Don’t Air Your Dirty Washing in Public

On the vagaries of blogging rights

 

Swathes of Glory 2

 

I am not a full time blog reader/writer. Still, I follow a few blogs that interest me, and I try to keep up to date with them as far as I am able. If I see someone new who has either ‘liked’ one of my posts, or has followed me, I try to check out their blog to see if we have enough in common for me to show an interest in their work.

Every now and then, though, I try to click on a random blog that shows up, perhaps in the WordPress Reader. Alternatively, I look at those who have visited one of the pages that I am visiting, and simply select a ‘random’ person to check out their blog. This way, I have found some very interesting characters with some very interesting things to say.

I have also discovered some really weird blogs! Let me say, at the outset, that I do not follow blogs that contain bad language, or those that are overtly religious, political, or violent, or that spout ridiculous notions. Still, I try to remain fairly open-minded, and I have read some interesting blog entries, over the years.

Strange Revelations

There is, however, one category of blogger that really fascinates me: Those who “air their dirty washing in public.” The concept is that of someone who inappropriately shares private, potentially embarrassing information with those who are not entitled to it.

In my previous post, Are You Sure You Want to Share That with the World? I commented on those who share embarrassing personal information which, to be honest, very few others want to know. Rather than the uplifting tale of how they have overcome their personal trials, they simply wallow in their misery and try to elicit sympathy from the world.

In this post, I want to address a far more worrying concept: That of sharing potentially embarrassing, or even damaging personal information about other people.

Dirty Laundry

What follows is not a true story. It is based on a distillation of a number of blog entries that I have read over the last few years, together with items from the news media, and a fair degree of imagination. However, if you see yourself in this story, get some help. You need it!

Let’s consider a situation that is, sadly, becoming more and more common. Janet and John begin courting. They get married and have children. During their relationship, they send each other text messages with some fairly explicit comments. Eventually, they share explicit photos of themselves with each other.

(Before we go on, let me just say that I do not approve of this activity, commonly called, ‘sexting.’ Parents, especially, should be on high alert to check their children’s electronic devices regularly, and take immediate action against any such activities.)

The couple subsequently break up, and, in order to exact revenge, John posts the photos on his social media page. This has been dubbed illegal in many places, but by the time the law gets involved it is nigh on impossible to retrieve and destroy all copies of the photos. Once they are on the Internet, they are public, or can easily be made public.

Where does the law stand on this? As mentioned, in many areas it is now considered to be illegal to post ‘revenge porn’ and John could be prosecuted, especially if Janet presses charges.

When the Victim Becomes the Criminal

Now let’s consider a fairly strange scenario that I have seen in my online travels. Again, this is not a true story, as noted, above.

Consider a person who maligns another. Going back to Janet and John, let’s say that instead of posting the photos she sent him, John starts blogging about how Janet mistreated him. He says that she was always demanding money off him and would get violently angry when he failed to provide it.

She finds out about his rants but, wanting a peaceful life, says to herself, “Yeah! Whatever. I’m free of him, now, and I have no intention of validating his childishness. I will not even dignify his rant with a response. I will just ignore it.” Good for her. She has moved on, and is probably protecting her children from harm, too.

Worse than that, maybe John has blocked Janet from accessing his social media accounts, so she does not even know what he is saying.

One day, though, Janet’s sister, Mary finds out about his posts. Mary is incensed, and, against Janet’s wishes, she responds to John’s blog posts, making comments about how he is not telling the truth. OK. She calls him a liar. She points out how he failed to provide housekeeping money for Janet and the children because he was always in the pub, drinking his wages away. When he eventually got home, the children were crying with hunger pains, and Janet, not having the resources to feed them, started crying inconsolably, while he complained about her spending too much on the children and herself.

So what happens, now? John makes a complaint to the police, and Mary is cautioned about her online behaviour, being labelled as an Internet Troll. She is told that if she keeps abusing John online, the way she has, she could be prosecuted for harassment. She is not to contact him, nor is she to visit his social media pages.

Now, I know what you are thinking: “No way! John is the one at fault.” Yes. You are right. But, until Janet makes a complaint, there is nothing that the police can do about it. Mary is interfering in a domestic situation that even the police will not get involved in without permission.

And the result is that Mary now has a note against her on file with the local police. Meanwhile, John can continue his allegations without fear of retribution.

