Carolyn Hax Live: These are not normal times

Apr 22, 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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Sorry for the delay--screen freeze.

 

My roommate is a concert pianist who was furloughed because of the coronavirus. I am working from home. She spends 8+ hours a day practicing even though she's not going to be playing in the orchestra for the foreseeable future. I have asked her not to play while I'm working, which she respects, but then she'll start practicing after 5 PM until I go to bed. I know she's trying to compromise, but the constant piano music in the evening is grating on me. My question is, is it reasonable for her to keep practicing when she's furloughed, or am I being unreasonable to expect this (I think I know the answer to this, but still)? What can I do to mitigate the situation and be less irritated at her? Thanks in advance.

!!!

This is her art and her livelihood. Furlough has nothing to do with that. She needs to practice to be ready the moment work becomes available again.

I think her moving her practice time to after 5 pm was already gracious on her part.

I suggest you get noise canceling headphones so she can play while you work, assuming there's no audio portion to what you do, like calls or Zooms. (And if there are, then you can maybe arrange a schedule or have her pause as needed.)

Three years ago I wrote in a stressed out NICU grad mom feeling isolated and overwhelmed. You set up a Hax Philes for advice and it was greatly appreciated. So here is my returning the favor. When in the NICU, a nurse said in passing that most people can handle up to 5-6 weeks of a huge shift in one's life, but after that a lot of people snap for a few days. As most of us enter the 5-6 week phase, be gentle with yourself and with others. And it will be okay in the end even if the end is far away.

This is so thoughtful, thank you. Sounds right, too. 

Hi Carolyn! Thank you for being here a little extra for us. I was hoping you could help me to avoid blowing my stack at my mom. I am in my mid-20s and I live in a different state from my genuinely wonderful mother, so phone calls and emails are the typical way we communicate. I would say we are close. My partner and I have finally made the decision to adopt a dog because we have wanted one forever and I'm home from work now and would have ample time to dedicate to training, care, etc. (I am a teacher, so I won't be back to work in a typical sense until September). My partner and I are incredibly responsible people who always overthink big decisions like this. We have both wanted to get a dog for the enter 6 years of our relationship, but chose to wait until conditions were perfect. We have researched our chosen breed to death. We have spent untold hours discussing every concern we have and how we will work through challenges related to puppy-rearing. We have stable jobs and a modest sized home with a yard. Our neighborhood has sidewalks perfect for walks and we live near several pet-friendly parks. We both grew up with dogs. We understand the costs and have budgeted. We are ready. When I asked my mom what kind of dog food she uses for her puppy (she has put a lot of time and effort into selecting the highest quality food for her dogs), her response really upset me. She did give me the brand name, but the bulk of the multi-paragraph email was just a list of what supplies and veterinary care a dog needs, peppered with phrases like "I don't want to burst your bubble, but..." and "I don't mean to upset you, but..." and "this concerns me." I just felt so irritated and talked-down-to that her first thought was that I had somehow not considered the extremely basic costs of pet-ownership! I need help. I don't want to send her a response that justifies every single reason why I am ready to have a dog (as I have done here) because I don't want to encourage her to argue with me about my decisions. On the other hand, I don't want to thank her for her condescending email and encourage further nonsense. Do I let her know that I found this email to be upsetting? Give her a non-committal "thanks" and send along photos of my dog later? Help!

Whew.

This--"a response that justifies every single reason why I am ready to ___"--is never the answer in an emotional transaction. Or, in the interest of butt-coverage, almost never the answer. You are not reporting to anybody. *We* didn't even need all the details.

Also a nonstarter? Stack-blowing. The crux of this whole thing is being an adult, expecting your mother to treat you as an adult, and getting an email from her that makes a highly detailed case that she still views you as a child who needs her to explain everything. And stack-blowing is not an adult response.

I know you know this to the extent that you started out by saying you *don't*  want to do said unstacking, but any time you feel that outcome is possible, that's your cue to ask yourself, what is it I am not dealing with so consistently that it would put me this close to a tantrum?

So. That thing here is talking to your mom (or anyone) in a calm, level way about difficult things. Right? It's not just this.

It's tough for everyone, it takes practice, it's a learned skill--but it's time.

