A Spiritual Survival Guide To Thanksgiving (And Other Potentially Horrific Family Gatherings)

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by Melody Fletcher on November 24, 2011

Today is Thanksgiving. I know, I know, not all of you live in the US, and if you don’t, please forgive my blatant catering to my American side. Just bookmark this blog post for whatever family gatherings they have in your country. No one has a monopoly on awkward family bonding. Actually, I’m one of those people not living in the US (I live in Barcelona, Spain). To me, it’s really just another day, but to over 50% of you, it’s a special day, a day off from work, a day of football, a day of permission to stuff your face until you can’t breathe, then pop the top button of your jeans (if you were careless enough not to just wear sweatpants. Psh, amateurs) and eat some more. It’s also a day where the entire nation (and to Americans, that means the whole world, *snort*) takes a moment to say “Thanks”. Now, some people take that a little more seriously than others, but generally, the intention is to have a warm family meal where everyone sits around, lovingly holds hands and states something that they’re thankful for. Then, everyone hugs and somewhere a puppy gets his wings.

Yeah… that’s the plan. The truth is that reality often looks quite different. Your family, who hasn’t gotten along in years, doesn’t change just because you’ve decided to have a nice day together. In fact, close proximity to each other tends to bring tensions out more than ever. Tempers flare, pumpkin pie gets thrown, someone inevitably dramatically stomps out of the room, hissy fits abound, and everyone wonders why the hell they put themselves through this every year. Because it’s tradition. Duh.

Well, I’m not going to tell you that you should skip Thanksgiving this year. Your mother would never forgive you. And besides, you really, REALLY like stuffing and you don’t care if you have to pay for this once a year treat with a pound of flesh, it’s freaking worth it. But I can give you some guerilla survival tactics based on the Law of Attraction that may well help you save your sanity and may actually help you to not only survive, but use this powder keg of an occasion to do some healing.

Before dinner – Preparing for battle:

You cannot go into a situation this volatile unprepared, unless you want to experience the same thing as last year and every year before that. Now, of course, it’s possible that you’re part of one of those rare families where there are no tensions and Thanksgiving is just another occasion for a wonderful family meal. If you are, let me just warn you: Everyone else wants to smack you right now. In the back of the head. With a 20 lb. turkey. In a frying pan. For the rest of you, here’s your game plan before you face your family:

  1. Put down the frying pan. The only reason that guy’s family isn’t fighting on Thanksgiving is because they’re all on really good drugs. Probably.
  2. Make sure you have some time alone, where you hopefully won’t be disturbed. Don’t lock yourself in the bathroom, people will bang on the door if you’re in there too long. And if you’re a male, you’ll spend the rest of the day listening to masturbation jokes.  It’s your call.
  3. If you have time, start off with a little meditation. 10-15 minutes will set you up nicely for the rest of the day and will make the next steps much easier. If you don’t have time, just spend a couple of minutes breathing deeply and thinking of something that makes you happy, like butterflies, puppies, chocolate, your favorite sports team crushing their opponents, whatever.
  4. Spend a few minutes focusing on each family member and their best qualities. Yes, I’m serious. Start with the person who’s easiest to adore and work your way up to the more difficult cases. As you get into the vibration of appreciation, it’ll get easier for you to find positive qualities for even your most annoying relatives. These can be little things. Remember, this is much more about YOU changing YOUR vibration then you trying to change them. So, work your way into a space where you can actually appreciate something about each of your family members.
  5. Take the next few minutes and appreciate yourself. What do you like most about yourself? What do other people tend to like most about you? Family gatherings tend to hit us hard in the self-esteem department and spending a few minutes feeling strong and capable can do wonders for our ability to withstand backhanded compliments later in the day.
  6. Imagine yourself with your family. You’re all laughing and having a good time. If someone says something confrontational, everyone sees it as a joke (or, alternatively, at least you see it as a joke.) You don’t take anything they say personally and you have a fantastic time.
  7. Last, but not least, imagine yourself surrounded by a bubble. You’re safe in that bubble and no one can hurt you. It’s filled with a bright, white light. Now, expand that bubble to include the entire room you’re in. The whole space is now filled with this white light. Next, expand the bubble some more to include the entire house or apartment. Everyone that’s inside the bubble is protected and safe. Everyone is affected by this amazing love. Fill the entire house with this feeling of appreciation, adoration and love and stay in that space as long as you can.