Why Do They Do It?

Why would John do something like this when he knows that he is not painting a true picture of their life together, and that Janet could, in a very short time, and very easily, expose him for the liar that he is?

The answer is quite simple. John wants attention. Specifically, he wants attention from Janet. Oh, he hates her with a vengeance. He wants nothing more to do with her. But he is so demanding, so selfish, so abusive, that he wants to control her.

Janet, however, knows how to deal with John. She knows that by ignoring him she is helping him to overcome his controlling behaviour. Eventually, he will have to come to terms with himself and, hopefully, become more rational in his thinking. Eventually, he will either learn to be at peace with Janet, or he will find someone else to abuse.

In the meantime, by spouting his lies all over the worldwide web he is eliciting sympathy from those who do not know the truth. He is also trying to make himself look good by making Janet look bad. As I noted in my post, Looking Good, that is the worst way to elicit praise for yourself.

The result is that he surrounds himself with ‘friends’ who would drop him like a hot potato if they knew what he was really like. But, because they are unlikely to ever meet him, he can get away with it; he can elicit their sympathy and try to justify himself to himself at the same time. His conscience is bothering him, but he is not listening to it. Rather, he is trying to prove his own conscience wrong.

The Danger

There is, however, a real danger, here. He is calling Janet’s integrity and parenting ability into question. She could end up having to justify herself to Social Services if they ever get hold of what John is saying.

True, it would be fairly easy for Janet to clear up the situation. Yet the process will be very stressful for her and this is stress that she could well do without.

The Solution

So, what is the solution?

I was always taught, and I tried to teach my children and grandchildren, that if you do not have anything positive to say, don’t say anything. I don’t say I have always managed to achieve that, but it is a good maxim. Alternatively, never say anything bad about someone unless it is with the intention of helping them. And then, only say it to the right person, the person who can provide that help.

In this hypothetical scenario, John should not be speaking to the world, he would do better keeping quiet. Alternatively, if he really wants attention from Janet, he might try admitting to and apologising for his failures rather than trying to justify them.

Mary should not have become involved without Janet’s permission. She only aggravated the situation and got herself a potential police record into the bargain.

As for Janet, could she possibly resolve the situation? We don’t know. Maybe she has tried. Maybe she has pointed out to John that he needs to be more careful with what he says, especially in public. Maybe she has expressed her concerns that he could be putting the children at risk. It certainly seems that she had discussions with him about his failure to provide for the family. Then, again, maybe he blocked her access to his web pages so that she cannot find out what he is saying about her; she doesn’t know! Either way, she is at least trying to keep the peace.

John knows what he has to do to be reconciled to Janet, but his pride will not allow him to act on that knowledge.

Janet, though, has the right idea. John is airing their dirty washing in public. By not engaging him in this battle she is keeping the peace, and protecting the family to the best of her ability.

Janet knows that she has true friends around her; friends who refuse to enter into the battle. Instead, they keep encouraging her and helping her to cope.

Indeed, the best way to conquer evil is with good. Refuse to engage with it; don’t pamper to its ego. Then, maybe these sad, self-centred people will simply fade away.

Looking Good

Donkey

I recently hid my blogs for about a week by making them private. It was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to see what it was like for someone who wants to hide what they are writing. It was an interesting experience.

Of course, some people have private blogs for very good reasons. If you want to keep a journal within easy reach, having it online is probably a good thing, but you also want it to be private, with no one else able to read it except maybe your therapist. Or if you are collaborating on a book, or some other such project, you may want to set up a private blog and grant access only to fellow collaborators.

In addition, there are others, who have valid reasons for hiding their blogs. This is often for their own safety, and nothing in this post is intended to minimise their concerns. If you are worried about your safety, but you still wish to share your experiences with a private online community, then that is your choice. Just remember that anything posted online, even in private, could be made public by well-meaning friends. Still, nothing in this post is meant as criticism of your concerns. Your worries are valid and must be respected and protected.

However, during my brief sojourn in blogosphere obscurity, I realised that some people have a more sinister reason to hide their blog from public view: To make themselves look good. Yes. You read that correctly. They want to make themselves look good. How does that work?

There are several ways to make yourself look good. Let’s examine them.

