Blah, blah, blah, blah. Therapy.

Dear Annie: I have been technically single all my life. I did have a casual long-term relationship with a man that lasted for 12 years. We were never exclusive. We would have never worked exclusively, and we both knew that.

That relationship ended badly. An unplanned pregnancy resulted in a painful miscarriage that required surgery. Not only was it physically painful but the emotional toll of losing my unborn baby was immeasurable. My “partner” completely abandoned me during that time and never acknowledged my pain or grief afterward.

It took about three years for me to not walk around with a cloud of misery hanging over me constantly. I developed a fear of dating any man and giving him the potential to hurt me like this again.

I decided I would throw myself into my career and work hard at rising through the ranks, becoming as successful as possible, and trying to achieve some self-esteem and happiness that way.

Unfortunately, my plan has not played out. Although I do work hard and strive for perfection, this has rubbed some people within my company the wrong way. I’ve been held back from promotions many times, and after 20 years with the same employer, it seems I am doomed to stay where I am and never move forward.

This has tapped into the feeling of low self-esteem that started after my miscarriage, and I feel like I am forever in a dark place again. I recognize that I am angry all the time and feel an overwhelming amount of sadness. Even though I recognize this, I am having a hard time breaking free and exploring other career opportunities, and the thought of leaving my company literally breaks my heart.

I don’t know how to get over my fear of leaving my comfort zone, even though I know deep down it is what would be best for me. I feel like I am self-sabotaging, and I’ve hit a wall that I don’t know how to break through. I also feel like I am unconsciously sending a message that it is OK to treat me badly.

Any advice on how to build my confidence back and truly leap toward what I believe I deserve? — Self-Stuck (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

You know how sometimes people walk right into something? Like, you walk right into a trap! AAUGH! There’s no doubt in my mind that Annie Lane is going to recommend counseling. Now, some people who write to advice columnists are smart enough to mention, “I’ve been seeing a counselor.” But in that instance, Annie Lane’s advice is always, “It’s great that you’ve been seeing a counselor. Stick with it!” Or, if the person says, “I’ve been seeing a counselor for a while, but it isn’t helping,” then Annie Lane says, “It can take a while to find a counselor who’s a good fit. Maybe try a new one!” Or if someone says, “I just started seeing a counselor, but it isn’t helping yet,” then Annie Lane says, “Give it time!”

But this letter writer just didn’t even make a move, probably sensing (quite correctly, I’m sure) that Annie Lane can’t help herself; and even if the letter writer were to say, “I’ve been seeing a counselor and it’s been amazingly helpful!” then Annie Lane would say, “I’m glad counseling has been so helpful for you! You’re a great success story. Thanks for writing.”

The long and short of it: Annie Lane never has the answers herself. So she refers her writers to counselors. I mean, if she could show some insight or analysis of her own, that would be great; but trust me when I say she’s not capable of doing anything other than barely skimming the surface. But she’ll try to! Heaven help her, she’ll throw out some armchair analysis for us.

Dear Self-Stuck: Instead of viewing your past as something that has beaten you down, look at it as proof of your strength. You were able to bounce back from a breakup, a miscarriage and a medical emergency all by yourself.

Now that you’re back on your feet, you have some choices to make: Do you want the fear of loss to stop you from ever finding love? Do you want to stay trapped in a stagnant career where your hard work is not appreciated?

Your letter alone tells me the answer is no. Change is scary, but if you are not satisfied with the current state of your life, then it is absolutely necessary.

You don’t have to go through it alone, nor should you. Reach out to friends and family members; get involved in a local organization; and seek a good therapist to help you work through the past so you can build a brighter future.

Blah, blah, blah, blah. Therapy.

Fortunately I’m here to offer some actual insight. It might be horrible insight, but at least it will be better than, “Blah, blah, blah, blah. Therapy.” (I’m not against counseling, but I think that it could also be helpful to give the letter writer some actual insight as well.)

I don’t want to sound harsh toward the letter writer, so I’m going to try to say this gently: the pregnancy was unplanned. What that means is that Mr. Casual didn’t want to have kids. He was probably upset to hear of the pregnancy. Worse, he was likely relieved by the miscarriage. While that seems heartless, and I agree that his reaction was cruel and vicious, the fact is that he was saved from years and years of having to pay child support for a kid that he never wanted. And, knowing an unplanned pregnancy could happen to them once (i.e., was she not taking the pill as she had promised?), he didn’t want to risk its happening again.

That said, he acted like a totak jerk. But I want to defend him because men should be able to have sex without worrying about the birth control. I know, I know, it takes two people to make a baby, but let’s face it: a lot of women lie about birth control (“Yeah, I’m on the pill!”) because they want a baby, and to hell with what the man wants. (I’ve known people who have done this.)

We can’t know that that happened here. Maybe it didn’t. But if it had happened, the letter writer would’ve conveniently left it out, I guarantee it. So it’s a distinct possibility.

I think it’s good that it happened in the long run. I mean, nothing’s good about a miscarriage, but she needed to come to see that he wasn’t a good significant other. She was… I wouldn’t say she was wasting her life with him, but she was spinning her wheels.

We would have never worked exclusively, and we both knew that.

Yeah, they both knew it, but she doesn’t tell us that she wanted it. Only that she accepted that it was the only way for her to be with him. She needed to learn that if she wanted to be exclusive with someone, the only pathway toward that would involve dumping him and finding someone else. When she didn’t dump him, “life happened” as it were, and she was forced to see, due to circumstance, that he wasn’t giving her as much as she wanted/needed in a relationship. In other words, she was settling for him. We know this because she expected emotional support after the miscarriage, and he wasn’t capable of offering any. (What a louse.)

It took about three years for me to not walk around with a cloud of misery hanging over me constantly. I developed a fear of dating any man and giving him the potential to hurt me like this again.

Interesting. That’s heartbreaking. On some level I can relate to it. Not specifically, but broadly. Something goes badly wrong and you recoil, terrified of being vulnerable again. I think I experienced that when I was bullied by my coworkers in Georgia, and then I had a psychotic break from reality, or something. I was terrified of a lot of things after that. And then you close inward out of self-protection.

I can’t help but think, though, that she needs help at that specific juncture of her problem from the therapist that Annie Lane was sensible enough to recommend. She’s developed an irrational belief that any man who she might date would and could deeply hurt her. I mean, I guess it’s always a risk if you date, but I don’t worry about it too much. What I think it comes down to is the two people involved and their connection as well. There aren’t any other major factors. But she’s thinking that any man would be dangerous. That’s a cognitive error.

I decided I would throw myself into my career. […] Unfortunately, my plan has not played out. Although I do work hard and strive for perfection, this has rubbed some people within my company the wrong way.

Hmm. Not good. Perfection isn’t the goal. (Human resources people love to hear about it a job interviews, though.) I’d recommend some career counseling or some regular counseling in which she could discuss what’s going wrong at work. What was Annie Lane’s advice again?

Do you want to stay trapped in a stagnant career where your hard work is not appreciated? Your letter alone tells me the answer is no.

Well… I don’t know about that. I left my job at the reading center because I could tell my employers didn’t appreciate me. But I also have this awful feeling that they didn’t appreciate me because I’m broken inside, and they could tell. Ugh. So it’s sort of… I don’t know… ill-advised to quit a job just because you never get promoted. My best guess is that other employers would be similar. The only time I’d recommend switching jobs in that circumstance would be if you’re switching jobs to find something you’re more suited for, based on your skill-set, and therefore more likely to advance in. That could be a good strategy. But if the letter writer’s already in the exact line of work that she wants to be in (not counting getting promoted), then switching jobs might not be wise here.

I am having a hard time breaking free and exploring other career opportunities, and the thought of leaving my company literally breaks my heart.

It’s interesting that she feels that way, given the circumstances. They never promote her, but it would break her heart to leave them? Huh. It’s possible that she’s seeing life through too much of an emotional lens. I can certainly relate. But with jobs, it should be… less emotionally oriented, and more like a business transaction, from what I understand. If they’re overlooking her for promotions and she’s trying her hardest, I still have reservations that things would be different elsewhere, but she shouldn’t be feeling such intense loyalty.

I feel like I am self-sabotaging, and I’ve hit a wall that I don’t know how to break through.

So, she’s saying that that might be the reason why she can’t imagine leaving her company? Personally, I think it would be self-sabotage of her to quit. If I were she, I’d cleave to the job and not relocate (again, unless she thinks a different job would suit her skill-set better). She needs stability in her life, and if nothing else, her employers are providing her with that.

If I were she, I’d prioritize emotional stability more than career advancement at the moment. In fact, I’d put career advancement on the shelf, stick with the current job, and focus on emotional issues. Given her loyalty to her employer and her other emotional leanings, leaving her job at the moment could be disastrous. She should stay there and focus on her interpersonal and emotional issues.

I decided I would throw myself into my career, […] trying to achieve some self-esteem and happiness that way.

While it might be a Hollywood happy ending if that had worked out, let’s look at the facts here: she pushed all of her inner turmoil onto her job. That’s not good, because it’s been making her do a poor job, I suspect. She needs to boldly reclaim her relationship issues (e.g., her fear of dating) instead of shoving all that angst into her job.

So I think she should stay in her job and face her dating fears head-on. Will someone please tell me that I have more insight than Annie Lane offered here? Geez. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Therapy.

Rats!

So, more reptilian drama. Wait, reptilian is probably the wrong adjective, although I think it sounds good. Anyway, I was carrying my waffle iron into the bathroom to see if there was room in our rarely used closet, the one where my dad has huge stacks of legal cases that he can’t throw out on behalf of his former clients. I opened the door and thought I saw a nice area where I could slide in my waffle iron, but then there was movement, and I realized I’d been staring directly into the eyes of a rat.

I shrieked and slammed the closet door as the rat turned tail and disappeared into the upper woodwork somewhere.

Exiting the bathroom, I gazed at my dad, who was watching his political programs, and waited politely for him to hit the mute button and address me thusly: “Is something wrong? I believe I heard a shout.” No, really?! 

“There’s a rat! A mean, sinister little creature lurking about in our bathroom closet. His beady eyes were terrifying.”

Image (c) Pixabay @ GDJ

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He seemed undisturbed.

“Oh, dear,” I said, thinking aloud. “Some of LuLu’s dog food is in that closet.”

“What’s it doing in there?” my dad asked.

“It’s just waiting for there to be room in her huge bins of food that we keep on the refrigerator,” I explained. “I think the rat was feeding on it, and doing other dirty rat things. Oh, God.” I frowned.

“Well, get the dog food out of the closet and put it on the refrigerator. There’s room now, right?”

I looked at him like he’d grown a third ear. “Are you kidding?! I’m not going back into that closet! No! No! If you want to valiantly free the dog food, then go for it, but I’m not going back into that closet!”

He rolled his eyes.

So, that’s where we are now. Rats!

At one point when we first moved into this house, which was nearly thirty years ago, there was a huge rat living in our basement. My dad called in animal control, and they gave us some poison that they guaranteed would kill the rat dead. But I don’t think they believed us when we described how big the rat was. Maybe they’re used to hearing exaggerations? It looked like this:

image-1-rous

The only effect the poison had on this vicious monster in our basement was to gently sedate it. Not kidding. But the rat became barely lethargic enough to allow us to catch him in a huge sleeping bag and release him in the nearby swamps.

(Okay, I’ll confess that I dipped into fantasy somewhere in that narration. I’m not sure where, though! HA HA! The lines between fantasy and reality blurred. Oh well.)

The whole gamut of emotions!

