Carolyn Hax Live: We'll be right. Here.

Mar 20, 2020

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax took your comments about her current advice column and questions about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Hi everybody, how's it going? Is any of this weirdness feeling normal yet?

My ex-girlfriend and I dated for over 3 years. I was shocked by the break-up 4 months ago since we were such a great couple, had fun, extremely compatible in every way. At first I was heartbroken, confused, angry, but in talking it through with friends and family I came to realize that she wanted to get married and gave me a thousand opportunities to go in that direction and I didn’t take any of them. Even though I’m 33, this was my first serious relationship so I was inexperienced, and I admit a little immature and self-centered. Now that I realize all this I feel like a total moron and can’t believe how badly I screwed up. She’s absolutely someone I’d marry and I just needed a big reality check to grow up and take it seriously. Is there any way to salvage this? I’ve been pouring myself into maturing and learning about healthy adult relationships though I have no idea how to demonstrate this to her. She won’t really talk to me and I’m sure she’s out there dating guys who know what they’re doing.

Write a letter. You say it all really well here.

Though the "I'm sure she's out dating guys who know what they're doing" is ... idunno. Hitting me wrong. What she's doing with her time is outside the scope of what we're talking about, and while it's natural for a recent, distressed ex to imagine things, it suggests you have another step to take toward maturity that you factor that into why she's now unavailable to you. 

Anyway. Send a letter to her, then accept that's really all you can do. If she has moved on, then she has moved on.

After that, focus on getting better, which means looking mostly forward, and using your looks backward mostly to inform your judgment. If you're looking back constantly to remind yourself of all you lost by being so slow to awaken, then please realize that's actually a form of incompatibility you and she had, or proof you didn't fit as well as you're now telling yourself you did.

 

 

Sorry that was slow in arriving--I made a bad choice on a first question and had to bail on it to start over. 

Hi Carolyn, I work from home trading the stock market. I’ve put in many years of study, $$ and trying different methods, and find it incredibly mentally stimulating. I’ve finally found the best system for me and it’s a lot of hard work, but I enjoy the challenge. Occasionally, when someone I meet learns what I do, s/he goes straight to the “how much money do you make?” question. Or some variation thereof. I always deflect, because I find the question rude and inappropriate. Some folks persist in asking, just in different ways. Can you or your readers suggest some polite but firm responses I could use to shut down the question? I don’t want to get into a verbal sparring match of witticisms; I just want them to stop asking me how much I make. I want to stay polite because usually these are neighbors, repair people working on my home, someone from a friend group, relatives who I’ll see again, etc. Signed, Weary of the Rudeness

That does take some chutzpah.

I suggest either saying outright, "Yikes, personal question," or asking them what they're after. "Why do you ask?" is a way of weeding out the purely rude from the people who are genuinely interested in what you do and maybe lost their social bearings for a second. Best part about asking is, once they answer you, you're still under no obligation to answer their original question. You can just say, "Hm, okay," and then change the subject.

Supposed to have started at 11; I'm not seeing Q/A.

Sorry, the intro was an accidental carryover from the (onetime) early start on Wednesday. 

For a variety of reasons, the current crises 'hit' all my particular mental struggles juuuust right... Can get into the details if it's helpful but the tl:dr of it is that I'm on day 8 of distancing and am down 5# that I can't really afford to lose. I live alone, & have a terrible time reaching out for help but did try with a friend yesterday and her reply was... very unhelpful. I guess I don't have a question so much as I'm scared that I may not make it through this even if I never get covid

I understand, isolation is hitting some people (and personality types) harder than others, and we get no special allowances if it's hitting at an exquisitely awful time. 

Here's something that might help ease this for you. You say you have "a terrible time reaching out for help." (That's not unusual, btw.) That obstacle actually, counterintuitively, is bigger the *less* you try to reach out. You'd think that difficult thing X done one time would have a feeling of difficulty of 1X and doing it 20 would feel like 20X.

But a reaching-out difficulty is mostly a problem of vulnerability, of feeling very uncomfortable making yourself vulnerable to others. Given that, your reaching out only once made you enormously vulnerable to that one person--whereas if you had made 20 different attempts to connect to others, you would be counting very little on any one attempt to work out for you, so your vulnerability would be quite reduced. The one attempt you made yesterday was a 20X.

