The Way Fear Makes You Move

I almost didn’t post this, because it’s, well, chickenshit particularly in the face of what’s going on in the world right now, but I want people to know that you can’t be a pillar of righteous fire and fury all the time, even assuming you’ve ever been one.  Sometimes you’re scared and sad and tired and you don’t know what to do with the person you wish you were but apparently aren’t anymore.

So, here we are.

You know, I’ve changed my mind. 

I really don’t want to be brave.

I’ve berated myself for a long time for not being the daring writer I was a decade ago – the one who wrote about life as a fat girl, and who spouted her opinions more or less freely when blogging.  I used to have SOMETHING TO SAY, I told myself, and I was willing to go to the mat for it!

Well, I’ve realized that there are actually perfectly good reasons not to do that and, I’m slowly beginning to understand, I just don’t want to.  Aging may have something to do with it. I’m just not as energetic as I once was.  But at heart the main reason is this:

The internet is terrible.  It’s also wonderful, but nowadays the terrible can get you killed or, at the very least, leave you with psychological scars.  I only have to look at my experience with Shadowflame and a few very slightly popular posts on fatness – and that was years ago, before the meteoric rise of white cishet misogynist online rage made it literally dangerous to be a woman with opinions on the internet.  

I’ve been told in no uncertain terms to kill myself because fat people are “draining resources” that magically healthy thin people should get to use.  I’ve been accused of “pussifying” my male characters because they didn’t adhere to heteronormative machismo ideals.  (To which I reply, “…YAY!”)  But those accusations were couched in such vicious speech – all of it personal, none of it really about my work, but about my body and my right to write and even exist – the silliness of it became sinister.  And my experiences have been almost embarrassingly MILD.  

I was recently reading a book by a body-positive activist in which she talks about some of the things that have been done to her just for speaking out and suggesting maybe, just maybe, fat people (women, anyway – I doubt she’d get anywhere near the hate if she wasn’t a woman) are human beings worthy of respect.  The sheer violence of people’s hatred – talking openly about gutting her and watching her “blubber” spill over the Trader Joe’s floor because she had the nerve to buy food in front of them – made my entire body curl up on itself, and it wasn’t even about me! 

Realization: I don’t want it to be about me.  I do not have the strength for that.  I am medicated enough to get through most average workdays, that’s about it.  I do not want to be a Presence on the Internet to the degree that I become a Target on the Internet.

Of course the only way to completely avoid that is never say anything ever again, and we all know how likely that is.  I just…I no longer feel confident enough in anything I have to say to stand up and let the world rip my skin off shred by shred.  

Rumi wrote, “…don’t move the way fear makes you move.”  I wonder how Rumi would have moved if some sick asshole hiding behind a computer had said they wanted to skin him alive and rape his “fat whale” corpse.**  

I’m pretty vocal on Twitter as far as politics goes, but my following is pretty small and I only get the occasional nutter spouting bumpersticker rhetoric in a tweet-by then disappearing.  As much as I want to feel like a successful author and feel like I have a voice, I’m just too afraid of the consequences anymore.  The world has grown so loud and so hateful so fast, it seems (I am aware of the privilege involved in being sheltered from it so long), my emotional fortitude medication just can’t keep up.  

But these are days that demand lifted voices.  We cannot be silent when lives are at stake – as is the soul of our society and the hope that one day it could be the dream some of us were lucky enough to think was real all along.  These are not days to be scared of empty, sick little men barking just to be heard.  Letting those idiotic little shits silence us means they win – and worse than some ideological battle, on the larger scale it means actual humans suffer, families are broken, people die, and things continue to degrade until it is too late to save that dream.   

I have a voice, and I have talent, and a few people still listen to me when I talk.  I would consider my life truly wasted if I didn’t use those things to try.  But just as creative malaise has taken over my fiction – I haven’t had a new story idea literally in years – a kind of moral cowardice has overtaken the rest of me.  I can be brave in 280 character increments and even most of those are retweeted from cleverer minds.  When it comes to the world we’re in, to the constant barrage of misery and anger that never, EVER seems to let up (I saw a tweet in fact that said the best platform to run for POTUS on in 2020 would be “You will forget I exist for days at a time!”), I don’t know what to say or how to say it. 

