I’m 51 and postmenopause — which took me for a horrible mental ride I’ve not really come back from.
How does one figure out the right answer? I know it is fear that holds me here, but the fear is real in that I am struggling a lot with brain fog, mental exhaustion — things that I worry put my job at risk. And I work in a field where re-employment isn’t easy. I’d love your thoughts.
— Stay or Go?
Stay or Go?: I hope you will love my thoughts, because they’re about showing some love to yourself:
You've been through a pandemic, you're raising young children, you had a rough go of menopause, you don't have financial or job security. And none of these is what you're asking me about — it's here as background information.
But each background issue can be, and has been in abundance, the main reason some ask for help. Yet you're trying to make sense of a sixth problem as you're still actively engaged with the other five.
So, my thoughts? You're asking way too much of yourself. Or family is, or society is, or our moment in history is. Take your pick.
And you're asking your exhausted, overtaxed systems to make a decision with life-changing implications not only for you, but also for your husband and children.
Of course you're struggling with it. Of course you're afraid.
While this is not an endorsement of “business” marriages, I think treating yours (by implication) as a kind of romantic defeat is unfair to you both and unfair to your arrangement. What I see are two people who get along — "well enough” is more than good enough in a crisis — and can count on each other to hold the home together.
Maybe it's time to see that as a solution for now, vs. a problem.
Maybe it's even time to see that as a form of marital love, but in the interest of not adding to your list of heavy stuff to wrangle, I'll leave it there only as something to think about when you're ready.
Point being, you come across to me as a soul in urgent need of restoration. And while that depleted state could arise from the unfulfilling marriage, therefore separating would be the restorative act you need, it seems more likely — given the heft of your other challenges — that the depletion itself is a culprit. In that case, it would be shortsighted and counterproductive to try to assess the viability of your marriage while your emotional systems are down.
So my advice is to think restoratively — to give yourself permission to set aside Big Things and just coast for a bit. Meet baseline needs of your children, your job, your household “business” partnership. Streamline whatever, wherever you can — and with any mental-load savings you realize, spend intentionally on your own emotional health.
What that means for anyone is intensely personal, but general outlines apply: Note what depletes you, remember what restores you, rebalance your private time accordingly. If you have access to counseling, then work that in. Get outdoors. Get moving.
A fresher mind will see your problems differently, and may even see your husband and marriage differently. A loving gesture to you.
Dear Carolyn: I am preparing to have seven family members visit me at the same time this summer. I am very happy they are coming — I haven’t seen any of them for a year and half — and I plan to do everything in my power to make this a great vacation for all. But I am very perplexed about how to accommodate the various dietary needs and wants, including celiac disorder, won’t eat any fruits or vegetables, keto, fish allergy, calorie-restricted, no poultry in any form. How do I approach this so everyone is well fed and not exposed to the object of their allergy or disgust?
Accommodating: This is what bars are for.
In both senses, believe me. But I specifically mean food bars — salad, taco, ramen, burger, etc. Hit your browser to see everything “etc.” can be.
This way, you set out enough ingredients to feed everyone enough, and they assemble their own meals from foods they can bear. Encourage group grocery expeditions.
For what it’s worth — I am 100 percent behind meeting guests’ dietary needs. Not only are there serious health considerations among the restrictions you list, but there are also several arguments for humility in presuming to decide for others what qualifies as “serious.” However: If you have guests openly registering “disgust,” then that’s not a dietary problem, that’s a jerk problem. Just so we’re clear.