Carolyn Hax Live: 'This will pass'

Nov 13, 2020

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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So, anything new?

This is by no means a unique or weird question; I am sure others are going through the same thing. I live 1,700 miles away from my parents. I last saw them in January 2020. My partner and I planned to drive down and stay with them for Christmas, but with covid cases rising it doesn't look like this would be the best idea. The issue is that I feel SO guilty. I feel like a terrible daughter because my parents miss me so much. It has been really hard on my mom to not see me. I also see a lot of my friends continue to travel and make it work to see their families, but I feel like I can't, and this makes me feel even more guilty. The drive is a multi-day trip, and we don't want to fly, also we are coming from a major metro area so I worry about bringing something to my parents. My parents would never push or guilt trip me but I still just feel awful that I might have to cancel yet another visit. I really feel like a terrible/selfish daughter. Do you have some advice or wise words for me?

I wish I did. There is just no verbal remedy for how much this sucks.

You are doing the right thing, and you have nothing to feel guilty about.

Plenty to feel *bad* about, like any of us who have not been able to visit, see, hug, so many people we love, and do so many of the things that give our daily lives shape and purpose.

But, guilty? No. Not a bit. You're one of the good guys. Hang in there.

It's a bit early for the holiday Hootenanny, but I recently learned that a big online retailer that remains nameless sells screaming goat figurines for $9. I immediately thought of you, Carolyn.

I have nothing left to accomplish. Thank you.

I'm sure the COVID answer is "Just cancel with no regrets" but I remembered a problem that came up before and I wanted to know what the etiquette or whatever is for when things return to "normal" (whether or not "normal" is good, since normal got us here). My spouse and I are Not Poor, although my spouse is much more frugal than I am in general. A friend of ours enjoys upscale dining, and we were invited to a get together at a fairly expensive restaurant for another friend's birthday. We looked at the menu before deciding, and the cheapest non-salad, non-appetizer plate was 2.5 times what we normally spend to dine out, so my spouse wanted to decline. Fancy Friend came back to us offering to cover our meals, and "you can pay me back later." I forget exactly how we answered, but the gist is it wasn't a matter of affording the meal, the meal was too expensive for the expected enjoyment, so we declined. As far as I'm aware, this hasn't negatively impacted our friendships, and they did invite us out to less expensive places after Fancy Friend went through some money issues and had to cut back, but I have started wondering if we shouldn't have gone anyway and either not eaten or shared a plate. Would that have been a better decision? I don't know if my spouse would have been open to that, or if it's something I should press in the future. I was and am undecided myself on whether we should have gone.

Before I show how I don't support your decision, I'm going to show how I support your decision: You're right to set your priorities, and you're right to make your decisions by measuring them against your priorities to see whether things are worthwhile. It's unimpeachable, really.

But when I read about turning down time with friends because you could afford the food but don't want to, or accepting the invitation but only if you can split an appetizer salad six ways, I am screaming a little inside. 

What are you saving your money *for*? What is the destination of this journey of hedonistic denial?

If you have something in mind and it makes sense to both of you, then, great. And if these dinners are happening regularly and the expense is just silly, great.

Anything short of that, though, is worth some rethinking. We are guaranteed no more days on earth than the one we're living right now. We are given pleasures in many forms but the bulk of them have something to do with our friendships and our senses. So it seems to me that building in some present-day pleasure with friends--a well-made, well-served entree, even--would and arguably should be part of even a frugal plan for living. (Presuming you can afford it, obv.) 

The way this can work is to block out the amount of money you need to pay to live, then the amount you want to save each month, then leave a little bit for luxuries--and I'd define luxury here as the freedom not to think for a second about how you're spending it. Call it the "I get to say yes" fund.

I might not have gone to all of this trouble if you had demonstrated unshakable faith in a zero-extravagance lifestyle, but you seem to (a) have doubts and (b) be hesitating to act on those doubts because of a partner whose faith apparently is unshakable. I won't delve into the red-flag possibilities here except to mention there are some ("my spouse wanted to decline"?), but I will say that you're looking at a lot of regrets if you don't start listening to that skeptical voice you have inside you. If you want to start saying yes to more things, then say so. If you want to start to enjoy the financial security you've achieved through your frugality, then say so. If you want to explore the idea of -not- moving in lockstep as a couple on this, then say so.