So week in and week out my blog sits silent.  I parrot the Tweets of other people most of the time. My barely-started eighth novel stays barely started.  I stare at blank screens where all sorts of status-quo-terrifying relationships could be blooming.

In a time when a viral post can bring rapists to your door, death threats to your family, or even just bile spewed hot and disgusting all over your online presence, I just keep asking myself:

Is there a story left to tell that’s worth my sanity?  Is there a blog post important enough to be worth the hatred that’s just the cost of doing business as a woman online?

What words are worth my life?

 

.

** – Said to me in an email from a self-declared “fan” regarding my second novel.  Apparently hot boy on boy action triggers some men’s “fuck a dead fat girl” fetish?

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Sucky Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Time for another embarrassing confession.

I can’t say 2017 was entirely wasted.  I did learn a couple of very important things about myself that I’m still working to process.

I already talked about one of them:  The realization that I had spent pretty much the entire year in a state of passive suicidal ideation.  But when trying to work out how to move forward with that knowledge, I hit a road block that I realized is kind of a cornerstone of the big brick shithouse that is my lifetime’s worth of issues.

It’s something that I understand is really quite common, but as you know I am a special one-of-a-kind magical manatee whose issues have never been seen by humanity before, so it was a wild revelation for me.  

Basically:  I don’t know how to suck at things.

Hear me out.  I’m not saying I don’t suck at things.  I suck at plenty. 

I’m saying I never learned how to learn.

When I was a child I was in the “gifted” class.  Even in the higher level and honors courses in public school, I barely had to lift a finger to make As.  My hardest classes in high school, Calculus II and Chemistry, were “impossible” for me because they required occasionally cracking a book.  I sailed through elementary, junior high, and high school like some kind of child genius.

I am not a genius, however, and nowhere was that more apparent than college.

After all those years of being bored and unchallenged in school, I went to a university (on a National Merit Scholarship no less) where my freshman class was literally larger than my entire hometown.  I wasn’t just a little fish in a big pool, I was an ameba.  

And I had NO IDEA how to study.  I knew how to memorize, but I didn’t understand how to assimilate information in a way that would be useful later.  

Combine that with my depression finally having the opportunity to run riot in my brain, and my first real relationship with a boy (which was terrible, but I thought it was my only shot at “love”), and the result was predictable:  I failed.   Things started out okay, but went downhill fast.  The whole experience netted me student loan debt and my first suicidal episodes and not much else.  College was a humiliating experience I vowed not to repeat.    

The takeaway is that after that, I never got any better at being a beginner.  When I’d try something, if it didn’t come easily, I’d just quit.  I was denying myself a very important life lesson:

Sucking is important. 

Sucking is the first step toward awesomeness.  

I never took writing courses because I didn’t want anyone telling me how to write.  I already knew I was good and refused to be told otherwise.  In fact the one time I was told I was terrible, I up and quit writing for several years.  By the time I started again, my years of depression and hard-won emotional maturity helped made up for a lack of practice.  I’ve gotten better over time, but not because I’ve worked specifically to become better; it’s happened organically as I’ve kept writing and matured.  

Another problem:  Nothing pisses me off like being treated like I’m dumb or don’t know what I’m doing.  When I entered the Pagan community I found that’s exactly how people treated “newbie” Witches – like they were cute little idiots who couldn’t possibly know anything Llewellyn didn’t tell them.

As you can imagine I didn’t take well to that.  I was determined to be taken seriously, so much so that when established organizations dismissed me, I told them to fuck off and started my own.  

Meanwhile, I had yet another issue:  Whenever I get into something, I operate on the assumption that I’ll write about it.  Even from my earliest Pagan days I was asking myself, “How would I write about this?  What could I contribute?” 

That’s how I ended up writing a book on creating your own spiritual practice at age 26 – I barely had a practice of my own, but by Goddess I had THINGS TO SAY on the subject.  

At no point did I wonder if I was qualified or experienced enough to do this.  I just assumed – and I still find myself assuming – that if I’m interested in something, I’m going to write about it, and what I write will be useful and meaningful to people.  If I love it, if it matters to me, give me 200 pages and it’ll matter to you too. 

