Dear Carolyn: I was just gathering the strength to ask faraway friends for help to leave my husband when the pandemic broke out. While I don't fear for my safety, I feel like a trapped animal at times.
— Divorce Boom
Divorce Boom: By the time I read this, contemplate it, answer it, file it and publish it, you will have gotten through days, even weeks of something you didn’t think you could bear.
We humans chafe at the idea of waiting, but we actually do a lot of it, and are better at it than we think.
Being in love is about waiting (for the next dose of attention). Being sick is about waiting (to feel better). Grief is about waiting (for the awful pain to subside). Education is about waiting (for novelty to become expertise). Being a parent is about waiting (for your child’s next need, milestone, “aha” moment).
So being the best version of ourselves at any given time, and having our best life under any given circumstances, tends to involve finding a livable balance between where we are and what we’re waiting for. It’s not always going to involve the same mix of being in the moment and looking forward to something, so we need to be ready to recalibrate as circumstances change.
The contagion hit when your mix was heavy on looking forward, and now you’re stuck in place. That’s really hard. You can get through this emotional trial, though, because — never lose sight of this — getting through things like it is what people do. It just sounds as if you could benefit from shifting your balance back toward being in the moment.
That’s a reliable form of relief for any trapped feeling, whether it’s in a dull class or a “sham marriage”: to find ways to occupy your mind through this moment, and the next one and the next, leading yourself mentally and emotionally forward with a trail of bread crumbs in the form of small rewards and realistic things to look forward to.
Logistically forward, too, if you’re ready to contact those friends.
As you feel better and/or as opportunities present themselves, allow yourself to think bigger, knowing you can always pull back if you feel overwhelmed. And wherever you are, trust that the time will pass, new prospects will start to take shape, the door will open again.
Dear Carolyn: My sister, whom I dearly love, is a firm believer in, let's say, positive thinking, although God is somehow involved in this as well. She is extremely spiritual and believes merely thinking everything will be fine makes everything fine. She often makes pronouncements that seem foolish to me, and I tell her I don't want to hear it.
But recently she has decided she is protected from covid-19 because she just "knows" she won't get it. While that might be fine for her, it infuriates her son, who has two small children. She simply dismisses his concern. Consequently, he will not let her see her grandchildren.
I cannot see, and to be honest have never understood, how to argue with this sort of thinking. She is a very loving and gentle person but believes God has saved her, an upper-middle-class housewife, from various ailments and disasters because of her right thinking. Can you help me here? She is alienating herself from her son, and from me.
— Angels Aren't Helping
Angels Aren’t Helping: It’s faith, not facts, so there is no way to argue with this thinking.
But why argue anyway. Why not just accept.
Let’s make sure before I go that we’re both using the same definition of acceptance.
Acceptance doesn’t mean you agree with her magical thinking.
It doesn’t mean you condone her magical thinking.
It doesn’t mean your nephew has to expose himself or his children to the recklessness of her choice to magically think herself immune to a virus.
Acceptance simply means you recognize this as who she is and see the stressful futility in trying to fight her on it, correct her or change her mind.
That does not preclude drawing lines as your nephew did. It just means not doing battle with her when you draw them. “I’m glad to hear you’re optimistic. I don’t believe I’m immune, though, so I will be keeping my distance.” If she pushes back, then you kindly decline to discuss it.
Nothing says you can’t continue to “dearly love” your sister, or have to alienate yourself from her beyond your own physical and emotional precautions. If the foolishness can’t be cured, then maybe you can find room for gratitude that her strain of it is a “loving and gentle” one. We aren’t all so lucky these days.