So, as hard as the initiation effort will be upfront, I urge you to think of 20 ways you can reach out to the world beyond your home. This counts as one, right? And for a second try, go to the comments here or on Facebook to chat with other readers.

Then give yourself a mental break, do something/anything restorative, then back at it:

Think of other friends or family or neighbors you can contact. Even from long ago. 

Then restore ...

Then back at it. 

But do put as many lines into the water as you can manage. 

Check back in, too, if it helps. 

 

 

Life in the time of Coronavirus: In my elementary school kid's class meeting via Google Hangouts today, my kid announced the following about me: my name, age, and that I "have my period." I silently laughed SO HARD in the kitchen. Later that day we did a socially distanced walk around a favorite place that's now mostly deserted, and the weather was beautiful. I scrounged my expensive task chair from my empty building at work so I won't destroy my back working from home. Then last night, the Indigo Girls did a live FB concert from home and it was a joyful experience with 60K people who broke FB and I saw so many dear friends from today to high school tuning in and it was lovely. I may be doing a crappy job working from home but I'm doing what is most important, I'm a terrible emergency homeschool teacher for my autistic kid but kid is doing okay with significantly reduced academic expectations. This is okay because we are hanging in there and finding the humor and beauty as we can. And wow do I appreciate what real teachers do more than ever.

This is great, thanks. 

Communication works both ways. She gave you a thousand opportunities, but did she ever come out and SAY she wanted to get married? None of us can read minds. Don't beat yourself up over not being able to receive her signals.

This is hitting me wrong, if I understand you correctly. Did the two of you discuss marriage. Did she bring up 'how do you see the the relationship developing' questions? Did she say 'I can see myself marrying you in the future - what do you think'? I get the impression there were not a lot of intimate conversations or communicating openly about the hard stuff. I understand, it's difficult to make yourself vulnerable. But you have to do it. So - kudos for you for doing the hard work of maturing, but perhaps she could have been clearer too about her wishes and needs. Maybe you both have some maturing to do!

Yeah, I wondered this myself. We don't know how clear those "opportunities" were, and there's a huge range of possibility in her maturity, depending.

It actually also applies to the not-talking now. If she's truly no longer interested in OP, no longer in love, then not communicating is a mature option. If instead she's still in love, would still be interested in OP under certain conditions, but is going no-contact for punitive reasons, then that's again at the other end of the maturity scale. 

It's an interesting blank that the question never really fills in. 

When someone asks how much you make, answer "You first." That should silence them. (Credit for this goes to Oscar-winning director Fred Zinnemann, who later in his career, met with a clueless young studio hotshot who had no idea that Zinnemann had directed huge hits like "High Noon," "From Here to Eternity" and "Oklahoma," and asked Zinnemann to tell him about what movies he'd worked on.)

Ha. Good one.

Why is it during normal times I can go three or four days without going out anywhere, no problem, but when I’m told I can’t go out I feel trapped in my house.

That's baseline human nature, isn't it? Choices, okay. Requirements, we resent. 

That's why it's such a useful life skill to focus on parts of a situation that we can control. 

There should be a formula for it: M = maturity, N = need for control, C = contentment.

M/N = C

That's a start. Feel free to add on.

Why doesn’t your paper in these trying times forego paid subscriptions online for the good of all Americans?

The paywall has been removed for all pandemic-related coverage, and the subscription rate for other Post journalism has been dropped to $29 for a full year. I think that's a conscientious balance between making essential coverage available to all and protecting a business that represents the livelihood of so many, including me. I realize it's a tough balance to strike right now, and we won't all agree on what the right one is.

I am an ER nurse so of course I’m working through this quarantine situation. I live in a large city so it’s pretty crazy right now. My father, who lives a couple of states away, is now contacting me at least twice a day, saying how worried he is and that he loves me. I do not know what to make of this. I even checked to make sure it was really him. Since my parents divorced when I was 15, he’s never had time for me. His life has been wrapped up with his job and the woman he left my mother for. He never visits me and rarely arranges his life so that I can visit him. Is this what it takes for him to notice me? And I’m afraid if I let him back into my heart, he’ll just disappear on me once things go back to “normal.” I almost resent the fact that I have to constantly reassure him that I’m okay and that I love him too. I don’t need this emotional wham on top of everything else I’m dealing with. What should I do?