It’s not bullshitting – I honestly care, very intensely, about what I’m writing, and I believe strongly in what I’m saying.  It’s just that I tend to jump over the part where I personally learn to do what I’m writing about.  I want everyone else to know about it; I want them to try out my ideas and hopefully use what works and come up with their own as well.  I want the ideas and information to move through me to where it’s needed.  It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve always wanted to inspire people, whether through fiction or non.  

I wrote The Circle Within in what felt like a state of Divine inspiration; it flowed through my fingers like water and I never questioned it.   I was a conduit above all.  I had so much to share, but I kept none of it for myself.  

I’m laughing at how fakey-noble that statement sounds.  It wasn’t some sense of martyrdom at play so much as impostor syndrome gone bananas.  I’d taught myself to fly without learning to walk, which is all well and good until you need to land.

I have yet to manage to stay vegan for more than six months at a stretch, but I have SO MUCH TO SAY about veganism and spirituality and so many IDEAS…practices and poetry and food for the conscience and soul.  Never mind that I haven’t done any of them; never mind that there’s still something blocking me in my own practice.  I can’t think about that right now, I HAVE THINGS TO WRITE!

*pats herself on the head*  Oh my sweet summer child.

I’ve always considered myself a transformation junkie.  I collect self-help methods and spiritual practices and philosophies and ways to change one’s life the way some people collect comic books or ex-lovers.  Like most people I’ve tried a great many ways to “better” myself, most of which have petered out if they even got off the ground.  But also like most people I just figured that was because I was lazy and self-loathing rather than actually examining what might be keeping me stuck.

There are multiple factors (laziness and self-loathing cannot be fully dismissed), but a significant one is fear of sucking…fear of being a beginner.

Basics are boring.  There’s no glory in gradual.  Step by step just takes so damn long!

But if you ignore that part, if you plunge ahead assuming you know everything, you might inspire others, but what does that leave you, when it’s you alone at the end of the day?

It leaves me with a house built on a hollow foundation of matchsticks, and the only way forward is to burn the whole thing down and rebuild.

At least striking a match is something I know how to do.

 

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The Oracle Will See You Now, part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve taken up the cards again, both to bring some sense of the mystical back into my life and to help me make sense of where my life and brain are at these days.

I thought I’d share a bit on the decks I’m working with at the moment as well as how I’m studying them; in a future post I’ll talk more about what the cards actually are to me, and how the whole idea of “fortune telling” is basically a load of crap but divination most certainly is not.

Read more

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Sylvan Points at Stuff – 10 Things That Weren’t Absolute Crap in 2017

Let’s be honest here:  2017 sucked.  If your year was awesome, well, chances are you’re either a millionaire, you are oblivious to the outside world, or you are Taylor Swift (which means you are a millionaire and oblivious to the outside world).  

This is not to say nothing good happened.  Of course it did!  Through the smoke of the gigantic dumpster fire of 2017 you could catch glimpses of beauty and truth.  I hope that your personal life involved at least a few lovely things, and that here at the tail end of the year you’re able to look back and see those lovely things no matter how much of the world’s bullshit wound up burning in a bag on your porch.  Let those be the things that warm you as we head into what is likely to be another difficult year for those of us with a social conscience and a lot to lose.

As for me, I feel an immense relief that the year is over even though I have no real reason to imagine 2018 will be less of a turd souffl√©.  And rather than analyze it all to death, I’m just going to bury it in the litter box and try to be done with it – I need my strength for the year ahead.  

But here are ten small-to-medium things about 2017 that I did love, in no particular order.

1 – I did kind of publish another book.  That’s pretty cool.  

Incidentally it’d be really awesome if you read Shadow Rising and would be kind enough to leave a review or rating on Amazon.  I don’t read reviews (no, not even good ones) because they’re bad for my mental health, but every writer needs them to help encourage people to try out their work.  

2 – Wonder Woman. 