During dinner – staying alive

Ok. It’s time to face your family. If you took the time to do the preparatory work, it’s going to be a much smoother ride than history would have you believe. Try to stay in a place of appreciation. Focus on each family member’s positive traits, and don’t allow yourself to start bitching about them, even in your head.

Here’s your game plan:

  • Be an observer. Don’t just react to whatever happens or gets said. Observe. Try to figure out why your Uncle Bill always complains about politics (he’s not happy, he thinks he’s powerless to do anything about it, and it’s easier to blame the politicians than take responsibility for his own feelings) or why your Aunt Mimi always subtly but nastily criticizes your mother’s cooking (she’s always felt inferior to your mother.) Try not to judge what you see, just observe. By doing this, you’ll never take anything they say personally, but instead, you’ll understand that they are all just doing the best they can with their own personal crap (we all have crap).
  • DON’T POKE THE BEAR. You’re not there to solve anyone’s problems. If you were, it wouldn’t happen during a family gathering. So don’t become the sanctimonious bastard who tells Uncle Bill that his hate of politicians is only a reflection of his feelings of weakness, unless you’re looking to get punched in the face, which will almost certainly mess up your own vibration.
  • Stay positive. If everyone starts complaining about something, don’t chime in. You can even try to steer the conversation to a more positive place, but don’t try to make too big a leap. Also, sarcasm doesn’t work here. If your father is bitching about his horrible job, idiot boss and lazy coworkers, it may not be the best idea to brightly declare “at least you have a job, daddy!” or snidely mutter “gee Dad, aren’t you supposed to be thankful on THANKSgiving?” But if you keep it real, and compassionately say “Wow Dad. That sounds pretty rough. Is there anything at all that you like about your job? There must be something…” you may be surprised at how he’ll let you lead him to a more positive place. I do this all the time. A lot of people seem really negative, but they’re not actually all that stable in their funky vibration. They’ll easily come to the lighter side (incrementally) if you light the way. Even if you can’t influence anyone, don’t allow them to influence you. Don’t add fuel to the fire by joining the pity party or complain-athon. Just stay in your happy place.
  • If you find yourself getting pulled into your family’s emotional sewage pit, excuse yourself and walk away. The most important thing is that you keep you vibration up, that you feel good. Being right, getting someone back, defending yourself, getting your digs in – none of those things will actually make you feel truly better in the long run. Walk away and hit the reset button.
  • If all else fails and you do find yourself getting sucked into the crazy, just ride it out. It’s one day. Don’t beat up on yourself for not staying all Zen. You’re facing one of life’s most difficult and volatile situations. You get points just for trying.

The Aftermath – review and evaluate

I know Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving, for the non-Americans amongst you) is traditionally reserved for shopping and leftovers. But no matter what happened the day before, take a few minutes to evaluate what happened. How did you react? Did you get upset at any time? Did you react in a way that you’re not too proud of? When we get around our families, we tend to turn back into children, so some of our reactions are less than mature. Did you find yourself getting angry? What were the triggers?

Our families are our most valuable mirrors – they will show us things about ourselves that no one else will. You can hate them for it or you can use this information to dig up some beliefs and fears that aren’t serving you. If you blew up like a volcano when your dad made a crack about your wardrobe, that’s a clue. Maybe you’ve never felt that he approved of you, period. Does he trigger a low self-esteem issue? Does he bring out this side of you often? Take a bit of time to dig around in your own psyche and evaluate why you reacted the way you did in any given situation. This doesn’t just have to be restricted to violent outbursts, either. If you felt some tension when someone said something, or wanted to defend yourself, those are clues too, even if you never said a word. Any negative emotion you experienced is your indication that something’s off.