Thank you so much for being out there for the rest of us.

I think you can safely say, yes, this is what it takes for him to notice you.

Crises have a way of shaking people out of their complacency (except when they don't, and we're all left to watch those people carry on as if nothing important is happening, reminding us constantly we're sacrificing for them and will continue to do so just because it's the right thing to do, even when they're not only not returning the favor for us but also actively putting us at risk with their insouciance--but that's a whole other answer).

I wish I could give you clear insight on whether he'll stay present in your life or disappear again after the crisis passes. There's just no saying what he'll do. However, you can mange your own needs and fears here, and do your own risk-vs.-reward assessment. You can decide whether you want to take the chance on him, whether you think it would be worth it, whether you'd likely feel devastated or just merely annoyed if he disappeared on you again.

You can also tell him outright that the check-ins are distracting to you, and your having to reassure him means you're having to help him when he obviously (ahem) means all this as an effort to help you. You can say you understand his anxiety but that if he wants to help you, then he can ... 1. let you know he's okay with it if you don't respond when he contacts you; or 2. stop contacting you, or step back to maybe once a week for a while; or 3. [detailed description of something that would actually help you]. 

Do what you need to take care of yourself. Seriously. And thanks again.

 

I wasn't available for the live chat but have some possibly lame suggestions to share: I suspect the people dying to still date are extroverts for whom staying home is harder for them than we introverts realize. You can date, just not in person. Have a phone date. The purpose of dating is to get know people and you can do that by talking. For company while alone - You can watch broadcast TV together with people over the phone. Pick something you both like, start the call before it starts for some pre-show chatting and then you can talk during commercials and after. It isn't much different than watching TV together in person but with the bonus that you can move the phone away from your ear if they insist on talking too much during the show. The show gives you something to talk about. Some shows even lend themselves to drinking games and yey no driving involved. Just as we need to think about the depressed and the elderly, maybe think about the person you know who loves the limelight. They probably could really use a little attention if they live alone and if they live with others their fellow dwellers could probably use a break from having to give them the attention they crave so call them. There have been news reports of people with kids having their kids go outside to play their instruments in front of the home of elderly neighbors (presumably asking first or knowing they will like this). The kids got dressed up like it was a recital. Singing would work too. Obviously (I hope) only do this to people who would like it. In my area they are asking for blood donations from people that are healthy since blood drives have been cancelled. They are taking lots of precautions and it is considered one of the acceptable reasons to leave your home. Enter your zip code at https://www.redcrossblood.org/ to find a time and place near you. This next thing won't work for everyone but if you live in suburbia and know fellow parents of little ones in your neighborhood you can plan some I Spy fun. One of my neighbors asked people to put a heart somewhere on Sat, and a flower somewhere on Wed (draw/print it and put it in one of your windows, on your mailbox or whatever) with the idea that parents of young ones can take a walk that day and look for them. It helps that we have a neighborhood listserve but one neighbor mentioning it to two more could probably spread the word.

I want someone to set up a neighborhood I Spy for -me.- 

Instead, I am back to eating ice cream, which I had given up as a concession to being over 50.

 

Dear Carolyn, I stay home full time with my three young kids, and my husband (usually) works longer-than-average hours in an office. Except that right now, he is being asked to work from home indefinitely because [obvious reasons]. Where usually our division of labor is pretty clear (during work hours, I am 100% in charge of everything going on with our house and kids), this topsy-turvy new situation has completely confused our routine. He and I are arguing. Is it reasonable for me to ask him to pitch in with the kids (we have one more at home than usual, since school is out) during the day? To occasionally cook or help serve a meal even if it occurs at a time when normally he would be in the office? I realize that he still needs to be available to his coworkers, but somehow it is much harder doing everything on my own when he's just in the next room.

