DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a young woman in my life who is important to me. I consider myself her mentor. She calls whenever she needs anything, and I do my best to be available at a moment's notice. I am beginning to see, though, that when I need her, she is often MIA. If I text or call her, I may have to follow up three or four times before she responds. Meanwhile, if she texts or calls me, I do my best to drop everything to make time for her. I don't like how this is balancing out.
I feel like maybe she is taking advantage of my kindness. I do know that she is busy building her career while my work is slowing down, but still I think I deserve the basic respect of having her get back in touch with me in a timely manner. What should I say to her? -- Feeling Unappreciated
DEAR FEELING UNAPPRECIATED: You have touched on something that is likely key in this relationship: Your mentee is actively growing her career as yours is slowing down. I doubt that she means to be unavailable or unresponsive to you. Probably she is swept up in the rush of her life and is oblivious to her actions. This, by the way, does not give her a pass. It just gives perspective on why she may be MIA at times when you reach out to her.
Part of your mentoring should include you finding a way to talk to her about what's been happening between you. Schedule a time to talk when you can let her know that she is not being responsive when you need her, and this hurts your feelings. Point out from a bigger-picture perspective that if this is happening with you, it is most likely happening with others. Recommend that your mentee make lists of who she's engaging and whether she is following up with them in a timely manner. Make it clear to her that follow-through is important on the road to success.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Recently I was at a party with my boyfriend. I got quite drunk, and he had to take care of me for the rest of the time we were at the party and when we got back to my home. The next day he seemed resentful, and I'm worried that I said something to him that I don't remember to tick him off. What should I say to him to find out why he's mad? -- Too Many Drinks
DEAR TOO MANY DRINKS: Good for you that you recognize your intoxication was inappropriate and may have created long-term negative repercussions.
Tell your boyfriend you need to have an uncomfortable conversation. Apologize for getting drunk at the party. Thank your boyfriend for taking care of you. Ask him if you said or did anything -- beyond obviously being drunk -- that offended him. Tell him that as hard as this may be to hear, you need to know. Listen as your boyfriend shares his memory of that evening. Apologize if there is anything else that you did that was offensive.
Decide together that you will help each other monitor your alcohol consumption so that you don't get that drunk again.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I broke up with my ex-girlfriend a few months ago because we just weren't getting along well. I didn't want to lead her on, so I thought we should end our relationship. I've heard recently that she took the breakup hard and hates me. This has not been my experience, with my few interactions with her being awkward but cordial. Do you think I can do anything to help her, or should I just wait and not talk to her until much later when it is more likely she is over me? -- Handling Heartbreak
DEAR HANDLING HEARTBREAK: You may want to request one meeting with your ex-girlfriend where you tell her that you did not mean to hurt her and that you are sorry she is suffering right now. Tell her that you hope she will be OK soon. Allow her to speak her mind. Be sure that you acknowledge her feelings as you stand your ground. If you do not want to be in a relationship with her anymore, be clear about that so that she doesn't misread the reason for this meeting.
When it is finished, wish her well and step away. If you are ever to be friendly in the future, she will have to heal and move on with her life just as you are moving on with yours.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I just got a job -- finally. I am excited but also a bit worried. I will be working at an upscale restaurant that has many expectations about how the staff behaves. They expect us to speak perfect English and to know all of the rules of etiquette. I'm not sure how I was hired, because there is so much that I do not know. Still, I will give it my all. Do you have any recommendations for how I can get up to speed quickly? -- Knowing the Rules
DEAR KNOWING THE RULES: The good news is that you were hired even though you don't think you have all of the skills. This means that your employer has faith in you. What you can do is to get some books to review the basics of etiquette. You may want to look at etiquette podcasts for guidance, too. These are from the Emily Post Foundation: emilypost.com/awesome-etiquette-podcast. You can also get a grammar book to study the nuances of grammar to help you refine your public speaking. You may consider joining Toastmasters, an organization that teaches communications skills.
Finally, you should talk to your supervisor and ask if there is a manual or other handbook that is used at the restaurant that can help you to master your job.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am confused about our current political landscape. When I listen to the president talk, I hear him proudly saying all of these things that he has done for the benefit of this group or that. Then I listen to a variety of pundits who discredit each point with tremendous energy. I can't tell what is the truth. How can I figure it out? -- Where Is the Truth?