Even though DC has misfired dreadfully on 90% of its superhero movies, this one was like a breath of fresh air and optimism in an unrelentingly dreary year.  At long last a movie with a female superhero character who wasn’t constantly framed for the male gaze – no long shots down her cleavage, no posing with her butt positioned toward the camera in defiance of anatomy and logic.  Was it a perfect movie?  Oh gods no.  It turned into a giant CGI brainless brawl at the end, and I still can’t get past Ares’ porn stache, but if you didn’t see a bit of yourself – of our collective soul and sanity – in the No Man’s Land scene, standing up and resisting, refusing to be moved – well, you should probably watch it again:

3 – Hamilton.

Late to the party as usual, but listening to the soundtrack on a whim one night led to my falling head over heels in love with this weird hip-hop retelling of the founding of America and, by extension, its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who I think might be an actual unicorn.  If you want someone on your Twitter feed who’s positive, hilarious, and full of heart (and who writes sonnets on a whim just to say good morning), follow him, you won’t regret it.  I think when the purge of horrible men in Hollywood is done it’ll be just him, Chris Evans, and Patrick Stewart left standing.  I’m totally okay with that.

Enjoy, here, the Tony Awards performance of Hamilton’s original cast, introduced by the Obamas.  Notice that the “battle” involves no guns – the props were removed for the performance because that was the day of the mass shooting in Orlando.  

4 – Lucifer.

And now for something completely different.  I don’t quite remember what made me start watching Lucifer, or what inspired me to slog past the first few ridiculous episodes, but by the time the first season was halfway over I was HOOKED.  Aside from the gorgeous and talented cast, the show is way better than it has any right to be – the characters, especially Lucifer, Amenadiel, Mazikeen, Doctor Linda, Chloe, and the Goddess of Creation, are so emotionally compelling.  Based on the characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels, basically the idea is that the devil leaves hell to live in Los Angeles, run a night club, and eventually fight crime.  Yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds, but it’s also amazing, due in no small part to Tom Ellis’s performance as Luci.  

I tried to find a clip to show you, but the really good stuff depends on context, so just take my word for it and go watch the show.  

5 –  My new Tarot deck.

After a long, long dry spell in the mystical department, I’ve gotten back into Tarot.  Rather than trying to work with oracles that aren’t really talking to me anymore, I decided to try something brand new, and have embarked on learning actual Tarot (my preferred oracles have been, as you may know, the Runes of the Elder Futhark and the Brian Froud Faeries Oracle).  Inspired by YouTubers like Katey Flowers, and the fact that I’ve always been a sucker for a beautiful deck, I re-bought the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, and am currently studying it along with a more traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck and my Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Law.  

And lord, does the Hidden Realm deck talk to me!  For the moment I’m concentrating on using the cards for myself, but I’ll probably start reading for other people once I’m more comfortable with them.  I have something of a divinatory spark, and it always wants to catch others on fire.

I’ll have a full post about my Tarot explorations soon.

6 – My Funko Pops! collection.

My desk at my day job is like a toy store at this point, and my Funko Pops! are the stars.  My favorites so far are General Leia and Bob Ross, who are front and center (along with a vastly amused black cat figurine):

My other favorite, of course, is Dorothy Zbornak, a gift from m’bestie; here she is having none of Stephen Strange’s nonsense, while Patty from Ghostbusters stands guard nearby.

7 – Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl”

I wasn’t as thrilled with Ed’s newest album as I was with the last one, but it does have some great songs, and the two that are Irish-inspired are probably my favorites.  This one for some reason just always makes me smile and bounce.  Smiles and bounces are important.

8 – Contouring 101.

If you haven’t seen this video…I don’t even know how to describe it to you.  It’s…a parody?  It’s bizarre and hilarious and I’m STILL laughing about it.  My roommate and I quote it constantly, specifically “…NOSTRILS” and “IF THE MEN FIND OUT WE CAN SHAPESHIFT, THEY’RE GOING TO TELL THE CHURCH.”

9 – Coffee.

Life continues to bamboozle and explode.  Coffee is always there for us.  Coffee understands.  My drink of 2017 was a raspberry soy mocha.  Trust me, the combination of flavors is exquisite.  I even had my birthday cake, which was DELICIOUS and gorgeous and made by local vegan bakery Capital City Bakery, made in mocha and raspberry.  

