Dear Sydney, my girlfriend and I have been together for a long time. We'd be married by now if it was legal (that's a different issue!). Everything was going OK, with the usual ups and downs, until my ex-girlfriend moved back into town. I went out to lunch with her, and it brought up all kinds of intense feelings. Now I'm a wreck. I keep wanting to hang out with her. Worst of all, I've been having dreams about her, and let's just say that she's never wearing any clothes. I don't know what to do. Do I tell her I can't be friends now that we're living in the same town again? That seems so pathetic, but I'm afraid that any other option would be disastrous. I feel like a stalker.--Haunted
Dear Haunted: Ask yourself if the monogamous relationship that you currently share with your gal is something that you could live without? Take some time to be by yourself, somewhere away from the noise of daily life, where you can really spend time thinking. Wherever you go to think, bring a notebook and pen. Write out the details of your dreams, just to get them out of your system. Make a list of the reasons you love your partner and the reasons you don't. Write down everything you remember about your dreamy ex-girlfriend. Was she really that great? If she was, then why did you break up?
After you're done, rip up everything you've written into tiny pieces and throw it into an anonymous garbage can. The only way you'll feel free to really write what's on your mind is if you know it's going to be destroyed afterward, so go ahead and destroy it. (Just don't light it on fire, though satisfying, that could be dangerous if you're "thinking" out of doors.) Even after this ritual, it's quite possible that you will choose to make things difficult for yourself by pursuing this rekindled relationship. And maybe there's a reason for that. It's just hard to know, and the more careful you are and the slower you take it, the less you will have to regret in the long run. It's easy to make a fool of yourself over unexpected desires. Save yourself the trauma; write it all down and throw it away instead.
Dear Sydney, I am an animal lover. But can you go too far? What should one give up for the life of an animal? I have a financially destitute friend who moves in with me from time to time and brings her cats. I already have three cats, which the same friend gave me. There are now seven cats and her guinea pig in my house. I had to pay for a $300 surgery at Christmas when two of the cats got in a fight. Then another one of the cats showed symptoms of sickness about a month ago. This one has stress-induced colitis and resulting pancreatitis. Determining the ailment took many tests and a long stay at the animal hospital. My friend gave her last $600 to the vet. Now, she's asking me for $400 more because the vet won't let the cat come home unless the entire bill is paid. Furthermore, they are charging over $100 per day to board the cat until she comes up with the rest of the money. Suddenly, I see my friend as an addicted cat-spendy. I've begun to think what little extra space one less cat could gain. But my friend, who is a very bad money manager, is weeping bitterly over the possibility of losing Mr. Fluff. So what am I to do? Is it time for me to start sleeping in my car at night for the sake of Mr. Fluff and the shyster vet? Or should I put my foot down in favor of fiscal responsibility?--Bummed
Dear Bummed: These cats are not your responsibility. Just because you are kind enough to let your friend stay with you when she has nowhere else to go does not mean that you should be held responsible for the financial care of her animals. Unfortunately, by paying the vet bill during the holidays, you set an unfair precedent for yourself. If you did it for the other cats, how can you now abandon Mr. Fluff? If you do choose to save Mr. Fluff, you will be out 400 bucks, but you will also relieve yourself of the burden of being Mr. Fluff's inadvertent murderer. Do you really want to be known as the guy who killed Mr. Fluff? Something like that could follow you for a long time. This is not to say that you have to save Mr. Fluff, but if you don't, there may be physiological consequence.
Clearly, the issue here is not your willingness or lack thereof to save an animal, but your inability to provide yourself with clear boundaries. Someone else's seven cats and one guinea pig in your house is too much. You need to set very clear parameters about the number of pets you are willing to take on along with your human guest. And if you do save Mr. Fluff, make it abundantly clear that you will no longer take any financial responsibility for future vet bills and that you will not be emotionally responsible for the well-being of her animals any longer.
Sydney, love your column! You give thoughtful, sensitive and sensible advice in an all-too-crazy world. My comment is just a suggestion, triggered by. I, too, have had problems with the father of my child and for many years could not even be civil to him. Another unrelated problem got me desperate enough to ask for help from a very alternative friend. That is when I discovered the emotional freedom technique. It is an acupressure technique that can clear emotional issues far faster than any other I have tried (and I've tried a lot). Best of all, the info on how to do it is free. Check out www.emofree.com for a free download of the manual. A demo is available at www.creatavision.com to get you started even faster. Try it and see if you like it.
Oh yeah, about my ex. He is still a worthless drunk who may or may not ever grow up, but that is water under the bridge. When I do see him, I can be civil. When he does something stupid, hey, that's his life. The kid is grown up and neither one of us needs him any more. Keep up the good work! --Fogey
Dear Fogey: Thanks for the tip and the encouragement! I've never heard of this technique, but, hey, not being above a little residual anger myself, I'll be sure and check it out. In the mean time, I'm including your letter here so that "Holding On" can have a look if she feels inspired. And congratulations on surviving co-parenting with your sense of humor intact. That's no easy feat. Take yourself out to dinner. You deserve it.
No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall.