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Dear Polly,

I have no questions left for you. I have been reading your advice since it was only on the Rabbit Blog, and I am here to thank you for helping me to be brave enough to embrace my own wild heart during this apocalyptic time. I had planned to quit my job and pursue freelancing while working remotely part-time in late February but just gave my notice last week after hunkering down for months. I am financially prepared for this particular disaster and am exchanging isolation in my freezing and provincial city for isolation in new areas and warmer climates for a month at a time this winter.

In the past sixth months, I have broken things off with a narcissist, mourned the death of a pet, held it together alone, and healed old wounds with difficult family members. I did the crazy thing of reaching out to an ex from a decade ago who seemed too mentally stable (and good, too good) for me at that time, and we are Zooming in more ways than one.

Polly, I am not surrounded by like-minded people who realize that life is short and should be enjoyed and felt wholeheartedly, so I attribute much of my courage this year to your accumulated advice over the last decade or so. It now lives in my head and in my heart, and I think you need to know how much your words mean to people.

Love love love,

C

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I have a job interview in 45 minutes. Please send good thoughts and light candles.

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Sep 11, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I spent hours in this thread last week and it was such good medicine. Thanks for the space. I was a stay at home mom and then my husband asked for a divorce. In a few weeks I lost my house and my insurance, had to find a job, and had to adjust to parenting alone. Then in May I elected to quit my new job because they wanted me to get back in the classroom without masking or social distancing and that felt so unsafe and scary. And I was over teaching after 20 years of trying to make it work for me (overstimulation is my kryptonite). Now four months later I'm considering going back to school to become a therapist but I'm totally crippled by fear, stress, and self doubt. How will I manage going from parenting only to parenting and getting a masters degree? Will I even like it? How do people accomplish things when they are depressed? When they are parents? When the sky is filled with smoke and the world feels upside down? I can't do nothing, but doing something feels sisyphean. Even securing letters of recommendation feels like a huge stone to push these days. Thoughts?

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Polly, my beautiful dog of 10 years has been diagnosed with bone cancer and only has a few days, maybe weeks to live. He’s been my companion throughout my twenties, when I moved alone to a new city, dated shitty men, tried to build a career, and struggled through life in general. I don’t know how I’ll be able to cope without him, living alone in the middle of a pandemic, in a racist, generally oppressive society, away from my family. I’m struggling to let him go - the grief is so strong - but I don’t want him to suffer.

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I am 36 and I am so lost. I can't make sense of what I'm want/should do with my life anymore and feel like I'm just going through the motions now. I wanted so much more for my life at this age: a family, a home, a partner who loves me, and career that sets me on fire. How do you figure this out? How is it so easy for others? Did I miss something? I just feel like a prisoner and that every day I'm just ticking it off as I move closer to death.

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Polly, how can I get over my habit of only wanting things/being able to do things when it seems like it might be too late? I procrastinate heavily. When I tell people that, they reply "oh yeah, I put off things I don't want to do too!"

That's not what I mean. I can be thirsty with a glass of water next to me, and put off drinking it for hours because... now just doesn't seem like the right time. It never does, until I realize I might not have all the time in the world after all. Since I know that intellectually, how can I get it through to my actions, and do things when they're available to me?

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I just turned 30 and my fiance and I are contemplating having a child in about a year. I mostly feel good about this but any time I tune into the consequences and reality of climate change I feel overwhelmed and like having children is completely insane.

This morning I spent 2 hours reading every story I could find about the wildfires. It just doesn't feel fair to create a child when there's so much NEED in the world already and so few competent people in leadership. I also wonder if our lives will remain as stable as they are right now. We're both skilled, high-earners but we come from working-class and immigrant backgrounds (meaning we don't have secret pots of money). And I also think if we forgo having children, we'd be able to make more of a dent through organizing, running for office, or pro bono work. I worry that even if everything goes "right" our children will be angry with us for not doing more while we were raising them. We want 2 children and my fiance tells me to think about this way: "we'd be replacing ourselves."

Anyone in their early 30s contemplating these questions?

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Thank you for this, and for your Wednesday column, which hit a nerve in a good way. I'm in my early 50s (how did that happen?) and escaped an abusive husband in my early 30s. (When your therapist breaks neutrality to yell, literally, "When are you going to get the fuck out before he kills you?"...yeah.)

It's taken me until this year to rebuild every other part of my life -- I had to couch-surf and move around the country to escape him, go back to school, rebuild a career, etc., etc. -- so I literally could not even think of dating anyone except in sporadic moments until now. (Also, he made it clear in ways that weren't admissible in court that for years after the divorce he was going to stalk anyone he found out I was dating. While he remarried. Charming.) I think it's safe to date now. I hope.

