My Wrinkle in Time: HOW does time fly?


What Makes Time Fly?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
a light-hearted introduction to So-Much-More about Time


For over a quarter of a century now, I have been fascinated with anything related to the topic of the awareness of the passage of time.

My secret fascination with the mechanics of time’s awareness began long before I first learned that I seem to be one who was born without that internal tic-tic-tock with which most people DO seem to have been equipped, part of the standard package.

I’ve been told I can’t get one now, even as an after-market upgrade.

I first began to wonder how anybody managed to
keep track of time when I was a very young child.

  • I had no idea there was such a thing as an inner
    time-sense until I was diagnosed with ADD.
  • I was 38 years old.

From the moment my mother first read me the story of Alice in Wonderland, I felt more of a kinship to the “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” White Rabbit than to Alice.  

I can’t recall a time before my mid-twenties when somebody wasn’t rushing me along for one reason or another.

Don’t get me wrong

I was a bright kid. I had no problem understanding the concept of the passage of time. I also noted without confusion that the grownups danced to the cadence of that passage.

Schedules had to be regular and recurring or feathers would fly.

  • Particular foods (like eggs and oatmeal) had to be eaten every morning, shortly after being awakened.
  • Spaghetti and chicken foods were always eaten at night, but never too close to bedtime.
  • And that green salad rule: no green salad early in the day.

That was predictable.  I figured it out all by myself before I was even in school.

After all, food-timing rules were important enough that the grown-ups invented a bunch of code-words for groups of foods that hung out together at certain times, so that everybody could cite the darned things: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack.

Through my parent’s friends I learned of still more, like supper — and brunch!

Like I said, I was a bright kid.

Remember – links on this site are dark grey to reduce distraction potential
while you’re reading. They turn red on mouseover.

200px-Wee_Willie_Winkie_1940_poster

Wee WIllie Winkie RUNS through the town. Upstairs, downstairs – in his nightgown. Calling through the windows; crying through the locks, “Are the children in their beds? It’s eight o’clock.”

Dances in Time

Everyone on this planet seemed to be driven by a need for things to happen “on time.”

Since I was old enough to recall, I’d been read a story from my beloved Childcraft Books about this totally panic-stricken Wee Willy Winkie dude who ran through the town – in a nightgown, for heaven’s sake! – announcing the urgency of getting all kids in bed by eight o’clock.

Nobody ever spoke about what happened to kids who were late,
but it must have been truly awful.

Everybody in MY family scurried when the Mom said
she thought she saw Wee Willie down the street.

Tracking Time

I quickly grasped the implication of the relationship between the clock’s big hand and its little hand.

I learned to “tell time” easily and early, meaning that I could reliably translate the relationship of the moving hands on almost any timepiece into the o’clock language.

I was completely baffled, howeverby the interface between human activities
and temporal awareness.

I didn’t even know how to ask a question that might yield a cogent explanation.
I accepted the time rules like any other rule in my family – “because I said so.”

When you don’t experience that inner sense of time, you don’t automatically GET
anything related!

  • I knew that eight o’clock was bedtime, for example, that seven o’clock was an “hour” before bedtime, and completely understood that every hour was made up of sixty minutes.
  • I had little trouble producing the “correct” answer on demand — from what was supposed to be an arithmetical interpretation of the relationship between a clock’s hand positioning at eight o’clock and their position at the moment I was asked a time question like:
    How many minutes before bedtime? 
    (No arithmetic needed — I could count, for heaven’s sakes!)
  • I had no IDEA what those questions implied, however, and no idea what words to use to ask anyone for an explanation beyond, “Why is the answer important enough to interrupt my train of thought?” – which I was pretty sure would get me into a ton of trouble that would end with bedtime banishment RIGHT NOW!

The grown-ups around me interpreted my chronic startle at the “time’s UP” signal as
“Madelyn needs to learn to plan ahead.”

Does ANYBODY get it?

An unusually intellectual child, I presided over playground discussion groups exploring life’s big ideas — like my theory that time seemed to speed up and slow down on its own.  The other kids ALL agreed that it felt that way to them as well.

