relationships may be salvaged. New friends may be found. A new love may enter my life. A beautiful moment may ignite my spirit. A solution may be found for something that once seemed impossible. Or perhaps, waking up that day will be enough.

While giving up and curling up into a cocoon may be exactly what my spirit craves, it usually only helps things for a brief time. Instead I endeavor to live each morning with intention. I visit the darkness only to push it aside (on most mornings) and then I stretch my limbs and allow gratitude to flow. I can move.  On a more hopeful morning, I embrace the words and melodies that fill my head. As the words and melodies fill my brokenness with what often becomes a burst of light.

I am alive. I am thriving. I have made it to this time.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,

Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Song Writer: Paul Simon

December 2016 - looking outBeing alone allows me to ground my spirit and find center. It gives me the space to think, to cry, to create, to feel, to dance, to understand my many dichotomies and then to emerge from my alone-ness when I am ready.

 

While I love people, I also believe that being by myself much of the time is natural and perhaps how I was meant to be. From the moment I was born, I was thrust into a world of alone-ness. Perhaps it began in utero and then continued as the family of my birth didn’t have the skill or wherewithal to raise me in a healthy environment.

 

From my earliest memories, I was blessed to learn how take care of my spirit. There was no one to hold me, to nurture me, or to love me into the person I was meant to become.

 

As early as I can remember, my young life was filled with tears as I learned that the best thing to do when in distress was put a pillow over my head so no one could hear me cry or even scream. At one point, I remember believing that even God couldn’t hear my pain. I think that was the beginning of me wrestling with whether or not God had a role in my life. I am still wrestling with that today which is to say that there are times I am completely aware of how alone I actually am.

 

I always wanted to be like a rock or maybe like an island. I believed (and sometimes I still do) that I was safer navigating the world alone, turning inward, and being silent.  The idea that I could surround myself with my poetry, my books, and even my creativity, was profound. I could navigate this world alone.  All I ever wanted and still want is safety. I want to feel the cocoon of love and softness around my spirit.

 

My childhood and teenage scars remind me that safety is never given. If I want to be safe, I have to love myself enough to honor my needs at any given moment and to shield myself from harm whenever possible. I’ve got this!!! AND I am also a part of many loving tribes including my family, my friendship circles, my faith based communities, and activists.

 

Love is so complicated. Those we love have the ability to hurt us more than anyone else ever can. And the older I get, the more I realize that I don’t have what it takes to recover from the pain that I once brushed off with ease. The good news is that this has led me to nurturing friendships that truly fuel my soul.

 

For the most part being alone is not sad for me. I thrive on all that I love to do and how I walk in the world. I treasure those people in my life, I just find it easier when I am in my own little cocoon breathing, creating, and being in the fullness of who I truly am.

 

My work will continue to be honoring my need for alone-ness while not getting stuck in the alone-ness that I learned as a young child. I need to keep doing the holy work of living. AND to fully live means that I have holy work to do! I need to keep listening to the inner voice that both reminds me to take time to thrive in my alone-ness while also remembering my love for humanity.

 

And while I may constantly be developing my foundation so that it is as strong as a rock, I also have to keep showing up to the table – again and again and again.

Hineini, I am here!

 

Onward with love, light, and blessings,

Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

 

 

 

 

 

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broken hearted(Trigger warning: This excerpt may be harsh for those who have experienced childhood trauma or who love me.)

My mother tried to kill me.

I don’t say these words lightly nor do I know if my mother’s intention was in fact to kill me. I will never know that. And in truth, the moment she started swinging the butcher knife towards me may not have been a conscious one for her. Marilyn was mentally ill, a drug abuser, and a very sick soul.

But none of this matters. What matters is that I had no where to go to be safe. No one loved me enough to take me in or to protect me from the barrage of eruptive energy that I faced daily. I was alone. Or should I say that I felt alone.

The feeling of loneliness has never left me. My childhood impacted me on a cellular level and while I have family, friends, and tools that fill me with love and often show up when I need to be physically or metaphorically held, it doesn’t always help. The shattered feeling that has been part of my life since birth is still part of my life; it just is. And the good news is that I have filled my world with so many beautiful people that I can usually push through my default sense of loneliness.

My work is to keep showing up, living authentically, and sharing my stories so that others don’t have to be alone and so that we can all inspire one another. And today, I know I can reach out to my tribe. While I will not necessarily ask for help or even share the specifics of what is hurting me, I am so much better at letting those who love me know that I am having a hard time and that I need to be held. Perhaps one day, I will learn to better ask for help.

