Can’t Live with my Wife, Can’t Live without my Son. ~ Ben Ralston

Via on Dec 13, 2013

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This year I’ve been on my knees.

Physically and metaphorically and just about every other way possible.

I’ve had days when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I didn’t feel any joy, or light, or even life in any piece of me.

And I was all in pieces. Pieces here and there with no sense of self. No sense of unity or coherence.

Desperation.

Pain.

Misery.

In the space of a month my dog (my best friend) died, and my wife and I separated. We have a (beautiful, perfect, pure, sweet, oh so lovely) son, so that means that any dreams I ever had of raising him a certain way were separated from me too. Now it’s all about compromise…

Then I injured my shoulder, then my knee, and then my Grandfather died.

Technically I’m an Englishman. I say ‘technically’ because I don’t consider myself anything other than an Earthling. I have no allegiances to anywhere other than where I am. But I moved to Slovenia to be with my (Slovene) wife, and now I’m in a foreign country with no friends, and I don’t even speak the language that well.

Alone.

So to avoid this turning into too much of a sob story, I’ll cut to the chase.

All my dreams, and the life that I thought I had, died. And I have to start again. Change. Sudden, necessary, radical change.

I’ve never really liked change. Comfort, stillness, peace, yes please.

I like slow. I like mellow. I like familiar.

But now I need to completely rethink and restart everything, and I feel overwhelmed.

So what did I do? I buried my head in the sand.

I hid from the world (and eventually even from myself) and spent months on end imprisoned by old routines and addictions, in a kind of stagnant pond of Going Nowhere Life.

I lost all sense of purpose and meaning. I remember one day when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself I couldn’t even see any point in my work—something that has always been a foundation for me.

‘Why bother’ I thought. ‘If I’m this much of a mess, how can I help anyone else?’

Moving on is necessary and good, but feels scary and overwhelming.

Holding on is unsustainable and unhealthy, but feels safe and comfortable.

The proverbial rock and hard place.

My wife and I can’t live together (even though she’s beautiful and sweet and good), and I can’t bear the pain of being apart from my son.

Rock, meet Hard Place.

I thank God (or whatever force it is in this life that always has my back), for the friends that stepped up, and for my work.

All my true friends. Two people especially—one boy and one girl, appeared unexpectedly in my life and became two people that I would lay down my life for. I didn’t know friendship like this before and I love you. You know who you are.

But not just personal friends. So many people sending so many messages of support and love. People who I only know through comments on my articles and videos. People who I have only ever ‘seen’ through Facebook.

People telling me that something I wrote touched their life so much that they continue to go back to it any time life is hard.

People telling me that a video I made long ago transformed their life just now.

People just simply reaching out with a word of comfort.

And I began to see again, and believe again, in something that has always been a core principle in my life:

That there is no distinction between work and life. That any boundaries I create around my work are artificial and meaningless and only limit my work, and therefore also limit my life.

My best friend in the world was a client of mine. Many therapists would scoff at that. Conflict of interests and all that…

But I’m not a therapist. I’m not anything.

I’m just a human being, being as human as I possibly can, and doing what feels right, one moment at a time.

And I don’t work so that I can live. I work because it’s what I do and because I love it, because it makes me feel more alive and connected.

And as I realize that, I begin to feel a sense of purpose coursing through my veins again.

I’m here to live. I’m here to work. I’m here to be human, and to adapt to life, not make life adapt to me.

And I can still be an incredible Father to my son, but only if I’m being true to myself. He will miss me (as I miss him) on those days where I don’t see him, or don’t see him as much as I’d like, but one moment of real presence with him is pure golden bliss, and more than a lot of children ever get with their Fathers.

And if I’m really present, and really living purposefully, then he’ll feel me even when I’m not with him, because we’re connected.

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We’re all connected, even you and I, one of us reading and one of us writing, connected through these words and the thoughts and feelings and experiences that lie behind them. Connected in Life.

Connection is my purpose.

Love is my purpose—and the example I intend to teach my son. Even in the midst of separation.

If you feel me, please share my words and spread the love. Than you!

 

Relephant Reads:

How to Get Divorced like a Grownup.