DEAR ABBY: I recently backed out of an adoption. I feel terrible about it. How can I mentally and emotionally get over this? My baby girl is 4 months old now, and my guilt is getting worse. I backed out three days before she was born.

The couple I had chosen turned out to be unprofessional and emotionally unstable. They not only caused me several problems but also my job, which I loved. During the four months I knew them, they treated me poorly, and I realized it was better for my little one not to go through with the adoption.

They are now trying to make me out to be a bad person who used them financially — something I really did not. I’m glad now that I kept my daughter. So why do I keep feeling so bad about my decision? — GUILT-RIDDEN IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR GUILT-RIDDEN: If I had to guess the reason, I would say it may be because you know your last-minute change of mind caused this couple pain. A way to assuage your guilt might be to work out a payment plan so they are not out the money they spent. (The lawyer or agency that arranged the adoption may be able to guide you.) (c) DEAR ABBY

Hmm. The fact that she can’t tell us specifically why she feels guilty seems odd. Is it because she was going to give up her daughter for adoption, and now that she knows her daughter, she’s horrified with herself? Is it because she left the potentially adoptive couple out in the cold? Since she can’t tell us exactly what it is, I’d urge her to be screened for postpartum depression.

She’s been under a lot of stress, what with deciding to keep her daughter a mere three days before she was born. I think she needs massive resources: counseling, support, etc., etc. She’s overwhelmed, and who wouldn’t be?

I wish she didn’t feel guilty. She was looking out for her kid, which shows right off the bat that she might be a wonderful, loving, and protective mother. And she’s under all this stress because she couldn’t go through with the adoption. (Okay, she might actually be under all the stress because she got pregnant in the first place, but if she’d given up her child for adoption, she wouldn’t be experiencing the stress of parenting a baby.)

And she definitely needs a lawyer, for sure. I’m just more worried about her mental state. I wish she weren’t being so hard on herself. I strongly suspect she has postpartum depression. Given all the circumstances and chaos, the stress of the situation could’ve triggered it. I hope she’ll look into it!! I’ll pray for her.

Let’s check out Annie Lane’s column today, shall we?

Dear Annie: I am 73 years old. Many years ago, I was the victim of physical and emotional abuse from two former husbands.

Yes, they perpetrated that abuse on me. But I was the one who “took it” because I did not love or respect myself enough to not allow their abuse. There was abuse from other “significant” men in my life as well.

I love myself more now and would not tolerate those behaviors. As we make choices to create our lives, we must remember to love ourselves first. That is not selfish. It is the foundation on which healthy choices will be made.

And I LOVE the advice you offered in a recent column: When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

Keep up the great work! — Love Yourself First

Dear Love Yourself First: Thank you for sharing your insights after surviving so much abuse. We attract what we expect, and it is good that you have altered your vision of yourself and your expectations from your spouse.

Dear Annie: I am a 47-year-old woman and have been happily married for 24 years. I have a great relationship with our only daughter, who is 24 years old and thriving. My problem is with my mom. We live in separate states, and she lives close to my two sisters. They are both divorced, with seven kids between the two of them. My mom has stepped in to help financially and with child care. My problem isn’t with that, though.

My mom has never come to visit me and uses my sisters’ kids (ages 13 to 30) as an excuse. When I’ve gone to visit her, she still revolves all activities around my sisters and their kids. I would love to have some alone time with my mom and have expressed this several times. She dismisses my feelings as “middle child syndrome.”

Since my dad passed away eight years ago, she has taken several vacations with my sisters and other family members, but she still hasn’t pursued any time with me. Before his passing, he was her excuse as to why she couldn’t visit. Our relationship has dwindled down to a phone call every few weeks, where she complains the whole time. She doesn’t even ask about me or my family anymore. I’m starting to wonder why I keep trying or hoping for some memories before it’s too late.

Recently, she took my sister to California for her birthday. My daughter lives there, and they didn’t reach out to her. When my mom called afterward, she never even mentioned going to California. Since then, I have been feeling vulnerable and left out, but I am tired of asking her to be involved. Should I keep trying or just accept that I am only worth a phone call every few weeks? — I Won’t Beg Her

Dear I Won’t Beg Her: You don’t have to beg her; you just have to call her and tell her how you feel. It is difficult living far away from your mother and sisters, and you feel hurt and left out. Sometimes, it’s not intentional; it is more likely a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”

The important thing is to reach out to your mom as much as you can. Next time they go on a vacation, ask if you can join them, or plan one yourself and invite them. Don’t give up on your mother. I am sure she loves you and your daughter very much and would want to know that you are feeling left out. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Okay. So, the first letter writer applauds Annie Lane and manages to write half her column for her. Ugh.

With the second letter, I almost get the sense that Annie Lane was riding high from the first letter, so she was unable to slow down and give passably good advice. I think we should all flatter Annie Lane less often.

Direct quotes here:

Letter writer: “I would love to have some alone time with my mom and have expressed this several times.”

Annie Lane: “You just have to call her and tell her how you feel.”

Epic fail.

Sometimes, it’s not intentional; it is more likely a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”

Okay, Annie Lane, but sometimes it IS intentional! And this is one of those times!

The important thing is to reach out to your mom as much as you can.

Really? Because it’s possible that the mom gets off on not being there for the letter writer. If that gives her some sort of sick thrill, I’d stop supplying her with that thrill. I think the best advice here is to be dismissive of the mom, as the mom is to the letter writer.

I feel sad for the letter writer.

Should I keep trying or just accept that I am only worth a phone call every few weeks? — I Won’t Beg Her

The thing is, though, that the letter writer is sort of begging her mom. Her mom knows how she feels and she doesn’t freakin’ care. It’s heartbreaking. The only sane thing the letter writer can do is to detach and quit investing emotionally in her mother. She needs to get to the point where she’s like:

“Hello?… Oh, hi, Mom!… No, I know I haven’t called lately. I’ve been busy. Sorry about that… Oh yeah? Sure, I’d love to hear about your book club. But make it quick! I’ve got to run some errands…”

and so forth. It could take her a while to reach that point, I’m sure; and it’s sad that it’s even necessary. But what’s sadder is Annie Lane’s belief that this is all a misunderstanding!! Goodness gracious, Annie Lane!

