While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On seeking personal fulfillment through a "bucket list":
If you really want every year to be "a gift of extraordinary value," try meeting your responsibilities to others, even at the expense of your own convenience. On my deathbed, I will reflect on a life that was not glamorous and exotic, but I will be surrounded by a loving family, knowing I have done my best to raise decent, loving human beings.
On raising a tween who has taken a turn for the rude:
You and your child are both practicing for higher-stakes separations in the future. One of the key elements that will make those conversations easier is skill — especially your child's. Rather than responding to his effect in the moment, take an emotional step sideways. Don't engage; observe. In a level voice, say, "I have no idea what you want right now, and you're not going to get it by being rude to me. What do you want? Why? How much? When you figure those things out, let's talk, but bring your best skills if you expect me to listen. You're 10 now."
What he really wants in that moment, by the way, is power, and he's getting it by making his parent go off like a rocket whenever he wants. Please eliminate that reward and help him become more adept at finding his own power.
On being married and feeling a "soul mate" connection to someone else:
Thirteen years ago I was in that position. Whenever I saw the other man, my heart raced. I thought no one knew.
One day one of my students said, with a sly look, "You really like Mr. (blank), don't you?" It shocked me.
I sat down and projected. What if everyone knew? What if it got back to my family? I imagined my husband's face. He had done nothing to deserve the hurt it would cause. How would I explain to my girls? They adored their father.
I stopped eating lunch with the other man. I started looking for another job. I started writing my husband little notes thanking him for all the things he does for his family and me. It rekindled what was missing in my marriage. I know, without a doubt, that it was the best thing I ever did. Best of all, I can look myself in the eye without shame.
On equating nasty comments to thin people with nasty comments to fat people:
People make comments about a thin person's weight because they are jealous. When people make comments about a person being too fat, it's derogatory.
Employers don't like to hire fat people. When you see a fat person getting on the bus, you avert your eyes and pray to God we don't sit by you. It's still okay to make fun of fat people on TV, etc. After all, we do it to ourselves. Don't want to be fat? Just eat less.
Society has zero sympathy for fat people. Drug users do it to themselves, but they are coddled and treated like victims. "Oh, isn't it tragic that (fill in entertainer's name here) died of an overdose at 27? He had so much potential." When a fat person dies? "That man was so fat it was bound to happen soon."
Comments to thin people are nothing like the hurtful comments you hear when you're fat.