So, um, give me encouragement for weird pandemic dating and reinforcement that not all men are like him, someone please?

I hope you and yours stay safe through the fires, Polly and everyone else reading who may be in range.

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Polly, I'm in the no-man's-land of having finished the manuscript of my first novel (yay!) and finding representation to get it out into the world, and the uncertainty is killing me. This thing I love so, so much could change my whole life or mean absolutely nothing! I've freighted it with the responsibility for transforming me from Bookish Girl into NOVELIST, and I can't seem to take that back. How do I weather this long period of uncertainty? How do I forgive myself for not having done it sooner? How do I let myself feel legit while awaiting external legitimization? And if this one doesn't take off, where will I find the courage to make more art?

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I know I fucked up big time in my job (I did get fired in the end - Covid19 reasons included) - and my last day is next Friday. I haven't been able to focus and I'm scared I've ruined my reputation for good. When I was younger I was promised the golden lands of success, like any gifted child - though trauma in various forms and shapes and a progressively worsening ADHD has pushed all those dreams and hopes I had for myself far away. I still get some shit done - but not remotely the shit I'm being paid for. I feel bad for my employer, I feel bad for my friends who probably worry about me and my gloomy future. I'm 32 and I'd love to make people proud, including myself.

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I adore your writing and perspective, it brings me so much comfort. I'm wondering what your advice is for a soon-to-be 24 year old who has never had a boyfriend and feels woefully inadequate because of this. Every situation-ship I'm in always feels so life-or-death because I feel desperate to find love and be loved the way everyone else seems to do with ease, and every time I start talking to a new man, I'm shattered when it inevitably doesn't work out. How do I stop feeling like this? How do I stop pinning my whole life on finding love?

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Hi Polly,

What does a good relationship feel like? My parents have a very bad marriage and I haven't seen many stable or good relationships in my life so I have a really hard time telling. I also think I obsess over whether my boyfriend is the "One" or the best person for me.

We have dated for a year and I'm still questioning whether it feels right or if he really cares about me. I feel like I'm constantly accumulating a list of facts about our relationship (we both like to read, we have the same sense of humor, we have the same interests, he always supports me and listens to me) as a way to prove it to myself that we are good together. But then when I notice a small thing that seems off, like if he doesn't compliment me in the exact way that I need, or if I see a couple on TV or something who have a different dynamic, I start picking apart our relationship and wishing he was like that. The other day he told me that he feels like I want him to be a different person. This was really sad to hear because I really love him and like him, but I understand why he thinks that.

I think I'm worried that I'm going to go down the same path as my parents or waste years with someone when they were wrong all along.

I know there aren't any rules for what makes someone right for you...but are there?

- A

P.S. Thank you for existing your column is therapy for me!!!

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I'm in Pasadena with my husband and 18 month old, and the smoke and ash and gray skies are really starting to take a toll on me. Being outside was our answer to quarantine, and now we can't even do that. My husband also goes back to work next week doing a very fancy job that we're grateful for (he's an actor.) and I'm going to be inside alone with a toddler feeling like I'll never get to work again (I'm also an actor, but have had a very long professional dry spell combined with pregnancy and postpartum time.) I love being home with my daughter, but ohhhh I wish there wasn't a global pandemic and that there weren't wildfires and constant sirens and that I was going to a film set or rehearsal room and bring her and a babysitter along with me. But we're all healthy and can pay our bills and I'm thankful for that every day.

Sending love and encouragement to all of you out there.

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I feel like I am drowning in CAN'T right now. I can't go into the office. My son can't go into school. I can't visit friends. I can't have a 10th birthday party for my son. And now I can't go outside. My 79 year old mom was just hospitalized across the country and I fear that I may never see her again. We cancelled our summer plans to get together due to the pandemic (another can't). In her post-surgery delirium, she's asked me to come to FL. "I need you to be here." I feel like I can't get on a plane to see her. What do I do?

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Thanks, Polly ❤️ My partner asked for a relationship break a few weeks ago. We have a difficult relationship and during Covid I’ve realized that I haven’t relied on him for much because he’s kind of emotionally unavailable. In normal times that is ok, because I have lots of supportive friends, but in Covid it’s much harder to deal with. In the last argument before the break I told him I was struggling (Covid has been bad for my anxiety) and I needed him to be kinder to me. And he basically was like “not if you’re going to act in ways I don’t like.” (Those ways being arguing with him angrily ((not yelling because he won’t engage if I yell. But speaking angrily)))

I was leaning towards ending things after he asked for the break. But then I found out I’m pregnant. This is very unexpected as I’ve had tons of issues with ovarian cysts and assorted gyno issues for my entire adult life. I’m also 41. So this is likely my only shot to have a baby.