Back to the knife . . .

As a child I used to love living across the street from my synagogue and celebrating the Jewish holidays. Judaism was always in my blood and the fall holidays when I was in 8th grade were no different. I would walk out of my house, turn right and walk up Pikeswood Drive. I knew just about everyone who lived on my block. Once I got to the traffic light at the top of the street, I felt somehow more relaxed, safe, and free. I would cross over Liberty Road and my synagogue would be awaiting my return. I loved Beth Israel.

The deal had always been that I could stay home from school on the Jewish holidays if I went to Beth Israel for services. This was a no brainer; I loved going to shul, which is what I called my synagogue growing up. I loved everything about the congregation. I loved the services, the onegs (nosh after services), my friends, their parents, and all of the older members. As long as I was at Beth Israel, I felt a sense of solace in my stressful life.

Nearly every Shabbat/Saturday, I went to the morning services and on most every holiday too. After services were over, I would read and do homework during the afternoons and evenings.  By junior high school, now known as middle school, I was a fairly good student. I did have some challenges, but I generally tried to do well.

On the night my mother came into my room swinging a butcher knife, I was so worried about a biology test I had coming up. I hated the teacher who seriously had it out for me. I was hyper-focused and trying to learn the material; I didn’t want to fail. But life took a dark turn that would forever impact any false sense of security I had.

Initially, I was hearing my mother screaming, slurring her words and banging something against my door. This was not unusual, so I tried to ignore it or maybe I screamed that she shut up. By junior high school, I was done withstanding abuse, but that didn’t really change anything. I was bigger and stronger which helped, but my mother was still a mentally ill addict.

When the noise didn’t quiet down, I opened my door in exasperation and was stunned at what I saw. A huge knife getting ready to come down on me or into me or wherever. I was scared shit-less. All I remember is somehow pushing my mother down and hearing her yell obscenities at me as I ran out of the house and to a neighbor. I can’t imagine what my friend’s parents thought of me when they opened the door to see me sobbing and shaking.

Sadly, I only have a vague recollection of what transpired over the next few hours. The police came followed by social services and I was taken away to temporary foster home. As time went on, I realized that no one in the foster care system believed that a young Jewish child could be abused by her Jewish mother.  The nightmare was horrific, but the aftermath was even worse.

Without anyone there to believe me or see me, I was forced to navigate the world differently. And my mother was mortified about all that was going on and begged social services not to put me into a Jewish home. She was really worried about what would the neighbors think. So they did the next best thing, they took me to live with a couple that were active in their beautiful Methodist church. So during my time in that foster home, I went to church every Sunday. Sigh.

So not only did I lose my home, my school, Beth Israel, my friends, I lost my spiritual home. I was really on my own.

Not being seen and not being heard started me on a path of self-destruction. I did drugs with little or no worry for what I was taking, I climbed moving trains and jumped off the top of them, and I had little regard for my life. I wasn’t worthy enough to be heard so I started to embody a life that reinforced just that. I also learned that my voice didn’t matter, so silence became my closest friend. Over time I stopped sharing my stories and started lying. Nothing I said mattered so I learned to share what I thought people wanted to hear.

Months later, I returned home. The alternative was going to a girls’ group home where the girls were brutal to one another. At least at home, I only had to keep myself safe from my mother not another 15 – 20 teenage girls. The good news is that I don’t remember as much violence once I returned. The eruptions never stopped, but I don’t remember any more physical pain upon my return.

But 14 years of hell and many more years of volatile outbursts caused a lifetime of healing ahead of me. While I accepted that I was broken, I also understood that I was a thriver and actually quite whole too. I am a work in progress. My work has always been to keep taking one step and then another. I had lived through hell and I had ultimately found my voice.

And the good news is that my mother didn’t kill me.

Hineini, I am here!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Moon May 2015

 

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence . . . 
~Lyrics by Paul Simon

Darkness has always had an effect on me. I wrote about it in a blog about twenty months ago, Hello Darkness .  And today, I feel compelled to dig a little deeper.

Previously, I shared that “spinning a cocoon of darkness can be beautiful. In that darkness, awareness comes, skeletons are recognized, and insight is found.” While that is true, I want to unveil an even darker side to this reality. Darkness may ultimately illuminate my horizons, but before it does the world may come crashing down and my heart may feel like it has completely shattered.