  1. Make yourself look good. The best way to make yourself look good is to make yourself look good. Yes, I am aware that self-praise is no recommendation and I am not advocating telling everyone how good you are. However, if you act in a good way, dress in a good way, speak in a good way, and generally treat others in a good way, with good manners and a quiet and mild spirit, then you will, automatically look good. It’s not about self-praise and saying, “Hey! Look how good I am.” It’s about modesty and humility, often praising others above yourself.
  2. Make yourself look better than someone else. The second way to look good is to compare yourself, favourably, with someone else. This is the syndrome of saying things like, “Well, yes. He is good. But I’m better.” This is false modesty. It pretends to be complimentary, but only serves to provide a false benchmark for how good the speaker thinks he or she is in comparison. Looking good in comparison with someone else is the second worst way to try to look good.
  3. Criticise someone else. This is the worst way to try to look good. It is born from the speaker knowing how badly they are doing. Maybe, even, their conscience is bothering them because they know that they should be doing the good works that their victim does, but they are not willing to put forth the effort. Or, perhaps, they have acted in an unacceptable manner, and want to hide it, but they have to discredit their victim in order to conceal their own shady behaviour. So, rather than opening themselves up to criticism, they develop a smoke screen in the form of criticising other people; often the people who are trying to help them out. The serious critic may even resort to misinformation and half-truths in order to make their supposed antagonist look bad. (They often do this in the offline world, too.) When valid concerns are raised about their behaviour, they try to divert attention from themselves by telling you how bad someone else is. Then, they elicit sympathy from their so-called “friends” who would immediately dump them if they became victims of such abuse. To repeat, this is the worst way to try looking good.

Of course, having a private blog is essential if you want to criticise someone else. That way, you can block them from reading it and they are not likely to find out what you are saying behind their backs. These are things that you could never say to their faces because you would soon be proved wrong, if you did. Also, having a private blog means that you can hand pick your sympathisers. (For “sympathisers” read crones, not cronies.)

However, let’s be realistic, here. It is not always possible to post something positive about everyone. And, sometimes, it helps to point out failings, if this is done in a tactful way. Be honest, have you ever watched a TV talent show and wondered why the family allowed the contestant to make such a fool of themselves?

Yet the old maxim is still very reliable: If you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say anything. That does not mean being a doormat; nor does it mean failing to point out someone’s faults; nor does it mean saying nothing. It means finding some positive way to offer constructive criticism.

And that brings us back, nicely, to the best way to look good: Always try to be encouraging and positive. If you must point out an error or failing, do it in a positive, constructive way.

And if you do that, you will have no reason to hide your feelings behind a private blog.

Acceptance vs Approval

There’s a big debate going on around the world about acceptance and being non-judgemental. We are told that we have to accept people, even ourselves, for what they, or we, are.

I’ve always struggled with this concept. Here in Britain, for example, there have been several court cases revolving around discrimination against people’s chosen lifestyle. Yet allowing one section of society to exercise their rights usually ends up trampling on someone else’s.

Consider the case of a religious person who runs an hotel and refuses to accommodate a homosexual couple. So the couple has the free will to choose their lifestyle. But in doing so, are they allowed to trample on the rights of the person with strong religious feelings about who he allows into his home?

I often see this in car parks. Most car parks, these days have a section for disabled people and another for parents with children. Then I heard a case of disabled people parking in the child spaces because the disabled spaces were all full. That was viewed as acceptable. Yet when a parent parked in a disabled bay, it was unacceptable. Is this some form of negative discrimination and trampling on each other’s rights?

So we come to the idea of acceptance. I was once asked how I would feel if one of my children announced that he of she was homosexual. (I don’t use the term gay. I’m old enough to have been brought up with the correct meaning of gay being happy.) My answer was that I would accept it as his or her decision. Does that mean I approve? Not necessarily. I have my own conscience. And none of us has the right to impose our conscience on anyone else. I also have to make a judgement as to whether it is a safe option.

The same goes for the non-medical use of addictive drugs. I may accept people’s right to choose that lifestyle, but my judgement may tell me not to approve of it because of the dangers involved. And I may encourage people to give up that life because of those dangers.

Let’s get this clear. Acceptance does not demand approval. We accept that everyone has free will. But we also have a responsibility to be safe and to ensure that others are safe. And that requires a judgement call.