I can’t figure out if I should try to make it work with him and try to have a family, or if I should just break up with him and get an abortion. I don’t think I want to raise a baby by myself, and I don’t know if he’s capable of changing. I’m so lost and confused and it’s so hard to figure out how to even begin making these choices.

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How do we create spaciousness when it feels like everything is pressing in on us?

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I am a freelance writer and editor with about 35 years of experience; I am great at my job and have happy clients, but I hate the self-promotion/marketing part (I know I’m not alone). In the midst of COVID-19, it is even easier to become paralyzed. Any wisdom to offer on working up a bit of gumption?

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Dear Polly, My (26f) boyfriend (23m) and I are stuck in a messy self-made cycle. To be clinical, he is an serviceman in the Air Force who has a lot of early childhood trauma/avoidant attachment tendencies, and I am a Big Time anxious attacher whose trauma is much more recent in life. To be flowery, we started dating over a year ago when we met at our favorite dive bar. Everything felt serendipitous as it does and we both decided to let love lead and begin dating just two months before he was leaving for the first of two planned deployments, this one to the Middle East in the fall. As life would have it, love and good intentions and attempts of plans for communication/support while abroad fell wayward quickly and we were stuck in 6 months of sad frustration of him not being able to deliver the level of support/communication/expressed affection I was asking for, and me not being able to understand the military world/how it demands he operates/speak his language of "I love you even if I am not able to talk to you for a few weeks because I can pick things right back up when I'm home". Two days after he finally got home in November, my father was diagnosed with cancer (he is doing okay now, but it was a Big Bad Wrench as you can imagine in our already tumultuous attempts at Figuring Stuff Out). I told him he had full permission to GTFO in the wake of that news as there was already so much for us to work on, and he pledged to stay. We got back into the miscommunication cycle of me asking him to show up in certain ways, him not being able to deliver for whatever own reasons/fear he had (think Will Hunting from GWH), etc until he made the decision to call things off before his shorter spring deployment to the Pacific of just three months because he did not want to promise to be able to provide a level of support that would again fall wayward in the event that things got more difficult on the deployment than he anticipated (I think there is an element of shame he feels when he is not able to meet a request that I have asked of him, but I know it is a losing battle to try to over-therapize your SO). Despite this, he ended up reaching out to me once COVID struck the states right after he left and our communication was amazing the entire trip. We both discussed point-blank that we still had feelings for each other and wanted to make things work when he got home in June. Upon his arrival home, things were peachy keen until, back into the cycle once more, they weren't. I think I have been able to lukewarmly identify the genesis of this cycle: as someone who needs more active/attentive/in the moment care, I present new needs and asks out of my intentions of love/wanting to grow our relationship stronger --> If he does not meet them/doesn't express active efforts to understand/meet them, I feel hurt --> Small things build into anxiety/frustration that I then bring up--> He gets frustrated --> Rinse and repeat. He asked for a little bit of space to breathe about two weeks ago, which triggered my anxiety/attachment issue but was ultimately healthy and allowed time for me to consult my therapist in addition to my Personal Boyfriend Translator (his favorite cousin who is in his late 30s who is Team Us and has offered advice/perspective several times) who both came to similar conclusions that we need to: 1- point-blank address the cycle we get sucked into, 2- explicitly discuss our base needs with each other to not feel sparkly rainbow sunshine special but to feel respected and cared for (i.e.: I need, on average, to have quality time alone together at least once a week) and 3-to understand that we come from wildly different ideologies: his idealized How to Make It Work plan is we just grow together organically in between deployments by spending time together/doing the mundane/just existing in the same space with him checking in on deployments when he can, and I want to grow through intentional relationship discussions/work when he is home (which he has expressed is stressful to him) . Naturally, as I was excited to bring my metaphorical notes and new perspective to him, the military snatched him back up and sent him on temporary leave of duty two weeks ago for which he does not have a return date. My bouquet of conversation topics wilted when he came to my place to say goodbye before scrambling to pack on a 48-hr notice and I ended up presenting the outline of what I wanted to say (introducing the concept of identifying and explicitly articulating each other's base needs). He was receptive to it but reiterated as well that he is more of a "doer/exister in the moment" of wanting to grow our relationship rather than have all of these Big Conversations/Fix-All-Solutions to it. We have had a little bit of communication since he’s been gone this time around, but it is difficult to just not feel back in an anxious rut and the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to Actively Work on Things and Also Feel Supported!!! while he is away instead of just letting things breathe and appreciate the little moments in which he is able to get through to me. All of that word vomit is to just say that we are two very in-love idiots who can’t get our footing and are trying to learn each other’s languages. Is there any advice to give, any new perspectives to have, tricks to try, or are we just going to be stuck in a twister that sinks us to the ground once more? I know you can’t tell the future, Polly and that like in the recent Molly letter and the follow-up letter, it is ultimately our choice of what decision we make for the energy we give, but I don’t know if it seems foolhardy or impossible to finally stick our landing and find our footing. With much, much love.