You posted this early so you've had a day or so to cool off since the email. That's step 1--don't try to do it when your anger is fresh (unless you have to). Step 2, figure out the one thing you most want to get across. Go over it in your mind. If it's more than a couple of sentences, then go back and pare it down. Overtalking is point-undermining. In this case, you might get it down to: "Mom, I'm 25. I asked you what brand of dog food you buy."

Step 3, communicate this to her calmly. 

Note my wording leaves the rest blank for her to fill in. This can be effective on two levels: first, no over-explaining; second, a conclusion she has to draw will stick with her longer than one you draw for her.

If you have to connect the dots for her, then so be it.

But make sure it's part of a bigger conversation, though, if you get to this point (speaking somehow, vs in writing). "Mom. I love you. I know you mean well. But I asked you for information as an adult and you responded with instructions for a child. When you do that, I feel frustrated--then guilty for that because you're trying to help."

When you have a calm tone, kind words, a clear point, and firm focus, then you've done your part. If the person you're talking to --again, Mom or anyone else--receives your message badly, then step back: "Let's drop this for now. I'll talk to you soon." Exit.

 

BTW, besides taking forever with this, I also do see the irony that my answer could have been, "Yes, let her know that you found this email to be upsetting," but instead I gave you a mom-style "I know this is difficult!" monument to patronizing over-explanation. You're welcome. 

I just wanted to provide a cautionary update for anyone else who is in a DV situation right now. The worse did not happen (since I am still alive to type this), but the last two weeks has involved physical violence, a 911 call by my now-ex (who talked himself into a criminal summons against him by the State of [X]), a retaliatory protection order he filed against me, and me fleeing quickly Saturday to one of the few hotels I could reach that is still open (luckily, at a highly discounted rate, though that is offset by spending on other things, like food delivery). Now I'm in an Airbnb, but situation is still a 24-hours at a time thing. So, my advice to your readers—if you are in an escalating situation, get out as early as possible. You can’t change someone else’s mental illness (particularly PTSD and paranoia systems evincing bipolar disorder or schizophrenia), substance abuse, or behavior. You can’t count on 911 to keep you physically safe either between the time of the call and when they arrive or after they have arrived. And you can’t predict how bad it can get until you are living it. I’m trying to stay sane, even though it’s very tough. I’ve been quite isolated for the last year, and I’m trying to reestablish connections. Ironically, Zoom is probably better than trying to meet people in person would have been. At least I now know that I am physically safe, have reliable access to the internet (which he would periodically cut off for a variety of reasons, most of which had to do with his paranoia), and have some time to develop a plan to go forward. I have a legal background that allowed me to access legal and other social service resources. I can't even imagine what I'd be doing if I didn't have those resources. Looking back, I'm amazed at how many red flags I missed, even with DV training. But now I just need to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Big life planning comes later.

I am SO glad you're safe, and grateful for the update.

Prior posts are here LINK and here LINK.

I am pregnant, due in 3-4 weeks, and have a toddler at home. My mom was going to stay with my daughter when we went to the hospital. When Covid stay-at-home orders came out in our state, I made it clear that we wanted those followed to a T (the baby and I are immunosuppressed, so even greater risk). She has repeatedly called me attempting to find ways to attend an Easter party (long conversation, but she didn't go eventually) or whatnot. She let me know last weekend that she did get together with her boyfriend, but it was "okay" because they both wore masks and it was a short get-together. I was livid, as this was exactly against what I told her when we talked about Easter. I told her she could not watch our daughter, and I asked my dad to take care of her instead. Am I being too unreasonable in this? She is calling this a punishment, that I am too strict, etc. She has a history of boundary-pushing, so I can't tell if I'm over-reacting to the cumulative frustration, or just this instance.

You are being utterly reasonable, which is a healthy corrective to the part that actually was unreasonable: expecting your mom to stop being a boundary-pusher and actually adhere to the requirements of social distancing. She is who she is.

Her calling this "punishment" lays bare exactly why she can't be your daughter's caregiver. This has nothing to do with anyone's emotions or her relationship with you. A virus gives zero ****s how anyone feels about anyone else. Grasping this fact is the baseline requirement of a trustworthy caregiver.

Congratulations on finding your roar when you really needed it. And big best wishes with the new little person.

I've got $$$ Bose noise-cancelling headphones (because my neighbors stink) and they won't completely block the piano playing--but they will dull it. They work even better if you wear earplugs under them. THAT SAID, please send your professional pianist over here! I can't think of anything more relaxing in this stressful time.