Over the years, I have found myself stunned more than once by the way profound pain can suffocate my soul. It under this veil of darkness that I remember how painfully alone I am even with my loved ones within reach. This feeling of desolation is unrelenting and at times feels like it is squeezing the life out of me.

It started when I was a little girl and my parents would lose their shit in the middle of the night. Their screams would wake up me in an instant and their violence would permeate the walls around me. With no way out and no where to run, I was held hostage to the rage that lived inside my home.

Over the years, that same feeling has taken over more of my nights than I care to remember. I am never surprised by the punch that comes from a midnight rendezvous. During my really tormented nights, I wake up with my nails digging into my palm. There have even been rare moments when my clutched fist would leave blood dripping from my hands. On those nights, it seems that I am fighting the devastating nightmares that were unleashed from my earliest memories.

Unfortunately, trauma of any sort often leads me momentarily back to the patterns that begun in my childhood – a broken heart, a sudden death, a crippling moment leave me unable to sleep for what could be days if not weeks.

The good news for me is that as soon as dawn breaks, I breathe a little easier. I find that a normal beat returns to my broken heart and hope emerges. I am blessed to have become the thriver I am.

Thank you universe. Thank you loved ones.

Hineini, I am here!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

 

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I slept so well last night but woke up with anxiety running really deep. I think I get where it’s coming from, but I’m not 100% sure yet.

Before I even opened my eyes, I decided to seek the wisdom of some cards I had on my nightstand. (See above) I haven’t been doing this practice as regularly as I once did, but it’s a powerful tool for gaining inner wisdom. So before even turning on the light, I picked a card that called to me from Juicy Living Cards by SARK. What’s funny is that I think I may have picked this card one of the last times I used this particular deck – not including a couple of nights before when I felt called to seeking wisdom in this way.

The card I picked makes so much sense. I need to play. . .really play!!! My soul has been painfully aware of the many dichotomies that I live. My calling is wrestling with it’s many parts. My activism reminds me that the work that needs to be done is overwhelming and even scary. And my creative spirit needs so much more nurturing. AND even though my dreams are unfolding leaving me with new opportunities, I need to take care of myself with each breath.

This morning, I am taking time to drive out to the country to look at a retreat center/camp for our upcoming Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom retreat. While I have just begun this journey with my holy Muslim and Jewish sisters, I feel like I am finding a beautiful new rhythm for my life.

Ironically, I don’t have time to play or to nurture new connections, but I don’t have time not to. My soul needs the connections I am building with the Sisterhood and with a new beloved in my life. While I don’t know where any of these journeys will take me or even what tomorrow will bring, I do know that I am need to do whatever it takes to navigate what my teacher SARK calls the ‘marvelous messy middle’.

My life is full. I am just coming off of a writing sabbatical with so much more writing to do. My work is inspiring me to give more and more – not to mention the programming year is beginning this weekend. I am writing a book called, Thriving: No Option. . . . And my activism needs me to show up to the table again and again and again.

The good news is that EVERYTHING I am doing fuels my heart and soul! EVERYTHING I do nourishes me even the hard stuff. As a beloved friend recently wrote to me, “your heart beats for many. We’re all fortunate to have those heartbeats drumming away to heal us, like your djembe does for you.”

And I am tired. . . .tired to the core. This morning, I found myself chanting, drumming a little, writing and excited for what is ahead. I am so looking forward to what’s coming this morning and beyond. Driving out of the country today is exactly what I need. I will have a chance to see my sisters and if I am lucky I will also have a little time for me. In anticipation, I am bringing my journal, some watercolors, and my markers ….

This week has been particularly hard on my spirit; there is so much for me to do and a small health concern I am navigating. On top of it all, I still need to remember to breathe deeply and honor my spirit.

I’m understanding some things about myself that are leaving me afraid. I’m also loving the possibilities with an understanding that it will take time for life to unfold so that I can get to where I need to be. A difficult dichotomy to be sure. And yet, full of hope.

