DEAR HARRIETTE: I have always been a night owl, but now it's catching up with me. I stay up late watching lame TV shows, and then I can hardly get up in the morning to start my day. I know this is crazy, but I haven't been able to break the cycle. My husband and I have been on the outs recently, and I think that's how it started. Rather than going to bed when he does, I stay up late and basically avoid him. Now, it's backfiring. I can't get up in the morning. I've been late for work a few times. I'm exhausted, yet I can't seem to change my pattern. -- Night Owl, Richmond, Virginia
DEAR NIGHT OWL: You have to deal with the fundamental issue before you -- what's going on in your marriage. Avoiding that elephant in the room has your schedule all twisted with unnecessary distractions. It is unhealthy for you to continue down this path.
While it may seem scary and daunting to approach the crisis in your marriage directly, you owe it to yourself and your husband to do just that. Consider engaging a marriage counselor to help you out. A professional may be able to point you in a direction that will make it easier for you to talk about your issues with your husband and come to some clarity about what you need to do. Be sure to tell the therapist about your sleep issues, too. I think they are all related.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Do you remember those spam emails that circulated a few years ago from Nigerians "princes" who claimed they wanted to wire millions of dollars into your bank account? Well, I just got one from a Russian making the same claim. It is obvious to me that this is a scam, but it also makes me uncomfortable. I wonder how these people got my email address and who else they might be scamming when it works? The promise is unbelievable. They will wire millions in your account if you send a small amount of money to them along with your bank account number. I know that there are lots of people out there with money problems. When you are desperate enough, you could make the mistake of falling for one of these crazy scams. Is there anything I can do as one who received this solicitation? I would love to help if I can. -- Be the Solution, Atlanta
DEAR BE THE SOLUTION: Unfortunately, scam artists abound, and they do catch some unsuspecting people who think that they are about to get an unbelievable deal. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. You can report the message as spam to your provider. You can also file a report at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A guy who went to college with me has kept in touch over the years, always asking me to do him favors -- for free -- for his various business ideas that he is building in order to make a profit. When he first started with his requests, I tried to comply to be nice. While we were not close in college, I did know him. I figured it's collegial to help each other out. But his requests typically come with great urgency and absolutely never with a paycheck.
He has worked on all kinds of things -- many that have been profitable. Once I told him I would help if he hired me. I put together a proposal, but nothing came of it. I think he was offended that I wanted to be paid. He has come back to ask me to do something else for him. It wouldn't take that long, but I already have other favors that I'm doing for people that have been postponed because of my work schedule. How do I manage this man's constant requests? He is always taking, never giving. But he's so smooth in his requests that I seem to agree to do what he wants without evening realizing it. -- Beware the Leech, Wilmington, Delaware
DEAR BEWARE THE LEECH: It sounds like this guy puts you under a spell, so to speak, and when you wake up later, you've been duped. Rather than feeling like you must fulfill whatever he has asked of you when you realize that he has pulled a fast one again, evaluate what you have agreed to do. If you don't want to do it or don't have time, tell him. In this case, you can let him know via email that you cannot get to his project until you have fulfilled your work obligations and the other favors that are you your list. Let him know plainly that you have put him in a queue, and you will get to it when you can. If he cannot live with your revised timeline, apologize for not being able to comply and suggest that he ask someone else to do it.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently ran into one of my neighbors, who used to invite me over to his house for drinks and social events with some regularity. I realize he doesn't invite me anymore. When I saw him, he casually said to me that he looks forward to me inviting him over for drinks sometime. Naturally, reciprocating is what I should be doing, but I can't. My house looks like it should be featured on that show "Hoarders." I'm serious. I can't seem to get it under control. I constantly work on sorting through things and throwing stuff away, but without success. When my neighbor asked me to invite him over, I thought I would die. How can I climb out of the mess? -- In Hiding, Minneapolis
DEAR IN HIDING: Get help. If you have been trying for years to clean up without accomplishing your goal, you need professional support. Contact a company in your area that helps hoarders clear out their homes. It is not an easy process, but you can get there with the right help. Keep thinking of being able to invite your neighbor over as motivation to take action!
DEAR HARRIETTE: Every summer for the past 15 years, my family and I have gone on vacation to the beach. This year has been difficult. I lost my job a few months ago, and we have had to cut back on our activities a lot. We managed to scrape together enough money to send our son to the camp he has attended for the past few years, but that meant that there was no money left for my husband and me to do anything more than whatever we can do locally. Friends keep asking us what's up, why we aren't heading to the sun like usual. Do I tell the truth -- we just can't afford it this year? Or do I say we decided to stay home and work on our house, which is also true? I'm not sure how forthcoming is appropriate. -- No Sun, No Fun, Dayton, Ohio
DEAR NO SUN, NO FUN: Think about the friends who are asking, how close you are to them and how much you want them to know. Since you are out of work, you may want to let people know so that if they have any leads, they can share them with you. Keeping your state of employment to yourself does not necessarily help you, even though it can be tough and feel embarrassing to talk about it. For the friends that you feel comfortable talking to, tell the truth -- all of it. It is a blessing that your son is able to enjoy the summer in his normal way. You are making the best of your situation, but these are lean times. Opening up allows you to think out loud with loved ones. Maybe you will find a path to abundance in this way.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I read one of your recent columns, and I wonder: Did anyone entertain the possibility that "Alex," the hungry teenager who eats constantly without any regard for his family, has an eating disorder and needs help? I know that it's more common in girls, but the fact that he doesn't make any specific requests but gorges on everything in sight sounds like compulsive eating. He's a teenager, and teenagers are under stress and often have emotional problems. Please suggest to his mother that she check it out. -- Concerned, Memphis, Tennessee
DEAR CONCERNED: Thank you for your suggestion. You are smart to point out that boys, too, can suffer from eating disorders. I did some research to be able to share more here. It turns out that teenage boys (and men) nationwide do wrestle with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Any parent who suspects his or her child of eating in an unhealthy way should investigate the possibility of an eating disorder. Get a complete physical for your child so that you gain an assessment of his or her health, and take the necessary steps to get your child healthy. This website has some good information specific to eating disorders and males: nationaleatingdisorders.org/males-and-eating-disorders. For anyone else who may be facing an eating disorder, do not suffer alone. Get help.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106