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I started dating my boyfriend in March, so as you can imagine, emotions have been intense throughout our entire relationship, but I truly love him and feel so grateful that he's in my life. I think he's a real cutie and try to tell him that as much as I can, but he doesn't believe it. Last night he told me that he thinks he's ugly and feels like I "shouldn't" like him because of that. This broke my heart because I have struggled with body and face dysmorphia for years and know how painful it is, and I'm secretly scared that I made him feel this way. I don't know how to help him other than recommending a therapist and doing things to make himself feel better (getting a haircut, changing up his clothes), but of course I can't *make* him do any of these things. I can tell he's depressed, and that gets in the way of taking care of himself both physically and mentally, and it's scary and frustrating to see how much pain he's in. I've been forced to take an active role in my mental health for years, so I at least think I know the things that will help him, but I don't want to overwhelm him with the things that it's taken me years to get to (go outside more! get on meds! exercise daily! go to bed earlier! know that you can change! CBT! therapy! journaling! compulsively consuming self help content!). My capacity for anything is so depleted right now and I know his is too (we're also in burning-sky territory) and I just don't know how to help.

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I'm in a rut and feel hopeless. To be fair, this predates the pandemic but has only gotten worse since the world really started to crumble. I'm in my early 30s and an artist, though my creative output is so meager I should probably stop referring to myself as such. I used to work a fulltime job in the art world, which I hated and finally broke from a couple years ago. Since then I've worked a slew of concurrent freelance gigs, most of which pertain to my interests, allow me to make ends meet and don't make me miserable, but lockdown obliterated the delicate balance I had going. I no longer have any kind momentum, artistic or professional, and find myself questioning whether I will ever have a real place in the world or regain a sense of purpose. Part of me knows I need to throw myself into a project-- your wisdom about the value of hard work isn't lost on me-- but my anxious-depressed mind talks me down from starting anything. I'm so afraid of perceiving failure from myself that I don't take any risks or leaps, so instead fail in more incremental, insidious ways.

I'm also single, and have been for two years after extricating myself from a 5-year relationship with a man who had significant mental health issues. Only in hindsight is it clear he was extremely manipulative and emotionally abusive. I do believe I'm better off, but I feel like I'm marooned on an island totally alone. I had a couple short-term things since, with guys who cooled off and just faded out and left me feeling even shakier about my ability to forge lasting and healthy connections with men. I want so much to keep an open mind and heart, but I can feel myself growing increasingly skittish and commitment-phobic, almost like I need to beat these guys at their own game, if that makes sense. As is the theme here, I was already incredibly lonely in my life, but quarantine just upped the ante.

I guess I'm not sure what I'm asking, but it's stuff that's hard to discuss with the people I'm actually close with, and anything you say will be deeply appreciated.

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Hey! Confused 18-year-old here. I love Ask Polly the column/newsletter and these threads. There is something in them that resonates very deeply with me. So I thought I might share something I have been struggling with for the past couple of weeks and see I could hear some people's thoughts on this.

I have dated some guys before, nothing very serious. The pandemic has left me taking a gap year back in my parents' house in my home country where I know no-one and where going outside is still as dangerous as it was back in March. I miss dating (especially (sorry) the physical aspect of it).

So I have been lurking on some forums, and met a 20-year-old guy from the US who I have been talking to for the past month. I have enough evidence to confirm that I am not being catfished (or, if I am being catfished, whoever is behind the screen is doing it in an extremely elaborate way). I also haven't shared any of my personal social media accounts with him (we talk through a chat app). In the past month, we have had some explicit voice calls.

So. A couple of days ago I saw his face, and didn't find him attractive at all. Since then, he has been trying to talk more to me, and has implied that he would like this to become a serious relationship.

I don't want to have an online relationship (I tried before, and it's terrible). I also don't think I am as attracted to him as I was before seeing his face, which makes me feel shallow and terrible. I have thought about deleting my account in the app we talk through (it's a burner account anyways) and just ghosting him, but that feels shitty, given that he is very nice to me and seems to be very honest about how he feels. Also, I like hearing his compliments/him asking how my day went/etc. And I just like knowing someone likes me. So I'm in this strange place in which I still talk to him daily and have the same explicit calls, but I feel weird and kinda sad every time because I'm not very attracted to him and feel like I'm using him somehow. I also feel guilty, or like I'm doing something I'm not supposed to, about doing this with someone who lives across the world and who I met on a questionable forum--so that complicates everything.