Healing seems to be the message I need to hear because two nights ago, I picked another healing card from the same Juicy Living Cards by SARK:

 

 

The moral of how I am currently walking in the world is:
“The only journey is the one within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Day 37 - Choose to Thrivei want to live in my truth and it is not optional for me. this means that what i am about to say may not be comfortable to read.

you see. . .I was born to live out loud, to be real, and to exist fully as the person I am. living in alignment is my holy work.

i have lived in many shadows and i have lived with so many lies. the difference between many of us is that i had no way out. . . not really.

there was my childhood. there really no need to say more about that. and there was my relationship with michael, my ex-husband. i had no money nor the ability to succeed without his support – not really. and i had children that were at times critically ill. in the end, i found my footing and i did what I had to do. i have always been someone who has reached for what fuels my spirit as soon as i could find the footing.

back then, i always did what i had to do AND i did it with reality looming overhead. BUT what i craved most was living in my integrity. i needed and still need to live my truth with myself. this isn’t about right or wrong for others.

the book I am writing is currently called ‘thriving: no option. . . ‘ every day i choose to live as i do. i know that i do not follow the norm that others feel compelled to follow. i live my many complicated truths.

when i left michael, i lost the village we created. when i left DC because i wanted to be safe, i lost my foundation of friends. being safe was more important. i am not 100% sure that i needed to fear michael, but i did.

when i left orthodoxy years before, i knew i needed to listen to the internal voices in my head. i didn’t believe that religious law should guide how i live life. i didn’t believe in one truth. i didn’t believe in God and God’s power as others did.

i am a seeker who is choosing how to live my life. and yes . . .a long the way, i lost a ton and with each loss i gained an insight that has guided my every step. over time i have stopped letting fear destroy my ability to move forward. i always move forward. i always reach towards what is possible. and yes, i often fall hard, but it is better to fall than to stand still and feel stuck in the middle between two things that don’t fill my many voids.

and yes the pain i have felt has left me bereft. i hurt deeply and wish that i could go through life without having my entire being broken – again and again and again.

with this in mind, i struggle with how much some feel like they are stuck in the middle between two parts of their lives. i am so sorry for that. AND i wonder what folks really want, i wonder what is attainable, and i wonder if they can develop the inner strength to create what would fuel their spirit.

and perhaps i am not fair. i have no money to lose for living in my integrity. i am already alone in most ways with a smattering of beloved friends to hold my spirit with almost no one close enough to hold me when my spirit breaks.

the good news is that i’ve learned to ride the waves, to exist alone, and to always reach for the life i want. i’ve also learned how to settle for the beauty knowing that whatever I have is there for however long it is part of my life.

i struggle with the knowledge that i am alone with a world just beyond my reach. AND still i come to the table again and again and again. i show up, i fumble, i fall, and i cry. and at least to this moment, i always  hold my arms out to the universe and move onward.

staying in the middle is not an option for me. i live fully wherever i am.

i also find joy in my work even on tough days. i work towards making our world a better world even though i may take my last breath before ever making the difference i want. i reach and strive for the possibilities even though i fear the realities. nothing stops me from writing or living out loud.

once upon a time, i lost a lot by living my many truths. still silence is not an option.

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world,
I
, an artist, will answer you:
I
 am here to live out loud.”

― Émile Zola

in my childhood, i learned so many lessons. mostly i learned that i was broken and if i wanted to find my voice or my inner strength, I needed to find a way to honor my spirit while accepting the brokenness that is part of my every breath.

~ ~ ~

i have accepted that i may never have it all, but what i have i will love. my work may be a four-letter-word, but it also offers a pathway to impact others in beautiful ways. my writing fuels my spirit even though it also has it’s cost. my art is sweet, but i don’t have the time or the ability to soar with it.

life is full of holy work to do.

over the last 10+, i have rarely done anything that doesn’t honor my spirit. i have left jobs because they compromised who i was. i have said good-bye – again and again. i do what i now call the ‘dance of emergence’. i’ve lost so much, but found my soul in the process.

in the meantime, I will keep living consciously and authentically as much as possible. and while i sometimes settle for reality, i only settle if i can celebrate living there for that moment and hopefully longer.

i am here to live out loud!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Chava'sEar

Until I was 5 or so years old, I don’t remember hearing too much of anything. Perhaps I did hear, perhaps I didn’t hear. I don’t really know.  The story I tell myself and that I recall my parents telling me is that I didn’t hear too well until a few weeks post-surgery when the doctors took my adenoids and also did some exploratory surgery with the bones in my ears.

The truth doesn’t really matter. What I do know is that I have always struggled to hear. And when I was younger, I had nine years of speech therapy just to teach me how to articulate myself clearly. Sigh. And to this day, I often worry that people can’t understand what I am saying. But I digress.