The Best Marriage Advice from a Divorced Man.

What My Son has Taught Me About Fatherhood.

 

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Ben Ralston

About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston almost joined the army when he was 18. When he was 32 he almost became a Swami. *** Now he is a healer, Reference Point Therapy teacher, and advanced Yoga instructor in the Sivananda tradition . His work as a healer acknowledges trauma as the underlying cause of almost all human problems, and resolves trauma at the causal level: gut-based survival instincts. The intention behind all his work is to empower others. *** Ben splits his time between his busy international practice, training therapists, and writing. As an experienced Yoga and Meditation teacher he also runs retreats, usually on the beautiful Croatian coast. *** Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his new website with integrated blog! Yes, he's excited about that :)

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53 Responses to “Can’t Live with my Wife, Can’t Live without my Son. ~ Ben Ralston”

  1. Padma Kadag says:

    Ben…You have died. I did too not so long ago. Now it is the time to feel all of it and assess how close you are to completely liberating or freeing your self. In just a short time you have been stripped of most what has mattered. How fortunate for you! Keep Going.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi Padma, nice to see you again!
      Yes, you're right, it's a very accurate analysis! Actually, there was a great softening inside of me before I could write this piece. Until then I couldn't write anything for almost a year…

  2. Becki says:

    I’ve decided this year, after divorce last year (from my partner of 12 years) and a devastating loss this year of a 15-year friendship after admitting we were deeply in love, that love and connection are what fulfill me most in life. I will continue to seek them and give them freely because they are what make me happiest. I don’t want to live any other way.

    Your story made me cry. I feel your heart and your pain. Keep giving and reaching out for love and connection and you will find your way. xx

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Thank you Becki, and keep on keeping on. I'm finding my way now. I'm still in the woods, but I can see the clearing up ahead. And I know you're going to come out smiling too.
      Love x

  3. I'm sorry for all of the pain you have experienced, Ben. Your words, as always, are beautiful and I'm so glad you are back in the game. Cheers! xo

  4. Rachael says:

    I recently died a long painful death; broke my back, in and out of work, and hospital, eventually being told there was no more they could do. My workplace sacked me for my sickness absence due to my back, 3 days before term started, (I was a teacher who passionately loved my work and job). My landlord sold my flat, within 3 week I moved to another city away from friends, but back to my son. Was sexually assaulted by a close friend then was burgled, all whilst still recovering.

    My Phoenix was reborn two weeks ago, I realised I had a home (1 bed govt housing too small for us both), but I had my son, and despite my back, I wasn’t dying.

    Change is Hard – capital H. But your journey is going, and you’re going to keep going through this labyrinth and you might be here a while, battling demons, finding tea parties, finding monsters that turn out to be friends.

    But this is life, you’re life, you’re a human, not just any human a human be-ing.

    The universe was not made without a few stars exploding to make new parts of the universe.

    Big love

  5. Gerry Ellen Avery Gerry Ellen says:

    What an awesome piece. Thank you for sharing your vulnerabilities and your core. Wow. Moved me beyond words…..

  6. dkupsch says:

    Your words remind me a lot of a blog I read called 'Single Dad Laughing'. You should read some of his stuff- lots of the same emotion there.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Sorry to hear. I think every dear friend of mine, including myself, has had the life and love and everything kicked out of them at some point, and come out, if at all, the better for it—because of friends, open communication, true intention to be of benefit and learn from mistakes. I've missed you and it's good to hear your words.

    Best wishes to you, your son, and you wife and friends. ~ Waylon

    PS: time to read Pema. Seriously. When Things Fall Apart might be a fun one. ;)

  8. Tammy T. Stone Tammy says:

    this is beautiful, and written so much from the heart. thank you.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Via FB:

    Jamila A I understand that pain

    Keri I get it. I'm tied to a life I hate (living in the suburbs, traditional school for my kids, kids taken to a church I don't believe in) because my ex loves this life, won't change anything about it, and he and I share custody of our kids.

