Category Archives for "Adults"

Is it wrong to want your boyfriend to include you?

kiara123 asks:

I’ve been with this boy for almost 2 years now. We’re long distance and I feel like I’ve started to become toxic. I love him a lot but I don’t understand why I get jealous when he’s out partying or planning trips with his friends. I have no friends at all, so I don’t understand how life really is with friends. I know all these feelings are wrong and toxic but I just don’t know how to help it. I try really hard to make myself understand that it’s ok and I never tell him what to do. I don’t wanna be a controlling girlfriend and I want him to be happy, but I can’t seem to get rid of this miserable feeling. His friends drink and smoke a lot and are kind of cheap so that makes me a bit insecure. There are a couple of things that bother me besides this. He uses Snapchat a lot and that’s fine by me. He can snap anybody he wants but he doesn’t send me snaps. I think he sends snaps to everyone except me and that hurts. He does send me a snap separately but it’s just a black screen. It’s not like I wanna know what he’s doing or where he is, it’s just that I don’t want him sending snaps to people and not me.

Hi kiara123 –

I can really relate!  When Handsome goes out to work or to meet with friends, he almost always locks me in the yard.  Sure, he gives me a goodbye kiss and tells me how much he cares about me – but then he heads off and does whatever with all these other people, and sometimes with other dogs!  Do I think he’s purposely being mean to me?  No.  Do I think he’s doing anything out there that would upset me?  No.

But do I like it when he does it?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Now in my case, he often doesn’t have a choice.  There are laws about where he can and can’t take a dog.  But that’s not true for you.  So in your case, I have a question:

Why can’t you be there?

If he’s hanging out with all-male groups, especially if they’re doing things you don’t like, okay, I can see that.  But the rest of the time, why is he leaving you behind?  

And I’m asking sincerely.  It might be that he would like to have you around, but feels you would be unhappy there, or make him feel bad for having the fun he’s having.  And if that’s the case, maybe it’s something you could adjust.  For example, while you might not drink or smoke, if you’re with him when he’s doing that, you could be the designated driver, helping everyone get home safely and without any legal trouble.

Or is it that he’s excluding you?  Is he choosing to go out with others, and send pictures to others, keeping you out of it all, for some reason of his own?  If so, I think it would make a lot of sense for you to find out why!  It doesn’t make you a “controlling girlfriend” to ask him.  In fact, it could help your relationship along, by helping you understand him better.

And I’ll throw in another thought.  Maybe it’s time for you to get some friends of your own.  Not that they’d be against your relationship with him, but just friendships alongside it.  So you’d have people to talk with and go out with as well.  Just because you haven’t had such friendships doesn’t mean you couldn’t get some now!

But regardless of that, see if you can get to the bottom of why he’s doing these things.  Just because I’m locked in with no one to talk to but the squirrels and birds doesn’t mean you have to be!

All my best,

Shirelle

Too Much of a Good Thing? … how to wish better

Ever heard the old saying “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it?” 

I have spent most of the past three weeks indoors.  Not because I’m sick or injured or in trouble (yes those do happen, but not in this case!).  But because it’s been raining here.  And I mean raining a LOT! 

I tend to not like the rain much anyway, and I especially don’t like hard rain.  I hate sprinklers and showers, anything where water comes down on top of me – though I’m happy to jump into creeks or the ocean anytime – so a heavy rainfall really irritates me.  But the main reason I’m kept inside so much at times like this is that Handsome doesn’t want me going out and playing in the mud and then tracking it all over our house. He’s happy to take me outdoors to walk and pee and all, but wants to be able to wipe my feet off with a towel when we come back in (which also really irritates me!).

And as I said, we’ve been getting a lot of rain in my state.  Enough that nearby there have been mudslides and landslides and even some people getting killed! 

And this is all after seven years of drought.   Between historic patterns in the western United States that are just returning, and the horrible effects of climate change, it’s been very rough here.  Record-breaking temperatures, lots of fires, and a frightening depletion of the water everyone is counting on for agriculture and just living.