I don't know what to do.

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Hi Polly (Heather) - Thank you for what you do, your advice always feels healing for me. My question is about how to cope with the moment. I'm 36, single, and estranged from my family. My business is barely making enough money for me to survive off right now, many of my beloved hobbies are now unsafe because of covid, the sky outside is orange from smoke, and I'm terrified about the future of the U.S. and full of rage and grief that so many of our fellow Americans would choose this for all of us. I'm actually one of the fortunate ones because I have some meaningful close friendships and enough savings that I am not worried I'll be on the street or starve for awhile. I guess my question for you and the community is, how do you cope with all of this? In the past, I would get through extended difficult times by planning something to look forward to and working towards it. But it's hard now because I am struggling to imagine a future where all of this isn't just getting worse.

I should mention that I am taking anti-depressants, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy/drinking water, etc. Unfortunately I have an injury where I can't exercise for another month at least which is probably not helping things!! Still, I feel like I am moving through life in a fog. How do I make something meaningful out of all this shit around us?

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Earlier this spring I reconnected with a married ex (he and I dated a decade ago, before his marriage) who was working toward having an open relationship with his wife. I was not surprised that it crashed and burned in one of those spectacular middle-of-the-night-yelling-phone-call scenes, though that's not quite the issue I'm stuck feeling hurt and lost about. While he and I were talking, I felt lit up from the inside in a way I haven't in a very long time. Some of this was about the person he was when talking with me -- thoughtful, encouraging, insightful, complimentary, patient, shared interest in art, etc etc. In the time we were talking, I began to journal daily, took an illustration class online because I've always wanted to learn how to draw, started reading more regularly, and found myself jotting down ideas left and right. I felt engaged and alert most days, which is not to say illogically happy, but present in a way that felt good and right.

When our relationship ended, I tried to put things in place to ensure I wouldn't lose steam in these new habits I enjoy, but I find it happening despite my efforts. I am single and live alone, and during the pandemic have not been able to quaranteam with anyone for the past six months. I don't have a lot of close friends that I can share things with on a daily basis (though the friends I do have are good ones, even if not exactly right for my needs at this time) and I feel myself closing up again. I find myself distracted and ornery at work, unable to complete simple tasks without dragging my feet. I haven't been reading, and my journal is giving me the side-eye as I write this.

I always used to consider myself an introvert but I think I am, in reality, just a picky extrovert. The energy I found from having his reliable support made such a considerable difference and I am struggling to find that same kind of true joy without it. I want to be turned on again, to radiate the light and excitement that I am afraid, for me, only comes from sharing myself/time with someone else. I am not an unhappy person and there's so much about my life that I love and am grateful for -- but now that I have remembered this other version of myself who felt more than okay, who felt like I used to so many years ago, it's so difficult and sad to adjust and close myself up again. I have learned that I like myself far too much to hide, but I don't know how, or where, or to who, I should show all of myself.

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Polly, thank you for providing this space for us to connect to each other through our grief and love and lives. <3

I'm 39 years old, and I hate my job. I am glad that I am able to pay to live (thanks, capitalism), but I resent that I have to, and I am angry with myself for the choices I've made that landed me in a secure but underpaid (thanks, capitalism), overworked, and understimulating position. My basic financial needs are met, but not much else. Increasingly, I feel like a trapped animal- verging on panic, scrabbling but stuck. I have ideas about where I might go, other things I might do, but they seem impractical and/or unachievable, thanks to money, or time, or energy (which is drained out of me hour by hour on work days). I doubt myself a lot - my abilities, my age, my character, my circumstances, my judgment - and talk myself out of movement, because I don't trust my thoughts and feelings anymore. I don't know if I hate my job, or if I hate myself, or some combination of both. I know that every day I get up, and dread the day. I dissociate for the hours I'm working, and it's hard to find myself again once I've unplugged. I worry this job is killing me; not just the physical effects of stress, but killing the part of me that knows myself, the core of who I am. I feel myself dissolving, weakening, shaping myself to fit the space I'm in so it chafes a little bit less. And THAT'S not who I am. I grew up in a household where I had to fight to survive, and I always took pride in that; my stepfather didn't break me, though he tried, and in the end, I left that house knowing I stood up for myself and stayed true to myself, and that's when I was a (not so) helpless child - I'm an adult now, damn it. How can a job break me, when that didn't? How do I stop it before it's too late?