I’ve been dating a widower and I think he’s great, but what he’s gone through this past year has been so difficult. I don’t think I’ll ever measure up to his wife. I feel so bad for him. What do u do?

First, stop thinking in terms of "measuring up." You will never be as she was. She would never have been as you are. Be you. Done. Drop it.

Second, no doubt he's going through a terrible time, and no doubt that's hard for you to watch. Both of these are emotionally grueling experiences. And, *neither of them needs any fixing.* It's just something people need to go through. Presence and time--that's all you can bring to it.

Third, extrapolating here--it's also hard to gauge whether you're a fit with someone who is going through something difficult, so you're probably dealing with more doubts and questions than you would in a typical new relationship, which is full of doubts and questions as it is. All I can suggest there is that you apply extra time and patience to this issue, too--but still don't overrule your gut.

Dear Carolyn, My daughter gave birth to twins in 2019. For a period of about eight months after that, I moved in with her to help out, as her husband works five days a week in another city. He would leave on Sunday nights and return on Friday nights. During the time in between, it was my role to help my daughter in whatever way I could, and I tried to do it in a very respectful and loyal way. I swallowed any questions or comments I had that might have been seen as overstepping boundaries. I did not second-guess her parenting choices even when they differed from my own. And I made myself scarce every weekend so that they could enjoy family time together. I love my grandkids with all my heart, and it was my delight to do this. I cannot imagine I would have gotten to know them nearly as well if we hadn't spent this time together. Pandemic life has changed everything. My son in law no longer commutes to another city to work -- he teleworks from home and so does my daughter. I moved back into my own house in April and have not seen my grandkids in person since then. Not only that, my daughter gets annoyed and snappish when I ask more than the most basic questions about how things are going. I feel extremely pushed out. I am also experiencing this with my other set of grandchildren (who live farther away), but it's different because I never lived with them or had that sort of relationship. The grief is terrible and news of extended shutdowns is making it worse. Is this just the way it is? Am I being a burden by wanting to still be a part of my grandkids' world?

No, no, of course not.

And the grief is so understandable and real.

Where you become a burden is when you look to your daughter to help you with that grief--and when you interpret the horrific reality of having to stay away as being "pushed out." The thing pushing you out is a novel coronavirus, not a daughter. When you treat this as something she did to you, and as something she needs to fix for you, then you are guilty of what we now call, thanks to the brilliant Ring Theory, "dumping in." Any parent right now mostly shut in with small children is under extraordinary duress. Two parents who used to co-parent with extra help (huge extra help, you're Super-Grand), and some space in their schedules apart from each other for outside activities, and who now are teleworking from home together with these small kids with no light visible at the end of the tunnel, are, if I'm to believe what I see in my queue, barely getting through days without crying in a ball in the corner. They feel like they're drowning.

So I am not surprised that someone in your daughter's position has no emotional resources left to help you through your grief and anxiety. Again, both of which are real and valid and totally understandable. 

You just need to look elsewhere for someone to help you through them. And you need to stop looking at your daughter and her family as if they chose to box you out. Please--cut her and yourself a break, and see whether you have anyone in your outer circles of connection who will hear you out, understand, give you a virtual hug.

This will pass--not as soon as we hoped but well before our collective, innate human resilience runs out.


I'm 40 years old, have a master's degree and plenty of experience. Yet I have severe anxiety around job interviews, I think due to lack of confidence. The more I want the job, the more anxious I become. I'm like a 16 year old interviewing for her first job, sweating and stammering and rambling. I thought this would improve with age but it might actually be worse. I've been wallowing in self-hatred since I bombed an interview yesterday. I don't even know what my question is. I'm just so angry at myself.

Oh no, don't be angry at you. You aren't doing this to yourself on purpose--and you don't stay angry at people who do things to you that are clearly by accident, do you? 

You don't know what your question is, but presumably it's, "How do I fix this?"

I'll give you the start of an answer, too, by advising you to find a career coach who can work with you through some mock interviews, and maybe also a therapist,  if available, to explore the possibility of anxiety and treatments for--then I'm going to hand it over to readers, who have, I've noticed over the years, some serious professional/career/workplace chops. 

Good luck. What you're dealing with is not unusual and there are ways to fix it.

Wow! I looked this up an there's a whole industry regarding screaming goats. An my search also revealed the exploding cats card game "for the whole family". My holiday shopping is done.