In fact, the drought is one of the main reasons the rains have been so destructive.  When we had more trees, and more plants in general, they held the ground better.  But without them, soils that might otherwise stand up fine are avalanching all over the place!

So please understand – as a Husky-mix, I hate hot weather, and especially hate that we’re having more super-hot days than we did when I was younger.  And fires scare the daylights out of me.  So just like everyone else in California, I’ve been wishing for rain.  Wishing hard.

But wait – we didn’t wish for THIS!  Or did we?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit, we wished for rain.  We didn’t specify a particular amount.  We wanted our reservoirs filled, our groundwater replaced, and we wanted our juicy fruits, healthy vegetables, pretty green lawns, and flowery gardens back.  Of course we did!

Now sadly, our drought has been so drastic that even these crazy rains likely won’t give us all the water we need.  Too much of it’s just running off into the ocean – because we didn’t have any means to hold on to it. 

Which makes me question even more – what’s wrong with what we’re asking?  If prayers and wishes actually do come true (as religious leaders and believers in manifestation have been arguing for millennia), then do we need to get more specific? 

Or did we just need to believe more that they might come true, and do better preparation for it?

Imagine if we’d spent the last seven years building rivers and reservoirs and all sorts of water catchments – and when these rains showed up, we’d grabbed all that water, which could keep us going for maybe a decade of drought!  Great, huh?

But can you imagine how hard that would have been to do?  It would have cost billions of dollars, with people screaming all the time “We’re in a drought and you’re building reservoirs for rains that aren’t happening!  Stop now!”

So by now you’re probably asking, why in the world is a dog asking questions about civil engineering!

Well, that’s not really what I’m after here.  I’m just thinking that, like the people in a drought-ridden community, each and every one of you has things they want.  That they want very very much.  But I don’t know that you’re ready for them!

I’ve seen men go to great lengths to win over beautiful women, who then treated them badly in ways they had no way to handle.  I’ve heard stories of dogs at race tracks who are so fast or clever they actually catch the mechanical rabbit they’re chasing, which of course doesn’t turn out to be the soft pliable bunny they expected!  And haven’t we all heard of people becoming super successful, or even winning a lottery, and then blowing their fortune on self-destructive nonsense, ending up in worse shape than when they started?

So it’s a new year.  And lots of people use that as a time to put out wishes and make resolutions.  Well here’s my wish for you:  Wish big, wish hard, and work like crazy to achieve your goals.

But also think. 

Think even harder than you wish!  Think about what you’d do if you got that money, that job, that person, that rabbit!  Think about what you can do to keep what you’ve won, and also what you can do if you find that what you wanted isn’t something you want to keep.  How much of that money can you put into an intelligent investment instead of spending right away?  Can you change that person, or should you apologetically let them go?  And also ask are you a worthy mate for them if they are right for you – able to keep them wanting to stay in this life with you?  Or do you really want to improve yourself a bit more before you win them?!

For me, I’m very happy with my life just as it is.  So my job is to do what I can to keep it that way.  To stay healthy and not get hurt, to keep cuddling up with Handsome all I can, and to hold myself back from wandering when he accidentally leaves the gate open.  Pretty easy.

But then there are those other things – things we all wish for. 

Let’s wish for world peace – but also the wisdom to know how to handle a peaceful world in ways that make things better, and not just setting us up for more wars.  Let’s wish for a slowdown or stop to climate change, but which includes new technologies so people can continue to enjoy the use of energy that gives us progress. 

And of course, I wish for you that you keep moving forward in your lives – but that you also always remember that when things get difficult, there’s an eager friendly dog out here you can check in with.  Maybe I’ll be able to give you the advice you need, but even if not, I can always send you a big lick on your cheek.

And licks, and kisses, are something – unlike rain – that I don’t believe one can EVER have too much of!!

