Q: It's my birthday today, and my first since my mom passed away last year. I am lucky to have a lot of friends and family, so I've been getting birthday messages all morning, but every time I get one I'm feeling a pang because I know I won't hear from my mom today.
I know you've lost a parent yourself; do you have any tips as to how to keep appreciating those things and people I do have today? I'm afraid I'm letting the pain outweigh all the good things.
A: Sometimes the pain outweighs the good things. It's okay. You don't have to remain in balance every minute of every day. The time to fight the push-pull of it is when you get stuck on the floor or when you hit such extremes that you're having a difficult time keeping your life in reasonable order. If today is just a sad-reminder day, then be sad. And grateful, too, for your lovely friends, even though they're stirring up sadness today.
Wife not down with mother-in-law's frets
Q: I'm recently married, and we're living with his parents for a few months. My mother-in-law worries as a hobby. Sometimes it takes the form of criticizing her son to me.
When he was first applying for jobs she tried to enlist me in haranguing him. I've refused, and generally say something mild like, "Well, I think all people struggle with this." But this kind of criticism is very demoralizing to my husband. What can I say?
Not in Cahoots
A: In lieu of mildness, there's always, "I've found that fretting to him backfires, and demoralizes him more than it motivates." Or just: "I'm not worried."
If she responds along the lines of, "He's my son, I think I know what works," then you smile and say you hope she's right.
Otherwise, though, I suggest not trying to fix this.