Speaking of jobs, I want one as a lobbyist for the screaming-goat industry. (Typical D.C. revolving-door stuff, I know.)

Is there a hoot this year? I feel strange asking in the midst of so much crisis, but I actually feel like that’s why it would be helpful. Last year’s hoot was the day my father died after years of illness, and knowing I had the hoot to read at the end of the day was everything.

The Hoot will not be denied. Dec. 11 seems right, but I'll have to confirm.

I'm sorry about your dad.

My wife's family is spread across 4 states and everyone in agreement that we won't be getting together this year. We are leaning heavy into Video calls with 8 kids spread amongst 4 families. My family is being super cautious especially after my sister caught & recovered from COVID a few weeks ago. So no pressure there....not that is would matter since my wife just found out she is pregnant with our 3rd (haven't told families yet), so we are basically going into lockdown mode b/c of that.

Thanks for the backup, and, congrats!

Do you have any tips for dealing with the stress of moving? I just feel like buying the new house, selling the old house, packing up all my worldly possessions, etc., is stressing me out so much that I wish I could scrap the whole thing, even though I really think I'm going to be happier in my new place once I'm finally settled. How do people get through this?

One box at a time? See if it helps to give it one hour a day, no matter what, starting today. Look to shows/videos by professional organizers to get started--the bin method, where you mark huge containers with KEEP, TRASH, DONATE and go to town one closet at a time, is hard to start but quicker than you realize once you get rolling, and cathartic when you're done. So, it's probably as you expect--"I'm going to be happier in my new place once I'm finally settled"--but it can be true on a smaller scale, too, where you're a little bit happier with each day's effort. 

It sounds as if you could also, theoretically, scrap the whole thing, so don't rule that out if there are arguments for waiting. 

And, finally, you could also postpone the buying/selling part and start now on the packing-up part--since we're all supposed to be staying home as much as possible anyway, why not get the sorting and purging done now? Work on getting it ready to show. Whether you sell or not, it'll be more pleasant to live in it that way, and you'll be so much more nimble when it's time for the actual transactions.

Who knows. Maybe you'll like a cleaned-out version of your house enough to stay.

My husband's entire family lives within 15 miles from us and we aren't getting together during the holidays. Kids home from college and elderly grandparents...nope! The risks are just too high.

My family is basically in the same geographic area, and we're all doing dinners separately. My family is "podding" with my parents, so they will come over, but my sister's family and all my cousins are staying home. It just isn't worth it. We'll video chat during the day, and we will all survive (emotionally and physically). So, do not feel bad or guilty about not traveling and all the risk that entails. We're not even driving across town.

My husband and I live within an hour of: his three siblings and their kids and his parents (grandmother lives with parents too). We are all having separate Thanksgivings because, as my MIL put it 'it's one meal, we want to be there for many more meals'.

Connie Schultz wrote an excellent op-ed piece asking, begging actually, us all not to travel or gather in large groups. Maybe reading it will help OP remember what we are all staying home for.

I love her work. Here's the column.

I would feel the same way I'm sure. Perhaps framing it this way would help: this is sort of an extension of the situation where you stepped up to help and didn't criticize and kept your mouth shut. Now, you are being asked to step up in a way that is different but just as important to your daughter and her family. Can you find it in you give her support she needs now from a distance. She's figuring out: New Baby, New At Home Husband, all in the crucible of the pandemic. She needs your unwavering love and support just as much now, as hard as it is for you.

It's not "sort of"--it's exact. Great insight, thank you.

The meal isn't the enjoyment! Your FRIEND is. The whole point is the splurge a little so you can share something special together, as friends. If I were your friend, I'd be at least a little disappointed that you put more value on your pocketbook than that experience, knowing you could afford it if you wanted to.

Also, if you're going to decline because a meal is too expensive, don't tell the host the reason, because that puts them in an awkward spot. And especially don't tell them that "the meal was too expensive for the expected enjoyment" because, ouch.

Exactly. It's just sprinkling cheese on "You're not worth it."

I have the attention span of a fruit fly. I was going to post a whole uninterrupted batch of people's staying-home-for-TG stories, in an "I'm Spartacus" moment for the covid-chat ages ... and then I saw some other shiny thing and posted that. So: Spartacus, Take 2.