Meg’s mother returns!

My mother.

I think that says it.

She looks harmless, right?

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I took her to the drugstore to get her coronavirus booster vaccine. I’d made an online appointment at her local drugstore. But when we got there, they claimed that they didn’t have the Pfizer booster, and my mom had gotten the Pfizer vaccine and wanted to stay consistent with that. They had Moderna. She didn’t want Moderna. I ran and hid in the incontinence aisle while she went on and on with the pharmacist about her disappointment.

When I finally drifted over to the pharmacy desk, my mom was trying to arrange to get the booster shot from a nearby department store that had a drugstore inside it, but:

  1. We didn’t know how to get there,
  2. We didn’t have an appointment scheduled, except for the location we were already at, and
  3. We didn’t know if this other location had the Pfizer booster.

My mom asked, “What do you think?” while she was still arguing with the pharmacist.

“I have no thoughts.”

“I see.”

After we left the pharmacy, my mom begged me to drive in some random direction toward where the other drugstore was, go inside with her, and beg them to give her the booster without an appointment. I said flat-out no.

Then, I took her to Target. This was our second and final planned destination for today. (I can only handle Mother in small doses. I’m sure you understand, dear reader.) She drew attention to herself all over the store.

Then we went to the checkout lane. And, dear God, our cashier was a young man in a wheelchair. I had a bad feeling about that but tried to stifle it, thinking, surely not even my mother would be cruel to someone in a wheelchair. 

Clearly, as you can see, I was delusional.

It took the young man a long time to run our items. I was unbothered by this, as I could tell he was trying his hardest, and that’s all you can do. Then, my mom had some sort of meltdown over trying to find her debit card in her purse, during which her other cards got put everywhere (the conveyor belt, the cashier’s hand, you name it) and she went on and on about how helpless she was, and how she needed my help for everything.

I’d been putting the bags back into our cart, but I cringed and approached her, saying, “Do you need help, Mommy?”

“Yes! I’m incompetent! Please hold this card for me while I zip everything else back up. You can be my special card holder, sweetheart.”

I wanted to die. I settled for an eyeroll.

Back I went to put the bags in the cart. The young man was trying to stand from his chair and put them in the cart for me, and I felt bad for him and was trying to convey to him that I didn’t mind putting them in the cart.

Then I approached my mom to give her the card, because she seemed to have gotten herself organized. “We’re getting done here,” she said pointedly, eyeing the poor guy in the wheelchair. “I think. Gee, it’s taking a while. I can take my card now.”

Like a good daughter, I just gave her the card so she could pay.

Then she accosted him thusly: “Hey! Did you ring up my peanut butter twice?”

I facepalmed and fought off the urge to flee the store.

“No, ma’am. I was holding it in my lap to organize things as I scanned them. See on the screen? It’s only there once.” This was true. All of it.

“But I’m used to being able to see everything as it scans!” she shrieked.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I can’t make the screen any larger.”

“I know, I know, it’s not your fault.” But her voice clearly indicated that she didn’t believe that.

Too little, too late, anyway.

Then it was time to pay. She got upset over the high amount of the bill and then put her card into the reader backward. The poor cashier forced himself to his feet in order to reorient her card in the reader. He did all of this before I could figure out what was wrong. But also, I was searching for a huge fiery hole to swallow me up and carry me down to hell. I didn’t find one.

Geez, Meg, don’t be so selfish. If you’d been swallowed up by a hole, your poor mother would’ve been stranded at Target. And that poor cashier would’ve eventually quit his job and run screaming… wheelchair or no! 

Yeah, whatever. There was no hole, so it’s all moot.

Then my mom said, “Ohh, all these heavy groceries! We’ll never get them into the car.”

(It was, like, three bags of groceries. Everything else was lightweight: children’s clothing and wrapping paper.)

“Do you need help?” the cashier asked.

“No, we don’t,” I said quickly. Mother’s just being dramatic. I had to stop myself from adding that. “We’ll be fine. Come along, Mother.”

And off we went.

When we got home, I put her groceries away, focusing only on the perishables. Then she came upstairs too after checking her mailbox.

“I guess you want to go, ” she said. “I know it’s been a long day for you.”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Is there something you want to say? You look like there’s something on your mind.”

I was sizing up her location by the stairs, concerned that if I shoved past her to exit, I’d knock her over, which would probably upset her. “No, nothing’s on my mind.” I sighed.

She finally moved. I made my move, too, ducking toward the stairs. I finally escaped.

Now, safe at home, it’s just… AAUGH!! AAUGH!! AAUGH!! I can’t cope. I just can’t.

Working on the memoir!

I’ve been hard at work on the memoir. It’s odd, but I keep getting asked the same questions from Sonya’s writers group: Was that a dream, a hallucination, or an out-of-body experience? [Shrug.] So I have to go back and put more info in those scenes to clarify. Where’s my pretty memoir cover?

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Oops. HA HA! Sorry. That’s Uncle Buck. He’s very avuncular with his power drill and cigar and tophat. Let’s try again here…

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There we go. I love my cover! I designed it myself.

Anyway, yeah, all these questions. “So, you weren’t taking any drugs? I thought your hallucinations ended when you were eight?”

And I’m like, “It was a one-time thing. College is a stressful time.”

“But then it happened again in the next chapter?”