Ok, so I could’ve done a piece about how we’re all supposed to give thanks all the time and not just on Thanksgiving. But there are already a million of those kinds of blog posts out there and I figured you may be better served with a survival guide. Was I right? Let me know in the comments! And yes, you can also let me know what you’re grateful for.

Last but not least: Happy Turkey Day! And if you’re not in the US – Happy Thursday! I’m super grateful that all of you have found me. Happy Shiny Puppy Hugs to all of you!! :D

Image Credit: The Internet. Seriously, it’s all over the internet. It’s impossible to tell where it came from. Sorry about that, Image Credit Police.






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{ 31 comments }

Riley Harrison November 24, 2011 at 15:27

Hey Melody
As always chock full of good advice that deals with reality rather than fantasy. Have a good
Thanksgiving.
Riley
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Melody Fletcher November 24, 2011 at 19:17

Thanks Riley! You have an awesome feast, as well. :)

Hugs,
Melody
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Christine November 24, 2011 at 15:48

Hello Melody & Happy Thanksgiving Day to you too,

Boy, you got all this family dinner stuff right! Even living in Canada, we look forward to this yearly invitation to enjoy a family dinner with our American siblings. And this year my “Give Thanks” prayer will be the following….

I recently have changed business clubs. My new club is called “TGIT” or “Thank God It’s Today”. Members of this club are happy seven days a week because they understand that everyday is unique, and each brings its different gifts. Members of this club are grateful to be alive, they rejoice in their many blessings, and expect each day to be full of wonder, surprise and opportunity.

Happy to have found your website,
Christine

Melody Fletcher November 24, 2011 at 19:19

Yes, Yes, Yes!!! I love it! I’m so stealing that: TGIT. Holy crap that’s brilliant. Thanks so much for sharing this!!!

I’m thankful that you found me, too. My readers are awesome!

Hugs!
Melody
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Maggie Shayne November 24, 2011 at 15:51

I’m so sickeningly zen that I’ll be dodging the folks with the frying pans all day. ;) But even then, I’m taking your entire post to heart, just in case. Will do the meditation & prepare. After all someone’s bound to say =something= that’ll try to piss me off.
Happy Thanksgiving, Melody. This blog is one of the things I’m thankful for.
Maggie.

PS: I blogged on the difference between gratitude & appreciation today at the group site, Storybroads.

http://storybroads.com/?p=3378

Melody Fletcher November 24, 2011 at 19:22

Ahahaha. I figured you’d be one of those. I’m afraid I am, too. Although I suppose I’m only part of the zen club BECAUSE I take the time to prepare. And it gets easier every year… :)

I’ll go head over there now and check it out. Thanks for sharing the link.

Hugs!
Melody
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Luci November 24, 2011 at 15:58

Hi Melody,

This post i found very useful since sometimes i feel this time every year has challenges with our families (either our own and our partner’s one too).

Thanks for the advice, would defenitly try.

Happy thursday since im not in the US and dont celebrate the date… :)
Luci

Melody Fletcher November 24, 2011 at 19:24

Hey Luci,

Thanks for chiming in with the non-US perspective. The end of the year is generally a time for family get togethers, no matter where you live. And that’s the beauty of the law of attraction: it works for all cultures. Yay! :)

Hugs,
Melody
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Mary Carol November 24, 2011 at 22:04

Happy Non-Thanksgiving, Melody!

I’m one of the frozen-turkey-target people. For my extended family, things changed when the last parent died and we became the oldest generation. The whole adult orphan phenomenon is interesting – many dynamics just change. The one sibling who inevitably ruffles the rest of us lives so far away, we hardly communicate. Kind of like amicable divorce. It’s kind of soothing to realize you can “friendly divorce” blood relatives.