I get the guilt, my son is at an especially cute age and I hate that my family can't see him (thank goodness for video chats, though). But my Dad is a doctor and my sister works for the public health department and both have tons of stories about how family gatherings cause spread. Sacrificing the holidays this year makes it more likely you'll all be together for future years. Your friends who are traveling to see relatives may end up seriously regretting it.

Please continue to let your head tell your heart to be patient. It doesn't work all that well, but the prospect of the guilt you would feel if your parents got sick after your visit should be a strong reinforcement. Thank you for helping protect all of us.

"I'm sure others are going through the same thing" - YES! To the point that I could have written this same question, word-for-word, down to the 1,700 miles specification. We're going through this TOGETHER, and we have to make the sacrifices and make the right choices together, too. Otherwise we have... Wisconsin this week. My parents are going to be sad, I'm going to be sad, but we'll be alive.

We cancelled our Thanksgiving trip to see my parents. Yes, it stinks. But what would be even worse would be bringing the virus to them, having one of them die or suffer for a long period, and having to live with that the rest of my life. It's true that everything might be fine if we visit, but we don't know that for sure. At first they said "we'll be fine, we don't care about us..." It isn't ONLY about them, though. I really could not live with myself if my visit brought the virus to them. I certainly am not going to ask my daughter to live with something like that. My parents get it now and are understanding, if disappointed. It stinks that the only way to be proven right about the abundance of caution is to do the wrong thing and suffer the horrible consequences. I'd rather live with some disappointment and be made fun of for being too cautious than to live with the worst case scenario, which is actually happening around the country.

I'm in the same spot. And while Carolyn was right in her advice to the other poster that we're not guaranteed any more days on earth than the one we're living, I do keep reminding myself that I would rather miss one in-person holiday and have 20 more with my parents than to have one last in-person holiday. You are doing the right thing. It's ok to be angry at those who keep ruining it for the rest of us, but do not feel guilty that you're doing what is right.

To today's OP and everyone else wondering what to do about holiday travel. Don't. Just don't. Really. Look at the explosion of cases in virtually every single state. Today, Dr. Fauci said that families need to examine the risk/benefit. And, then he went on to describe what the risks are. Consider this, OP, how would you feel is, after your visit, one or both of your parents began showing symptoms, got tested, were positive, and then hospitalized. Because that CAN happen. Think about making the sacrifice of not seeing them this year, because you'll be able (most likely) to see them, safely, in 2021.

I live here in DC, my kids both live in California. I haven't seen one since January, the other since December 2018. We've all zoomed a few times, and there's email and phone calls. And that godawful three hour time difference. I miss them a lot, but there is zero chance I would get anywhere near an airport right now. And I don't want them flying here either. It's not that I don't trust the airlines, but you can't trust the other people who might by flying with you. I hate it terribly, but I'm willing to wait.

Better to feel awful about staying away than feel awful about giving your mom COVID. We'll all be able to see each other again in a few months, God willing; we've just got to grit this out a little longer.

Even if you went home for the holidays, you and your family would still be missing each other a few days later - and then you'd have the guilt and worry to sit right on top of that. Stay home!

Distantly giving thanks here, too. And rather than a traditional thanksgiving dinner--which my kids (9, 7) hate--we're each going to pick our favorite food and make it and if it means donuts, cookies, pie, and butternut squash bread pudding (don't judge me) then so be it.

My sister-in-law's mother lives a 15 minute WALK from them in NYC and she is probably not going to join them for the meal. The kids are attending socially distanced school one or more days a week just isn't safe enough. We will have people from MD, NJ, NY, MA and VT at least on the family zoom call and possibly more. I found a Cornish game hen in the back of the freezer, so I'm going to have a mini-Turkey to show off!

Any guilt you *might* feel now would be far outweighed by any guilt you *would* feel were you to take the chance and have it turn out badly, as it so easily could with these skyrocketing numbers.

If you're worrying about not traveling, think about ho concerned you'd be if you traveled. My mom is basically in our bubble so we see her regularly (although still masked and at a distance and outside, we're not willing to take that much of a risk, even when she's part of the bubble), and I spend the following 2 weeks scared that every cough or tickle in my throat is COVID and I've just killed her. Yes, it would be better for my mental health if we stayed away completely, but that would be worse for her mental health so we've compromised.