I'm sorry, it's not reasonable. He has to work. Your division of labor has not changed with the change in location.

It is hard, that part is reasonable. Your feelings are not surprising at all. 

And I do think there's room for some negotiating. For one thing, he's not commuting, so that extra time in up for discussion. and unless he typically spends his time at the office working straight through the day, no breaks, no lunch, no stretching, he also has a little time in his day where he doesn't need to be available to colleagues. Even a sliver.

Those breaks are important, to mental health and to productivity, so it wouldn't be fair to suggest he owes all of that time to the family and household. However, just as you have taken on more responsibility with the third child home instead of in school, your husband could reasonably dedicate one part of his workday down time (scheduled, if that makes it easier) to be with the family. Everyone's taking on more, who reasonably can.*

Since you're arguing, approach him with the idea of talking about this calmly, not in the moment but at the end of a day when things are quiet--and open with an acknowledgment of any mistakes you think you've made in dealing with this. Dukes down, in other words. And acknowledge you're both probably stressed way more about outside things than you are about each other.

Good luck.

 

*The standard here isn't what's "fair," it's what's possible and what works for your whole family. You presumably need him to keep this job, by doing it well, more than you need him to cook occasionally? It's not likely this is a strict either-or, but sometimes it is. This is why it's so important for partners both to be trustworthy themselves and to trust each other--since that's the only way you can negotiate these things in good faith.

 

Something to remember for those reluctant to reach out and ask for help. There are a lot of us who really do want to help in whatever way we can. You're not burdening us--you're actually helping us, too, by letting us feel useful in a time where a lot of people feel useless and helpless.

Why don't the good Americans pony up the equivalent of a six pack of beer every month to ensure fair, accurate, and reliable reporting? How are these reporters to be paid? Are YOU working for free right now?

Who me? Or are you addressing OP?

I'm not working for free, no, but way more people aren't working at all right now than were unemployed at this time last week. So that's why I'm glad the paywall is down on the essential health and safety news. 

Thanks for taking up for us, though. Glad you have our backs.

Rats! I didn't get the memo -- now that I'm over 50, do I have to give up ice cream too?

You know how things work around here! You do what you need, not what I need, and I don't get to presume what you need based on what I need. 

(Sometimes I exhaust myself.)

Anyway, it's all just metabolism math. 

There's only one formula you really need to describe everything: Happiness = Reality - Expectations Right now we are bristling, because we expect to be able to move freely and do what we want, so knowing we can't decreases our happiness even if we wouldn't actually go do whatever it is we're dreaming about. As our expectations re-set -- we get used to the "new normal," say, or someone we know gets sick and we become more conscious of how good we actually have it -- our happiness pops back up, even though the actual situation hasn't changed at all.

Elegant, thanks.

For so many of us, the bright spots are taking the form of free online theater performances, music concerts of all sorts, classes with teachers, doodle sessions, virtual museum tours, etc. In these times of uncertainty, we seem to be turning to the very people and arts that our society doesn't tend to reward financially. It's like a real-life version of Leo Lionni's "Frederick." While some of us are in financially uncertain situations, I do hope that those who emerge from this in a good place will keep in mind how much arts and education are feeding us today, for free.

I love this, thank you, and double for reminding me of "Frederick," which I loved and read to the boys often but hadn't thought of in years.

Hi carolyn, thank you for you - that's first. Now, I have a "conversational narcissist" husband. Whenever I begin speaking about something: my day, something I read, a conversation I had, etc. , instead of asking any follow up questions, my husband jumps right in with "wow my day was", " yeah, I just read about.... "I just spoke with..". He never asks me questions. And I mean never. I have told him it makes me feel like what I have to say isn't important, and counters with "of course it is" but continues this type of behavior. If I say "I need a new pair of shoes" instead of asking something like "oh really, what kind of shoes" he'll say "Oh I need a new pair too. I was thinking about these sneakers..." It's like the Toby Keith song "....I love talking about you you you you most of the time, but every once in a while I wanna talk about me...." Can you offer any words that I can use to make him understand my point. He says he understands but nothing yet has helped. Thanks. MEEEEEEEE

Nothing will help. I'm sorry.