Two weeks ago my husband's 33 year old best friend died from Covid. We've been coping best we can, and yesterday attended a "funeral' of sorts with his widow, just us in a room with our friend in a coffin, then drove to the crematory. We all wore masks and gloves and stayed the appropriate distance apart. I am 10 weeks pregnant and in advance of attending I had spoken to my 3 best friends about my sadness over this extremely unexpected loss, my fears/anxiety surrounding attending the "funeral" and overall the hard time i've been having dealing with grief, work, our 3 year old, staying inside, exhaustion, etc. My friends are at various stages of life (married, not married, no kids, etc.) but I was really surprised yesterday when not one of these three reached out about the funeral or to say they were thinking of me. I've really prided myself in checking in with my friends when they are going through hard times, no matter how busy I am or what I have on my plate- I always think of my friends and ask how they are doing. I'm so sad to think that they were not thinking of me. None of them are working and while having a hard time during this time, they are not overwhelmed with things to do. I wanted to write them a message and say what the hell? You guys hurt my feelings! But the other part of me is still so offended that I just want to sit in my own unhappiness for a few days. What should I do? How can I feel better about this?

Wow that's horrifying. 33. I am so sorry.

Don't write a message, not yet. With this just happening only yesterday, you have a lot of raw grief to get through. It is totally normal for rage and anguish over the thing you can't control to redirect itself subconsciously to something you can control. So, rage and grief over a friend who died becomes rage and grief at friends who let you down.

Yes, they did let you down, tremendously. I'm not suggesting otherwise--but instead noting that your feelings about their failure might be out of proportion to the failure itself due to how overwhelming grief can be.

As for the way they let you down, you do say they're not busy--but what they can be is in the weird daylight-twilight of not knowing what day they're in. Is it possible they didn't know yesterday was the day, or could have lost track of it in the course of the two weeks since your friend's death?

Once you've sorted this out, then, yes, do let your friends know you're upset. Pick the one you're closest to, though, and say it one-on-one. Again, talking vs. writing, if feasible. "I am wrecked about yesterday. The funeral was awful. And on top of that, no one called me or checked in. I am really sad about that." If friends did forget/lose track, then they'll likely do whatever they can to see you're made whole.

It also might be they're not as supportive as you thought, but I hope it won't come to that. Most people with a shred of decency will apologize themselves inside out for not being there when you needed them.

Again, I am so sorry for your loss.

I began playing piano as an adult and am now at an early intermediate level. So, not that great. I try to practice about 45 minutes a day. My next door neighbor has sent two emails asking me not to practice because it bothers her husband who is working at home and my “bad” piano playing is making him crazy. I said I need to practice for my own well-being but changed my practice time to 8 pm, so as not to interfere with the workday. The neighbor is still unhappy. Am I the bad guy?

No. If you didn't like their taste in music, would they be okay with your insisting they never play anything in their home? Ever?

You have a right to reasonable noise-making. Forty-five minutes, and you've been quite accommodating with the time. I say you be as kind as possible and say you're happy to switch the time again if they'd like.

I think that was exactly what I needed to learn today.

Thank you. I've had so much to deal with in 2020, and right now I feel like I'm losing my mind and will be forever alone. Going to reach out to some friends today.

Yes - this is a letdown, yet I hope you can forgive your friends while telling them you were hurt. In the best of times I think people find it difficult to remember timing for things like this, let alone this crazy time. The only reason I do relatively well remembering to check in with something like this is by immediately making a reminder.

My 30 yr old son is mentally ill, and refuses all help. If I hadn't gotten him his own apartment, he'd be homeless. He has some money from an inheritance, but I don't know how much. A couple months ago, before the pandemic restrictions, I cut off his water, and he did put it in his own name. I was planning to do the same with his gas and electric bills, hoping that when he runs out of money he'll be more likely to seek help. But with all the stress of the pandemic, I'm uncertain that now is the time to do that. What do you think?

I think, do *you* have help? Being the family member of someone with mental illness is a position with particular challenges, and there are experts at NAMI who can help you with these. www.nami.org

5 min--got a call a need to take.