We're going to have to cancel too because of a stay at home order issued in our destination, and the risk being just too high. It's awful. I'm glad we're not the only ones going through it - that at least is comforting.

There you go--I'm sure there are still more posts from people staying home, but, yes, there are a lot of us, and we are doing this distantly with and completely for each other. 

Am I the only one who's happy about the pandemic killing this overblown, pressure-filled holiday? For the first time in 20 years, I don't have to drive more than an hour to drink wine and be ignored for 8 hours in a room full of people who think I have zero worth because I don't have children. This year is going to be joyous.

They haven't noticed how funny you are?! Their loss. 

In the year before my mother died, she spent thousands of dollars on these idiotic slot machine app games. My dad denied himself and my mother a lot of innocent pleasure by being such a cheap [person] until he retired and finally felt like he had "enough" to last them, and TBH, I suspect her spending thousands of dollars on a stupid app was revenge for all the appetizer splitting and the lawn tickets when we could have afford seats and packing three to a bed in a no-tell-motel when we could have been comfortable. She was exactly that kind of passive aggressive and petty [person]. But he let her spend what she wanted at the end, because she was going to die eight years into a retirement for which he had planned to be thirty years long. I don't have a point, I guess, except the money she wasted could have paid for a year of college for my daughter, and if spent twenty years ago could have been lovely family memories.

Blistering. And with a clear point--you sell yourself short.

I'm sorry. 

Even though you can afford an indulgence, doesn't mean that you have to. Why not just suggest a different restaurant? Spending too much on a meal can limit the ability to enjoy your friends.

Yes, of course, which is why I started with the part about their prerogative and the importance of spending in line with their values.

But just about any virtue can be taken too far, and if the person living by it is starting to feel regret at things missed--missed due to living in service of (apparently) arbitrary rules--then it's time to rethink. That's all, just rethink--not accept every $$ invitation from now on.

Funny thing is, this was a group birthday dinner, so (a) suggesting a different venue was probably not practical, or even appropriate; (b) those are often the most missable things, since the big expensive group restaurant birthday meal tends to come up often in my queue as an over-priced, under-fun endeavor; and (c) ordering a bowl of ice cubes and ordering the surf-and-turf and 10 cocktails usually ends up costing a guest the same, because things get split evenly no matter how foul someone legitimately cries. So it's kind of amusing to use this example as the stepping off point for the larger discussion of frugality.

Still--this OP is, to my eye, questioning the rigidity of their financial ethos, and entertaining the possibility their rules are in fact too rigid doesn't mean I'm promoting indulgence for indulgence's sake or that life is too short to save money. It's about balance. For those with the good fortune of being able to make these kinds of plans and decisions, setting aside a cushion for later while allowing something a little plush today, reflecting one's priorities, does not have to be a rash departure from a plate of lettuce.

I used to be almost as bad as you describe youself. I found interviews nothing short of pure agony. Until the time I went for an interview and realized that I didn't want to work for the person interviewing me. He was not pleasant and I would not have accepted any job offer. I felt a shift in the balance of power and I relaxed. Now I have internalized that I am interviewing the employer as much as they are interviewing me. I still worry about how I present myself, etc but the process is no longer excruciating.

I've hired several people who gave lousy interviews* if they were exceptionally strong candidates. For a good hiring manager and interview should only be one part of the equation. * Note that "lousy" here doesn't mean hostile or, clueless, or clearly lying about their qualifications -- just people who are nervous in the setting and don't come off as strong as they want. Bonus points if they could lead in with a self-aware introduction like "I know that I don't give the strongest interviews in the world, but I know that I'm a very strong employee who could help your organization by [specifics]."

This is the kind of anxiety that CBT is really good for. If therapy isn't an option for whatever reason I recommend The Anxiety and Worry Workbook by Clark and Beck. It's very workbook-y so it's good for using on your own.

Check out Alison Green's blog at She provides amazing advice on all aspects of work, but she especially has really good tips on interviews and applying for jobs.

This may not work for everyone, but my approach for years has been to always be applying for new jobs with the goal of having about one interview a quarter. I do this whether I'm actually looking or not and I do it so that I'm not out of practice when it matters. I'm also quite open with my supervisors that I'm doing this so they don't freak out when they find out I'm interviewing.