Will I ever be able to love again?

pkt asks:

My boyfriend and I decided to completely break it off. Because of his family, he feels like there is no chance for us in the future and it will be good if we don’t stay friends because that will help him to move on. I still feel little hopeful about our future but obviously I can’t ask him to go against his family for me or even just lie to his family for now .And I also don’t want him to do something that feels wrong to him. But I feel very scared. We were together for 2 years and I have no idea how I’m going to move forward without him. What if I can’t find a connection like that again? I wanted this to work so badly but we just couldn’t. I don’t want to lose him. I was fine with being friends. I just wanted him to be there in my life. I know he’s right but I don’t know how to move on. Should I be still hopeful about this whole thing or just let it go?

Hi pkt –

I know that fear, and I’ve experienced it, and I see it all the time.  And my answer to you is… yes and no.

My human friend Handsome had a dog when he was 10 to 13 years old who he still idolizes, named Wolfgang.  No dog can ever mean to him what Wolf did.  When Wolf had to be given away, Handsome still says, it created the biggest wound his heart has ever suffered, and it’s never gone away.  Later he had a dog named Ygor who no one but him thought much of.  Ygor lived to be eighteen years old, and Handsome loved him more than anything else in the world.  And that whole part of his heart still loves Ygor as much as ever.  Then I came along.  And Handsome will gladly tell you he’s never loved anything the way he loves me.  But at the same time as he’s had me, he’s fallen in love with girlfriends, he’s loved friends enormously, and he’s been completely devoted to his family whom he adores.  

So are you right?  Will you find a connection like this guy again?  Probably you won’t – not exactly like you have with him.  And that’s partly because you’ll never be exactly the same person again, with the same needs, so you’ll connect differently.  But will you connect as strongly again?  I’ll bet you’ll connect with someone else more strongly than you ever did with this guy.  And will you love again?  Oh, only more so!  And will you forget this guy?  No chance.  

The way I see it, when we go off to whatever comes after this lifetime, our hearts are just loaded.  We have the love we felt for our parents and caretakers, the loves we had for our childhood friends, the loves we had for the teenagers we couldn’t stop laughing with (or in my case, couldn’t stop play-fighting with), the loves of our passionate romances, loves of beliefs and causes, loves of books and movies and songs, and if we’re so lucky, the biggest loves of all – for our children.  Does one make another go away?  Nope.  

But that’s our hearts.  Our brains do make room.  You’ll think about this guy all the time for a while, but there’ll be a day you realize you barely thought of him at all.  And then you’ll realize you went a week without thinking of him.  

And then you’ll bump into him on the street, and feel all the love you felt all over again.  But you’ll be strong enough to move on.

One of Handsome’s favorite songwriters said “He not busy being born is busy dying.”  Well you’re still being born, my friend.  And your newborn heart will love again like crazy.  

And here’s my big compliment to you and this guy – it’ll be easier for it to happen because you two have been so good with each other.  This relationship isn’t saddled with lies and betrayal.  No, you both have been honest and up-front and communicative.  Your trust has been rewarded.

So you’re going to be fine.  Not today, not tomorrow.  But you’re going to be okay.

You see, I know.  Because if Handsome was still only able to love Wolfgang and Ygor, I wouldn’t be here at all!

All my very best,

Shirelle

To Dance in Silence … the majesty of daring it all

            Handsome came home a couple of days ago, more excited than I’d seen him in months.  “You won’t believe what I just saw, Shirelle!  Remember I told you I was going to a ballet?”

            Now I have to admit, while I’m often jealous of Handsome’s ability to go to theaters, concerts, sport events, and such, ballet has never raised my envy.  Someone daintily dancing on their toes doesn’t move me the way, oh say, a bunch of folks excitedly chasing and kicking or throwing a ball does!  Now that’s exciting!

            I certainly see why it’s worth respect though.  I can barely hold the form of a “Sit!” and here are these humans – the clumsiest of all species – moving in perfect idealized form, and often performing with such strength anyone would be in awe (YOU try to stand perfectly still with one leg sticking straight out from your hip for a whole minute!  And then try it on your toes!!).  But to watch this for two or three hours?  Sorry but this pup will drop straight to sleep, dreaming of far more exciting squirrels.

