taiWelcome! I’m Tai Fenix Kulystin (previously known as Scarlet Lotus), I am a queer fat genderqueer polyamorous switch and my pronouns are they/them. This blog is my personal exploration of gender, sexuality, spirituality, kink, and the joys and pitfalls of an overanalytical nature.

Outside of this blog I am currently finishing up a Master's degree to help me launch into my career as a Gender & Intimacy Coach and Somatic Sexuality Educator. I am passionate about working with people of all bodies, genders, sexualities, and relationship styles to help them move toward experiencing the (sex) life of their dreams.



On Graduating

After an amazing weekend where I put on (with the help of so many other wonderful people) the first temple in my home and the first where I was the lead, the hierophant, the ultimate-in-charge person, etc. I am ready to spend the day relaxing and focusing on my own pleasure. Art, reading, snuggling, and funny videos are all on the menu, as well as some of the delicious leftovers from the catered weekend.

The weekend ritual-workshop-retreat went delightfully. Much releasing, much expressing, much being, much phoenixing (it’s a verb, you know), and so much more. I infused some bits of my own personal mythology into the programming, shifted and shared some parts of my own self that are often reclusive, and witnessed so much bravery in vulnerability and beauty of those around me that I was brought to tears multiple times. And so much gratitude. Holy fuck, I have so much gratitude for everyone who participated, supported me, shared themselves, and helped to make it what it was.

Back in the end of June, in the last week of my Master’s program, the week before graduation, I described the sensations of anticipation that I was feeling as standing on a precipice. I was looking down at the darkness beyond the jagged cliff below, knowing that I needed to leap into it, and not knowing if I would fly or fall.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “we have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” I had been growing and constructing wings throughout the process of school, occasionally testing them and often falling flat on my face. I knew I needed to take that step. Intellectually I knew that the wings would hold me, but I had never had the visceral experience of flying. I was terrified. I could only do so much development in preparation for these jumps, these leaps into the unknown, the rest had to be done mid-air.

I jumped.
I fell.
I caught wind.
I flew.
Then I fell some more.

I have been developing and refining and fixing the wings as I’ve been soaring (and falling and soaring and falling and…) since the end of June.

This last weekend was another cliff. This time, my wings were stronger, more developed. I already had the experience of flying embodied within me, so I was not nearly as terrified. Or I was a different kind of terrified, the kind that propelled me forward.

This weekend was another kind of graduation for me, the culmination of the priestess training I started five years ago. It was a moving more fully into myself and my leadership, and attempting to do so mindfully, with humanity, with gratitude, with compassion, and with the backing of a community.

It was heart-opening and deeply awoke me to another layer of my own worthiness I had not accessed before. Like so many of us I have long struggled with worthiness, of feeling worthy of love and attention and belonging. I’m sure I will continue to struggle, this is not the end of it, but it was a step in the direction of wholeness.

Now, I look forward to the next cliff. Still terrified. Still moving forward.

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Close to the End

Not quite there yet, but I’m working on it. I need to be done with writing my thesis soon. In the next few days, really. I will still have editing and other sorts of work to be done for it, and I will have to get on the task of figuring out what I will do for my symposium, so I will be far from completely done in the next few days, but I will have the writing of it completed and be in the home stretch.

Of course, I’ve thought this before, and every time I think I’ll be done something happens to get in my way. I had set aside all of this past week, from Sunday to Saturday, for thesis writing, and what happened? I woke up Monday morning with strep throat. Of course. But I’m on track again and actually getting writing done. Just have to actually let myself focus and not get distracted with everything and anything else.

There is no longer a question in me as to if I will *actually* be done, if I can actually get it done, if I can break through all the internal barriers and beliefs that I have held for so long that tell me that it’s not okay for me to do a work like this for one reason or another. I have done so much work on myself in the last few years since I started grad school, and it seems to have hyper-condensed in the last thirteen months since I started writing my thesis.

