Dear Carolyn:

My brother is in his 50s, highly qualified and educated and unemployed since our area had serious cutbacks in his profession.

I realize that getting a job in this environment is terrifically hard. One of our frustrations is that no matter what anyone suggests, he has a reason [suggestion of your choice] won’t work.

I know he has also applied for positions outside his profession and in other locales. I do wonder if his limitations are part and parcel of being Type 1 diabetic — he manages his health very well — or are part of an underlying negativity he has himself trapped in. As his relative, it is hard for me to get perspective.

He is personable and really decent. I wish I could help or point him to some venue that can offer help. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Sibling Who Really Cares

You really care, no doubt. There are times, though, that the most caring response is to trust someone to muddle through on his own.

This might be one of them. It’s apparently not an emergency. It’s not a situation where responsibilities are easily delegated (compared with, say, a new baby). It’s not a case where others have connections, skills or expertise he lacks.

And it’s not as if you haven’t tried. Given his rejection of what “anyone suggests,” it sounds as if all of you who want so badly to help your brother need to stop proposing [suggestion of your choice]. Even a great idea is a nuisance if it violates the airspace of the person you’re trying to help.

“Helping” and “doing” are deeply intertwined concepts — as are “spectating” and “nail-biting.” However, your brother is, by your account, highly qualified, highly educated, likable and disciplined. If you’re as anxious as you sound for some action you can take on his behalf, then I urge this: “We’ve all been throwing suggestions at you in an effort to help,” tell him. “What I’ve failed to say is this: ‘You’re more than capable of recognizing when you want and need help. I’m sorry I’ve interfered, and hope that when you do need something, you’ll know you can come to me.’ ”

Dear Carolyn:

I’m in love with “Kelly,” but she wants me only as her friend — even though, when we were dating, she told me she loved me. She denied it later. We’re still friends, but she also she keeps telling me she will never find a man like me . . .

That messes with my head. How can I confront her and make up her mind? Or what can I do to stop thinking I could have a chance with her?

Feeling Used

Just reading about Kelly wears me out.

Let’s say Kelly loved you and said it aloud, only to have her feelings change. Not exactly rare.

How immature does she have to be to deny it?

And, also, to keep drawing flattery from you, knowing you’re on her emotional leash?

You can solve every aspect of the Kelly problem with one stroke: Stop seeing Kelly. Actually, all but one aspect. If you keep clinging to good news and discounting the bad, yours will remain a head easily messed with. Believe the whole of what people present, not just what you want to see.

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