So where does this lead us? It means that we have to stop demanding approval. Just because I accept your choice, it doesn’t mean that I approve. I have to make a judgement based on my conscience. And that means that I don’t have to allow your rights to trample on mine.

So let’s give up this non-judgemental bandwagon and accept that we all have a right to judge for ourselves what is acceptable and what we approve of. And bear in mind that acceptance does not have to mean approval, and it does not have to mean refraining from making a judgement.

The Imposters

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same

(If – Rudyard Kipling)

Sea Clouds

Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, is a study in contrasts, considering many of the opposites that we encounter in daily life. He describes being able to do what others cannot; of handling situations with equanimity; of dealing with life in a balanced way.

Yet his comment, above, on the opposites, Triumph and Disaster, seems to add another dimension. Most versions of the poem capitalise the words as proper nouns, almost as if they are people, or even gods. And, in truth, many people see triumph as an idol to be worshipped at all costs.

Look again, though, at the contrast. Consider the synonymous definition of Triumph and Disaster both being imposters. How true. Triumph lasts only as long as the reward, and sometimes not even that long. When you think of the origin of the term, White Elephant, it becomes obvious that success in pleasing the monarch may be short-lived when the prize was a white elephant, which was expensive to keep, and could not be disposed of.

Most triumphs, of course, are not of that kind. We speak of exam success, sports success, job success, and so on. Yet the euphoria experienced even in these situations can be short-lived. Passing one set of exams may only lead to another set; and how many people still work in the field of their college major. A gold medal, today, is often followed by training, tomorrow, ready for the next event. And we soon lose interest in a highly sought-after job, once the day-to-day grind sets in and we get to know the faults of our colleagues; and they get to know ours!

Disasters, too, are relatively short-lived. Exam failure is often simply an incentive to study harder, next time; losing a race becomes motivation to do more and better training; and losing a job is an incentive to find a better one.

So, yes. Triumph and Disaster are imposters. They may engender strong emotions at the time, but those emotion fade and are replaced by the next big issue facing us in life.

An Alternative View

The contrasts in Kipling’s poem all relate to our own actions and attitudes. They ask us to meditate, mindfully, on how we behave and how we react (or respond) to various events and people. They encourage a balanced view of our situations and relationships. Can we talk with crowds and keep our virtue? Can we walk with kings without losing the common touch?

However, look back at the concept of Triumph and Disaster. Triumph, for one person, can mean disaster for another. Although exam success is often shared, a sports winner almost presupposes that there will be losers. Getting a new job usually means that someone else was disappointed.

It is the same with other triumphs. We need to remember that when we are successful, there may be others who have suffered a “disaster” so that we can succeed; if succeed is the right word. Keeping this in mind will help us to be balanced, both in our celebrations and in our lamentations. Why?

Have you ever watched the award ceremony of a sports final? The camera focuses on the winners; but looking deeper into the picture, we often see the sadness on faces of the losers as they sit, quietly waiting for an opportunity to slink away.

The same is true of other triumphs. Think about bidding for an item in an auction. You may be happy that you were able to watch and win the item. But how many other people were watching the same item and became sad about not winning the auction.

Feeling Empathy

So when it comes to triumphs, we need to remember that our triumph can often be someone else’s disaster. They may be severely disappointed at their loss. As we travel home with euphoria coursing through our veins, they will be going home in relative depression. Our success may even cause them a sad loss. Indeed, people tell me that driving home from an apparent triumph, they have been overwhelmed at the sense of disaster that it has caused to the other person. They have felt the loss suffered by that person, and it makes them realise that triumph really is an imposter.

Truly, Kipling’s poem is a reminder that both Triumph and Disaster are imposters. They pretend to be things that they are not. They produce feelings that do not last; and they fail to live up to the promises that they appear to have made.

So, next time you feel sad about a loss, remember that your “disaster” may have brought joy to another person. Are you able to feel good about that?

Think, too, about any positive consequences of your loss. Positive consequences? Oh yes. And if you are unable to think of these positive consequences, just spend a few moments thinking about how the outcome could have been much worse. Then you will be able to see the positive consequences as you become aware of the disastrous scope of what could have happened.

And next time you feel happy about a triumph, think about the loss suffered by the other person. Are you able to feel badly about that?