    Katie Love and light to you from New York. My son doesn't have much of a relationship with his father, and I know he feels that absence. Let him know you love him, that's the best thing. My heart goes out to you in your loss, I'm no stranger to it myself. Keep going. It gets better sometime, doesn't it? I hope so…I know so. All the best to you. xo

    Eric S I hope these words find the writer. He inspired me.

    Sergio B things through your cholas eyes it's about him. Any and every choice you make he will see. Ask yourself this. Do you want to witness your son going through the same pain? Would you want him to have a one family scenario? if so, why?

    Carol B What a beautiful insight, and very close to home. Thank you for sharing

    Kristin D Even though reinventing yourself and your life is difficult, you will come out even stronger and more connected in the journey… Love and light on your path to happiness

    O'Brien W Write some good country music with that as inspiration

    River R boy , i get this going thru a similar transition….

    Hooligan B you're not alone Ben, no one prepares us for lifes pain….unconditional LOVE will prevail!

    Tammy I. Couldn't. Get. Over. The. Pain. Your. Feeling. I. Myself. Have kids. I. Don't. Get. To. See ever but. I. Still hold. Hope. And. Faith. That. Some. Day we. Will. See. Each. Other. Again hold. Your. Head. Up it. Will. Get. Better I m. Sorry. Your. Going. Threw it.

    Shawn: Wow..I will say it again for you…you story struck a chord with me. I also have had a life changing year and the year isn't over. I, at one time this year had my daughters comforting me through the pain. My beautiful, loving girls! Thank you!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · about an hour ago

    Tammy: Hang. In. Their don't. Give up. Some. Day. It. Will come. Back to. You.

  10. catnipkiss says:

    Ben, I have missed you and your writing. I hope you find a way to do all the things you need and want to do. Everything is temporary, so if a decision seems too tough, I always try to remember that it is not etched in stone, I can change my mind (or something will shift that changes it for me.) Much love and comforting hugs to you! – Alexa Maxwell

  11. Dominica says:

    thank you for sharing. i'm sorry you have to go through all of this…

    Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.
    Joseph Campbell

  12. Dana Doke says:

    Thank you for this article. I understand your thoughts a great deal as I have had many of the same over the last three years. I appreciate what you said and the way you said it. It’s quite a story, this journey of life, is it not?

  13. dogsaplenty says:

    Your journey, in this beautiful piece, beginning with – "Desperation. Pain. Misery." and ending with – "Connection is my purpose. Love is my purpose—" In the three minutes it took me to read, changed the whole mood of my day.

    I feel an enthusiasm for the day ahead that I most certainly did not feel before. Thank you for this……..Your words have awakened me…….

    What a beautiful, heartfelt sharing. Thank you.

  14. gdr23 says:

    During my lifetime, I have several "bad years". They stand out for the sheer volume of "unpleasant" things that have occured (deaths, divorce, the Boston marathon, etc). This is one of "those" years for me as well. I think I have a few decades on you Ben, so from that vantage point, I can tell you that bad will fade and the good will shine thru. Life will not be the same, life will not be as you likely envisioned it, but life will be. And it will continue to have both the good and bad elements along the way. Hopefully not the deluge like this way. Slowly, you will make your way back and the light will shine again. It is times like these that make us into the people we are and become and allow us to help others on their journey in a new way. Blessings to you.

  15. Alexia says:

    I dont how I feel reading your story. I live with someone whose wife ran away with a new born and who is now lost in his life. He tries to keep himself busy by working like crazy but that is to forget that he is missing time with his child, time that will never come back. I encourage him to live his life but I know the guilt he feels for not being present is huge. It’s a terrible situation even for me who’s brought down by a situation I have not initiated. Why people have kids and then run away ruining someone else’s life ?

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi Alexia,
      I don't think anyone can really ruin someone else's life. We mostly all reach a point of maturity where we can rebuild, heal, and fix any damage.
      And actually, some of the most happy / successful people are the ones who had the most difficult beginnings.
      Life is hard. We do the best we can.