Your post applies in all sorts of ways, of course. Your suggestions on preparing to be positive ripple out to everything. I found myself thinking of boring social situations. My insta-fix is a zone-out mini-meditation on something natural, right in the middle of looking interested and nodding my head. Wow! Check out that bug… What a gorgeous leaf on the poinsettia…

Thank you! You and your blog and website are way up there on my list of things to be thankful for!

Mary Carol
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Melody Fletcher November 25, 2011 at 17:42

Hi Mary Carol,

I love that idea: friendly divorce. I separated from my own family for a number of years. I’m still physically far away from them, but our relationship has improved dramatically as I’ve changed my vibration. You can’t force these things, though, and if it doesn’t happen, we have to accept that just because someone is a blood relative, doesn’t mean we are obligated to hang out with them if it makes us deeply unhappy to do so. They may have already provided the catalyst for growth that you needed and you may not need to see them again to complete that journey.

Thank you for your wonderful comments on this site, Mary Carol. You add such a valuable dynamic here by sharing your wisdom and insights. It’s people like you that make me love this blog. :)

HSP hugs,
Melody
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Georgina November 25, 2011 at 01:21

Hi melody, thanks for each and every blog you put out, i enjoy each and every one of them! Is it possible for you to do one on watching your weight as in dieting without getting it all wrong and going back to square one as a result of it, ie. binging, putting all the weight back on. you have sucssesfully lost weight and kept the weight your happy with. I have put on 3 stone since i stopped smoking and i have eaten compulsively. i have just recently lost a few pounds because i cut sown on everything i eat and excersice more. im worried that im not doing this right and it will lead to back to binge eating. can you please help. thanks .

Georgina

Melody Fletcher November 25, 2011 at 17:58

Hi Georgina,

I can do better than that. I’m finishing a book on that subject and as part of the launch for that (should be ready to do that late January 2012), I’ll do a series of posts and probably videos, explaining the core concepts. I have way too much to say to fit into a blog post or two, but I’ll definitely be sharing some really useful information for free.

I’ll have a think about doing a pre-Christmas post about how to survive the holidays, diet wise, though.

In the meantime, stop stressing out. That’s not helpful at all. The smoking was a symptom of something else, something you’re now “feeding” with actual food. Quitting smoking doesn’t physically make you eat. The physical addiction is minimal and it’s out of your system in 3 days. Seriously. But whatever belief caused you to smoke is now acting up and screaming at you to placate it in another way. Of course, I can’t really know what that is, but often, smoking has to do with an insecurity. It’s a way to shield yourself in public (lull in the conversation? Light up to bridge that gap. Also, you create a physical shield by holding the hand with the cigarette in front of you), and a way to get breaks from stressful situations (no one leaves the office or the living room to just go stand outside. But you’ll do it for a ciggie break.) You may be feeling unsafe or insecure in some way. When you have the urge to binge, what do you feel? Probably some kind of fear or anxiety. Try to determine what it is that you’re really feeling, what you’re anxious about or afraid of. It’s not going to be rational, so don’t try to use logic here. There’s a fear in there and it’s fighting back. The smoking and eating distracted you and kept you from looking at this issue. If you simply take away those distractions, the fear will activate and look for another way (or entice you very strongly to go back to your old vices) But I promise you, once you find this bugger and drag it out of the dark, it won’t be nearly as scary as you thought it was. And then, the need for those distractions will simply disappear.

Huge hugs to you, and lots of light and love,
Melody
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Derrek November 25, 2011 at 11:07

Hey Melody,

Strangely enough, Thanksgiving has a very different effect on me. I don’t live in the States so it’s just another Thursday, but to me it’s the start of my favorite time of year. The pleasant road to Christmas. I’m not a Christian, but who doesn’t love Christmas, right?