Think, too about the negative consequences of your gain. Will there be repercussions that will be difficult to deal with? Will you be expected to carry out additional duties, or provide additional funds or resources? What will this “triumph” cost you?

These balanced feelings of empathy, coupled with a realistic view of your triumphs and disasters, will help you to put life events into perspective; and they will help you to be a more balanced, more mindful person. You will develop better relations with others; and with yourself. Or, as Kipling put it, “You’ll be a Man, my son!”


Grandpa’s Poetic Way now available at Amazon

Grandpa's Way Poetry

I mentioned in my previous post that I have published my first book of poetry on Amazon.

Well, I am now pleased to tell you that the book will be available for free download, this weekend, from 16th to 17th May.

Please feel free to get your copy, and, if you feel that you could write a review, then that would be much appreciated.

Once again, thank you to my readers and mentors for your help and encouragement.

Been Busy

Coed-Morgannwg-Way-Small.jpg

Well, hello, everyone. I hope you missed me!

You may (or may not) have been wondering where I’ve been. Well, I can now reveal that following encouragement from several sources, including Rita of The Anxious Traveler fame, I have finally published my book, Grandpa’s Way: Poetic Motivation on Amazon.

The book is a collection of my poems and photographs with some adjustments and explanations. It is designed to provide motivation and starting points for mindful meditation. I don’t consider myself to be an expert, but as many bloggers know, prompts can be found in all sorts of places.

So I hope you will forgive me for being away from my blog for the last few days. I have not been away from my keyboard. I am amazed at how much work was involved in getting the work finalized.

How does it feel? Well, when I was about twelve, I had a dream of taking my notebook and pen (no portable computers in those days) up the mountain to a secluded spot, writing a book, and getting it published. I have had several unsuccessful attempts at fiction, over the years, but never finished anything. However, thanks in great measure to the blogging community I have now published my first book.

And it feels fantastic.

So, if you feel like wandering over to Amazon and taking a look, that would be wonderful. If you feel like writing a review, then that would be even more wonderful.

Once again, thank you to all my readers for the help and encouragement. Now it’s time for some sleep, ready to work on the next book.

 

Grandpa’s Way

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Have you ever noticed that your father and, especially your mother, can get your children to cooperate far  better than you can? I know it sometimes involves some form of bribery – candy, money, cuddles, etc. – but it still seems to work much better than your efforts.

Then, again, you may have seen the bumper sticker that says, “Grandchildren are great – We should have had them first.”

Both of these comments highlight the same point, but from different perspectives: Dealing with children seems to get easier as you grow older.

A Dose of Reality

It’s not true, of course. Dealing with children does not get easier as you get older. And there are those who would say that children, today, are far more disrespectful than they were, “in my day.”

The difference, of course, is in the attitude of the adult.

It seems almost superfluous to say that as we get older we have more experience in life and we learn how to deal with things better. Yet it does need to be said, because it’s something that we all forget, from time to time. We go through life lamenting our struggles; yet we rarely seek advice from those who have gone before.

The fact is that grandparents don’t have all the answers. But they do have life experience. And that experience is valuable.

Changes in Circumstances

As we get older, we also learn to deal better with changes in our circumstances. Older people frequently lament not being able to think as quickly as they used to. That, however, is a good thing. Many younger people think too quickly. I know. I used to be one of them. I would fly into the fray, all headstrong and overconfident that I had all the answers, simply to fall flat on my face in embarrassment.

An amusing soliloquy comes to mind: When I was six, my father knew everything; when I was sixteen, it’s amazing how much he had forgotten; by the time I was twenty six, it’s amazing how much he had remembered, again.

That concept runs right through our lives. I look at my mother, now, and there are times when I will discuss my problems with her and benefit from her advice. There are also times when I wonder what happened to her intelligence! There are times when I will discuss things with my children to get their younger perspective. And there are times when I worry that they will never survive. And I have no doubt that my own children look at me in the same way. There are times when they ask my advice and act on it; so they obviously feel I know what I am talking about. And there are times when it seems that I am speaking a totally different language, because they look at me as if to say, “Are you real?”

A Changed Perspective

Recent experiences have set me thinking about this. Also, research about dealing with these experiences has made me aware of a big gap in the advice available for grandparents who love both their children and grandchildren, but who may be faced with the dilemma of protecting the family that they love so much. There is plenty of advice for parents on how to raise their children. And there is plenty of advice on being grandparents to children who go home at night.