This minute and second long division, I proposed, seemed to be a rather
useless and arbitrary convention, since the length of time changed at will.

The other kids quickly seconded that proposition too.

Still, I seemed to be the only one who was startled when the bell rang, signaling the end of recess.  They seemed to know somehow when it was coming; I was always surprised by its “sudden” arrival.

How did they DO that?

Hurry up, Madelyn, we need to begin!

As with many of my burning questions about the way in which things functioned here on earth (which might have led to some kind of diagnosis that might have filled in a few gaps earlier in my life), there never seemed to be TIME to listen to them. The grown-ups were always rushing me along to the beat of some inner metronome I simply couldn’t fathom.

Even in grade school I was smart enough to figure out that insisting on answers to questions of the type I seemed to be the only one who needed to ask would not make me very popular with my teachers (and would probably get me in hot water with my parents).

So I became a model of compliance.  The Red Queen had all the power.  If she said “Paint the roses,” I began the hunt for my paintbrush.

The Balm in Gilead

I developed a seemingly quirky sense of humor to buy TIME to cover
the extent to which I was clue-free about more than a few foundational concepts.

MOST kids figure out the benefit of playing it for laughs.
It beats feeling stupid all the time, hands down!

ONLY after my ADD diagnosis, after almost four decades on your quirky planet, did I begin to figure out the pattern — knitting together the connections between the things my childhood self couldn’t figure out and kludgy Executive Functioning.

So What’s Up with this TIME thing?

YOU may or may not have an internal time sense yourself, but I’ll bet you don’t have a much of a clue how it works. Don’t feel alone in that, by the way.  Science is still trying to figure that out as well. So am I.

I’ve learned we do know a few things about how the so-called “neurotypical” brain tracks time’s passage and passes that information to our conscious awareness, which I’m going to share with anyone else who’s curious enough to read my Time & Time Management articles.

It’s ironic how complex the process, even though it can be explained relatively simply.  It’s a wonder than ANY of us can work within the time’s boundaries.  Yet most of us CAN!

In the next few posts in this series – extensions to this article, actually – we are going to explore the question I posed in the title: HOW does time fly?  Stay tuned, it’s fascinating. I’ll also be sharing what I’ve learned in the years since I discovered that I needed to find a way to work within time’s boundaries without a reliable internal sense of time.

The FIRST step, however, is understanding what’s going on AND the implications of a lack of time sense – why YOU can’t do what others seem to manage easily.  That understanding will help you figure out the work-arounds you need to put into place to stop living life like the White Rabbit – “I’m late, I’m late, I’m LATE!”

IMPORTANT: If you have a relatively good sense of time and are parenting a child you always have to rush along, this is NEED to know information.  The sooner you understand what they do NOT understand, the earlier you will begin to intervene in the process and teach essential time management skills — BEFORE their self-esteem is decimated and their life (and yours?) is in shambles.

You might be surprised at how much easier their understanding will make your life!

——————————
Graphics gratitude: Wee Willie 40’s poster from Wikipedia ©Creative Commons
(caption is from memory of what was read to ME
– other versions, including the original Scottish,
quote 10 as the deadline!)

Winged Hourglass from DreamstimeFree

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with Executive Functioning struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

20 Responses to My Wrinkle in Time: HOW does time fly?

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  5. This article you wrote about “Time” is intriguing. You said you startled when time was up, as though it was unexpected so quickly in childhood. Was it always this way as a young child? What would have helped you through this time zone?

    I never had a problem with time and that’s hard to imagine as a child. Immediately after my brain injury and it’s an ongoing issue I can’t tell the passage of time without a clock. In my case, time seems to be passing … it appears like an hour has passed when in reality only 20 minutes might have passed. I don’t know if it’s the level of thinking and struggling through that seems like time is standing still! I hope this makes sense to you.