DEAR WHERE IS THE TRUTH?: If your goal is to discover the truth independent of political party, you will need to do a lot of digging. You have to look at what the president and others say and then look at news sites on both sides of the aisle to see how they are being unpacked. Further, search online for legal documents that may provide evidence of truth. You may be able to find them in the Congressional Record.
Beyond that, your responsibility is to sort through all that you find and hear and make an assessment of what you believe to be true. In politics it is difficult to know for sure when the truth is being told. That seems horrible, I know. But the reality is that politicians often twist the truth to support their claims.
You should know that whether or not you support the president, there are positive things that the administration has done as well as some that are questionable. Your job as an American citizen is to pay attention so that you are aware of what is happening with our government. When you appreciate something, say as much. When you object to something, speak up. You can write to the president, write to Congress and communicate with the news media to share your views.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother is wealthy. He and his wife have children, just like my husband and I, but they give them way more stuff because they can. All of our children are well-behaved, but my children live much more modestly. My husband thinks that my brother and his wife coddle their kids and aren't teaching them strong life lessons. I totally disagree. Plus, I don't think it's my husband's business to judge how my brother handles his affairs. Sure, we struggle, but that doesn't mean that because they don't, they aren't teaching their children to be good people. How can I get my husband to stop with his judgments and let people be? -- Stop the Judgments
DEAR STOP THE JUDGMENTS: It can be hard to observe the behavior of people of different means from you and not pass judgment. Your husband seems to be struggling with his own values and resources compared to your brother's family. You can't change his beliefs. You can caution him not to talk about them around your children. Remind him how uncomfortable his comments make you. Stand your ground when he goes too far. You should also forgive him for wrestling with this uncomfortable situation.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I belong to a sorority that I joined in college. Many of the women have stayed close over the years, and now I wish I had, too. They tried to keep me in the loop, but I was too busy. Now that a lot of time has passed, I feel uncomfortable trying to work my way back into the mix. They keep reaching out to me, but I worry that they are all close and have been for years, and I am the odd girl out. I don't remember all of their names, and I feel stupid having to reacquaint myself when everybody else is in sync.
Do you think I should try to reconnect with my former sorority sisters? I have spent my life building my career and see that this has made me isolated, but somehow they did both. I'm feeling like my choices weren't so smart. Do you think I should take my sorors up on getting back together? -- Sorority Life
DEAR SORORITY LIFE: If your sorors are continuing to reach out to you, it is because they genuinely want to be in touch. Believe that their overtures are real. You can re-enter sorority life in increments. Why not reach out to the person you feel closest to? Get together with her in person or on the phone. Tell her you appreciate her reaching out to you over the years, and you want to reconnect. Be honest and let her know that you feel awkward because you don't really know most of your sorority sisters since you left college. Ask her to help you get reacquainted. Take your time. You don't have to become everybody's friend, but it will be nice for you to get close to a few of them and experience the fellowship of sisterhood.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am blessed to have a mother who is approaching her 90th year. She is fortunate to have quite a few friends her age who are still alive. I guess it's natural that they are having all kinds of health challenges. Every few months there's another issue. One has heart palpitations. The other got a pacemaker. Another is losing her memory. One of the few husbands left has inexplicable bleeding issues. And yet they are here. How can we, their children, stay upbeat when their health problems are scaring us? This came up again during the holidays when one of my mother's best friends was hospitalized on Christmas Day. -- Elder Care
DEAR ELDER CARE: Keeping things in perspective may help. You are so fortunate to have your mother and her friends in your life and doing their best as they advance in their years. You are now in a stage of life where you are having to care for your parents in the ways that they cared for you as a child. Often, elders require lots of hands-on care to manage from day to day.
Perhaps you can create an informal support group with your peers who have elderly parents. As your roles evolve into caregivers, be there for one another to talk about your parents' issues and your own ability to handle the realities of each day. You can create a group chat, a weekly call or a get-together if you are in the same town. Just talking to each other will help you to feel less isolated.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I was homeless for about two years. Finally, after a few false starts, a housing specialist was able to find me an amazing apartment in Brooklyn, New York. What I realize is that while I was homeless, I did not have to worry about purchasing groceries because the shelter I stayed in provided me with three meals per day. After two years, I went to the grocery store for the first time. While I was walking down the aisles, I stopped in my tracks. I stood still for about 10 minutes, paralyzed, because I didn't know what to purchase. I finally pulled myself together, bought a few items and went home.