Malls will take out the decorations, there’s always awesome Christmas music playing everywhere, Christmas movies start playing on TV and in cinemas, and everyone’s winding down towards the end of the year. Less work, more people to hang out with, everyone’s more relaxed, great sweets and treats everywhere, and the climate is perfect (where I stay). So really, I’ve never experienced family gatherings on Thanksgiving (although I know all to well about them), but it’s the day I wait for every year just to know that the holiday season is on and Christmas is a month away.

It’s true that we should spend every day like it was Christmas, and while we can, the month leading into Christmas is the time of year when everyone chips in and the atmosphere makes it easier for you to just be happy. It just is what it is. I guess I’m really thankful for Thanksgiving. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving and Thanksgetting! And thanks for blogging the way you do.

Melody Fletcher November 25, 2011 at 18:03

Yay Derrek! I couldn’t agree more! I adore Christmas (not a Christian either, and I will not stop calling it Christmas, so there). It brings up all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings. It does get cold in Barcelona (not sub zero, but you do have to put on the winter gear and run the heating) and they decorate the whole city with lights. It’s gorgeous. They’ll turn them on any day now.

And you’re right – everyone does get friendlier and more relaxed around Christmas. It’s like everyone decides to be more loving, or they give themselves permission to be softer, nicer, more forgiving, more of who they really are. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Thank you for adding your funny, quirky and enlightening two cents to this blog on a regular basis. I really adore playing with you. :)

Round house kick (a la Chuck Norris),
Melody
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Derrek November 25, 2011 at 19:14

That’s a really nice thing to say, Melody. :)

Chuck Norris is awesome. I once heard that Chuck Norris doesn’t have nightmares. Nightmares have Chuck Norris. Kappoww!

Sophie November 26, 2011 at 05:41

BOY DO I WISH I READ THIS BEFORE THE HOLIDAY!!!

Melody Fletcher November 26, 2011 at 17:02

Ahahahaha, Sophie. Yeah, I guess I should’ve published this a few days earlier… My bad. But you can use the same advice for Christmas. :)

Hugs!
Melody
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Sophie November 27, 2011 at 08:16

Sure will! My holiday didn’t turn out like I would’ve hoped, but that video
put me at ease. Mel, will you ever come to the U.S. and host a seminar or
something? There has to be at least a ton of us out here that would love
to meet you in person!

Always big hugs back,

Sophie

Melody Fletcher November 27, 2011 at 16:04

Wow. What an idea. Well, yes, I can see doing that in the future. Depending on how the book goes in January, I can see about adding other products and maybe a seminar down the road. I’d love to meet my readers in person and hand out actual hugs. :) Just keep envisioning it Sophie,and LOA will make it happen. Ha, ha. :D

Sophia November 26, 2011 at 12:58

Although the thanksgiving day has past, your blog also make me feel warm and it is a great remind and advice to me. Anyway, also I thanks for your and thanks for all good things.
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Melody Fletcher November 26, 2011 at 17:04

Thank you Sophia. I’m so glad you found the blog helpful. And thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I hope to see more of you in the future. :)

Hugs,
Melody
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Bryan Thompson November 27, 2011 at 04:48

Hi Melody, this is a great list of things to do for big potentially mortifying family get-togethers. Thankfully, I have a great relationship with my parents and my in-laws, but there are always people who you know can’t stand each other. I particularly love your admonition to observe instead of instantly reacting.

Personal question: are you FROM the US and now living in Spain, or are you originally Spanish with an American-sounding name who writes about American holidays? :)
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Melody Fletcher November 27, 2011 at 16:12

Hey Bryan,

Thanks for the comment! You’re lucky to get along with your relatives. I know it isn’t just freaks that do, but the truth is, writing a blog post for those who don’t need any help wouldn’t have been as useful, I think. :)

I have dual citizenship – US and German and lived in the States for 16 years, so I’ve been quite exposed to American culture. Strangely, I don’t really feel like I’m tied to any one country, but if I had to choose, I’d say that I’m more American than anything. I find nationalism interesting, but don’t feel at all defined by it myself. Might be an interesting blog post in that one… Hmmmm.