No wait--nothing will *change.* He clearly is this way and your efforts won't put a dent in that.

However, some things can still help. Namely, you can choose to look at it differently. That's something you control, at least much more than you can control him.

I.e., using today's math: You're trying and failing to change his Reality, so instead try to change your Expectations. 

So: How can you reframe this trait of his into something you can stop labeling as bad or disappointing and just accept as different? 

One idea is to think of it as the difference between sympathy and empathy. You want empathy--for him to feel what you're feeling, or show interest in your interests. But his jumping in with his parallel stories is arguably a form of sympathy, where he relates to you through the way he feels about a similar thing. It's not exactly what you want, but it's not erasing your contribution or feelings as "unimportant," either. It's an attempt to meet you where you are.

Which is, apparently, the best he's got for you right now. If you can adjust your expectations of him, then you can rerun the formula and maybe get a higher Happiness value:

Happiness = Reality - Expectations

(I've long said writing advice is like doing word problems about feelings, but the math for this stuff I've been saying all along is just ... liberating. Thank you, OP.)

I was the same way, I took a class in relational communication. It showed what I was to expect, how to communicate, what a relationship was outside of having the hots for someone. People can learn and change.

You can find a virtual tip jar here. So you can send money to the servers and staff at your favorite restaurant/bar/coffee shop. Or just scroll randomly and help out whoever!

This is so great, thank you. I hope people will be inspired to do similar in their neighborhoods.

Send your letter. It might not be too late, but you will never know unless you try. Last summer, a person from my past revealed they had feelings for me. Basically told me that they loved me, had always loved me, and wished they had never let me go. Um...... OK...... Luckily, this is a person I have always had feelings for as well, but had long ago given up any hope that there would be anything more than distant friendship (we live in different states) and now and then meet ups. Now we are in a long distance relationship with real committed plans for our future together. But it started with one person saying to the other: I love you and want to be with you and the other person being open to that idea.

Yay! Thanks for this.

Carolyn, the grief has just hit. I'm youngish (in my 30s) and I live alone and have been self-distancing for about a week now. I've mostly just been antsy and full of that anxious energy but this morning the tears started coming. I'm working from home but had plans to quit my job, move, and go back to school this fall which is now all sorts of up in the air. I had a side gig teaching yoga and I miss hanging out with my amazing crew of students. I miss my coworkers at my day job. And I've been keeping in contact, zooming with friends, doing online yoga, going outside when I can. But the grief of losing normal life and potentially the future one I had planned is hitting hard and I just don't know what to do now besides cry it out. Looking at many more weeks of this is hard. I have a history of depression and I'm not there now but I'm afraid too much wallowing and ruminating could land me there again. So, please, suggestions on distractions or whatever else. Although typing this out has already helped so thanks for that :)

1. Cry. It's okay. 

2. The minute it's warm enough, please gather your yoga students for a class outside with mats spaced the recommended distance. As long as you maintain the distance you can have your people, plus the planning and scheduling will keep your mind occupied and forward-looking.

3. Is there anything else you can adapt to make it safe? 

4. Trust human nature. You will still need to cry sometimes--which is really okay and part of how we maintain our health--but you will also start to adapt to this way of being. Like regular grief, it won't go away, you'll still miss things you've lost, but you'll get better at carrying it.

Hi Carolyn! Hope you and yours are staying safe. I came out to my parents several years ago. Their journey toward "acceptance" (a word I hate, what's to accept?) has been gradual and imperfect, but on the whole things are worlds better than they were in the beginning. The one thing that drives me crazy is that they still refer to my girlfriend - the person I live with (and am now bunkered down with), share a ferret and a bank account with, eat meals with, and who my niece and nephew call Aunt - as my "friend." As in, "Is your friend coming to dinner too?" "Is your friend staying healthy and social distancing?" After so many years of slowly beginning to feel that they still loved me and wanted me to be happy, this one thing still hits me like nails on a chalkboard. But in terms of how they actually treat my girlfriend, I could not ask for more. She is treated as a member of the family. In light of that, do you think it's time for me to just stop worrying about the nomenclature and be happy for the rest?