One possible source of help would be your local community college. Mine, Cleveland OH area, actually has a whole department for helping their students and community members. You can do practice interviews, help with your resume, network, aptitude testing. And the price is right, free if you are part of the area they serve

Position it in your head as if you're not going to get the job and decide that you're doing it for the practice. Obviously you still want it - but if you can tell your nerves otherwise, it might help your head and your actions. Also worth reaching out to the bombed interviewer and saying something along the lines of "That didn't go as well as I would have hoped. Would like to clear up (if it matters) my reply on the question of X/Y." Thanks for your time, it's a very interesting position that I'd be appreciate being able to flex my skills in Z".

I struggled with this too.. in addition to what Carolyn recommended, self help books! I read "Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges" by Amy Cuddy and it helped immensely. Good luck!! you can do it!!!

I definitely sweat in interviews myself. I’ve made it a habit to wear black as a way to avoid having to be concerned about visible sweat stains. Mock interviewing is great. I am also a huge fan of practicing solo responses out loud while looking in a mirror so you can practice facial expressions and body language too.

Next time you get nervous (or self loathy), remember my college professor. He came from the corporate world and had the same issue - terrible sweating when he got nervous in a job interview. He was bald, too. He would bring a handkerchief with him to interviews to dab his head. One time during an interview he wiped his hole dome and after a while realized he wasn't sweating. It bumped up his confidence and he walked out thinking he nailed the interview and things were changing..... turns out he grabbed the wrong handkerchief. He used the one that he recently waxed his bowling ball. He inadvertently waxed his entire bald head. No sweating, but a very shiny interview. His course (Personal Selling - Selling Yourself) was one of the most popular classes on our campus back in the day.

Please, please tell me this is true and I'm not being punked.

Either way, I'm adding "self-loathy" to my quiver. Thanks.

Thank you Carolyn for answering my questions and the follow up. So many asked for an update on how I am doing. I lost my job after submitting my FMLA forms. The man I was dating who left me after learning about the cancer and being unable to look at me passed away two weeks ago - before we could clear the air. Before Covid - I was dating another man who he left due to the cancer diagnosis. Yes, cancer is hard. But I am healing and all-in-all doing as best I can. I do hope your guy readers will take all this to heart and at least give a potential partner a real consideration before dumping her due to something beyond her control. I will be fine in life no matter what. Nothing has been harder than enduring a cancer diagnosis. Thank you for all your and the readers help. It made a huge difference to me.

Thank you, too, for checking back in.  I didn't realize the backstory--what a tough year you've had.

Carolyn, last night I found out my elderly mother tested positive for COVID-19. I've barely been holding on as it is, and now this. Luckily, I have a wonderful husband I've been staying at home with. But that's all I have. I hope it's enough. Not really a question, I guess. Just a guy needing some hugs. In a world where we don't hug anymore.

Well, not the old way. We do this (()) and sit here and cry for people we don't know. I hope that's enough to help a little bit.

Hi Carolyn, I figured you and the Nuts might like a break from the now-usual pandemic stress. In the midst of everything I met someone and, I'm realizing that at 32, this is the first time I've really been in love. Maybe it's the pressure cooker of the pandemic or the conversations forced by distance (we're about 3 hours apart) but this level of emotional intimacy is unfortunately new to me. It's messy, it's complicated, it's scary, and it's amazing. How does everyone do this? I have moments of intense vulnerability with him (which he reciprocates) but how do I deal with the anxiety/voice in my head afterward that it's just going to drive him away??

Have you identified exactly what you're so afraid of that you fear your fear will kill this?

If it's just, "Getting dumped," then I hope it will be helpful to recognize that we have, pardon my bluntness, two choices: suffer a painful loss, or die first. That's it, really. You either break up with loves or bury them or they outlast you. By a certain age, people are all walking around with firsthand experience of this intense pain (or, I'm guessing, the pain of never feeling that attached to anyone). And, also, firsthand experience in getting far enough through that pain to feel love again, to feel happy again, to laugh out loud again--I'm betting after some time spent unable to imagine ever feeling good.  

So, not only is it 99.99 likely you are fully equipped emotionally to handle wherever this relationship takes you, you are also enjoying the exquisite payoff of your human wiring: the in-love feeling. Yay for you. 

When you hear that voice in your head, try asking it what it's so worried about. Does it think you can't handle what we are all, more or less, built to survive? If it's more than that, then do listen, but otherwise tell it to shut up and have a little faith in you.