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I've always wanted kids. Ever since I was a kid! Even though I hated being a kid! I have lots of little siblings younger than me, and was expected to raise them and resented it. But I loved them so much and still want kids. And if I can manage it I'm going to try to make the best, most functional and kind little family I possibly can someday. I've brushed off all my peers saying it was unfair to bring kids into a world that is ecologically doomed and that hates poor people. And I still think I don't agree with them. But I don't have a good argument for why. I think you've answered this one before maybe, but...am I just being stubborn and selfish? Is it a sign that I can't articulate my arguments to other people super well? I guess, as a historian, I feel like the "logic," as it were, of children has never in all of human kind been about the receptivity of the context into which they've been born. We just do it as a leap of faith and, at best, as a commitment to pouring senseless love into the world with no hope of return. But that logic is a lot more woo-woo than anything else I'd ever argue, about any-THING else. I don't know. Not a question. Just meditation as the world collapses.

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Update on last week's comment: I'm doing much better emotionally and mentally, although objectively speaking, my week has gotten a little bit worse. I only say a little bit because, in spite of missing multiple deadlines (all three I had this week, in fact), I'm doing okay. Other things are happening. I'm dealing with them and feeling optimistic about dealing with them. So there is that.

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Okay Polly, I posted last week about lack of friendships and how that is bothering me (not sure if you remember). But now I'm starting to wonder if I fixate too much on friendships instead of giving myself what i need, similar to how some people think romantic relationships with save themselves. Do you have any expereince/thoughts on this? I sometimes feel like I take the same approach to dating as I do to friendships, and it's not very helpful!

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That's really nice of you. I feel so unbearably sad about the state of the world and especially vulnerable humans and animals. How did we become so careless? x

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Been a fan for years since Rabbit blog. Thank you for all your words over the years. They have helped. Grateful. I just don’t know how to live in this world anymore.

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Is the correct action right now to work for things to get better but expect them to get worse?

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Does shame ever truly and completely go away?

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I just had a really productive review of my work and all I can think about is how far behind I am on everything. :(

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I’m happily married and yet. I made a new friend about a year ago. An instant and deep connection and attraction for both of us. She sees me. It’s not better than my marriage, just different. We have different things in common and talk about different things than I do with my wife. She touches a side of me that I didn’t realize was lonely. Non-monogamy isn’t a deal breaker for any of us, but there are probably too many complications for it to be workable here. My wife knows of my feelings and isn’t happy because she wants us all to be friends. We’re all great as friends! How can I get over the attraction and more-than-friend feelings while still remaining so close? How do I know if I feel this way because I was missing something (that I should focus on addressing) or if it’s just because I met an amazing person (I truly think it’s this one)?

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Hi Heather! I think I’m past the two hour mark, which makes sense, because I’m always late. I didn’t try to be. I just didn’t check my email until now. I’m really struggling with being a late bloomer. I feel like chances are passing me by bc I am so slow. It takes me forever to feel comfortable. It takes me forever to decide. On a career. On a guy. On where I want to live. I’ve generally been ok with being on my own timeline, but I’m starting to get impatient. I’m almost 40 & want to go on adventures with a fun guy I love. I know I’m supposed to go on adventures by myself but this pandemic thing has really thrown me for a loop. Everything that was hard before is exponentially harder. How do I cut myself some slack while also pushing myself to learn & grow? I hate the darkness & the icky feeling of loneliness I feel. I know I’m supposed to let myself feel that, but then what? I know it’s the journey, not the destination, but I have so many desires & I don’t know how to be brave enough to go for them. I feel so defeated every time I realize I’m too afraid. How do you do things you are afraid of doing when the world feels exponentially scarier, and for good reason! I used to be scared to get on planes & be away from my family, but I could at least remind myself that it’s irrational to think I’d never see them again. Now that doesn’t seem so irrational. Anyway, I’m not even going to read over this bc it’s already late, and I’d rather just try than be even more late & miss my chance again. Maybe that’s the answer: be messy, be late, just try. Also I love what you write. Your words have helped me so much over the years. Thank you for that.

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I'm so glad you are doing this again, every time I got a comment of encouragement, it was such a highlight for my week. Now feeling like I'm once again stuck in the house (because of hazardous air quality instead of a virus this time) I feel weirdly hopeful because eventually due to the law of averages something HAS to give or change eventually right? I turned 30 this year and tallied up the list of "stressful life events" I had in my twenties and it was a doozy - five moves to new cities, two major illnesses/injuries, one death of a loved one, countless breakups if those count as single person divorces...and I am so so desperate to just feel joy again and not crave it from some emotionally stunted narcissist who is unable to give it. When do the good times actually show up? It's been a long long drought since I've felt overwhelmed with happiness and joy and it's a long long slog in between.