Have you asked them please, kindly, to refer to her as your partner?

It's always time to "stop worrying," if that's an option for you. I guess in this case that means if you don't think this is deliberate needling/dismissiveness on your parents' part, and they're just awkward or clueless. 

If it's deliberate, or you have reason to suspect it is? Then that's a battle to at least consider choosing.

Ahhhh, I meant to post this at the beginning, to get others' opinions. I guess there's still time.

Plus I feel like we all kind of need this question right now:

Would just like another opinion, as we are kind of split over here. I say tattoos, if uncovered, are a form of art work and it's fine to look and admire, and even comment on. (Caveats: Comments should be positive as a matter of social harmony... there is no social upside on trying to make somebody feel bad about their ink choices. And look...no staring. No, 'can you pull the bra to one side so I can see the rest. No gawking.) Others in our group says its like trying to admire somebody's wheelchair. Just look away and keep on walking. Your opinion? (Worry about bigger things! Yeah...I get that too.)

I think the wheelchair comparison is ... off. It's more in the area of making comments on someone's appearance. Generally a bad idea, right, but do the same, "Hey, nice hat"-type exceptions apply?

There are millions of American workers that are not getting much press lately. The people working in our food industries, from the farm workers to the processing plants to the wholesalers and distributors, to the trucking industry, to the front line workers in grocery stores and markets. This has been like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the 4th of July all rolled into one, with no end in sight. These people can't work from home, and are risking exposure so that you can get food. Please be nice to them. Thank them for working, but quickly, because they're busy. Don't be mad when they say they're out of something, or demand to know when it will be in. Don't ask if there's more in the back. Be tolerant if they're a little testy because you're the 120th person who just asked the same question.Be tolerant if the lines are long and if the store isn't as clean as it should be. Priority right now is stocking shelves so you can have food at home. These folks are all working overtime. They're tired and their bodies are sore. They don't make a lot of money. They're working at personal risk. Be nice.

Carolyn, I just want to say that your holding firm on gatherings and helping explain why last Friday really helped bring my thinking around to where it needed to be. You did a great and important public service there, in addition to the one you always do. I can't believe it has only been a week--so much has changed since then. But, thank you. I've gotten my family all on board, too.

You're welcome, and thank you. We're all looking out for each other now--and, again, coming to that conclusion one by one, as we're ready for it.

There are a lot of specific questions about how to do this that I have chosen not to answer because I am not a public health expert, and because the many of the distinctions are so finely drawn. But I do believe the most important point we can all reach is the "isn't not just about me, it's about the impact of me x 330,000,000 (US alone)" epiphany. Let's hope it's as quick and effective as it can be.

I think the real wake-up call is not realizing what you had when you had it. if you didn't come to this realization on your own when you were together, then it shouldn't have taken her leaving for you to figure that out. I think it's more the grass is greener than anything else

Hmmmm ... I can see that, and it certainly happens. But it doesn't feel like that here. The description of the wake-up, I thought, formed a credible emotional arc. 

Even if it's a moot point.

I've got 2 tattoos, 1 that is easily visible on my upper arm and 1 on the back of my shoulder and kind of hidden. If anyone asks me about my ink, I'll show them off, as they're memorial tattoos. And I've admired and asked about other's ink. If they are visible with everyday, casual clothing, then I feel like there's nothing wrong with asking about them. Heck, I've even pulled my shirt off my shoulder to show the other one that's not so visible if asked about that one. I'll share my art and my reason for it.

Not you, Carolyn, but whoever suggested that to the OP. Most people in wheelchairs aren't ashamed of them. They rely on them to get around. I suggest those folks watch episode 11 of the recent season of "Project Runway" (if they have access to Bravo), where one of the designers made a fantastic dress with a train for an Olympic athlete in a wheelchair.

WHEELCHAIR? So not an apt comparison. Not cool to focus on someone's different body situations as in wheelchair, cane, fat, thin, tall, short etc. However, I always find it nice to be randomly complemented (so long as it isn't creepy, stalkery, etc). A passing, hey your hair looks great today from a stranger can be so nice. Whereas a, boy, you sure look thin today from a passing stranger, not so much. I don't think there's anything at all wrong with a breezy - beautiful ink! As you pass by. A tattoo is a choice someone made. Feel free to appreciate it.