    I bought clocks for my friends that didn’t have them in every room. I thought they needed them, but I guess I was the one who needed a clock. Yes, I have them in every room! I’m totally lost without a clock now. I’m always early and use to sleep very little.

    What time zone is your body in? I think sometimes it’s good not to go according to the clock, but I just can’t imagine how one can be organized at all without “timing” certain activities. Without “time” it must be a significant routine struggle to accomplish or set goals. How did you manage for so long?

    Who else struggles with the concept of “time” whether it be “time flying” or “time delayed”? When did you find out and how do you manage the problems it causes? Thanks for all your input.

    Take care and stay safe,
    Edie

    Like

    • I don’t know what keeps happening to my attempts to respond to your comment, Edie. Twice now, my answers to your questions have ended up in the ether instead of on the page . . . third time’s the charm?

      Yes – time has *always* been a mystery to me. I can’t recall a time when it made sense, except in the context of NOW and not-now. Nobody gets it – and I am frustrated beyond belief when they continue to ask me time-based questions.

      Oddly, I have a great sense of rhythm – which is time-based – so I can change time-ING (as when I had to do a 30-second spot and I was over or under by a few seconds, I understood to tweak the cadence to end “on time”) — but I never could stay tracked in timing for much longer than a minute (or a dance number – and then I simply followed the music).

      None of us know what we don’t know . . . how can we frame a question another will understand? It seems like magic when others are able to manage something in arenas where we are totally at sea.

      The best analogy I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s like trying to teach the tone-deaf to sing. My friends who can’t sing on pitch can’t tell when they wander away from the tune, and I have never been able to help them learn to note it.

      Unlike those who can’t match a pitch, however, I always knew there was some “secret” that others knew and I didn’t (and therapists have a field day with this, btw- “Madelyn, I don’t have answers for you!”)

      I simply couldn’t imagine how to frame a question beyond, “How do you DO that?” or “What am I missing?”– which, I suppose, seemed more like feigned ignorance to others – so I stopped asking. I hated the look on their faces, even when their responses weren’t cruel, and even though I understood they didn’t MEAN to be cruel.

      We have ALL been shamed for not already knowing something others feel we “should,” so many (most?) of us play along gamely, hoping we’ll figure it out without having to ask, and making fun of ourselves when it becomes obvious we’ve missed something others don’t. People tended more to believe I was kidding (or being intractable) – they either laughed or scowled.

      I find it fascinating that you LOST your sense of time with your injury. There is an experiment with kids and time, and those like me tended to “guess” over or under (to a statistically significant degree) based on how comfortable (or engaged) they were while they waited for the correct number of seconds to elapse (ONLY 60, in this case).

      Like you, I have multiple clocks — but more like every WALL than every room – I’m not kidding – I *need* to see them “by default.” (Daylight savings time creates a LOUSY week twice a year, by the way). CRAZY stupid anymore!

      Mostly, I set my wonderful Casio countdown timer watch — THE best sense of time-on-a-strap going – been buying them for about 20 years now. EXCLUSIVELY! (it’s an unmanageable distraction to attempt to remember to keep looking at a clock, making it practically impossible to stay tracked on much of anything else.)

      Time zone? I wish! My “day” is two hours longer than yours, so it spins around the clock, relative to ANY time zone, and it limits my life significantly.See “JetLagged for Life”sorry, links seem to be broken today::sigh:: FIXED the link problem – click it!

      I found out that there was such a thing as “a sense of time” in the same article I found out about ADD, published in the New York Times magazine section – Frank Wolkenberg’s now landmark, “Out of a Darkness.” I was 38.

      My reaction to that particular aha! was, “Well, NO WONDER every one else can get places on time — they’re cheating!” (as if “a sense of time” was like having an exam crib sheet stuffed up their sleeves.)

      Once I understood that some inner chronometer allowed others to somehow feel that time was passing (and how much time was passing, for most of them), I understood immediately that I had to stop attempting to “figure it out” and focus on easy-to-set alarms (one to STOP, to get ready for the next thing, another to begin walking out the door — etc.) That’s how I did it — and how I do it still.