  16. CeeJay says:

    Came across this post, this morning. Touched by it. By the vulnerableness in it. Almost didn't read it because your reality is one of my biggest fears. I have twin boys, and just **imagining** being "separated" from them is a thought that sends shivers through my body. I get that there is a line with your partner that once you cross…it is hard to return from and have happiness. But on some level, I would rather be in that unhappiness for all long as I could stand – be present with it, learn from it – for the trade off that I get to be with my kids everyday. Relationships have their ups and downs, and, indeed, my wife has been my best (if unpleasant) mirror since we met. Somedays it is easier to cherish that (teaching) than others. Your post (and the feelings you shared) struck me as brave, and also **smiling through tears***. I commend you for opening your heart, and for standing with presentness and finding purpose. I am not sure I would have the courage to come out of unhappiness if it meant the trade off would be I would loose my kids on an everyday basis. There is just too much joy that I'd miss. Thanks for sharing.

  17. LHB says:

    Wow. About a year ago I finally began to pull myself from the quicksand that was my life. I, too, was met out of the blue with friends who quickly became family – and found myself once again on solid ground. My situation was vastly similar to yours, except my children are much older. Many people here – in a country near to Slovenia – told me similar things to what you shared. After having a painful journey with my children that began to mend and grow again last year, my eldest son wrote me today and told me he needed his mama. This made my heart sing as I listened to him share his life with me over Skype.

    Thank you for sharing your life with your audience. It was indeed a meaningful and encouraging piece. All the best to you as you continue your journey and grow with your son.

  18. yogaspace1 says:

    Hi Ben, I am so happy for you. Thank you for sharing your pain, your human-ness. You are doing extraordinary work in your quest to live an authentic life. Keep it up! Sending love.

  19. Lori Bell says:

    Ben, this line in particular caught my attention: "I’m here to live. I’m here to work. I’m here to be human, and to adapt to life, not make life adapt to me."

    Thank you for continuing to share your words, your life, and your heart with all of us.

  20. I keep going back to this story especially when i find i'm extremely attached to something.

    A story is told there of the god Vishnu walking and enjoying the beauty of the earth with his students, Narada, who is a wise and advanced student. Narada is in such joy walking with his teacher and wants to understand why people suffer in illusion. He asks Vishnu to please explain the power that time, delusion, and illusion hold over people. Vishnu says it is much too complicated for such a beautiful day and he sits down on a log on a mountain ridge. Their canteens are empty so he asks Narada to please find them some water.

    Narada leaves and has to hike a long way before he finds a river. As he is filling the canteens, he sees on the other bank a beautiful young maiden bathing naked in the river. He is entranced by her full breasts, long hair, shapely legs as he watches her bathe. After she dresses he crosses the river and introduces himself. They are both quite taken with each other and Narada decides to stay awhile. After some days they fall completely in love, and he asks her father for her hand in marriage. They are wed, and have two beautiful children. One day a huge storm arrive, bringing incessant rains. The river swells and starts to wash away the village with his wife and sons. Narada, in great fear and panic, desperately tries to rescue his family from the rising torrents, but they drown in front of his eyes. He struggles to the banks of the river, barely saving himself, and sits on the shore wailing. It is Visnhu, who says, “Narada, where have you been? It has been two hours since I asked you to fetch us some water!” Narada comes to his senses, looks around, and sees there is no village, no flood. He realizes he has dreamed or experienced a lifetime in a few minutes. Vishnu winks at him with a look that reminds Narada he had asked to see the power of mind and illusion." ~ Excerpt from Yoga Beyond Belief by Ganga White

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Great story. Especially for me, as I was in training to become a Swami when I met my wife! How ironic :)

      • I feel for you. Spend as much time as you can with your son, hold him tight, teach him, keep a diary of everything you want him to know so that if something happens to you somewhere at some time he'll have a book filled with how to's, what not to do's memories etc a compilation of sort. I feel your pain make friends with it, live in the middle of it, wrestle with it, love it just like bliss.