Maybe a reflection of being cooped up in the apartment with one other person, and having all of our vacations and other exciting plans cancelled (very rude, by the way, Coronavirus) - I am feeling tremendous wanderlust. I want to live abroad, I want to learn French, I want to be an artist, I want to spend tons of time outdoors in the sun. I’ve lived an enjoyable, yet measured and cautious, life in my 28 years. Saved and planned and made practical decisions. Coronavirus makes it feel moot - like living in the moment is the only way to live. The saving and planning and tedium seems silly when you only have one life and it’s a very finite amount of time. Is this temporary corona induced insanity or is this a glimmer of the truth that I’ve been to preoccupied to see?

Seems like it's a blast of truth, and a good one. You're 28 and you've saved up. When this is over, go for ... whatever "it" you can make happen. You have time to think through and then start to plan at least some of it, and you can start learning French this afternoon. 

What a perfect age for this epiphany to hit, no? 

I saw my letter yesterday and skimmed the comments. Other than a determination to vilify my misguided but loving mother-in-law, many people wanted an update. My mother-in-law did not end up buying the condo. We all: me, my husband, our daughter, my father-in-law, staged an intervention of sorts and convinced her that traveling back and forth between home and Rhode Island several times a month was simply not feasible or healthy - for her or our daughter. Our daughter settled in and was doing well at her university but is of course home with us now for the foreseeable future. We also encouraged our son to take up riding and his grandmother teaching him that skill has been good for both of them. Gave her a new focus and got him away from the video games, so win-win. Thanks for the advice and all you do.

You're welcome, and thanks for the update. What a great development with your son and his grandma.

My husband allows his 16-year-old son's girlfriend to spend the night at our house once or twice a week. She is a polite and pleasant kid, and under normal circumstances the only real problem I have with it is an inherent double standard (my husband would NEVER have allowed his older daughter to let boyfriends sleep over). But it is really bothering me that this seems to undermine all our family's efforts toward social distancing. The girlfriend's family insists that they are staying home other than "essential" trips out, which is exactly what we're doing, but I have learned that "essential" takes on different meanings in different households. My husband thinks we should just continue allowing it and that it's no different than if the girlfriend were legally part of our household. Mostly, though, he doesn't want to upset his son. How can we navigate this?

Seems to me you're not going to find peace until you say what you're really thinking--that his rationale about the extended household is a not-convincing cover for two lapses of principle: that he's saying yes to a son where he'd have said no for a daughter, and that his real motivation is an unwillingness to stand up to his son.

This is tough stuff and probably best not delivered the way I just wrote it, but I think it's worth airing (in a more politic form if possible) because it's denting your respect for him. Accordingly, I think you're relationship will come out of this phase of your lives better if he's adult enough to say yes, he's applying a double standard, and no, he doesn't have it in him to fight this battle and that's why he's allowing it. Hard things to say out loud, but human and important.

I understand you were let down and I'm sorry for your loss. These may be your best friends and you may not think they have that much to deal with but, you never know. Even just existing in this crazy time may be overwhelming to your fiends and they may be struggling with having the mental capacity to take care of themselves, much less others. There may be other things going on that they haven't shared with you yet. I understand you are hurt but, you never know what is going on with others. It is okay to share your feelings of hurt but, be careful how you do it, sometimes people don't feel comfortable sharing they are having a hard time existing or comfortable sharing that they are worried about a number of people in their lives. In this strange time, recognizing the new strain on everyone's metal capacity explains why folks can't be there how we would normally hope.

After another rotten night of tossing and turning, I woke up to a wonderful email in my work inbox. Direct Relief sent out an update of its activities to supporters (of which the org for whom I work is one). It included: "...Direct Relief received and is immediately distributing over 3.5 million units of PPE, established an initial $25 Million COVID-19 Fund for Community Health (to help US FQHCs and Free Clinics facing challenges), and shipped its ICU Rx Modules (which was endorsed by the Society of Critical Care Medicine) to over 200 hospitals across the US and overseas." And my goodness, have you read about/donated to Feed the Fight (feedthefight.org)? Or Jose Andres' latest fabulousness (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jose-andres-chef-feeding-coronavirus-impact-60-minutes-2020-04-19/)?

Fabulousness is the word, isn't it, thanks.

I'm nearly 60, and my mom STILL does this to me! Are you wearing a mask when you go outside? Don't get takeout! You don't still have the cleaning lady come, do you? Why didn't you buy flour sooner? Etc., etc., etc. I've learned to not explain my decisions; I don't need to justify things to her, and it just provides ammunition for further unwanted discussion. I also make sure I don't do this to my kids!