      ANYWAY – *this* series (and the “Jetlag” series) will, article by article, explain as much as is known about what’s going on, as well as my unique experience attempting to run a LIFE with what’s going on.

      It IS do-able, once you get a clue – and get out of denial about it – but it does take some doing!

      NOW, lets see if THIS version makes it to the page. I created it in Word so I can cut and past if not — as soon as whatever the problem happens to be is resolved by the WordPress Team.

      Happy New Year – and Happy Twelfth Nite.
      xx,
      mgh

      Liked by 1 person

      • Madelyn,

        Wow, you have explained the “Time” thing in detailed that I get it! Thank goodness I don’t have that! A clock on every wall certainly describes the challenges you deal with. I can’t even imagine that!

        I recently wrote a post I think might go out on Friday comparing ADD and TBI and overlaps. Of course it’s simple, but I hope effective.

        I have a HUGE digital clock and everyone pokes fun at it! If they truly understood? I hope they never have to experience it either. I can’t begin to understand living an entire lifetime within the concept of time! This is something that happens with brain injury, but the comparison helps so much to get through this. “Before” injury and “After” injury … at least compensatory methods must be so easy. Understanding what it was before and what is now is very different than never being able to understand “Time”! I feel blessed! Take care and stay safe. Edie

        eef

        Liked by 1 person

        • Rattle my chain when your ADD/TBI article posts and I will “reblog” (in the way I do that — WordPress reblog function’s format doesn’t work well for ADD readers).

          We are ALL blessed in so many ways – as we are also challenged. Growing pains suck!

          xx,
          mgh

          Like

  6. I’m revealing these things in my life, because it’s not unusual … it happens in 1 out of every 5 patients! This will continue as long as those remain quiet, instead of speaking up! We all need to advocate for others.

    Unfortunately, the blame usually falls back unto the family. I expect they will say he didn’t have any other symptoms, and his creatinine level was only slightly elevated! This is usually supported by the lack of medical appointments, the lack of documentation by healthcare professionals whether it is deliberate or an oversight. The healthcare professionals are 99.9% considered right, whether it’s accurate information or not.

    Sad fact, this young man had projectile vomiting since a young infant … a sign something was wrong, but never followed up! I can’t blame anyone else. I don’t know what his medical appointments were like with the exception of a couple. The problem is considered congenital.

    My children are supporting me through this difficult diagnosis, since I consistently stated “something is very wrong” over the years. My voice wasn’t heard! In his teen years there was a divorce, and I stepped back while his friends were naturally the highlights of his life. That’s what is expected to happen in teen years, but he knew I would be there for him.

    I will be returning to Ohio for as long as necessary. I will be by his side before and immediately after surgery, and as long as he needs me. I left Ohio because of extreme medical malpractice (no litigation!) on not only myself but other members of our immediate family, including death. We need to clean up a system that is failing … and in critical condition!

    I plead that everyone take control of their health and healthcare. Keep your records. Keep your films. They are yours, and you need to be your own detective. Records are purged after 10 years, and sometimes less and lost forever when you don’t retrieve them. You may need them to compare in the future. It’s your life and there is nothing more important than your life! Save your life … you are your best advocate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry this has been languishing – Christmas agita has me crazed. I “front-ended” the posts for this month because I KNEW I wouldn’t have as much time (and THAT is an understatement – tons of unexpected stuff to manage, but nothing compared to what you are dealing with).

      My heart BREAKS for what you must be dealing with – and at this time of year (not that *any* time would be a good time for news like that)

      My prayers are with you and your family. You are SO brave to be SO “out” with it all. Keep us posted.

      xoxoxox,
      mgh

      Like

    • YO’ EDIE!!

      Speaking of broken hospital sytems, a nurse who is in our training got mugged in the parking lot after her shift ON CHRISTMAS DAY! Won’t blog her details, but suffice it to say that they found her under her car the next day, concerned when she didn’t show up for her shift.