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Haven't gone through all the comments yet (technically should be working), so I apologize if this is redundant. Thanks so much for this Polly ❤️❤️❤️ I'm reading the Overstory. Has anyone read it?? It's all about trees (I learned redwoods live for over 1000 years!!!) and we're killing them. Taking the fires and this week's NPR story that trees can't regenerate in the warming, drying climate, I feel a larger, complete sense of loss than normal. How does one wrestle with this loss and maintain some hope each day? I do all the things one tells you to do. But will policial leaders ever listen? I want to give our earth a big hug and say, I'm so sorry. I want all of us to have a healthy, safe place to live for centuries to come ❤️

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Hi Polly. How does a "healthy" marriage/partnership work? I read about your marriage in your columns and I think, yes, I'd love something like that! I am always trying to figure out if my relationship with my partner is going to be truly long-term but I never really know for sure. Thanks so much, you kind-hearted person. Please say hi to Molly for me--I love her.

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Hi Polly

First, just want to say I love you and your column.

It’s the first place I go when I’m feeling really conflicted or sad.

I’m a woman in my mid twenties trying to let go of a on/off again relationship.

We spent years talking every day, but I’m realizing now that it was more of a witty chatbot situation instead of an emotional connection.

We dated briefly in college before I moved away and then would see each other every few months. The relationship quickly failed due to distance, he shut down, but we went back to texting a few months later.

I blamed this not working on so many things, distance, his mental illness/ emotional problems, the 4 year age gap.

But recently we gave it a real chance. He moved across the country, said he was here to make this work and it ended very badly a few months later to where we just canceled plans to move in together. He was distant and cold, narcissistic and mean at the end. He said he was in love with a projected ideal of me that I fell short of.

I was surprised at who he really was under the veneer.

How do I let go of this longtime friend and someone I thought of as.. I guess a soulmate? I feel very hurt and trapped in this cycle, this relationship that feels deep and shallow at once.

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I feel so behind, and so stuck and stunted. I'm 28 and staying with my parents for a semester, because I gave up my lease in the city where my grad school is and was too nervous to move during the pandemic. But I feel ashamed that I couldn't get over my fear, and that I want to be with my parents so badly during this time. I feel like I should be with a partner, or friends, people my age -- like my life is not moving forward. I'm also in divinity school and I have no idea why -- sometimes I think I know but sometimes I think I'm just wasting time in an expensive way, and trying to become smart/wise by reading philosophers and theologians that I often can't understand at all. Is something wrong with me?

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Hi Polly and anonymous friends,

I'm here in LA too, also beholding this apocalyptic sky and campfire scented air. I was furloughed from an awful job back in March (a huge blessing), but have been struggling to transition to a successful private practice since then. My best friend, who is also my ex, and not the most emotionally stable person, was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and a massive brain tumor. I've been here for 6 years and am still struggling to find connection and community. I try to keep up with simple practices like daily meditation and gratitude lists but I am really adrift right now. Your columns and other spontaneous virtual appearances are a bright spot in my week. Thank you.

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Hi Polly,

I feel pretty well resourced during this time. How do I help friends who are struggling without seeming condescending or making them feel worse?

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Just wanted to send you support and encouragement too. It's corny, but your words have helped me grow over the years, and I look up to you as a wise woman ahead of me on this weird path of life. Take care, and know there are people out there sending good vibes to a stranger on the other side of the continent.

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Dear Polly,

Any advice for moving on from a friend breakup? I am still trying to figure out how to detach from one that happened earlier this year in a rather unceremonious way. Some days I feel like I am not missing this friend very much (she was not very loyal and sometimes judgemental and demanding) but other days I miss her wit, thoughtfulness, and steadfastness. Do I just need to ride it out?

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2019 was one of the most insane years of my life. First, I got caught up in a whirlwind cross-country romance. Then I went to a week-long personal development retreat in California where I worked on a number of my biggest fears. One day, we wrote them down. I’m going to tell you what I wrote, before I go on. 1) Germs/getting sick 2) Bed bugs (apropos of nothing) 3) Concussions (apropos of something) 4) My parents dying 5) Never finding someone 6) Long term disability

I decided I would try to leave those fears behind and emerged from the program as a hesitant butterfly who no longer needed to wash her hands all the time or put her luggage in a heat box when returning from travel (which typically I did religiously).