I have tats and don't mind someone complimenting, though I agree with "no gawking". I have likewise complimented others. I chose to get inked, no one chooses to be in wheelchair, so the comparison doesn't make any sense.

I tend to ask about tattoos, because I am curious. I also have a disability and receive questions. To me, it's about intent. When I ask about tattoos, it's often: what inspired it, how long it took, does that area hurt a lot? Non-judgmental. With my disability, questions are appreciated: how can I assist/what makes this easier? How did it happen? Non-constructive questions fall into judgment, including disbelief - you don't seem "X", why aren't you "Y"...and with regard to tattoos, I would see inappropriate comments/questions as "Don't you know that the ink can contain hep?"; "how could you mark your body like that?"; "Oh, not my style"; but "wow, who did you ink?"....that almost always brings a smile.

What an overwhelming week with more to go...but I am cheered by the kindness and friendly hellos that I receive on walks. Wish that we always didn't have to have a tragic event for the best of humanity to shine. Hang in there, everybody.

For the poster whose family is overall accepting but still refers to their partner as a "friend," this may not be the case but for my own (heterosexual) relationship, some in my boyfriend's family still refer to me as his friend after two and a half years--for them, it seems a generational thing so I try not to think about it much!

In about a week I went from antisocial introvert to just following government orders.

An inspiration to us all.

This tired introvert needs to sign off soon. I'll say bye now, and thanks for stopping by--but I'll post a few other things as I see them. Hang in there, everybody. 

Be thankful for sunshine; remind myself that I am blessed; say a prayer for those who are ill, those who are sad and those who are putting much at risk to help; look for someone I can help just by being human in the midst of chaos; hug my husband and cats extra-long; make the small moments count; feed my soul with music; and recognize that every day is a miracle.

I'm still working at least part days (albeit alone in the office just now!) but yesterday I left early and grabbed my mucking around boots and headed to my community garden plot to pull up last fall's dead stuff (I had a cancer diagnosis that left everything else in the dust...so to speak) and rake in some organic lime and just generally get things ready for planting peas and other spring veggies. But what I took away with me, digging among the over-wintered parsley and chard and the peeking rhubarb, is that life does keep pushing forward and dirt brings hope! And the joy it brought just to see the future in action, even as it sat in the past...well, this is all far to esoteric so I'll stop. But if anyone has a garden...get out in it. Run your hands through the dirt, inhale the fresh aromas of plants working their way out of the ground...you'll find hope.

I wish I had better news, but COVID-19 and my FOO dysfunction has made my safest option to stay put. So, just trying to get through each 24 hours without driving myself crazy, pissing off my SO (either by omission or commission), and/or contracting COVID on the occasional trip out of the house. As I type this, my SO has gone from level 10 screaming at me for a tech problem that occurred when I wasn't present and had no idea had occurred to level 0 calm with a customer service individual. I know this situation isn't safe or stable, but there are no safe options at this point (FOO, shelter, friends--who dropped off the scene once SO came onto it, even checking myself in-patient for mental health care). And my unemployed status seems unlikely to change anytime soon, so, well, sigh. I wish I had better news. Silver lining is that I felt a lot of gratitude reading the post on Wednesday's chat from the person who is worried about people in homes with DV. I'm not exactly working from home in the traditional sense, but, boy, does it feel like work.

Sorry, before I hit submit, also forgot to mention that I had talked to both the national hotline, as well as a local resource associated with my SO. Their advice in terms of safe exit plans is all but impossible now that we are both cooped up together 24/7, except for the random times he choses to leave without telling me when he'll return. That, plus the fact that my SO's former sources of employment have protected him from any and all real legal and financial consequences for the last four decades complicates things further. Again, I'm sorry to be such a downer, but I appreciate your forum (and, in particular, your taking my initial question) more than you can know.

Please promise me you'll do this: In the spaces in between, work yourself toward those safe exit plans. Make a mental list of what you'll need, then get as creative as your mind will permit (go to the comments section here! crowdsource it) in getting these things. Set yourself up so that when you see an opening, you can get out on a moment's notice. Please.