I am great at this for obvious, immediate connections, but I'm not really good at extrapolating. I personally would have reached out to your friend's spouse/parents/etc., but I might not think to check in on his friends, even if they were close to me. This could be especially true if your friends haven't been around a lot of loss/death and don't have experience navigating these tough, tough situations.

I was recenty broken up with by text, by someone who I am very much in love with. This person had been leading me to believe that they were as well, and was outright discussing a future with me and our relationship. He says out of the blue that he thinks we should be friends going forward and hopes I can understand. What do I do with this? I'm so sick over this that I haven't been able to respond yet at all. How do you respond? And how could someone who cares about you disrespect you so much as to break up by text? Does he really think I could just be his friend? Is there any chance there will be a relatoinship with them again? I feel ike I have been hit by a truck that just drove off.

Ugh ugh ugh. That sucks. 

He did you a favor, but it still sucks now.

The favor being: that he put on FULL and incontrovertible display for you that he is not who you thought he was, that he's actually an immature person who is not ready to be anyone's anything. (Yet--he might ripen into something better. Someday. Some not-in-the-near-future day, because he has a lot of work to do.) 

Here's what I'm seeing, just quickly, which you can take or leave as applicable. First, the text. This is not a person who has learned the respectful art of the difficult conversation. (See above.) We can stop right there if we want.

Second, the "leading me to believe." Without details, just in general, I tend to see this not as a sin of cruelty but instead, also, of immaturity. A lot of people who aren't sure what they feel about someone will go all in, kind of as a way of finding out whether this is the right person for them. Where the immaturity comes in is with the disregard for/obliviousness to the message it sends the other person--so, he's got some doubts, but likes you a lot, so he thinks, maybe if he really commits then that'll push the relationship over the top ... but then it ... doesn't. So he tells you it's not working and breaks up with you, and to him it's a logical next step but to you it's, wha? A complete 180. Whereas a more mature and aware person would proceed with more caution and more toward 360 vision. 

Third, the other stuff matters not at all right now, whether you could be friends or get together again or whatever. That's all a "no" unless and until organically it becomes a yes.

This is the time for feeling sad and angry, until it passes enough for you to start mentally picking apart what happened, after which point you will be ready to think about what comes next. One thing at a time. During which I hope you are able to keep in mind that no matter how it seemed, he wasn't the guy.

 

Mom of a smart, competent, reasonable 26-year-old here. I have much more experience with mothering someone younger than my son, because he's only now 26 and was younger all the rest of the time I've known him! So sometimes I slip up and give him WAY more info than he needs. It's just anxiety on my part, or over-thinking, or just forgetting that doh! He's got this! I let him know that yeah, sorry, I just did this overexplaining thing and that it's ME, not him, and ask for -- and hope! -- he will forgive me for the times I have done, do, will do this in the future. Parenting is hard, and weird sometimes, and old patterns/habits sometimes come up. It says nothing about how I feel about my son's competence, and much more about years of programming/habits developed while parenting a younger someone.

I live in a rural California county with only a handful of Covid19 cases so far. All my neighbors, most of them elderly, are sheltering quietly at home. Last week, a non-local neighbor arrived to stay at her second home in our neighborhood. She is from the California county with the very first Covid cases -- and now they have more than a thousand positive cases, thousands more asymptomatic cases, and many deaths. This neighbor immediately had her local daughter's family join her at the house. Then her other grown child rolled in from Coronavirus County with her whole family. !!! Our hospital here has two ICU units. I am angry about this -- I have been sheltering at home for six weeks, and my own kids and grandkids wave at me from the sidewalk. I CAN keep away from my neighbor, I realize. So, my questions are: Should I say anything to her about this behavior? Should I tell our public health folks -- who so far have done such a good job of contact tracing and keeping our local numbers low -- that this family is ignoring social distancing protocols? Thanks from an old gal in the boondocks.

Yes, tell the public health people. This is useful information for them. 

I'm sorry. I feel your fury. 

Did anyone else see some similar personality traits between mom and daughter in the daughter's post? Going through all the details, considering all the logistics and angles in such minute detail? Seems like the mom's reaction is similar to what her daughter has done - and that's also a way to show interest in someone's news. If the mom isn't normally a downer, then I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Interesting take. 

If I were in OP's place it would still drive me crazy and I'd still say something, but this is a sympathetic way of thinking--not to mention useful if there's a next generation I don't want to annoy someday. 