Thirteen months! Sheesh. I hoped to be done in nine, but often life doesn’t turn out the way we plan. Of mice and men and all that. I’m excited, though. I’m excited to be done, to move to the next chapter of my life, to see what lies beyond grad school. Grad school, this thing that has taken up so much of my time and my life for the last nearly-four years. I come out of it a completely changed person. So many of my patterns have been investigated and bent, at least, if not broken. So many of the things I thought were part of me, that I would never get out of, like my depression or certain anxieties, have been nearly completely abandoned for other ways of being. In short, I have changed.

Now as I am nearing the end of this monster of a project that I chose to undertake, this 150-plus-page beast that I have chosen to slay tame and ride on the back of as I go into the future, I am amazed at the work I’ve already done. It’s going to be my first masterpiece, this Master’s piece of mine. It won’t be perfect, it probably won’t even be super polished, but it will be finished and it will be mine. The culmination of my past learning and desires for the future all wrapped up into one long-ass Master’s thesis. Here’s to that.

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Dying, Dying, Dead

I am dying. I am dying. I am dead. Pulling parts of myself away from the tangled mess I have weaved together throughout all these years. Endless pain and discomfort in the name of growth and abundance. What needs to die? What needs to be reborn? Strips of self that I have taken the time to mold out of experiences now need to be carefully separated from the rest of me, the parts that are useful stay, the parts that hold me back must go. Where do I go?

My back is hurting from stress, from the weight of the words that need to come out of me, but that I am having a difficult time getting onto the page. I cannot sit in this chair in a way that does not hurt me, it seems, in a way that keeps me embodied. I am out of my body, attempting to be in my mind only while writing about embodiment. How does that work?

I am carving out my space in the world. Bringing pieces together from culturally disparate places and creating a whole. At the same time I am digging deeper into myself and carving out spaces in my psyche where I can fit as well. I don’t fit anymore. I need to take what does not work and transmute it into something that does. I take myself apart so I may be whole.

My body is uncomfortable. I have a weeks-long headache of exhaustion and perfectionism. Yes, I’m having a hard time giving that up. It’s coming to the point where I do not have a choice.

I am weaving together my own ideology, my own theology, my own sacred sexology. Embracing on all the strength I have in order to focus and get this done, and it is not enough. It will be enough. Eventually it will be enough, as long as I can die. As long as I can clear this channel, get rid of this blockage, let this part of me go, it will be enough. I am enough.

My body is here. I am here. I am whole.

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Light at the End of the School Tunnel

For those of you who don’t know, I have been attending Antioch University since the Fall of 2011 working on a self-designed Masters program in Psychology. Last Wednesday, the 12th, I had my Application Project Plan Approval Degree Committee Meeting (yes, apparently the name is that long). I met with the three other people who will be assessing, evaluating, and helping me through the process of my Applied Thesis in my last three quarters at Antioch.

My plan for my thesis was approved, which means that today I am submitting the syllabus for the next three quarters of my Application Project! This is a big deal.

This means I am nearly at the end of my time at Antioch and will, at the end of the year, have a Masters in Integrative Studies in Psychology, focusing on Sacred Erotic Somatic Psychology. I plan to graduate at the end of Fall Quarter 2014.

The proposed timeline is: I will begin working on my Applied Thesis next quarter, starting in April, and I will finish in December, giving me nine months to work through the nine credits of my Application Project. I have been referring to this as my Grad School Pregnancy (“I’m pregnant with grad school,” I’ve been saying) and I plan to birth my Thesis Baby in December.

This also means that my time from now until December, with the exception of the breaks between quarters, will be extremely limited. I don’t yet know if this will be more limited than it has been in previous quarters, but I imagine that may likely be true.

I do at some point want to get back into writing on here on a regular basis and reviewing on my other site. I have aspirations, but I will likely not have time for that until December.

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I’m feeling small and sore from beating myself up today. I’m thinking a lot about what it is like to practice gratitude and self-compassion, and trying to practice it. I’m wondering what I will be like on the day I find myself much closer to the non-perfectionist end of the perfectionism spectrum and am able to marvel at the change that has occurred.

I’ve been trapped in life-paralysis for so long, waiting (not consciously) for some external force to knock me back into reality, but I’m realizing the messages I’ve been getting: the only way through it is through it; do the fucking work.

