June 17, 2012 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Follow the steps to avoid blowup

Washington Post
 

Hi, Carolyn: I have a bit of an open-ended question. When I’m unhappy, I tend to want to change everything – job, relationships, etc. – at once. It’s hard for me to decipher where I’m unhappy and what the best ways are to change things, rather than blow up my whole life. Are there ways to start to unpack all of this? – Time to Leave?

When you have the urge to blow up everything, the most prominent common denominator is you, right? So, the question waiting for an answer is, why don’t you feel like you’re living the right life for you?

The best place to start is with small steps toward getting healthy. Are you getting enough sleep, eating well, making an effort not to be sedentary?

If you’re maintaining your physical health, then move on to your emotional health: Are you putting effort into the people who are good for you, and distancing yourself from takers, criticizers, enablers or those who otherwise bring out your worst? Are you using time productively?

If your physical and emotional habits are solid, then move on to temporary rut-busting: vacation. Or, a weekend road trip, or even a day trip, or just lunch with a friend you haven’t seen lately. Give your eyes a new place to rest. Familiarity can limit your thinking.

If you have an antibiotic-resistant strain of the blahs, then it’s time to weigh the big, external pieces of your life, like where you live, what you do for a living, whom you befriend, date and trust.

But even then, start small: Can any of these be tweaked, versus blown up? If tweaks don’t work, are there any changes that can be easily made or reversed? Can you walk away from anything temporarily, via sabbatical, temporary reassignment, trial separation, “a break”?

Should you get this far without relief, you’ll still have information toward understanding why demolition is your first impulse when you’re unhappy. After all, the blow-up solution pretty much assures that you can avoid facing that thing, whatever it is, you so badly want to avoid – whereas a methodical approach, honestly executed, will take you right to its door.

Dear Carolyn: My fiance is European, I am from the United States, and after our fall wedding we will be living in a different country altogether.

Our wedding guests would like to know if we are registered anywhere for gifts. Since where we live next depends on where both of us get our next jobs, we can only specify two continents with any certainty. That is why I would like people to make a donation to our relocation fund.

Is it ever OK to just ask for money? If so, how can we do it without sounding tacky? – International Affairs of the Heart

If the mythic quest for the polite shakedown ever has a happy conclusion, then I’ll be sure to publish an update in this space.

The first and best option is to remind yourself that getting started in your new home is entirely your financial responsibility, and that your guests’ sole purpose is to provide emotional support. Since you need to provide some kind of answer to gift inquiries, you have an additional, more practical option: “Thanks so much for asking – we didn’t register, because we’ve got an international move (or several) coming soon.” In this case, saying “4” may be rude, but saying “2 + 2” is perfectly appropriate.

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