Ugh. Well, I’ve had a very colorful life. I’ve currently written over 102,000 words in my memoir. I just wish I had exciting plans for it. I want to submit it to some small-press publishers, but I doubt I’ll get anywhere with it. Rejection seems to be the norm. I’ve been working on this part from college tonight:

(c) MEK 2021

During college I still hung out in the youth lounge at church, even though I was too old to be a member of the youth group. Nick, my childhood sweetheart [NOTE ADDED: in a literal sense, meaning we were quite close as children], dropped me like a hot potato when he became too cool and snobby to hang out with me. He fell hard for Carolyn, a girl who was too cool for school with her curly blond hair, huge blue eyes, thin figure, natural fashion sense, and all-around stuck-up demeanor.

Carolyn was a total snob, but Nick had eyes for her. I wasn’t bothered by Nick’s feelings for her until Nick decided that he couldn’t be seen with me for fear that Carolyn would think he wasn’t cool. I was deeply hurt, although I never said so; and Nick and I never found our way back from it.

I knew I wasn’t cool to be seen with. I was still an emotional mess, and I tended to wander around the church randomly discussing things like reincarnation, which made Nick look at me funny; but when all was said and done, Nick lost interest in me, and it took me a long time to accept that.

We also drifted apart due to circumstances, not seeing much of each other for a while, but in some part of my heart I prayed that he and I still had a connection. As a child, nothing had made me happier than his sudden presence in my household. He’d lit up the room just by divinely loving me. But as we matured together, he quit valuing what we’d had, and it faded into oblivion.

In an odd twist of fate, Nick had a huge growth spurt. Overnight he went from being cute and adorable to becoming a huge hulking beast of a young man, and not in a good way. I knew Carolyn would never go for him, not in a million years, and I was right about that—she never did. But by that point, my friendship with Nick was over, and my heart was broken into a million pieces at what I’d lost: a divine soulmate connection that he’d chosen to discard.

Oddly enough, in one of my college classes, the teacher brought someone in to lead us in a guided meditation and visualization. As soon as I was relaxed, I had an out-of-body experience, or something. I found myself outside of the southern Baptist church that Nick and I both attended. It was windy—very windy. In fact, my body was being blown over the grass and then scraped over the pavement, but I felt no pain. The wind rammed me onto a third-floor windowsill, which I strove to cling to.

Then I saw Nick. He was also being blown here and there. I wanted so badly to reach him. “Nick,” I called. He ignored me.

I leapt off of the windowsill and became airborne again, desperate to reach Nick, who clung to a tree. “Nick!” But as I blew down onto the grass and across the yard, he released the tree, blew over me, and headed toward the street. I ricocheted off the tree and tried to head in his direction, but I couldn’t reach him.

Nick was lost to me. I was in denial about that, even after the visualization ended it and I was gently deposited back in my classroom. But he was gone.

And Sonya had this comment: Wasn’t there anything good in your life that you could count on? 

Nope. Not until around 2015. It feels good to be validated!

Huh. Interesting issues.

Dear Amy: I’m a man in my late-50s.

I’m currently dating — or trying to date.

It’s clear to me now that I’ll never know women, so please explain what just happened here: I met a woman on a dating app, and we had one of those perfect first dates — lots of laughs, lots of agreement, finishing each other’s sentences, easily planning the next date.

At the end I kissed her, and she kissed me back.

Second date, I made dinner. We had a great time and great conversation. We had agreed beforehand that this was not an overnight. Another good date, and at the end, we kissed.

Third date was dinner and a play. At dinner I walked around to her chair and kissed her, and she kissed me back.

But by now I was realizing that I was the only one reaching in for a kiss.

She didn’t pull back or shy away, but she never initiated it.

So, at the end of the date, I refrained from kissing her.

Later on, I texted her and pointed out the fact that I had deliberately not kissed her, and she responded, “I know, and that made me want to kiss you!”

What the heck does that even mean?

Not long after that she showed her character by ghosting me, so I’m comforted by the fact that I didn’t lose much.

— Confused by Women

Confused: You seem to excel at the mechanics and dynamic of wooing: Third-date dinner and a play? Well done!

I can’t speak for all women (or even some women), and yet — the dynamic you describe as baffling seems — to me — to be simple human nature. When you retreat a bit, creating space, another person will instinctively move forward.

All the same, developing a sexual/romantic relationship can seem like participating in a tennis match choreographed by Twyla Tharp. You volley, she returns. You advance, she meets you at the net. You step back, she does a grand jete.

You have done nothing wrong. You noticed a pattern and communicated about it. She then told you exactly what you needed to know: When you held back, it created a desire in her.

Her return text might have brought on a round of fun flirtation. Instead, you seem flummoxed.

There are times when two people simply crash together. This is rare and wonderful.

For all of those other times, I suggest that you initiate less kissing and instead do more … leaning. Physical closeness, eye contact, a touch on the arm will telegraph your interest. If she’s into you, she’ll show it. You should let her. (c) Ask Amy

Oh dear. The way I’m reading this, I think something happened here that he’s not mentioning:

So, at the end of the date, I refrained from kissing her.

Later on, I texted her and pointed out the fact that I had deliberately not kissed her, and she responded, “I know, and that made me want to kiss you!”

What the heck does that even mean?

Right there, I think she said, “I know, and that made me want to kiss you!” and he was mean to her. I think he left that part out of the letter. It would explain why she ghosted him, and it would mean that Ask Amy’s wrong in saying he did nothing wrong. Just call it a hunch. I think she said what she did, and he got angry or confused, and like any sensible woman, she pulled away and disappeared.

I also think he’s overthinking it. One problem inherent in what he describes is that she might not be comfortable with PDAs. As a self-conscious person myself, I’d be freaking out over it. But she did nothing wrong, and her message to him was encouraging, not discouraging! Like, I’m totally into you! I’m too self-conscious to initiate public kissing, or maybe any kissing, but get back over here and try to kiss me again right now, you sexy god. 

Too bad he didn’t get that message. Kinda tragic. Because his reaction to her saying as much was brutal. I don’t even know how I know that he was mean to her. Sometimes stuff just comes to me. But he felt hostile toward her and did something to cause her to ghost him, despite her feelings toward him prior to her ghosting of him. Something went down, and it must’ve been about the kissing. Ouch.