All of my life my self-worth has been connected to my accomplishments. I was told “what matters is that you do your best,” but then what was considered “my best” was also dictated to me. I was praised for excelling and giving disapproving and disappointed looks when I didn’t meet the acceptable standards. This wasn’t so bad, as I often excelled, but I also became terrified of not producing perfect work.

I have been struggling. The last year and a half has brought many things to light as I’ve worked to excavate my own self, my own darkness. I haven’t known how to ask for help. I still don’t know, as I don’t know what will help, but admitting it is a step. I have been struggling with so many things that I haven’t known what to do or where to start.

As I’ve been struggling, though I’ve also been working and I’ve been healing. I’ve been doing and changing and growing. I feel stronger and closer to that person that I want to be than I ever have felt before. I’m simultaneously nearing the end of one path and beginning another.

But, still, most days I’m struggling. I can find the strength in it and I can give it a positive spin, but I’m still hurting. I’m still feeling small and sore and there is still a part of me that is whispering “you’re wrong to feel this way” and “you’re not good enough” and “you don’t belong here.” There’s still part of me that is paralyzed and living in a state of constant fear of being found out. That part that thinks that some day everyone will realize I’m not really as interesting, intelligent, awesome, skilled, attractive, insert-positive-opinion-here, etc. as they think I am, that I’m really just unworthy of their time, energy, and love.

I know the things I would tell a client or friend who admitted this to me: everyone experiences this to some extent, some less than others, but you are not alone. I would tell them that part of themselves as their best interest at heart, it thinks that it is helping, that it is somehow keeping them safe against the threat of shame and judgment, that it really just wants them to be happy (even though its tactics are not useful). I would encourage them to feel love and compassion toward that part, to thank it, to engage with it, to work to integrate it. I would encourage them to hold themselves accountable, but also cultivate self-compassion and imperfection. I would encourage them to sit with their feelings and find where they’re rooted in the body. And so on.

These are all things I’ve told myself and am working on, but there are some days when that paralyzing part is the loudest voice inside of me. There are many days when I just break down and witness myself being paralyzed. Today was one of those days. I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to be imperfect. Telling myself to lean into the discomfort and embrace vulnerability. To fake it until I become it. To do the fucking work. To Breathe.

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Adventures in Amsterdam: Reflections and Declarations

Adventures in Amsterdam is a series of updates about my time in Amsterdam from July 12th-August 12th attending the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture, and Society at the University of Amsterdam. This is a four-week certificate program focusing on eight topics around sexuality and sociology.

Yesterday was the end of the first week of classes, which also means the end of the classes I’ve had this week. Next week the two classes we move on to “Adolescent Sexuality” and “Sexual Politics in the Netherlands.” Both will be fascinating, I have no doubt, but I’m expecting the third week to be my favorite. You’ll understand why when I get there, I think.

I seem to be more outgoing here. More confident. Less shy and more expressive. I go through phases, of course, and there are times when I need to be quiet and alone and introverted, but there is something about having something to do every day that helps me. It’s different than back home, where I can spend an entire day–or multiple days–at home without interacting with anyone except for Onyx.

The lesson of the trip so far, though really of the last few weeks including before the trip, has been one of “worthing” or worthiness. What I mean by that is life seems to be conspiring to remind me of how worthy I am to be in it, and how worthy and relevant my work is to the world. I have struggled with this for a long time, as long as I can remember. I have been working on this and working up to this for a long time as well, and I have been slowly chipping away at the walls I built up around me during childhood. Chipping away at those walls that kept my tender heart safe, that kept me safe from the pain and grief of rejection and ridicule, but those walls that also kept out joy and belonging. As Brene Brown says: “you cannot selectively numb emotion,” which I would extend to you cannot selectively numb experience (though that’s basically the same statement, isn’t it?).

I have allowed myself to be disregarded and walked on because I got used to it. I put on a strong facade well, but inside I have been terrified by life. I have been terrified at fucking up and doing the wrong thing, making the wrong decision, saying the wrong thing. Of course often this experience means I keep myself from doing what I need to or want to. Often this experience paralyzes me into inaction. Often this experience keeps me from showing my full and true self to those around me, even those close to me.