Huge hugs!
Melody

patricia November 29, 2011 at 00:43

With my Mother gone, we have been able to start new traditions – we never had a fighting family, but is usually was my mum’s birthday also ( she was Canadian so celebrated Thanksgiving October 12th – not on her birthday)

My brother and sister and their families later on never helped…as a matter of fact they stayed home or ate with friends….and just dropped by….

My children felt a bit cheated so we focused on the parts that we liked about the tradition.
- all getting together – being with nature – music – healthy simple food — no shopping and no competition ( though we often play games)

This year we went to San Francisco and did several new hikes ( well I stayed home and watched movies as my body is not full up and working right yet) They did a 10 K Turkey Trot to help children and the food bank…with 21,000 others….watched Miracle on 34th Street the movie…and went to a very fancy restaurant on the pier for dinner…because with 2 eating raw/ 2 vegetarian and 1 turkey traditional…it was easier…and we walked back to the train to go home…no driving hassles…

The beach walk in the dark was a terrific place to say thanks with each other…

It does take some planning, but it was a WOW event and not full of criticism and perfectionism…

I am trying to understand how folks get stuck – because I am stuck with my lack of weight loss…..but it seems so easy to me when something like Thanksgiving is stuck in “not-working” mode easy to make changes….I suppose some folks only feel loved when their family is yelling and fighting?

I have 2 friends who do not attend family functions any more because it is too painful, both of them spend the day at the movies!
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Melody Fletcher November 29, 2011 at 18:54

Hi Patricia,

You brought up a wonderful point: How much stress do people (especially women) put themselves under to recreate a bunch of traditions every year and for every holiday, just because that’s how they grew up? Why not relax and decide what you really want to do, and what’s easiest? It can be hard to let go of these rituals, but honestly, is it more important to be with people you love and have fun with them, or is it more important to create something Martha Steward would approve of? With my diet having changed so drastically over the last few years, Christmas meals have really changed for me. And you know what? It really doesn’t matter. I still get all warm and fuzzy. It’s about the spirit of it, and I don’t need certain foods or places or decorations to feel that way.

I also think you’re right: Some people feel closest to their family when they’re fighting. It’s the only dynamic they know… Sad, but true. Folks get stuck by focusing on what they don’t want. Stop focusing on your weight for a while. Just let it rest. Come back to it in a few weeks with fresh eyes and a higher vibration. That would be my advice. :)

Hugs!
Melody
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Peluang Bisnis November 30, 2011 at 10:58

happy thanksgiving
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Melody Fletcher December 17, 2011 at 16:22

Thanks Peluang!

Hugs,
Melody
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Patty Duke December 17, 2011 at 07:54

I really loved this post. You write about this topic very well. I really like your blog and I
will definitely bookmark it! Keep up the super posts!
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Melody Fletcher December 17, 2011 at 16:22

Thanks Patty. I’m glad you found it useful.

Hugs,
Melody
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Jenapher April 30, 2012 at 21:25

What makes me feel like I want to punch people in the face is when they say,”Well, at least you have X,Y, or Z.” when I just want to get something off my chest. Should these “helpful” reminders really help us raise our vibration? Because it lowers mine to feelings of guilt for feeling the discord in the first place. (Thanks, Mom!) :D

Melody Fletcher May 1, 2012 at 17:17

Hey Jenapher,

Well, sometimes when we just want to bitch, we want someone to bitch with us. Is it helpful when they do? Often not. It keeps us stuck in that negative place and just adds energy to it.

However, it’s important to acknowledge our feelings. We have to know where we are, no matter how ugly it is, before we can move forward. I’m actually working on a blog post about this right now. When you feel like others dismiss your feelings, it can make you feel incredibly powerless. You just want to be heard. The problem is that most people don’t know how to communicate. They don’t know what to say or do or what you need. The more self aware we are, the more we know how to help ourselves, the more we know how to help others. :)

Huge hugs!
Melody
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