            The ballet he went to is, I guess, the most popular of all, especially at this time of year.  It’s called The Nutcracker, and tells a weird story where a girl receives a gift from an eerie man, of a toy soldier who, if you put a walnut in his mouth, will crush it so you can eat the insides.  Then she starts dreaming, with visions of fairies and dancers from foreign lands, and – well here’s where it gets interesting to me for a while anyway – Giant Rats!  Handsome says it’s all about her first crush and dreams of romance and…  hey I get that kind of stuff in your letters all the time, Pack Members, and don’t have to sit quietly still watching it all play out!

            So although I do love the music to it (you all know this pup is a sucker for a good tune, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky created endless ones!), I saw no reason for him to be so excited about this show.

            “Well,” he explained, “the company that put this on used recorded music, not a live orchestra.” 

Oh, well there goes one more chance for excitement.  I do enjoy watching instruments get played, especially the loud fun ones like trumpets! 

“And many of the dancers were just amazing.  I can’t imagine how much work they’ve put in, for their whole lives, to do this so beautifully!” 

He looked at me with such an excited smile I felt a little bad for yawning.

            “It was all going fine, until this one song – I don’t even know what it’s called – where all these girls, I’m guessing around age 14 or so, were dancing very nicely.” 

My eyelids were drooping faster than I could control. 

“And then the music cut out!”

            Um… what?

            “It was complete silence.  Except for the footsteps of these girls – who kept dancing. In perfect time, following each other.”

            Well at last this was getting interesting.

            “Of course, no one can keep their timing exact, but they kept going, always with these lovely smiles, moving around the stage, watching whoever was in front at any time, since anyone up there couldn’t see the others behind her, and adjusting to that person or persons’ pace.”

            Okay, so I’ll admit, that sounds pretty difficult.  I have trouble concentrating on anything for more than a few seconds, unless there’s potential eating involved.

            “All of us in the audience were on the edges of our seats.  Could they make it through?  Would one of them break character and laugh or cry or give up?  Would the sound engineer make the terrible mistake of putting the music back on, with no chance of timing it exactly to the dancers’ steps?  Would some adult walk onto the stage and end it all?”

            So okay, what happened?

            “And when it finished, and they’d done it perfectly, everyone in the audience just ROARED in applause, and a bunch of us leapt to our feet.  It was  amazing!  Think of it, puppy!  The Nutcracker is danced all over the world, all the time.  But we saw something astounding, something none of us will likely ever see again!  And every one of those girls will never be the same.  They did something grand, that no one will ever take away from them.  They’re each like the kid who kicks the winning goal or shoots the winning basket.  Or you, Shirelle.  They amazed me the way you do every day!”

            He got onto the phone and must have yammered about this to different people for hours.  While I lay on the floor and thought more about it.  Was it really that big a deal?

            After all, we dogs dance without music every day.   If there aren’t any squirrels or birds to chase, especially when we’re young, we’ll just go nuts, running around, jumping, just to feel good and get our energy out. 

            And as far as that cool thing of them following the changing one in front?  I see birds do that all the time, especially when migrating.  And they’re doing it up in the air!

            But then I thought a bit more.  And had to admit – no dog has ever danced in perfect extended time to music.  And no bird has ever had to keep a perfect smile on its face while following alternating leaders.

            It’s true.  There are things that come naturally to dogs, to birds, and to humans.  And they’re not the same things.

            What those girls did was amazing.  And now I wish I’d been able to see them in their glory  (though it might have been more fun to watch backstage to see how they reacted after it was done!).

            And this led me to think about a quality you humans have, which you are better at than anyone else: making plans, and following your dreams. 

            You see, it’s easy to pursue goals when everything is directing you how to go (say, if you want to do well in a class, just pay attention and study hard!).  But what about when you aren’t getting any direction?  Like if you pick up a paintbrush and look at a blank canvas and wonder what to paint.  Or you see someone you’d like to get to know, but have no idea how to meet them.  Or you want to be successful in a career, but can’t think of anything you’d like to do.