Let’s check in with Miss Manners!

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In 20 years, my husband’s cousin’s wife has never spelled our last name correctly. In her defense, the name looks like a typographical error, and she, being a lovely woman, thinks she has corrected it.

One assumes the proper time to have addressed this was 20 years ago. I am amused, and am willing to have her persevere in her error until the end of my life for fear that alerting her will cause embarrassment.

On the other hand, there are seven families in this branch whose name she is mistreating, and surely someone will voice an objection at some point. We could, in theory, legally change our name to her preferred spelling, but that seems drastic. What does Miss Manners recommend?

GENTLE READER: It would indeed be drastic, if impressive, that you would go to those lengths to save your husband’s cousin’s wife’s feelings.

In lieu of such measures, Miss Manners suggests that you find an excuse to write out your name in full. Or select a small child in the family whom you can helpfully — and publicly — instruct to do it for you. (c) MISS MANNERS

Huh. It sounds like the cousin is unable to spell it properly due to a mental glitch. In other words, she knows how it’s spelled, but it goes against some logical aspect of her brain, and she can’t bring herself to spell it the right way.

I can relate. I live near a crystal shop called Stix-N-Stonz. Now, I’m sure it’s supposed to be pronounced like sticks and stones. But there’s no magic-e in Stonz, so to me, it rhymes with John’s. And that’s how I pronounce it. I don’t like deliberate and gimmicky misspellings. (I’m a former reading teacher. I can’t help it.)

So my guess is that the cousin is following her own inner dictates. With a last name, it seems a lot less rude than with a first name, both to misspell and/or to mispronounce. I’d feel differently about the cousin if she was butchering someone’s first name, but she’s not.

At this point, I’d accept that her last name is misspelled in her cousin’s eyes. It’s not a huge deal. I have some mental glitches like that. For example, I’m enamored of the British spelling of pyjamas. Every single beta reader who beta reads my fiction tries to get me to spell it like pajamas. I can’t! And it’s such an odd mental glitch that I’ve decided to just run with it, like it is what it is. I love me some pyjamas! [Shrug.]

British spelling is more accurate all around. Judgement instead of judgment is accurate, because judgment should be pronounced jud-guh-ment. You see what I mean.

So I wouldn’t worry about the cousin realizing her mistake and feeling embarrassed. I think it’s just a mental glitch that the cousin has decided to accept and not challenge herself on. Like how some people can’t pronounce cinammon without saying cinammom. I think it’s generally wasted energy to “fight” a mental glitch, unless there’s a compelling reason why it should be fought.

Changing my taste buds?

Huh. Last night I made popcorn for the first time in over a month. It didn’t taste good. So that got me to wondering: can we change our taste buds such that they come to prefer healthier foods rather than unhealthier ones?

(You might be thinking that popcorn isn’t a horrible indulgence. The problem is that I can–and do–eat it by the bowlful. And we’re talking about a huge bowl. Plus, I don’t air pop it. I cook it with over a tablespoon of olive oil.)

First off, I don’t think it’s even worth trying to change your taste buds to the extent that something gross or disgusting becomes palatable, unless you’re baking it into something. (You couldn’t pay me to eat butter, but baked into cookies? Sure!)

Second, one concern is that it’s not about taste. With a food addiction, or just with the chemicals in foods being what they are, it’s about that rush of high from the fat, the sugar, the flour, the starch, the carbs, etc. All the bad stuff.

Because if it were just about taste, we could put the unhealthy foods into our mouths, taste them, and then spit them out. If only, right?

Regardless of the challenge of chemical highs from foods, I still want to try to change my taste buds. I’ve been eating some power foods lately, which I define as healthy foods that I actually like and can eat on a regular basis. My list of power foods is very small. Sadly, there are a lot of healthy foods that I can’t handle. So I’m trying to focus on the healthy foods that I do like and can eat daily:

  • Oatmeal the way I prepare it
  • Carrots (who knew?) dipped in a raspberry vinaigrette
  • Apple slices with modest amounts of caramel dipping sauce
  • Grilled chicken with dipping sauce of barbecue, honey mustard, Chinese orange sauce, etc.
  • Two Lara bars for dessert

I also like scrambled eggs, but they’re not filling for me, so it’s like eating empty calories. And I could add turkey sausage to the above list, but it’s not currently on my daily menu.

Because I think that if you eat healthy foods for a while and avoid snacks, your body stops liking the snacks, which is why I didn’t enjoy the popcorn last night.

But it got me to wondering. People who give up meat, for example, and then accidentally eat meat (or start eating meat again, etc.), don’t like the taste of it! So why don’t I see how long I can go without junk food, eating only my power foods, with the hopes that I’ll quit liking junk food?

What I don’t know is if your body ever comes to crave healthy foods. If you eat healthy foods for long enough, does your body start asking for them? Like, I’m feeling depleted. Can you feed me some carrots? Instead of, I’m feeling depleted. Give me something loaded with starch and carbs! I need a pint of ice cream!

Here’s hoping. I have no clue, but I want to find out.

In related news, I made it back to the gym last night for the first time in over a month, and it felt great. I’d misplaced my music player and had to search the house for it, but it finally turned up in my desk drawer. (I have to bring it up here to charge it occasionally, so that’s where it wound up.) I did my forty-minute treadmill routine, and I hope to go back again later today.

It’s been a rainy day, but I love this sort of autumnal weather. Cold, wet leaves everywhere, the threat of imminent winter… I made cocoa.

I hope everyone out there is doing well and having a great day!!

The greatest thing we have to fear…

Huh. I was talking to a friend, and she had a freak-out over her fear of developing illnesses of any sort. I’d told her she had a short memory (meaning she’s not one to hold a grudge), and she said something like, “Don’t say that! I need my memory to work well!” And out came the anxiety. Oops.

