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Sense & Sensitivity | Advice

Dear Readers: Merry Christmas! Greetings to all of you at this special time of the year. For me, the holiday season has always been a magical time. From Thanksgiving right through to New Year’s Day, my home in Baltimore was filled with music, laughter, delicious food, and fellowship. My parents hosted parties and attended many black tie parties night after night. My sisters and I played together and spent time with close friends. My dad’s birthday, New Year’s, and I promised a party the night before. It was fun!

Decades later, we still have our mother, who is 92, and many family traditions remain. We are grateful this year that we will be able to meet again, still being careful. With the travel ban lifted and the coronavirus somewhat avoided, we’ll be able to embrace each other again. Inevitably there will be high and low moments, this is life. I look forward to all of that. When I think about how my family will spend this day and this period of time together, I think of you. How will you spend this precious time?

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The holiday season evokes all kinds of energy and passion for people. Nostalgia can bring tears of joy or sadness. Life circumstances can lead to a feeling of victory or defeat. Check with yourself to see where you stand. Where is your heart now? Do you feel happiness, sadness, tenderness, joy – or a combination of all of this?

I want to encourage you to take care of yourselves. Keep your personal needs in mind as you navigate this special time. Connect with people who assure you. Choose to see joy and light, even in difficult moments. Remember that you are not your childhood self. Resist the instinct to return to childhood roles and behaviors. Stay in the present and take care of your needs while you care for your loved ones. Make time for yourself each day to focus and stay on track.

Pay attention to the elderly. I will never forget my mom’s grandmother, who loved spending time with us and always made time for herself. She would go into a quiet room and meditate for at least an hour every day, no matter what was going on in the house. I recently noticed my mother-in-law doing the same thing during a week together at a family wedding. On Thanksgiving, I watched my mother close her eyes while still in the whirlpool of a room full of noisy people. Those who live long lives usually learn how to take care of themselves along the way. We can take a lesson from their book.

My best friend from home repeats a mantra we’ve said years ago: Be mindful and intentional. If we all approach this moment in time with a heart and mind presence that reminds us that we are precious beings worthy of greatness and capable of engaging in joy, compassion, connection, and light every day, we can make that clear in our lives. With conscious intention, we can live this way constantly. Hence the magic of this blessed season can fill our souls every day. Don’t you want that? I do!

Dear Harriet: I’m excited to visit my family this year for the holidays, especially since last year’s quarantine kept us from being together. My problem is that the only affordable ride I can get is home on Christmas Day. My family has a Christmas Eve ritual where the adults wrap gifts together, and the kids open one gift the night before. I want to be there for it, but I just couldn’t make it work. Am I wrong in asking the family to put it off until Christmas afternoon when I arrive? – Nostalgia

Dear nostalgia: You cannot ask your family to delay this tradition. It would be unfair to them and embarrassing to everyone. What you can do is suggest that you be included with technology. One of the things most of us have experienced and many have mastered during nearly two years of quarantine is how to use digital technology to stay connected. Now is the time to use video conferencing. Ask your family to set up a computer or other device so you can FaceTime, Zoom, or call each other on Christmas Eve. This way, they can go about their normal activities and involve you in the process. There is no need to miss anything, all they have to do is set up the device so that you are in a state of fusion with them! The problem has been resolved.

Dear Harriet: I had my first disappointment about my wedding that day. I asked my older sister to be my bridesmaid, and she said no because she would be out of town during my wedding date. I offered to help my wedding plan the shower as a consolation. I can’t imagine what you might think was more important than her younger sister’s wedding. We are both very close, and we always talked about being a big part of each other’s weddings. I have apologized hundreds of times. Do I have to get past this? – Sister bail on the wedding day

My dear sister on the wedding bail: Let’s unpack this. Did you check with your sister about availability before securing the date? Even though you don’t have to check in with everyone about it, it makes sense to talk to your closest family member and potential wedding party before wrapping up the date. If you did, find out what happened. This is something worth investigating before dropping it — for many reasons, including to clarify your role in these hiccups.

Ask your sister what she should do, he will take her away from your wedding, and if there is any chance that her plans will change. From there, you have to let it go. Accept her conciliatory offers and forgive her. You may also need to forgive yourself if you don’t check in with her before your appointment. Planning a wedding raises a lot of emotions. Do your best to stay calm and celebrate the small victories leading up to your big day.

Dear Harriet: It’s summer now! I just took off my summer clothes, and did a reality check. I knew I had gained weight during the pandemic, but at home I was wearing my sweatpants and pajama bottoms, so it didn’t really matter. Now I found out that I can’t wear any of my shorts. Pants without elastic do not zip. My crop tops reveal rolls of fat that needn’t be shown. I am afraid. Yes, that means I need to lose weight, but now I have nothing to wear. Do you think I should drop everything and buy a whole new wardrobe or buy a few things and motivate myself to lose weight so I can fit in what I have? – inappropriate

Dear Unit: Don’t give up on everything yet! Buy some basic food items so you can feel comfortable going about your life. But use this reality check to get you back on the right track. Create a movement plan and a nutritional plan. You must reduce the amount of calories you eat in order to lose weight. Read about healthy, low-calorie diets and find what works for you. Many people follow WW (formerly Weight Watchers) with excellent results because it helps you track your intake throughout the day and gives you guidance on the value of whatever you put in your mouth.

Choose an accountability partner who can help inspire you to continue your program even when you don’t feel like it. Give yourself a goal when you can wear a favorite pair of pants or a blouse. Try them every week. When they fix again, you can rejoice!

Dear Harriet: Graduation year is approaching, which means my school is about to get more mature. All the fun old age traditions like Halloween and prom are deeply rooted in social groups. Unfortunately, I don’t have a specific friend group. During lunch, I wander from table to table talking to whomever I see. None of my friends seem to agree with each other, so I don’t think there is any chance for me to form my own group. Plus, for the whole of last year and part of the year before, we were home, and we couldn’t meet any group we had. Everything seems awkward now when I think about going back to school. I don’t want to feel neglected or sad when it comes to these events. What should I do? High school cliques

Dear high school quotes: Many students are embarrassed about what the upcoming school year will look like. Social life is important at school, and many students have missed more than a year of working in each other’s company. It is possible that some of the previous groups will be dissolved as other friend groups appear.

Instead of focusing on who ends up being where, keep your intentions in mind. What do you want to happen in your final year? What events do you want to attend? Who would you like to attend with? Choose two teens that you think are friendly and are not part of any pre-set clique. Start spending time with them. Do your best to build a relationship with them now so that you naturally feel familiar with each other. Talk about social activities ahead of time to see if they have an interest in attending. I suggest you go together.

Harriet Cole is a lifestyle specialist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people reach and make their dreams come true. You may send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106

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