While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On sending cards when you don't value them yourself
H.S.: When my father's sisters died and I cleaned out their possessions, I found probably every birthday card and letter that I had sent them since the scribbled ones when I was 5. I had no idea how much those mailings meant to them, and I was embarrassed to realize I hadn't sent a card every year. We focus too much on ourselves and not enough on those close to us.
D.K.: I can't remember the content of my last e-mail . . . but I do have a 40-year-old box of love letters in the upstairs closet, quietly preserved.
Card Queen: My grandmother slipped into dementia after losing three of her seven children in a seven-year span. Her short-term memory was gone. But she would sit with her old greeting cards, and could tell you who sent them and why. It gave her a sense of place and time in an otherwise bewildering life. My mother gained immeasurable amounts of peace, knowing that my grandmother could find something that gave her joy after losing so much, even if she obtained it by living in the past. A card can be a lasting reminder of someone's love, kindness and existence.
On the 'perfect girl' who might get away
No spilled-milk laments: You can decide if it's cynical or just pragmatic, but if this ideal girl had gone to a different school, hung out in different clubs or lived in another neighborhood, they would have met someone else who was "the only one" without ever knowing the other existed. Life is full of broken links and new opportunities.
I have had my heart broken many times, and there was always another wonderful person in my future. Some of the old "only ones" are thought of with nostalgia; some with absolute relief that we didn't continue on. Oh, and life has been great for the past 25 years with the person who did truly make me believe she was "the only one."
On learning not to fall for people who have issues
Anonymous: I had a (series of bad relationships), and eventually realized that I needed to learn how to become attracted to a different kind of person. It's not easy to change an emotional reaction, and I'm not sure I could have done it without counseling. How was it possible to find someone attractive if he always showed up on time and never let me down? Where was the excitement in stability and dependability?
When I finally met Mr. Right, I knew intellectually that he was the person I should spend my life with, but it took me many months to develop an emotional attachment to him, and I have never felt for him the kind of burn-me-up passion I had found instantly in less stable relationships. My whole perception of how love feels had to change before I could be a functional partner in a good relationship.
Twenty years later, Mr. Right is still steady and reliable. I am constantly amazed at how good it feels and how lucky I feel. I don't miss the intense passion, and I really don't miss the insecurity and heartache of the earlier relationships.