      When she gets out of the hospital, would you be willing to connect with her to share some of YOUR story, so she doesn’t underestimate the need to stay ON everybody as the cognitive problems begin to be noticed?

      xx,
      mgh

      Like

      • Yes, I would be happy to connect with this nurse and help with family, friends and staff. Does she have enough support right now with her hospitalization? Are the plans to discharge her to a TBI rehabilitation in place? We definitely need to make sure this happens.

        A discharge to a nursing home rehabilitation versus a setting that deals in mainly neurology and brain injury will make the difference in her recovery. She needs only BRAIN INJURY REHABILITATION FACILITIES. NOT A NURSING HOME REHABILITATION Let’s make sure they have her best interest and not the cost-effectiveness in mind!

        She may need rehabilitation out-of-state, but I haven’t checked to see what is available in the area. Sounds like she will need inpatient rehabilitation or on-campus rehabilitation. We need to make sure she goes where she can get the best rehabilitation, it will make a difference for her outcome and her lifetime! Hope this provides some ideas to begin with.

        You can reach me at the telephone provided. Text to see if I’m available so I know approximately when to get the telephone call. Unfortunately, sometimes I turn off my phone and forget to turn it back on. It’s hard to hear vibrate when I’m in another room!LOL

        Otherwise, just call … I might have the ringer on!

        eef

        Liked by 1 person

        • You are a DOLL. Her sister is handling email, etc. – so I will get back to her with your response. It takes a village, right?
          xx,
          mgh

          Like

        • SO appreciate it. Am emailing student’s sister with links to your blog etc. – first step to get you guys talking to each other.

          xoxox,
          mgh

          Like

      • Madelyn, I will personally visit with her, family, friends and staff if that will be helpful. I can evaluate and help with planning for rehabilitation without cost. Just keep in touch. In the meantime, I will pray. Take care and stay safe, Edie

        Liked by 1 person

        • Am including this in the comment – she’s not local Her doc says he expects “full recovery” — who knows if HE knows enough to actually say that. I know I don’t have to tell YOU how little the non-specialist docs KNOW about rehab & TBI!!
          xx,
          mgh

          Like

        • Madelyn,
          “Full recovery” does that mean breathing, heart beating, opening eyes, mumbling, and maybe talking, walking … forgetting, not remembering, confusion! Wouldn’t you like to have that physician define “full recovery”.

          I bet she can return to work in two weeks also! LOL Hope this never happens to this doctor. He’s obviously never been in a situation like this. I can only pray for her “full recovery”, and a miracle can happen.

          While we pray we need to plan too! Prevent, plan and pray. I pray this nurse returns to work in two weeks and this physician be her patient! Let’s just give her time to heal … okay that would be 3 weeks off work, then return full time! LOL This is where the reality of injury versus the expected “recovery time” clashes!

          Some people do recovery quickly, and that is the ideal. I couldn’t pray for a better scenario then her quick recovery!

          Keep in mind that TBI Rehabilitation should not necessarily be convenient for family and friends. It’s about what’s best for the patient and the best outcome. Patient’s don’t really have time or energy to visit with everyone when their focus is on brain rehabilitation that includes speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, warm aquatic therapy, art therapy, sleep and more therapies.

          I will keep this beautiful soul in my prayers. I need to keep all the ignorant healthcare professionals in prayer too that someday they will learn more about brain dysfunction and we can hope it’s not their brains we are talking about!

          Take care and stay safe,
          Edie

          Liked by 1 person

          • Non-specialist physicians aren’t really trained to understand neuro-imact, so don’t really consider it (like I need to say this to YOU!).

            ATTN: OTHER READERS: click Edie’s blog name (by her photo) – THEN check out some of the articles linked to items in her top menu. TONS of good info over there!

            And then there’s that river in Egypt – denial

            Unless the post-trauma situation is DIRE, it seems that nobody (patient *or* loved-ones) wants to look straight on at the need for *immediate* rehab, when it would be most effective. Many with “less severe” trauma don’t get treated until cognitive problems continue to show up much later.