I tried to explain the metaphorical meaning behind my words, and then I tried to put her mind at ease, but anxiety can be a vicious beast.

One thing I believe is that the universe bends over backward to prevent whatever we’re afraid of from happening to us. Is there a guarantee that, if you’re afraid of X, then X will never happen to you? No. It probably can’t be guaranteed. But what I sense is that the universe and all of our higher guides do everything they can to prevent something from happening that would genuinely terrify us.

My sense is that if Y number of people need to experience X bad thing happening (I’m getting algebraic here), then the universe distributes Y cases of X to Y number of people who aren’t terrified of it happening to them.

For example, I guess that Y number of people need to have accidents that land them in the ER, or else the healthcare industry would tank. (Just bear with me on this. It makes sense in my head.) So those accidents happen to people who won’t be unduly traumatized because their worst fear came to pass.

Of course, there’s also the element of increased safety if you’re that afraid of something. But I think this also applies to diseases, which can be harder to prevent. Like, I’m schizophrenic, and before I became schizophrenic, it didn’t scare me as a possibility. You know what did scare me? (And still does?) Meningitis. Now that’s some scary [bleep]. And any disabling physical illness that would land me in the hospital scared me, because I’m terrified (rather irrationally, perhaps) of doctors and nurses staring at my naked body. What do you know? With schizophrenia, you needn’t even take off your clothes to see the psych doc, so it’s all good.

You see what I mean? Whatever happens to us is usually something we can tolerate without being terrified that our worst nightmare is coming true. It just doesn’t seem to pass that way. Whatever you’re most afraid of in a phobic sense, on some level, your guardian angels sense it and try to protect you from experiencing it. That’s what I believe.

Of course, I’m highly medicated. If I were to go off my meds, my beliefs would change drastically, and I’d become scared and anxious, among other things. But that might be irrelevant to my argument. Not sure. Hmm… It’s just what I observe, though. Remember that advice column I blogged about a while back, about the woman with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), which is a scary-as-hell disease, but all she was concerned about was her inactive sister? That’s exactly what I mean. Some people live in fear of ALS, but those people don’t get it. The people who get it are people who are steadfast enough to not feel terrified by their own diagnosis. And that’s a thing of beauty. Although her letter upset me because she was judging her sister, it also brought me comfort because it supported my worldview, inasmuch as I’ve described it here.

Oh, gotta run! It’s time to walk the puppy.

Fun times with advice commentary today!

Dear Annie: I’ve been married to a man for 17 years. But not long after the marriage, he stopped being a husband.

At first, we would talk, laugh and have fun. We would do things together, go places and, most of all, we would make love all the time. It’s been 10 years since we have had sex.

When we did try, he couldn’t fulfill. All he does now is pick fights. He blames me for things and does what he wants. He stays in the bedroom all the time. He yells when I ask for help with something.

He tells me I’m the crazy one. He makes me so mad that I hit him in the pocket and spend money. I know that’s not the right thing to do. But I do it.

I ask him if he loves me and wants to stay in our marriage. He says yes, that he still loves me and wants our marriage to work.

However, when his best friend was alive, he would do everything for him, including giving him money. That was because his friend did not want to work. He lived in the mountains at our place until he died.

After that, things got worse. My husband, who I will call “Steve,” bought a cabin in the mountains for his best friend’s son.

He did this while telling me that we have no money to go away on a trip together.

You should know that I have kids from a previous marriage, and my ex-husband and I helped with some of their college expenses. My current husband, Steve, complained about that, yet at the same time, he is eager to give money to his dead friend’s son.

So, do you think this is a marriage or just a convenience? Should I leave and quit wasting time? Please help. — Frustrated Wife (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Huh. Well, Annie Lane will probably recommend marriage counseling and say that if her husband won’t go, she should go on her own to get help making the decisions. As if that isn’t the most generic advice in the known universe!

I think he’s struggling with impotence. But he’ll either get help for it, or he won’t. That, and/or he’s bisexual and was in love with his friend. Any chance Annie Lane will pick up on any of that? At best, she might recommend that he get a full medical checkup… but she won’t have a clue why.

Dear Frustrated Wife: You do not have a spending problem. You have a husband with much bigger problems. Don’t let them continue to be your problems. At the same time, getting his side of the story will require marriage counseling, and you both can find out for sure whether the two of you can change to make it a happy marriage.

Lame. I don’t think the letter writer even thought she had a spending problem! Revenge spending isn’t a problem, after all! 😀 But the point is that the letter writer isn’t worried about her spending. She already knows that her relationship is fraught with more serious issues.

He tells me I’m the crazy one. He blames me for things and does what he wants. 

Like that Brian Laundrie guy who murdered Gabbie Petito!! (He’s dead now, from what I’ve heard. Yep… dead. Dead, dead, dead.) Anytime a man is telling the woman that she’s the crazy one, the odds are favorable that the man is oozing toxic masculinity.

He yells when I ask for help with something.

Really? What a charmer.

Letter writer: “Dan, can you give me a hand with this lightbulb?” 

Husband: “AAAAAAUGHHH!!!!!! YYYYAAAAAAA!!!!! WHY? WHY? WHY?”

Let’s see what Dear Abby is up to!

DEAR ABBY: Should aging parents have to pay their children to take them to appointments or elsewhere? — WONDERING PARENT

DEAR WONDERING PARENT: I’m guessing you and your spouse did plenty of “chauffeuring” before your children had driver’s licenses. The “child” who suggested it should be ashamed of themself. (c) DEAR ABBY

Wow. I have only one thing to say: Dear Abby has clearly never met my mother. MY MOTHER, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!! Dear Abby hasn’t lived. If she wants to spend one piddly afternoon with  my mother and still lay claim to the above-given advice of hers, then I welcome her to come here to Louisville and try it.