Health care provider here. This is pretty common. I agree with all of Carolyn’s suggestions, but therapist are in short supply these days. If appropriate, your HCP might prescribe a beta blocker for this. These are often prescribed for folks with performance anxiety and they are acting on the physical symptoms rather than being sedating. I’m all for therapy and for mindfulness etc, but when patients have a very finite problem, I think it’s totally reasonably to skip straight to medication. If it were a daily or even weekly problem, I think cognitive behavioral therapy should be the mainstay.



Posting with the disclaimer that I can't confirm anyone's credentials.

Put your left hand on your right shoulder. Now, put your right hand on your left shoulder. SQUEEEEEZE!! I've just sent you a virtual hug. I know it's not the same, but we gotta do what we can.

Okay, but, lots of us live in areas where people don't take COVID seriously. We have a pod with my local parents so we see them weekly still (though still with masks on), but out of town family is planning to visit for Christmas for a week. I love my family and want to see everyone, but cases are soaring in my state. Do I just say sorry and stay home even though we're 20 minutes away?

Yes. I realize your community can make opting out either a lot easier or a lot harder, but the latter is an argument for being firm on isolating, not bending on it. 

If you're under intense pressure to gather, then come here and complain about the people pressuring you--drop in on the comments, any time--but please do not feel bad about your choice, and do not give in. 

If you can trust them to take and respect precautions--6 feet away, masked, outside--then you can pay a visit in person. Big if. And you have to trust yourself to leave if/when people aren't behaving. It's a lot.

Is this one of those negative voices that planted in your head when you're a girl about how a lady shouldn't act because a gentleman won't like it?

Interesting and infuriating possibility, thanks.

I've been applying the "how stupid would I feel rule" to all my choices. Would I feel stupid if I caught COVID from doing X? If yes, then don't go. Volunteering outdoors and masked and distances at the polls? Would not feel stupid. Going to a restaurant that will give me the same food in a bag to eat at home? Would feel extremely stupid.

Thanks. My version is, how will I feel when I have to share this with a contact tracer?

Can I add to the discussion of travel to not judge people who make a different choice than yours too harshly, unless you know their whole story? Yes, many people who gather are irresponsible. But others are quarantining or covid testing or dining outdoors despite the cold or making a clear eyed assessment of mental health risks or visiting relatives who are already dying and know this will be their last holiday.

Thanks, I was looking for a counterweight and this is it--not judging without the whole story is key. There is a lot of room between aggressive covid-denying (or just flipping off the idea of having greater societal responsibilities) and taking great pains to move through the world in a way that's mindful of that responsibility and its protocols. Thank you.

I realize that COVID has changed a lot of things by necessity, but it's not necessarily a bad thing to maintain a healthy sense of caution due to the fact that you (apparently?) haven't met in person yet. Or at least haven't spent any significant time in person yet. That's something that can be a red flag in normal times, not necessarily for nefarious reasons but because there's really no substitute for it.

Oooh, I want to push back on this. I can only speak for myself, but as someone else who has always been single into my early thirties. I have these same thoughts when I try to date. I'm worried I'm not acting in a way that my potential partner would like, not because I'm scared it's improper, but because I don't know what a person in love is supposed to act like, which is something that someone in their 30s has typically experienced. Add on top of all that, as Hot Priest opined in the Fleabag finale, love is terrifying and awful, so it's very easy for me to fall into an anxiety spiral about. Misogyny, internalized and otherwise, plays a role in many parts of our lives. But it's not responsible for every insecurity. This feels like an easy solution - stop worrying what women should act like! - that misses the problem - how am *I* supposed to act with something this foreign and scary to me.

I love this, thank you, and I wish I had 12:10 pm brain instead of 2:48 pm brain to respond to it. 

... I should say, your comment stands alone. It would be great, though, to get into the "How am I supposed to act?" question. 

Tony Green, interviewed by Eli Saslow for WaPo, said it best. His whole family got COVID, and some died, after a family gathering. "The grief comes in waves, but that guilt just sits." It's on my kitchen cabinet to remind us all.


Eli Saslow is human truth serum. I would love to watch him work.