            At the other end, in the eagerness to be “well,” so many set themselves up for future problems (or less functionality than they could have) by quitting rehab efforts too soon.

            Does that jibe with your observations?

            cxx,
            mgh

            Like

  7. mgh note – IMPORTANT COMMENT BELOW – PLEASE TAKE TIME TO READ IT: words were not altered – HOWEVER, I added some empasis to some of the words to draw your attention.

    ——————————
    Did ADD diagnosis over shadow a significant disease in this child’s body? The past 10 days have taken me through a range of emotions! It was just a week ago, I laid down sobbing uncontrollably and feeling as though I have failed the child I featured in June on my blog who turned 18, graduated from high school and attending college.

    He appeared depressed over the past year, and I reminded people that depression is often a sign of another underlying medical condition. Albeit, not always but it should never be dismissed. Regardless, depression is a serious illness in itself.

    I’m sharing this experience here because I don’t want parents to assume everything is ADD, ADHD, or to divorce! Misdiagnosis, negligence, malpractice, errors, and many other things happen within our healthcare. I want parents and adults to take their symptoms seriously.

    My 18 year old nephew went to the emergency room for the second time since 2009 with the same symptoms. Earlier, it was determined he had a digestive problem…until last week! This time he was in the emergency room in pain again. They took him back for a scan. My younger sister, also a registered nurse was totally blindsided by the news.

    He has lost kidney function in one kidney which is now compromising his good kidney. No one ever mentioned he had a kidney problem! They never even told them he had a “slightly elevated creatinine level” 3 years ago. So who missed this diagnosis? I guess it doesn’t matter. He has lost his kidney and it will be removed after the holidays. He has his life.

    He was having difficulty focusing, difficulty with his first year in college, difficulty following through with tasks and all the other things that anyone with ADD encounter. Worse yet, all his symptoms were related to being “lazy” or “unmotivated”. This isn’t unusual for those with ADD or any type of brain dysfunction. Is that an excuse for this type of diagnosis being overlooked?

    I plead to everyone that all one’s health records need to be pulled and evaluated. Don’t let everything be related to ADD, because it’s not! You are entitled to proper healthcare without excuses.

    I guess I should be grateful this young man has his life, but how much has been compromised by a disease process that went undetected by health providers.

    No one can focus or have energy when their body is fighting a battle they are unaware of.

    Please advocate for your friends and family. Push to get your medical records and the treatment you deserve. Has anyone else endured ridicule from healthcare professionals because they have ADD? Have your symptoms been minimized or not treated because ADD “supposedly explains it all”?

    Another life permanently altered because of poor medical treatment. Take care and stay safe. Edie

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a travesty – and I am so sorry it is so CLOSE to *you.*

      What we see most often is that “ADD” is discounted, not that it is used to explain everything else. And, when physicals aren’t done FIRST, it is most often because the life of the ADDer is so dysregulated by the time they seek dx that they don’t have the money (or the health insurance) to get thorough check ups.

      I am truly appalled that this child was SEEN and nobody followed up BIGTIME on kidney functioning when they discovered elevated C-levels — not EVEN to the degree of telling him (or his mom) to keep an eye on it and get regular check-ups.

      I am SO sorry that this happens EVER (much less to you, and much less NOW) — and I certainly hope you and his mother will hang on like ticks on a dog to find out how, exactly, this was allowed to get this far. They need to find and fix the holes in their systems (and if they’ve got a slacker on the team, that person needs to be shown the DOOR).

      NO, you can’t change anything for this young man, but until we ALL raise the questions – and keep bumping up until we get the ANSWERS – stories like these will continue to circulate quietly, week by week. It breaks my heart. For you – for your nephew, for your sister, and for ALL of us.

      I don’t think lawsuits are the answer, except in the case of extreme negligence (and worse) – but I’m glad they are possible when you can’t get satisfaction through other channels.

      I DO think advocacy IS an answer, but we all must join the A-team – we must hold those who hold our lives in their hands ACCOUNTABLE.

      xx,
      mgh

      Like

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