Harriette, there are days when I have flashbacks to when I lived in the shelter system, and my past is trying to sabotage my future. I have come so far, but I realize how terrible my life had gotten. I have a job and am getting back on my feet. How do I stay focused on my positive progress without looking back? -- Next Steps
DEAR NEXT STEPS: Congratulations for getting through the system and staying as strong as you have. It is natural to have moments when it is hard to believe how far you have come. Now is a time when your faith is essential. You have made tremendous strides. Instead of trying to avoid your past, make a gratitude list that identifies what you have gone through and where you are today. Express gratitude for being able to go to the grocery store and having money to buy food. Be grateful for your job, which is helping you to be independent. When flashbacks occur, offer thanks for being able to survive the hard times.
Check with the caseworker who helped you to see if there is any mental health support that you can receive from the city to help you work through this transition period.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A few years ago, my daughter moved to New York City to pursue a career in fashion. She is now moving to Los Angeles to pursue her modeling career, and she has secured a couple of campaigns prior to her moving west. I am proud of her because she is taking advantage of every opportunity in front of her, but this presents a dilemma for me. My daughter is my last child to leave the house, and I will have an empty nest for the first time in 23 years. The idea of living in this large house by myself bothers me. I'm thinking about moving to LA start a new life for myself and see what the world has to offer. What are your thoughts? -- Going West
DEAR GOING WEST: It is understandable that you want to downsize your life and make a change since your children will be gone, but following your daughter should be done with caution. Talk to her to see if she welcomes the idea of you moving to LA with her. Your daughter is building her life and exercising her independence. Make sure that you don't stymie that because of your new insecurities. If she likes your idea, be sure to set up your own life and not be reliant on her.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been friends with a small group of people for most of my life. Two of them had a falling-out about three years ago, and they have not spoken since. This has put me in an uncomfortable situation. I have remained close to both "Jim" and "George." Jim wants to reconnect, but he did something that crossed the line for George, who has said that he doesn't want me to mention Jim's name to him again. I feel like I'm stuck in the middle of a divorce, even though we are all just friends. Do I relay to Jim what George is saying? I love them both, and I wish we were still close. I believe in forgiveness, but George says he is done with forgiving Jim. -- Odd Friend Out
DEAR ODD FRIEND OUT: Don't get caught up in their stuff. To the best of your ability, you now have to be friends individually with each of them if you choose to stay connected to them both. Do not become the messenger who relays barbs or pleas back and forth. If Jim tries to get you to talk about George, just say he has to contact him on his own. You cannot get involved. You can express your sadness to each of them that their friendship has dissolved -- but that's it.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been going to the gym religiously for about a year now. I hired a trainer there who has been helping me to get stronger, and I am finally feeling better about my body and my health. In December, I got a notification that my trainer no longer works for the gym. This is sudden. I just trained with him before I went away for Christmas. I don't want to work with anybody else, even though the gym offered to help me get matched to another trainer. I texted my trainer, who said he is probably going to open his own studio soon. But that's not now. I don't get it. This guy was by far the best trainer at this gym. I want to know what happened. Should I complain to management? Something happened, and I want to know what it is. -- Workout Blues
DEAR WORKOUT BLUES: Rather than complain, you can inquire as to what happened to your trainer. It's likely management won't tell you, though. Until he sets up his new space, you should keep going to your gym and take them up on finding you a new trainer -- even if it is for a short-term commitment. You don't want to lose the momentum that you have built up. Continue with your workout regimen, especially now as the new year has started. Motivate yourself to stay strong and focused.
Stay in touch with your trainer. When he opens his studio, check it out to see if he offers what you need before you leave your gym. Make a wise choice for your own body, not solely out of allegiance to him.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My teenage daughter told me something revealing about a couple of her friends at school. We have an excellent rapport, which is why she shared this with me. A week later, I was at a party with a group of friends, and, after a few drinks, I told one of the moms what my daughter had told me. I didn't mean to share what turned out to be confidential information, but I did it, and now all hell has broken loose. It's my fault. I apologized to my daughter for talking about something that she shared with me privately, but I feel horrible. I don't want to lose my daughter's trust. What can I do? -- Broken Confidence
DEAR BROKEN CONFIDENCE: Promise your daughter that you will never betray her trust again -- unless it is a life-or-death situation. The "life-or-death" caveat is important because you are still the parent. If a revelation is unsafe, you may need to address it. But generally, let your daughter know that you will agree to keep information private between you. This is the only way to get her to continue talking to you about her feelings and friend dynamics. It may take time for her to tell you more secrets. You need to be patient.
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@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106