Here’s what happened next. My doting boyfriend left for the same program in a different state a week later. While there, I discovered I had brought bed bugs home from the retreat. In the next week, I threw out 80% of my belongings and moved.

In the middle of my move, my boyfriend called me and abruptly broke up with me, based on some realizations he’d come to during his retreat.

A couple months later I flew to see him for a weekend. After a lovely time, on the way back to the airport, he ran a stop sign and a truck hit us. The cars were totaled and...I got a concussion.

I was hoping 2020 would be the best year ever but then pandemic (fear #1) and my parents are elderly in a town with a huge outbreak (fear #4).

The main thing I want help with is how to get over the jealousy I feel when I think about other people, especially now, and how seemingly fearless they are. Nearly every single person in my close circle has figured out one or ten different solutions to living happily during a pandemic. My fear and circumstances have made it really hard for me to do any of that. Friends that have partners have moved somewhere cool with their partners. Friends that are single have almost *all* moved home to live with their parents (I'm way, way too worried about giving my parents covid). Friends with families are with their families in their large, air conditioned houses, going on trips and making it work. People are taking precautions, no one has gotten sick, and still living a pretty nice life. I tried my best for months but now the air quality makes it impossible to go outside and it looks like it will be this way until late November.

I can't be happy in my tiny apartment by myself for much longer, especially as my last remaining friends are moving home to Europe in a few weeks. I've come up with "options" for what to do next but all of them seem fucked in some major way (e.g., go stay with cousins who are physicians seeing covid patients, pay an exorbitant amount to live in Hawaii post quarantining for two weeks and worrying about covid + hawaiian hospitals, isolation, etc.)

Through all of this, I know that the problem isn't the external circumstances as much as it's simply...me. I want to be like everyone else I know and do just fine during this time but instead I'm driven by fear and completely stuck. It's really hard to appreciate myself right now which degrades my self esteem and (fear #5) makes me unsure if I'd choose me as a partner, if I could.

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Hi Polly. I am an unemployed 35-year-old who has struggled with finding direction/meaningful employment after quitting my job almost two years ago now.

I've been fortunate enough to spend time on myself during this downtime, and unpack lots of things that needed unpacking, but I still find myself sort of stuck as it relates to my career.

In my previous employment, I worked with a large customer base at a named-after-a-fruit technology company. My role was very people-facing, and it provided tons of opportunity to flex my troubleshooting, team-leadership, and people-helping muscles. I found this work to be extremely gratifying, up until the point where I didn't, when the environment turned from a positive one to a largely negative one. I stayed in that negative environment for, what I would consider, too long, and as a result, it had a very negative effect on my mental health.

Without much thought about what was next, I left my job and made an abrupt decision to move into a different field that seemed accessible, but that I never felt particularly adept at it, and it wasn't fulfilling. After expending much effort to try and make it work, I came upon the realization that a particular career change wasn't for me, and spent time on my physical and mental health.

I now find myself uncertain about my next move. In this unfriendly job market, I've struggled to identify a direction that carries some specific meaning or has a pull, and sincere desire behind it. After 150+ rejections from potential employers, I feel both downtrodden, and hopeful about opportunities, though I am apprehensive about just accepting any old job. It's such a strange time to navigate, and I feel as though I've got along exclusively on the kindness of friends who've been supportive and understanding during this strange period in life.

With that bit of backstory, do you have any advice you might offer? I am understanding that whatever work I find next will most likely be something less than ideal, or maybe unfulfilling in the way that I might want it to be, but I hope to use it as some sort of catapult into something more substantial. Thanks for your time.

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My anxiety level is off the charts. I can’t focus or get anything done.

I welcome all your writings.

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Polly, I carry a great deal of shame and feelings of inadequacy due to being bullied in my childhood. How do I learn to be ok with myself and, in consecuence, to connect to others without constantly thinking I'm not enough?

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I'm so upset with the fires over there and also here in Brazil. People keep posting (with good reason!) pictures of burnt animals, dead animals, hurt animals... and even though I'm in Brazil it seems far away and out of my capacity of helping. Sometimes I wish I was not here to see this world get so fucked up by capitalism and greed and awful people that only use power to destroy. I don't have a question, I don't have almost anything in me anymore, but I wanted to jump in and say how much your words mean to me, Heather. So thank you for that. For everyone out there, please keep safe, you'll be on my thoughts.

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I'm 7 months pregnant with my first child and just received the news that my dad has a couple of weeks to live. Any advice for how I can navigate through what is both the happiest and saddest point in my life to date?

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I keep thinking in different ways and seeing things from totally different perspectives, and it makes me feel like my head is spinning - each of the ways to see everything seems ok, but I'm not anchored in any of them. I dont know what to do about it

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