  21. JenniferKH says:

    Ben – I'm so sorry for your pain this past year. It's been a while since we've talked. I too went through a very similar year, having divorced my husband of 10 years & working though the pain of being separated from my 3 little boys when they're with their dad. This article made me cry tears of understanding & empathy. Thank you so much for sharing, Ben. Sending loving energy your way.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Oh Jennifer, I'm saddened and surprised to hear that you've been through the same thing. The pain of it – when it hurts – is a real killer isn't it?!
      But… but… I'm able to see more and more clearly that somehow there is a silver lining. My son is being taught so many important lessons. And I'm able (as I'm sure you are too) to heal his hurt even as he's feeling it, so I know he'll be a stronger, more compassionate, more grounded adult as a result.
      And of course, we can't save our kids from pain and suffering in life, as much as we'd like to. So this is a huge lesson in detachment for us. Which we wouldn't be getting if we couldn't handle it.
      Hang in there. Sending loving energy back your way.

      • JenniferKH says:

        It's been the most challenging year of my life but also the time of the most personal growth. Like you said, the silver lining is the amazing lessons the boys & I have learning through it all – The strength & exercises in non-attachment, understanding, and compassion. I've also written a post on it all for EJ that I'll hopefully get up soon. Stay strong, my friend. Life is one crazy, wild, beautiful ride, huh!

  22. Sherry says:

    Ben, I can relate to your pain very clearly. Without going into detail I moved 3 hours from a good job and people I love and have been torn ever since. It took me a long time to have good days again, but it is happening. How long will I stay, I really do not know. Stability with the man I moved down here for pulls me this way, my disabled daughter and granddaughter at the other end pull me that way.

    One thing I wanted to say is that I admire your openness and honesty regarding your situation. I was not until I started practicing yoga and reading this site and others of the like. It has helped me reshape my thinking and getting out of bed, which was the hardest to do some days, easier now. I hope you are find your good place. S.

  23. Stasa says:

    It looks like 2013 really was a shaky year, full of surprises. It began with a terrible break up for me too. But when I look back, I can see that this terrible break up, was the best thing that could have happen to me. I loved my partner more than anybody before him, even more than myself I guess. But he was emotionally unavaiable & psychologically violent, slowly advancing on the level of physicall violence. Even though I wanted to have children, I know now it was for the best that it did not happen.

    Your story is so heart touching, I can relate in many ways. It must have been really difficult for you here in Slovenia. It is difficult even for me and I live here for the whole of my life – we are not excatly opened nation.

    So, all the best wishes for you. Everything sorts out eventually :). I still feel lost and don’t know what to do and where to go, so it hasn’t happened for me just yet…. but the hope remains.

    Lep dan,

    Stasa :)

  24. Lily says:

    "And I can still be an incredible Father to my son, but only if I’m being true to myself. He will miss me (as I miss him) on those days where I don’t see him, or don’t see him as much as I’d like, but one moment of real presence with him is pure golden bliss, and more than a lot of children ever get with their Fathers."

    As a divorced mother of two amazing teenagers, I can honestly say this is absolutely the truth Ben. Your boy is very blessed to have a father like you. May your healing be speedy, and your new life beyond your wildest dreams.

  25. Nikki says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. It is comforting knowing there are others out there going through similar suffering. I'm in the middle of my PhD, and a year ago when I was in South India doing my field work, my partner of 4 years came to visit, and 3 days later he broke up with me ("we broke up"–that makes him feel better). We weren't happy, that's true, but I'm so loyal I would have stayed forever, I think. I know that he is a soul mate, but it's hard coming to terms with the reality that maybe he isn't my forever soul mate. Anyways, thirty minutes after we broke up I found out my grandfather died, and 3 days later I was in the hospital for a week. It's now been a year, and through a series of events, this break up hasn't fully broken off yet. Living in a small place with extremely interconnected lives makes it so difficult, neither of us are strong enough to resist being drawn back to each other. I came to New Zealand from Canada, not *for* him, but in large part because of him. I am grateful they speak English here, but I after 5 years between here and India, I still don't have any really great friends. For now, we are geographically and emotionally apart again, and I continue to cry myself to sleep at night, mourning the loss of my partner, my best friend, and my only family on this side of the world.

    I have watched myself grow tremendously over the past year, and I know that all of this was/is necessary in order for me to really awaken to my truth self. But fuck does it hurt, eh? We must always remember, this too shall pass. And thanks again for sharing your story. I think I too shall turn to Pema now, that book keeps popping up in my life. Kia kaha.

  26. Bob Holdsworth says:

    Thank you for sharing your deepest thoughts and fears. I am in a similar place where life and relationships are in state of upheaval. I'm coming out of the "head in the sand" phase and appreciate what you said about finding purpose and meaning. It takes courage – what you wrote helps me and I hope hearing from others who are in the same place gives you strength too. May you find peace and happiness.

  27. Danica says:

    Hi Ben, I came across this article today.. so sorry. Teshna Beaulieu, a chiropractor I know personally, just wrote a book, Fit for Love, that explains why we choose the mates that we do, how to mend a broken heart, and how to change our love blueprint so we can manifest the relationship of our dreams using NET (www.netmindbody.com). I believe NET can quickly and efficiently relieve trauma and stress in our life and also indirectly affect our relationships with our children. Best wishes.

    Here is the link for NOOK eBook and Paperback:
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fit-for-love-tesh

    To get the book in a Kindle ebook version, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H8YMAG8

    For Practitioners interested in getting 10 copies or more to give or sell to their patients/clients, there is an available discount, available from her publisher, go to http://outskirtspress.com/bookstore/9781432771508

  28. Sus says:

    Sorry to say that I can relate, as so many can who have also been through this gut-wrenching change. I'm sorry that you, too, are going through this pain. But you will probably feel better in time, and someday (I hope soon!) you will thank yourself for making the difficult decision to leave and live instead of remaining in a deadening place. Peace and courage to you – good luck!

  29. Sophia says:

    I have a feeling that nowadays people truly just give up on relationships too easy. Imagine if there was no choice, imagine if you HAD to stay with your wife and learn to love her again, find the beautiful things in her that you found beautiful in the beginning (must have been something there to create a child in the first place…) and actually stuck it out with her no matter what, hell or high water. Stopped finding faults in her, but instead fixed your own issues with yourself and her and allowed love to flow again. Wow. Wouldn't that be enlightened. Instead of everyone always just moving on along and getting a new relationship like a pair of new underwear. Me and my husband have had the worst times, we've broken up a million times, we've been abusive in every way and done so much harm and suffered and lost trust and broke each other and hated each other but we got MARRIED and made a commitment so we stay together…. because there is a way to go through the dark stuff and come out the other end and find light again even with that person who thought you couldn't bare to be around anymore… then again you look, and you're in love again :)

  30. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing – I have found myself on a similar life path. It has been an over two year journey, and I realized only a few months ago that I cannot keep living with the father of my sweet little guy anymore. Separated and living together is just too hard. So I have found myself trying to find a way to still raise this awesome boy in a way he feels loved and supported, even though sometimes I cannot find the ground with my feet…

  31. Nathalie Prado says:

    Thanks for sharing this part of your path. A truly healer and master is the one that shares his own pain and sorrow with everybody else and shows his humanity and humility. Life is perfectly imperfect and reality is more that we can see from the outside. You showed us reality in your words and I thank you personally for sharing this, without mask and no half-truths.

    Nathalie

  32. Carolina says:

    So beautiful. The description of pain. And pain is how we get to growth. For me my son's dad and I were only meant to be together to create this creature. I had to let go of old ideas and have no expectations of how the future was going to be. He has given me a lot of growth and the love of my life and for that i can never repay. I dont believe in a God, I believe in doing whats right, what the inside guide shows to go and do. That I call love. I think by staying close and living by example will be the best we can do to serve our kids. regardless of how our living and/or relationship arrangements are with the other coparent. The images and dynamics of families today are much richer and look very different of what our parents taught us -and that is beautiful. I am glad you walked thru it and are able to write again. And most important for connecting by putting it all out there. Namaste :)

  33. Melissa says:

    Honest, heartfelt, vulnerable sharing like this about the reality of divided families is SO IMPORTANT. I've been through this too, and I know my children's father was devastated by the destruction of his ideal vision of family…and I also know that people can choose love through the whole desperately hard wringer of it. You are setting that example. The world needs more men like you.

    Thank you.

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