I am sick and tired of living my life this way. I’m done. I’ve been dedicating myself to opening up, to connection, to vulnerability, in an intentional and conscious way now for a couple of years, and working to find the right direction for many years before that, and now I’m ready.

I’m ready to stop selling myself short and really embrace my strengths, rather than just focusing on my weaknesses and where I need to improve. I will still recognize those things, I will still work toward improvement, but I do not need to ignore the strengths in order to change the flaws. (In fact, I believe embracing the strengths will help me change the flaws; funny how that works.) I’m ready to stop cowering in the face of my own abilities.

I’m ready to stop inconveniencing myself for other people in hopes it will make them like me. What is inherent in that is the assumption that I’m not worthy of being liked, that I have to trick people into liking me because I am not good enough. I still want to offer my help to people and inconvenience myself for them at times, but to make it a common practice when first getting to know someone is just not useful. The reasons behind it are not useful.

A lot of these realizations come out of a relationship that blossomed and then wilted before I began to talk about it on here. I’ve had a draft of that up for months now and haven’t known what to say about it, which may have been a sign in and of itself. These are realizations I have needed to make for a long time, and there are more where these came from, but it’s a start.

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Adventures in Amsterdam: At the End of Day Four

Adventures in Amsterdam is a series of updates about my time in Amsterdam from July 12th-August 12th attending the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture, and Society at the University of Amsterdam. This is a four-week certificate program focusing on eight topics around sexuality and sociology.

One of the many canals.

It is officially the end of day four in Amsterdam. There has been much getting to know people in my program and exploring the city. Went to a karaoke bar and queer club on Saturday night, both were great fun! We were celebrating the birthday of one of the other people in my program, which was lovely.

I bought a nice bike for dirt cheap that I will hopefully be able to sell when I leave next month. I spent more on locks for it than I did on the bike! I’m really excited about the idea of exploring Amsterdam by bike. It’s been a long time since I cycled, and I forgot how much I missed it. It’s definitely easier to bike here on many levels. First, it is almost entirely flat. Second, there are bike lanes everywhere and often include special traffic lights just for bikes, which just makes it really easy. Third, bikes have the ultimate right-of-way (functionally, not legally, I think, though I could be wrong); I was told it goes: bikes, pedestrians, cars.

Today was the first day of classes. Our two classes this week are “Introduction to Sexuality, Culture, & Society” and “Professional Identity & Values Clarification.” There will be six more classes (two per week) while I’m here, and only four days of each class (we have three-day weekends). I’m enjoying the program, the reading is pretty familiar so far, but good to have it packed into one place. I went and got the reading packet copied off and bound by week, which was over 900 pages including the readings that were too large for the .pdf packet! That was more expensive than I would have liked, and probably should have gotten that done in the states before I left, but having the readings is necessary; I can’t just do pdf reading.

My Mum1 and her new beau will be coming over tomorrow for a couple of days, which will be great! I haven’t seen her in over a year and I haven’t met him yet, so I’m definitely looking forward to this. I don’t have any other plans besides that for the upcoming week except for school.

It’s mighty pretty here. If I wasn’t already in a Masters program I would be really tempted to stay and do their Gender & Sexuality program (it’s only a year!). I could go on, but I should finish some reading and go to sleep. I’ll update again soon.

My new bike!

  1. Not my mother; Dad’s widowed girlfriend–they were together for over a decade []
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Adventures in Amsterdam: Settling In

Adventures in Amsterdam is a series of updates about my time in Amsterdam from July 12th-August 12th attending the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture, and Society at the University of Amsterdam. This is a four-week certificate program focusing on eight topics around sexuality and sociology.

The view from my home for the next month

I’m all settled into my room here in Amsterdam. I arrived about 27 hours ago give or take. My day yesterday consisted of waiting for three other people in my program at Schiphol Airport (we met at a Starbucks of all places), then figuring out the train to Amsterdam Centraal, and catching a taxi to our new home for the next month. Then getting into my room and having a bit of down time before heading out to explore the city a bit. I walked around for a few hours, got a power converter (probably need another one), grabbed food with a couple people in my program, and then came back to my new home for the next month and crashed. I managed to find the red light district in my wanderings, which was fun and fascinating. Somehow I got a lot of sleep last night, thanks to melatonin and jet lag, I think. Thus was my first day in Amsterdam.