Actually my 40th birthday party should be on this list anyway, as it was a fabulous time with some of my favorite people, and I got delightfully squiffy on Moscow Mules (my favorite form of squiff-ening beverage).

10 –  My new pendant.

Speaking of my birthday, I had my eye on this piece for an entire year before I finally ordered it.  I’ve long worn a pewter compass that says “Trust Your Journey,” but as my 40th loomed I felt it was time for a new “me” necklace.  The pendant below bears the calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my all-time favorite spiritual writers and a true inspiration; it’s one of several pieces in the series, and is a sentiment I try to be mindful of every day:  No mud, no lotus.

 

11 – (Special Bonus Round!)  All of you.

I know, it’s cheesy, but all my readers and Patrons and friends and Twitter followers and Facebook peeps helped immeasurably to keep 2017 from being a total misery-orgy.  I’ve never been good at communicating with actual people – I’m awful at returning emails and comments, not because I don’t read them or want to reply, but because…I don’t know, exactly.  It might be the same thing that makes it so impossible for me to make phone calls.  I absolutely blow at reaching out.  But I know you’re there, and i adore every one of you.  I hope that my infrequent blog posts, occasional novels, and sporadic attendance at my own social media are at least worth sticking around for.  I hope to have a new book for you this year – probably not Book 8 (although who knows?), but something new (I hope I hope I hope), and I really want to offer more Shadow World Extras and, gods willing, more of the Agency.  But none of this would be possible without all of you staying with me through my silly seasons and sad storms, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

Let’s all have a solidly good 2018.  It seems a bit laughable to ask for awesome, given the state of the world, but let’s all do what we can to make it better – for ourselves, for each other, for everyone.

Everyone hold hands…take a breath…and…jump!

I’ll be back soon with posts on my new bullet journal/planner situation, a wrap-up of last year’s favorite planner spreads, some musings on divination, and my goals for 2018.

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A Painfully Honest Post in Which I Use the F-Word Like a Comma

…and you’ve all seen how I use commas.

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of suicidal thoughts.  A good deal of cursing.

A message to 2017:

This year is, in my opinion, welcome to take a flying fuck at a rolling donut off a cliff into a Sarlacc pit.

I had a great birthday, by the way.  That’s not sarcasm.  I got to spend time with my favorite people, drank a lot of Mexican Mules, ate an enormous vegan raspberry mocha birthday cake (that I didn’t even have to bake myself!), and put out a new book that week, so, yay me!  I don’t want to downplay the loveliness of all of that, especially since it came in a week that I was a) on my fucking period and b) having some really unpleasant emotional crap.

As soon as the 19th passed, however, my mind immediately went into “OKAY TIME FOR 2018 TO GET HERE BRING ON THE WORKBOOKS AND NEW PLANNERS BECAUSE SERIOUSLY, FUCK THIS YEAR.”  

I have zero reason to believe that 2018 will be any better for the world or myself, but at this point, I’m still anxious to get there, because 2018 has one obvious advantage:  It isn’t motherfucking 2017.

I’ve been trying to figure out why 2017 was so much worse for me mentally than 2016 (I’m not talking globally – I think we can identify a large, tantrum-throwing, tangerine-tinted reason it’s been bad for the world) even though 2016 was a trip to the special hell for a lot of people (can we please agree to stop holding beers for anybody?), and I think I’ve hit upon at least one thing, a phrase that I feel applies to most of the last 11 months:

Passive suicidal ideation.

Important Clarification: I am not now, nor have I been, planning to kill myself.  I swore years ago I would never do that, and my brother’s decision to put a gun to his head in 2004 only solidified that resolve.  You’re probably thinking of active ideation, which is what we typically think of when the topic of suicide comes up:  Someone wants to die, and that someone has a plan, or is trying to decide on a plan.  They intend to take steps – or they’re at least coming up with steps.  

Passive ideation is more of a “…what if I just let it happen?”  What if I don’t lock the doors?  What if I don’t look both ways?  What if I don’t get that lump checked out?  What if I keep drinking?  What if…

What if I just stop trying to take care of my body at all, and keep eating horrible, dairy-and-fat-and-sugar laden food for every meal and not exercising until at some point I have a heart attack or become diabetic and my body gives out on me?  How long would that take, I wonder?  Would I be able to stop myself in time to avoid permanent damage?  Would I even care by the time I got genuinely sick?  Or by then would I feel so awful every hour of every day that I’d be looking forward to that MI or stroke?  