But a number of my friends have recently been faced with having to make a choice that no one wants to make: They are having to choose between their children and their grandchildren.

Let me say that again. They are having to choose between their children and their grandchildren. And that choice is not an easy one.

These grandparents are finding that, at an age when they were looking forward to having a life of their own, going for walks, holidays, simple meals out, they now have to care for a new generation of children, and their life is no longer their own. Their children have left home and the bedrooms have been tastefully redecorated. Some rooms have been set aside as offices; others as bedrooms for the grandchildren to spend the weekend.

But the pleasure of grandchildren was supposed to be that you borrowed them, had fun, then gave them back. For these grandparents, giving the children back is no longer an option.

Grandparents Parenting

I come from a part of the world where it was always traditional for at least the first child to live with his or her grandparents for a few years so that the mother could go back to work. That was the situation when I was born. But that has changed. Parents now take their responsibilities more seriously and grandparents find themselves roped in as unpaid babysitters while the mother goes back to work.

But that is not my friends’ experience. They are in the position of becoming parents to their grandchildren, not for a few days, not for a few years, but for life.

Now, as I said, there is a lot of advice out there for parents, a lot of advice for grandparents, and a lot of advice for foster parents. But there is very little advice for grandparent parents. They are left almost to their own devices.

A New Series

So I have decided to start writing a new series of articles based on the difficulties experienced by grandparents faced with the dilemma of becoming parents, again. This series will be tagged and categorized under “Grandpa’s Way,” and it will only be available on my self-hosted blog, Harcourt 51. I will be posting links on my WordPress site, but not full articles.

What Will This Series Contain?

I don’t know! But seriously, I will be looking at the role of grandparents in the children’s development. How can grandparents help their children to be better parents? When should you speak up? When should you keep quiet? How can you deal with potential conflicts of interest?

I will also be looking at the situation surrounding grandparents taking over the role of being parents to their grandchildren. Why might this be necessary? What do you need to take into consideration before making such a decision? What help is available? How do you deal with Social Workers if that becomes necessary?

Other questions might include things like, What can you do if you think your grandchildren are at risk? And what if that risk comes from your children? How can you help your children to improve as parents, reduce or remove the risk, and still keep the peace in the family?

I also want to share parenting tips for both parents and grandparents. Maybe some of them will work for you.

I want to look at various situations that could lead to grandparents becoming parents. How do you help your grandchildren to deal with losing both their parents, which is why they are now staying with you, and their grandparents, because you have now become their parents?

Finally, I want to share some tips on mindfulness as it applies to family situations. How can a greater awareness of your own feelings help you to better understand your children and grandchildren? How can it help you to be calm in the face of serious difficulties? How can it help your family to deal with trauma, which can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes?

In Summary

So, what will this new series contain? Anything and everything that could be of interest to grandparents, their children, their grandchildren, and the grandparents’ parents. After all, there are more grandparents than ever before looking after people both older and younger than they are.

One final point of note is that you do not have to be in this situation to benefit from this series. You may be someone who has friends or family members facing these issues. What advice do you give them? How can you help them? The series will look at this situation, too.

You may be a professional who deals with these situations every day. I hope that you will benefit from reading about these issues from the perspective of the layman. If you feel that some of the comments are out of order, please contact me to discuss it, either through the comments or my Contact page.

And, who knows? Maybe I’ll even combine it all into a book.

Disclaimer

Please note that I do not claim to be an expert. The thoughts expressed in this series may not reflect the current thinking in professional circles. These are my personal opinions based on my personal experience and that of my friends, who shall remain nameless. Any names used in these articles will be fictitious, and the experiences quoted, although based on real life, will be fictitious constructions combining isolated incidents and mindful meditation on the potential consequences.

Also, remember that all situations are different. The thoughts contained herein are not meant to be definitive answers to any situation. They are provided simply as prompts, enabling those who care to think about their own dilemmas with a view to finding their own solutions to their own unique problems. Basically, we will be looking at principles, not rules.

This blog, its authors and editors cannot take responsibility for any decisions made by those who read this content. Please conduct your own research and discuss your situation with your own advisors before taking any actions or making any decisions.