A friend of mine just posted that he's pretty sure he has C19. While I'm concerned for his well-being, I can't get past "WHAT WERE YOU DOING THAT WOULD HAVE PUT YOU IN CONTACT WITH SOMEONE WHEN YOU ARE NOT ESSENTIAL AND IN A SHELTER-IN-PLACE STATE????!!!" I haven't said anything to him just yet becuase he's getting legitimate health-related advice (get tested, leg cramps could be clots--talk to your PCP, etc.) and that's what's important. But I'm still rather gobsmacked by his disregard for himself and anyone else he may have come in contact with. What is the right thing to do? The damage is already done--at least to himself. *arrgh* I saw a meme on FB earlier: "You can't fix stupid. Looks like you can't quarantine it either."

He could have been buying food. Back off, please. Even mentally. 

Declaring that everyone who gets sick falls in one of two categories, essential/hero or stupid, is not only corrosive, it's wrong. This is a highly contagious illness.

Shaming will only silence people, when what your friend did--warning friends and possible recent contacts--is a helpful, potentially lifesaving thing you do not want to suppress.

Hi Carolyn, I am typically an optimistic, happy, hard working, kind, patient individual. I’ve worked from home for years as a consultant My healthcare clients have drastically cut my hours and I feel anxious about my financial livelihood and Overall health. I talk with a therapist monthly and understand how important routine, movement, and daily habits are for my mental and physical health. Any tips on shaking this Coronavirus funk? My lack of motivation is so out of character, and I’m sick of my own bad attitude. Thanks, Coronavirus stole my motivation

Please don't be so tough on yourself. These are not! normal! times! So insisting that you function as normal is actually an unfair expectation.

Since you have found comfort and good health in a routine, maybe approach this still as a routine, but adapt it to where you are now. You're not up to your usual slate of "daily habits," but you are up for ... one thing. Every day, give yourself one thing you want to do. And go easy on what that is--one bit of exercise, one 30 min block of worst-case financial planning (gathering phone numbers, for example, if you need to push back payments on something), one call or letter to someone you care about. Whatever it is, limit yourself to the one thing, unless and until you're feeling confident enough and ready for more. It really really is okay to acknowledge you're responding to something in a new way, and may need a new approach.

Also--if you start to think this is more than just a bad attitude, and your health is starting to slip, then please let your therapist know ASAP.

Thank you. He had told me he loved me, and it all leaves me feeling crazy, but clearly he wasn't being honest. I guess the kind, caring person that I feel in love with just didn't exist. My feelings of humiliation right now are almost as strong as the heartbreak.

Again, he might not have been honest with himself--which would have made it hard, if not impossible, for you to read him accurately. He could have been kind and caring but (still) fundamentally clueless enough about himself to get in over his head.

It's totally normal to feel humiliated, but that's a misunderstanding in itself, I think. Loving people is brave, because we have to make ourselves vulnerable. Being vulnerable is a sign of emotional strength, not weakness, because it shows you trust yourself to handle it if you get hurt. Being brave that way is nothing to be ashamed of. 

 

The second home woman has every right to move into her house. And did her kids come for a visit or have they moved in to? That makes a difference. You say you can stay away from her. Then, do that.

Actually ... in some places people are being asked not to go to their vacation homes for exactly this reason: bringing risk from hard-hit areas to (often) low-population resort areas that don't have the medical capacity for a wave of covid patients, or stocked essential goods for just a sudden off-season population spike. Nantucket/Martha's Vineyard officials were begging summer residents to stay away. Big problem in Michigan, too, I think, and Outer Banks. Not sure if any states actually addressed the "every right" issue with policy, but it's a clear don't as far as personal responsibility. 

I'm joining late, so someone may already have mentioned that electric pianos are fairly cheap and they come with headphone plugs. So a compromise might be to go in together and buy one for her to use while you are working. We bought an electronic piano on Amazon a couple of years ago for about $250. It is not a concert piano, but it has live keys and might allow her to play on it for a bit... exercises at least. Just a thought, $150 a piece or so. But she does have to practice.

Thank you for your answer to this person. Stigmatizing people with an illness is the very worst thing, from a public health perspective. It discourages testing, treatment adherence, everything. Look at HIV, for example. This could be anxiety talking, but I hope the OP reads up a bit on Stigma and public health.

Thanks, this is key.