Hoping you'll post this as a PSA: Animal shelters are in desperate need of fosters now. They're closed to the public and volunteers, so no adoptions and no volunteers to provide walks and enrichment. And there are people dumping their animals at the shelter because of an incorrect belief that they carry the Corona virus. Fostering is something concrete you can do to help and it's good for your mental health as well. Contact your local animal shelter or rescue group.

At least the OP can say, "Mom, her name is Jenny. Jenny is coming to dinner."

How does one know that websites like this are authentic and do what they say they will. What percentage does the website owner get? There are so many scams out there, especially in this time of crisis.

I happen to know Prince of Petworth has been around for a long time. I would think this works only on a neighborhood level--where you know the businesses and the names firsthand. 

I went to my Tai Chi class today after no classes for the last 2 weeks. We met outside and kept our distances. It was so wonderful to see my teacher and classmates and to go through the physical and mental work together! So much better than doing it alone at home which I had been doing and will keep doing. If you can teach your yoga outside, I'm sure your students would be very grateful!

And seeing people is okay, too, as long as you keep the distance. Anyone with a fire pit? You can space yourselves appropriately and enjoy the company.

Why is it bothering her that her husband is in the other room working and not interacting with the family? I think the answer to that question would be very interesting. I have noticed that not being included/having some part of the group in another area seems to really bother some people.

Besides, ice cream is not food, it's medicine.

True, but I gave it up to keep other "medicines" on the menu. We do what works. 

I feel your pain. I once did a test to see how long my husband would go without asking me how my day went, how my work was going, etc. I lost track somewhere around eight weeks. I have adjusted my expectations of him accordingly.

Yikes.

Singer / Songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard defines a "good day" as one where he keeps his gratitude higher than his expectations.

Now that you're a full time teacher, in addition to your normal job, I think it's okay to ask your spouse to use a little vacation time each week to pitch in.

Can you also talk to him about the expectations his office has for how productive he will/can be while teleworking with kids at home? My office director sent us a priority list as an acknowledgement that work will not continue seamlessly as if nothing has happened. There was also relaxation of the 'core hours' rule so as long as you put in your X hours a day it didn't have to fit it in a neat 9-5 box.

I had planned to take a coronavirus induced hiatus from dating apps, but I think the uncertainty and the distancing has led to a lot of people still wanting to connect. A guy and I decided to be responsible and get creative and we're having a video chat dinner date tonight!

Great. And don't forget to let all of us know how it went. 

We'll be right. here.

If talking to myself is normal, then yes.

Do you answer? 

This reminds me, I have to go tell my dogs they got more handsome while I was chatting.

Full time telework is odd. I am glad not to be dealing with a long car commute (not in the district but another largish city) but not having access to things I normally have access to does prevent me getting some things (workwise) done. I feel like a hermit.

Handwashing going well. That's it.

I've given up drinking this month. Oops - wrong punctuation I've given up. Drinking this month.

I'm finding it really weird when I'm watching TV and the people on TV aren't social distancing.

For invalids, this is life as usual. I hope that as a result of the current situation, the temporarily able-bodied will develop empathy for our situation.

Nope. The constant push-pull of cycling between feeling like I am under-reacting to over-reacting is tiring. That's how I feel working in healthcare. Civilians feeling the same?

No. I yelled at Brian Sansoni (American Cleaning Institute) on his chat yesterday (they didn't print it, fortunately. I guess). He had such wonderful advice: use disinfecting wipes to wipe down surfaces; use a disinfecting spray bottle with paper towels; prepare a bleach solution; use 70% alcohol. Why not just tell us to clean with unicorn snot? There is no disinfecting wipes, disinfecting spray, bleach, paper towels or alcohol at any of the stores. How are we supposed to keep safe when all of the expert advice relies on products we can't get? I'll take bets on when the stores will run out of soap to even wash our hands.

There it is--can't add anything to "unicorn snot."

-Now- going to compliment the dogs. Bye for real.

Don't recognize that one.

family of origin

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.
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