It’s about 11am right now. I am mostly unpacked now, though there is still a bit of organizing to do. Realized there aren’t many things I forgot, but I should go grab another power converter and some hand soap today. So far I’m one of the oldest people in the program, which I was not really expecting, but I haven’t met everyone yet.

I like my room, and it’s a pretty decent size! The person who checked me in said he gave me one of the best rooms because my application was one of his favorites (aww, yay). I have a private kitchen and bathroom, which I’m very happy about. The only snag is I have no kitchen supplies, but some of the other people have duplicate items, so I’ll get some things from them and hopefully not have to buy much if anything. I’m also on the third floor (they say second floor here, but third floor for those in the US) so I get to walk up a couple decent flights of stairs (the ceilings in this building are quite tall) to get to my room. Good exercise! I have wired and wireless internet in my room, but my phone isn’t available as a regular phone (I haven’t decided if I’m setting it up for that or not, so it’s staying in airplane mode for the time being).

The temperature is really nice (imo) and similar to Seattle. The opening ceremonies for the program are tomorrow, so I’ll have much more information about it tomorrow. I know it in broad strokes, but that’s about it. We were sent the reading packet a few days ago via email, which is over 800 pages, so I’m sure most of my time will be spent with that over the next few weeks! Today my plans are a birthday lunch for one of my fellow students, and then possibly heading to a volunteer-run queer nightclub where Casey (who checked me in) volunteers and is organizing tonight’s event. I’m sure there will be more wandering and probably at least one trip to the store for supplies, and I might figure out how to rent a bike.

Inside my room.

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What’s Going On

Because I apparently can’t be bothered to write a proper blog post, even though I work on dozens of drafts in my spare moments (though those aren’t many at this time in the quarter, which is almost over), I’m going to list a few of the exciting things that have developed in my life since I’ve last written.

Work Stuff:

  • My Sexological Bodywork Training Program is almost over. The end of module three of that will be this Thursday, and I am planning on being finished with all the work for it that day. Thus soon I will be a Certified Sexological Bodyworker. There will be a post more directly about Sexological Bodywork before Thursday, also.
  • I’ve begun seeing clients, primarily as part of the aforementioned module three. Currently I have three clients I’m seeing weekly, though that will shift a bit for the next couple of weeks for the end of the quarter rush-to-write period I always end up in. I’ve put up Embracing Pleasure, my professional site, but it is still under construction. I plan on seeing clients in a part-time way until I’m out of school.

School Stuff:

  • I’ve changed the name of what I’m studying since I first wrote about it. I’m now calling my degree Sacred Erotic Somatic Psychology. Technically it will simply be a Masters in Psychology, but my final project will reflect what I have been studying. I have a Paint-made venn-diagram of my degree program here (one of my degree committee members loves venn diagrams):
  • The current (Spring) quarter will be over June 21st, and then I’ll have a few weeks off before summer quarter starts. I’ll be taking only one class this summer at Antioch: an independent study focused on the work of Dan Siegel and Brene Brown. This is part of why I love my school. Still ironing out the details for it, even though the independent study contracts were due already (oops).
  • Also this Summer I will be attending the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture and Society at the University of Amsterdam! I have plane tickets already and will be heading over there on July 11th and returning to Seattle on August 12th. I’m so amazingly excited about this! It will be a fantastic experience, it feeds right into my degree (the credits should1 just transfer over), I get a neat certificate at the end of it, and I get to study in Amsterdam for four weeks! So much awesome.