Less a question than a comment. Something very bad happened to me about 8 years ago. I recovered. During the recovery I was told to try doing one kind thing for someone else every day with no expectation of getting anything in return. I found that doing something for someone else, often a stranger, makes me feel good. Over the last two weeks I've heard about a half dozen people say a version of the same thing. "When I do something kind for someone else it makes me happy."

I love this, thank you.

OP here. Thank you, even though I'm crying with you.

Now I'm going to cry again.

Which I will take as a sign, that's it for today. Thank you everyone as always for stopping by, weighing in, agreeing, disagreeing, enlightening me, all of it. A special thanks for the career advice to the interviewee, since I really did throw it to you and say, here, answer this for me. You filled my queue--I'll post more if I can.

Have a weekendy weekend and I'll type to you here next week.

Health Care Worker here. I have missed many Thanksgivings (and Holidays) due to work. My family has been disappointed those many Thanksgivings. But they have also understood and supported me. Realize that it is possible to simultaneously disappoint your parents, and make them proud. Your parents know what the choices are this year. And I hope they are proud of you for making the strong, difficult, ethical choice.

Thank you for looking out for everyone, you and all HCWs. Sorry you're having to mop up after us again.

what works for me is to take charge and ask a lot of questions instead of sitting there and trying not to say something dumb

I was nervous in job interviews until the worse scenario occurred. I was menopausal and had a hot flash in the middle of an interview. I wasn't just sweating - sweat was pouring down my face and neck. So of course my eye makeup began to run. Luckily, one of the people interviewing me was a woman older than me. I excused myself to mop up, bought some cool wet paper towels back, and finished the interview. After that, I was never nervous again. And I actually got the job because I didn't fall apart.

Even though I had the education and experience, I used to feel very uncomfortable talking about myself. This might not be possible right now due to COVID, but I took the Dale Carnegie public speaking course and it was a game changer. I would highly recommend the course.

UGH. Having caregived for those with cancer while possessing a Y chromosome, I can safely say that the hit to career and financials and personal life when you sidetrack yourself for cancer isn't offset at all by said caregiving when you attempt to date again. So please, don't contribute to the stereotype of this just being men.

Yes, thank you--and I'm sorry. I flinched at that and meant to address it in my answer and didn't. My fault.

I'm terrible at interviews. So nervous. Mind goes blank. Flop sweat. My most recent interview they asked the typical question 'anything else you want us to know?' And I just said it; "I'm bad at interviews. But, I'm really good at my job." I got that job and still have it a year and a half later. Going great! I even got to be on a hiring committee recently, and I reminded my coworkers that some people just don't interview well but would still make an excellent hire. They agreed. The discussions behind the scenes might be more balanced/fair than you realize.

What a great answer. 

Tried this for an interview once and interviewed in a fog. I'll keep looking for other solutions!

I was interviewing somebody and as part of the introduction this person said "... I am nervous/anxious about this interview, pls bear with me, if I am not very crisp at times...". This just changed the energy, now I was rooting for this person to succeed. It showed that the person was comfortable being vulnerable. This person was offered the job and is a friend....

You turned in FMLA forms and lost your job??!?? Get thee to an employment law/disability rights attorney ASAP!

Is absolutely true! I remind myself of it when I interview. (And if I recall correctly, the guy got the job even though he spit-shined his head). His course was so popular in the 90's that you had to be a 'super-senior' to have enough credits to get into it.

I prefer "waxed his neck ball." If that's okay.

I think it goes on a continuum with the negative voices. You act like you, with kindness and integrity.

Thanks for the pinch-hit.

I am laughing so hard, I'm mopping up tears (with a *non-waxed* handkerchief). I don't care if we are being punked - the visuals that story conjures up are priceless. If it *is* true, I only hope he went on using the bowling ball cloth before any subsequent interviews, as it apparently solved the sweating problem. Oh, dear gods, I needed that laugh.


I, too, am not traveling and I am having Thanksgiving alone. I really pondered how to make it feel good, and I boiled down to stuffing, gravy and pie. I am going to skip all the rest and call all my family and I think it's going to be good. I might even watch football, which none of the rest of my family ever does. There are ways to make this weirdness positive. I am still worried about my mom and step-dad being alone, but it would be worse to infect them.

(()) for you, too, and your attitude.

You have yourself too. Don’t forget that. You are more than enough. I’m so sorry about your Mom.

... and crying again. Off to hug the dogs. Bye for real.

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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 She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.
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