When I was in elementary and junior high school (which is now called middle school), the teachers always assigned me to sit in the first row of the classroom or to sit closest to the front of the room. As a child, this made me made me feel like I was being singled out and I was. For this reason, the first days of school always left me trembling in fear. I hated being different; I so wanted to be like all the rest of the children. Only I never was. In so many ways, I was different, only it took me years to understand them all.

Growing up hearing impaired, I struggled to understand what was going on in the world around me and on rare occasions I still do. While I have always outwardly adapted, inwardly I felt and often still feel awkward and inadequate. At the same time, I have always pushed through these feelings so much so that most people often have no clue how poorly I hear or how I feel about it. From a young age, I learned to compensate by reading lips. While I can’t read lips fluently, what I do makes it possible be able to catch most of what is being spoken. Ultimately, I usual find a way to navigate this internal reality.

Feeling invisible has always plagued me and yet it is so silly because I am far from invisible. My holy work is to quiet or silence the Inner Demon that relives the loneliness of that little girl that often felt unseen and alone.

The good news is that for the most part I rarely allow myself to get bummed about my lack of hearing; however, that is not to say I am OK with it either. Mostly, I go through life teetering through the momentary patches of stupid comments that come out of people’s mouth when they think they are being cute as they say “huh” when I let them know I am hearing impaired. While I outwardly laugh because those people are trying to be funny, I also cringe inside because I have been haunted by this reality my entire life.

Every once in a long while I spiral to that dark place that comes from hating that I miss so much of the world that I deeply love. I miss precious words, social interactions, beautiful music, the rolling thunder, and so much more.

I am blessed to travel in circles that mostly allow me to hear with as much ease as possible. I tend to sit where I can best catch the conversations with as much ease as possible. And when I go to a workshop or a lecture, I hope for amplification, but when there isn’t amplification, I sit either close to the where the speaker will be standing or sometimes where I can best see the facilitator’s lips.  This tends to work most of the time except when it doesn’t.

There was the time that I was at an advocacy training when the facilitator wanted to have all the participants sit within close proximity of him. GREAT IDEA! The only challenge was that all the seats were taken that would have allowed me to be where he wanted me to be and to hear too. So, I did the next best thing, I sat one row back so that I would be able to read his lips. Only that wasn’t what he wanted. He was so focused on preparing for his talk that he seemed to be ignoring that I told him that I needed to sit where I am sitting so that I can read his lips; I was advocating for myself. Instead of saying no problem, he dug his heals in and made me say that I need to read lips two or three more times before he just gave up frustrated. In the end, I stayed where I was sitting. Only by that time I was feeling so marginalized that I barely heard a word he said, and I certainly didn’t want to look at his lips.

The experience made me go into my default mode. Instead of simply being happy that he gave up and I could then go on to hear his talk, I found myself despondent with old wounds opening. I felt so sad and small. I’ve always known I was hearing impaired. Yay! This is my f*cking reality; I live it every day. Reality.

For that 90 minutes, I couldn’t soothe my brokenness. I hated not hearing and I hated missing what people were saying. It was what it was. The shame and embarrassment of having to say that I needed to read lips because I can’t hear was too much for me. No one wants to be differently-abled, but sometimes we have no choice.

My guess is that the presenter had no idea what can of worms he had opened up for me as he was prepping for his lecture. I’ve been there. Nonetheless, I found myself deeply sad and crying throughout the entire day. His one moment of thoughtless left me crumbling inside. Does it make sense? Absolutely not! I am stronger than that, but for the better part of that day old wounds were oozing out and it took time for a new scab to form. The good news is that the presenter apologized after he was done speaking and I gently let him know what he had done.

Meanwhile, I know that once triggers happen, I will ultimately be alright if I take time to nurture my spirit by breathing deeply and feeling the sadness, pain, or any emotion that comes my way. I may not like my lack of hearing, but it is what it is.

Life happens. I am the woman I am because of my life experiences. I am: strong, intuitive, brave, emotional, smart, sensitive, passionate, hearing impaired, and so much more. I do hear now. AND I will one day, probably sooner rather than later, need hearing aids.  I am so OK with this.  In fact, I have “theoretically” always been OK with this. I have simply struggled to find the right hearing aids and the money to purchase them. In truth, if I found the right ones, I would find a way to make it happen.

I got this! I have always had this!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Day 55 - Tears Can Cleanse your heart and spirit

 

 

 

 

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