Blogging Stuff:

  • I changed my online names from ScarletLotus to TaiKulystin2 in social media places (such as Twitter and Fetlife). Kind of working on a rebranding thing, I guess. It isn’t my “real” name, but it’s the name on my business cards and the name most people in the world know me by. Even at school I go by “Tai,” but not Tai Quyn Kulystin. Kulystin is the last name Onyx and I chose for ourselves quite a while ago, though we are not married and are not planning on getting married, but we go by the same last pseudonym online. This isn’t really that new of news, but I haven’t talked about it on here.
  • There’s a newish layout on this blog that I haven’t mentioned in a post. There is also a new layout on my sex toy review blog, which is now called Shameless Pleasure (used to be Wanton Lotus Reviews). I haven’t posted on there in ages, but I do have a number of toys to review. That will happen eventually.
  • There’s a new banner/navigation ribbon thing up at the top of my pages that link to each other. If you’re looking at the site, rather than reading through email or a reader, there should be a red ribbon up at the very top of the page linking to my professional site, my sex toy review site, pleasurists, and this site. I unashamedly stole the idea from Erika Moen‘s sites.

Other Stuff:

  • There have been some changes and shifts in my relationship with Onyx again (as per usual at this juncture). I’m still seeing three other people, some more frequently than others. He’s started seeing someone regularly. Life is going on as it goes. There will eventually be a blog post about all this. Probably multiple.
  • My birthday is coming up at the end of the month3. Two of my closest friends who both live in Oregon are going to be coming up here for it, which I’m quite excited about. I’m planning on a bit of a birthday bash out and about around Seattle, which will include dinner, table top games, and then dancing at the local private goth club. This may be the most excited about a birthday that I’ve been in years.

The finer details of all of these things will be shared as they happen… probably. I’ve got so much to write about and so little time! Hopefully you enjoyed this little update of my life.

  1. crossing fingers as I will have to have them evaluated once they’re awarded to me, but there probably will not be any problem with it. []
  2. though I’ve been contemplating using TaiQuyn or TaiQuynKulystin instead for the sake of continuity as I can’t have TaiKulystin on Facebook… Hmm []
  3. I would not say no to some items from my amazon wishlist if you are so inclined []
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The Things I’ve Learned

I’ve taken a break from the internet in the last few months, specifically this break has been from the online persona I have been developing on this blog since 2007. I experienced a mental breakdown of sorts, a deep depression that was catalyzed by the death of my father but had begun long before he passed. I had to step back from life and to go inside of myself. I no longer had the strength to keep moving forward so I stagnated for a while. It was necessary.

Life has been on an upswing for the last few months. All the things happened at once: I was beginning to feel like myself again, Stian and I were getting closer, and I began a few new relationships. Since then school has been figured out, I have a lot of ideas for the future and plans in that regard, and all my relationships are developing positively. More and more lately, however, I’ve been realizing just how much writing on here has meant to me, and I want to get back into it.

I have other ways of expressing and processing my thoughts and emotions now than I did when I began this blog. It is easier for me to talk openly and honestly about those things that are close to my heart. While that was a big part of my development of this blog it was not the only purpose of it. In my time away I’ve realized just how important writing is to me. I’ve had to do a lot of it in school, but that is less flow-of-consciousness writing and more actually-having-to-plan-things-out-and-be-organized writing. While I enjoy both types, there has been a distinct lack of the former in my life as of late. For a while I was so internal, so closed off, that I was unable to write, I was barely able to breathe. Now, though, I feel the desire to share pouring out of me.

Dance has become an integral part of my life experience in the last few months as well. For a long time I forgot how necessary it was to move my body in that way. I did a lot of dance when I was younger and I have wanted to take a class for years, but just never got around to it. I began taking a couple swing dance classes in November and began another three weeks ago. I hope to continue as best I can in the upcoming months, but travel plans will get in the way somewhat. I have aspirations of taking bellydance and burlesque classes as well, and who knows what else. It has become as important as sex to me, as important as breathing. I need to remember to dance, preferably every day.

What else has changed and shifted in the last few months since I have been away? I’ve been on a femme swing as well. My gender presentation has embraced femmeininity to the nth degree. I’ll certainly be discussing this in an upcoming post. Onyx and I have moved from being non-monogamous and theoretically poly to having other partners, and there have been shifts between us and our relationship as well both because of this change and because of the natural progression of our relationship to each other. Again, there will be a separate post. Or probably many separate posts.

There’s so much more needing to pour out of me, but this is where I begin again. This isn’t complete (is it ever?), but it is a (re)start.

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