Well, we’ve got more content from Annie Lane here:

Dear Annie: My 30-year-old grandson is incarcerated right now on charges of drug possession and shoplifting. This is one of many drug possession charges he has faced in the past two years, and he has multiple court cases coming up in November. While I have done everything I can to support and help him, nothing has worked. His behavior has caused a lot of grief and pain to me and my daughter. He stopped talking to me a couple of months ago, and it really hurts me. I’m at a loss as to what to do at this point. I’m seeing a counselor right now, which helps. — Grieving Papa

Okay. Twenty-to-one odds that Annie Lane commends him on being a wonderful grandfather, suggests Al-Anon, and tells him to stick with his therapy and keep supporting his daughter. Should I get a prize for this?

Dear Grieving Papa: I’m so sorry about your grandson. One of the toughest pills to swallow is that we can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves. Stay close to your daughter and continue to show your grandson your unconditional love.

Hopefully, one day he sees the light.

Wow. So… my hopes that she’d recommend Al-Anon were too far-fetched. Oh well. I actually aimed too high. Whoa.

Dear Annie: I have been married for the past 15 years and have three children (one adult, two teenagers). I cheated on my husband 10 years ago and have apologized, and I thought we had worked through it.

My husband is not perfect. He has problems with alcoholism and has had multiple DUIs in the past and even spent time in jail.

I am at a breaking point. He is still throwing the cheating in my face daily. He is upset because his grown children have a lot of memories of him yelling at them. He says he yells at them because he is angry at me. My husband does not trust me, and I have no friends and never go out or do anything on my own. However, he can go out whenever he wants.

He says that he is just going through the motions to get through the day. I said if he is still that angry and dwelling on the past, then we should get a divorce because that is no way to live. He says if we get divorced, then no one wins, and the kids will be affected. I’m not sure how much more of the berating and verbal abuse I can take. I feel like a prisoner in my own home with nowhere to turn and everything I do is wrong. Please help. — Stuck

Okay, so I assume Annie Lane will encourage her not to prioritize the kids (in the sense that “affecting them” is a silly reason to avoid divorce). If Annie Lane has any sense, and/or if she wants to follow the easy path here, she’ll recommend the hotline number for abusive spouses. Probably, knowing Annie Lane, she’ll empathize with the letter writer and agree that that’s no way to live.

Dear Stuck: It sounds like your husband has some deep-seated issues with anger and alcoholism. It’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario — a toss-up as to which came first — but one is surely adding fuel to the other’s fire.

Yes, you broke a marriage vow. But it sounds like you’re willing to work hard at repairing the relationship, looking forward rather than dwelling on the past.

Your husband, on the other hand, is keeping you both trapped in an arrangement where nothing is addressed, nothing is overcome and nothing is resolved. He clearly cares about his family — but he never processed the betrayal he felt from your cheating, nor is he able to cope in healthy ways. Find a couples therapist you both like to address the root of the problem.

Oh, shut up. Are you kidding me? I don’t care if this guy hasn’t “processed the betrayal”. He’s a jerk! Run screaming from this marriage! He’s entitled to not process the betrayal. He’s not entitled to be a domestic abuser. Geez Louise. It seems more likely that he’s using her betrayal as a collective excuse for all of his wrongdoings. Run, run, run.

It sounds like your husband has some deep-seated issues with anger and alcoholism.

Right, which makes him impossible to live with. [Eyeroll.] I think if your spouse is an angry alcoholic, it’s time to give it up.

I feel better!

I feel better! I slept quite soundly for hours and hours last night, and then I realized something. Well, a few things:

  • What my parents did to me was senseless, and therefore no sense can be made of it.
  • It’s not my burden to make sense of senseless acts, and to try to make it seem “okay” inside my head.
  • I shouldn’t be responsible for their feelings of guilt, or for any of their feelings.

Speaking of that bullet point, yesterday my mom gave me a guilt trip for not taking her to her colonoscopy. She said, “I don’t know how you can travel halfway around the world to visit Sonya, but you can’t take me to my appointment.”

I was very tactful, and I blamed my cold and its subsequent fatigue. In truth, I think anyone would rather travel halfway around the world than take my mother to her colonoscopy.

And that’s what I mean. If it’s something like that, I don’t mind being tactful. But when it comes to the abuse I suffered, it really shouldn’t be my burden to make it okay for my parents.

  • I’m entitled to my anger and inability to forgive. It’s not a weakness, and I can hold onto it for as long as I wish without its making me immoral or unvirtuous. That certainly doesn’t mean I go around harassing my parents about it. (I rarely bring it up.) It just means that I’m not a “bad” person if I want to stay angry. It’s okay. I’m allowed to feel this way.

And all of this makes me feel freer. Like, whew, not my burden. I wasn’t abusive. I don’t have to empathize with the anger or loss of control or poor judgment that my parents experienced. Not my burden. And of course, I’ve lost control of my own temper too many times to count. It bears mentioning, though, that I’ve never damaged a kid. Not once. There are mistakes, of which we all make, and then there are MISTAKES. The problem innate in MISTAKES is that they’re senseless, like I said, and if you try to make sense of them, you’ll just be going around and around in your head and never getting anywhere.

Sonya seems to think that I should forgive and empathize with my parents, but I’ve finally realized that I shouldn’t have to. They messed up. I suffered. And yet I have spent most of my adulthood treating their guilt as my own, like, how would I feel if I’d destroyed a child? How would I live with myself? And I’m finally realizing that it’s not my burden! I haven’t destroyed any children! And thank God for that!

So I wash my hands of my parents’ senseless acts. Whatever confusion has always made me think that I need to understand where they were coming from, or whatever, is gone. I don’t care where they were coming from, because it’s not on me. I’ve got my own problems. And shout-out to JYP for helping me realize this! Thanks!

And for those of you who’ve been riding this rollercoaster with me for years, thank you! Sorry it keeps going! I’d love to get off it already–you have no idea!! Maybe I’m closer to that!

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