DEAR HARRIETTE: I spent time with my sister recently and unloaded on her all about my troubles at home with my husband.
She listened for a while, but then I noticed that she wanted to change the subject. I was so upset that I kept going anyway. I needed to get things off my chest.
The next time we were together, I noticed that she didn’t really engage when I brought up the topic.
I can’t say that I blame her. She can’t fix my problems, but I feel bad that I dumped them on her and then didn’t pay attention when it was time to stop.
My sister and I are close. I don’t want her to worry that I am going to inundate her with my troubles every time we talk. What should I say to her?
DEAR GONE OVERBOARD: You have two options. You can say nothing and just stop bringing up your marital problems with your sister — at least for now. If she is weary of talking about it, she may appreciate it if you simply stop doing so.
You could also take the approach of thanking her for being willing to listen to you when you were so upset. You can then pivot to a professional therapist who can help you figure out a way forward. Make it a priority to engage with a professional and let your sister know that you have indeed sought counseling. In this way, she will know that you are being helped — and that she does not need to serve in that role.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother had a big birthday recently. We all visited with her, and she looked amazing. Her attendant had done her hair and dressed her beautifully, so she truly was looking vital and happy.
The next day, though, my mother looked frail and somewhat out of it, which is more usual for her. Should we just expect this to be her norm? She is in her 90s now. A good day here and there, but more blah days?
One Good Day
DEAR ONE GOOD DAY: Thank goodness your mother was able to rally — with assistance — to celebrate her birthday. I hope you took pictures of her when she was glowing and beautiful. Those moments are important and do prove to her and to the family that your mother’s vibrancy and joy are still there, even if you only get to see occasional glimpses.
As people age, their bodies, minds and spirits change. You do need to recognize and accept that your mother is not as energetic as she once was.
Pay attention so that you understand her state of being and how you can best support her. Do not buy into a fantasy that because she had one good day, she can return to that state forever. It’s more likely that she will have fully engaged moments alongside duller ones. That’s OK. Love her in all of the manifestations that she presents. It is a blessing to have your mother alive and alert during the twilight of her life. Savor all of the moments, however they come.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.