There's also the bigger issue of a finger-pointing culture which I wish would just die. If you're sick, then it's your fault for being irresponsible about distancing. If you're poor, then it's your fault for being lazy or choosing the wrong line of work. If your kids screw up, then you're a bad parent. If you're lonely, then you must not treat people right.

Not only is this a fundamental breakdown of compassion, it's also rooted in magical thinking--that if you just do all the right things, then it will all be alright. That's not how life works! We can do some things to help ourselves, protect ourselves, advance ourselves--but lighting still strikes when it wants to. 

It's a tempting emotional habit to adopt, of seeing misfortune and then finding ways to tell ourselves why that couldn't possibly happen to us. We'd be warmer people and have a better-functioning society, though, if we could look at misfortune and immediately connect to how that *could* happen to us. That's how a society learns to act collectively toward a common good, instead of hoarding and yelling.

My boyfriend has the OPPOSITE social distancing problem: overkill. He has had a sore tooth for weeks. The infection has spread to his eye and made his breath stink, which means it’s bad. His dentist’s solution is a Z-Pak. His office is closed until May 14. My dentist is open because abscess spreading to eye is bad. He still won’t go. I get not going for a cosmetic procedure but he needs to not die of sepsis. Shouldn’t he find another dentist?

Yes, and if he's so worried about social distancing, then tell him the dentist is the way not to end up in an overwhelmed hospital, which is exactly the reason we're dong this.  Yikes.

The LW said above: "Other than a determination to vilify my misguided but loving mother-in-law, many people wanted an update." Unfair characterization, imho, of the comments yesterday. Glad to learn the problem was solved.

Yeah, I flinched at the projection there. Thanks.

My older brother got so tired of our mom's heartfelt "Be. Careful. !!" every time he left the house that our mutual farewell is now "Drive fast! Aim for trees!"

I'm sitting here laughing. That's brilliant.

A coworker and I were talking about how we seem so much more exhausted than we did prior to this situation. He said "it feels more like living at work, than working from home." Best explanation I've heard.

Yeah, feels right, thanks.

Plus the what-ifs and unknowns and dreads, and the grief for things lost--from enormous (loved ones) to tiny (little rituals out in the world)--and the anger as better-run countries open up again, means our emotions are running at some level *all the time,* draining our batteries. And most of us aren't sleeping well enough to compensate.

So your Mom is basically giving you advice, instead of responding enthusiastically to your news. I can't change your Mom, but I will pass along the advice I gave my teenage daughters as they responded to some advice from their mother or me with eye-rolling or worse. If someone gives you advice, of really any sort, simply smile and say "Thank you for your advice. I will take it into consideration." Works for almost all situations.

Yes, but--a clear statement for inner-circle loved ones that this is a problem and please stop? That's a gift. Brushing it off is a great skill to have for when it's not enough of a problem to be an intimacy-buster. And yes, anything beats eye rolling, 

The time a classical pianist spends on an electronic piano with headphones is better spent taking out the garbage or vacuuming. It's like asking a financial analyst to use a 1982 TRS-80 computer instead of their 2019 laptop. There is no comparison for a classical musician to the real thing in using an electronic version - the touch, sound subtlety of the wooden acoustic instrument is lost. That may not be the case for someone who plays a different kind of music. But not classical.

My son is an o.k.-good student, 15yo, high school freshman. Basic issues w/ motivation, executive function. I haven't seen a drop off of performance in the last month--if anything, he's keeping up a little better because I think teachers have eased up. But part of me just wants to say "screw it--we're in a pandemic." And then part of me wants to just keep at it. My husband seems to want to push, push, push for excellence. What's the right balance?

Please direct all parenting efforts (including efforts to back off) at the health outcome of the whole child, not at the report card.

This applies especially now, but it's applicable at all phases of life and history.

I just want to throw out there that it's entirely possible that he meant it when he said he loved you. People do break up with people they're in love with sometimes. There's a notion out there that as long as people love each other a relationship should always proceed, and that's just not always the case. I'm very sorry you're hurting. I hope taking the extra complication of "and he was lying" out of the picture makes your grief a bit easier.

Well said, thanks.

3:10, why am I still here?

(A: No concept of time.)

That's it for me today. Thanks everybody, and Yu especially, for being here. I'll see you Friday as usual. Meantime, good luck fighting off the 5-to-6-week funk.

In This Chat
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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