It’s the ultimate in societally-assisted suicide, isn’t it?  The whole world WANTS you to eat shit, and moreover wants you to hate yourself for it.  One commercial sells you the 2 pound bacon burger, the next sells you the gym membership.  Being “healthy” is considered being morally upright, being fat (regardless of circumstance) and being sick (regardless of circumstance) are considered the just fruits of a slovenly lifestyle.  People know what your body karma is just by looking at you, right?  Why not just go with it?  If you’ve dealt with hate and sneering because of your body your whole life, isn’t there a certain macabre satisfaction in proving them “right?”  

If it sounds absurd, well, it isIt’s utter fucking madness.  But apparently at some point this year it’s what I decided my fate would be.  Years of slowly encroaching body hate that have eaten away at my self-worth like a cancer just sort of took over, and I stopped giving a shit about much of anything.  I just sort of…gave up on myself.  I was going through the motions of what I thought my life should be, but aside from finishing SHADOW RISING, I didn’t give a damn about life.  I was just waiting for something to kill me.

Even better:  To me being vegan isn’t just an ethical choice, it’s a spiritual one.  It means embracing compassion and kindness; it means honoring what I consider holy, and one of those things is body autonomy.  I don’t feel like I have the right to claim ownership over the body of another creature – certainly not to the point to pay someone to torment and kill them just for my own appetites.  But the consequence of that is, if I didn’t believe I myself deserved that compassion and kindness, I could never overcome the cognitive dissonance that kept me from being able to stick with my ethical choices.  Either my beliefs apply to all animals, including this one, or they are incomplete at best and hypocritical at worst. 

So I embraced another kind of hypocrisy:  Say one thing but do another.  Fuck the consequences.  It’s practically the goddamn American Way.

Actually I think the appropriate term is “passive-aggressive suicidal ideation.”

This is all especially galling when you consider I LITERALLY WROTE THE BOOK ON THIS SHIT.  

But it just goes to show you that the messages and beliefs we receive don’t just go away because we do the work of self-acceptance; they can sneak back in, chip away at all that effort, until you’re back where you started.  Loving yourself is both a practical and spiritual practice that you have to continually adapt and renew to reflect who you are and where you are.  The world is constantly battering at your defenses looking for weak spots.  If you want to protect your heart without walling yourself off from the good stuff, you have to be fucking relentless at gatekeeping.

Do as I say, not as I do.  

I can’t say for sure what brought me to the realization of what I was doing to myself; I haven’t taken any real steps to change course, but I’ve become aware of my behavior and am paying attention now, studying myself like both an autoanthropologist and a shaman, trying to read my own bones.  If I am nothing else, I am excellent at uncovering a character’s inner workings, and what protagonist better to delve into than the one of my own life?

A number of Large Realizations have hit me since my birth-week and I think they’re good ones; I’ve decided to bring some things back into my life that have been sorely missed, which I’ll talk about more later, but overall I’m taking things slowly, as the energy of the year’s end dictates.  You can’t spend months and months fucking something up and then instantly un-fuck it.

The waning months of the year have definitely lived up to their symbolism.  I have a huge pile of figurative crap I’ve been carrying around all year, so heavy it literally makes me go to bed and sleep and sleep.  I have years of disappointments, sadness, anger, fear, past accomplishments and failures, judgments, triumphs, tragedies, and those obnoxious little hopes I can’t seem to shake clinging to my back.    

This time of year we decide what’s worth holding onto.

I am worth holding onto, goddamn it.  

This time of year is the time to decide what lives and what dies.  

There are a lot of things I want to let die. 

But I am not one of them.

It’s time I started fucking acting like it.

 

NOTE:  I’m turning of comments here because this sort of post usually attracts lots of diet talk and wellness-evangelizing, and I’m not in the mood for either.  I’m glad giving up gluten revolutionized your whatever and that ketogenic bone broth vagina steaming changed your life, but the internet is full of places for that kind of discussion and this is not one of them. 

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