            That’s dancing without music.  And just as those girls all worked as one unit to make their beautiful magic, the best way to meet your dreams is to get all of yourself working together.  So, to meet that person, can you manage to look your best, convince yourself you’re confident about yourself, and be as friendly and fun as possible – all at the same time?  Now that’s a ballet corps, all in you!

            Now 2022 is coming to an end.  For each of us, some things have gone well and some horribly.  I have some big wishes for 2023, like for some wars to end and for this stupid virus to go away.  But I can’t make them happen, and neither can you.

            What I can do is to do my best to be my best, and pursue what I want.  And you can do the same.

            And my biggest wish, for you, is not just that you pursue wonderful dreams, but that, at some point, the music gets cut off.  And you find yourself led only by your best instincts, trusting yourself, making creative choices.

            Because then, whether or not the dream comes true, you will have been as alive as you can ever be.  And just like those dancers, you will always know you had that moment of glory. 

            So maybe your painting isn’t a Rembrandt?  So that person you pursued already had a date to the dance?  So that career didn’t work out and you need to try something else?

            Still, you were your best, and did your best… with no Tchaikovsky to guide you.

            In other words, my wish for you for 2023 is that you get to be just as awesome and astounding to yourself as you are to me, every day.

            HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 

How to deal with an inept parent

Soumyaguna asks:

I have always wanted a good father, at least a sensible one whom I could look up to.

Until now, I have been thinking maybe I have given less effort, or maybe I’m not understanding mine, but his ego is so big and it has overshadowed him as a father, a husband, and most importantly his humanity. 

He’s very good for others, very helpful, calm, understanding and every good thing possible, maybe because he feels they’re his family and we are nothing.

No matter what I do, he is never gonna appreciate or satisfy or even congratulate one of us.

Everyone I try making a step ahead towards him, he does something to push me back 10 steps away, but now I feel I have lost him for life.

Now maybe he’s just my biological father and nothing else.

He wanted me to learn scooty, he taught me how to, but then he wants me to drive only the way he says. The second I started driving he was screaming for no reason and kept on saying you are not driving, not driving, like this, like that, more than I could take. I got scared of such nonstop poking continuously, and in that nervousness, I got unbalanced and he had to take over. I started driving again after a year and today again it happened; he just started off with his babble. I was asking him not to, saying I’ll drive nicely, at least trust me once, but he again gave me an anxiety attack.

I don’t know how can someone be so egotistical that they can’t even understand a normal thing.

I now feel it would have been better if I didn’t have him in my life.

He’s the worst thing ever happened in my life

Hi Soumyaguna –

There’s an old saying, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives.”  I’d add “you can pick out puppies too!” but you get the idea.  And it’s true – everyone is stuck (and/or blessed) with the family they’re given.  

It’s also normal and true that every human goes through a time in their lives when they can’t stand their parents, and when their behavior makes them intolerable to their parents too.  With most people, there are more than one of those times!

And it sounds to me like you’re dealing with both of those issues right now.  An imperfect father, and a tough specific time.

Now of course I don’t know him at all, but from what you say, he sounds like a very good man to the world, who’s just inept at his relationship with his child or children.  That’s what I mean by “imperfect.”  I’d love to improve him, but unless he starts writing me too, I can’t do much on that count.

What I can do is to suggest to you that you try doing something extremely mature.  Many people don’t achieve this till their 40s or so, and lots don’t ever accomplish it.  And that’s to look at your father as a complex person, with strengths and faults, and accept him as he is.  

Why is that so hard?  Because you have ingrained in you a sense (every child is born with this) that your parents are perfect.  And as you get older, and see how imperfect they are (and everyone is highly imperfect!), that gets enormously frustrating!

There’s lots of filmed record of Adolf Hitler with children.  He seems very kind, supportive, and fun with them.  And most people consider him the greatest monster in the history of humanity.  Again – people have strengths and weaknesses; your dad isn’t as good with you as Adolf was with those kids, but your dad hasn’t murdered half the continent either!  

Your dad is a LOUSY driving instructor!  TERRIBLE!  But I’m sure he sees it a different way.

True story: a few years ago, my human friend Handsome needed to make some extra money, and found out that a friend of his had a daughter who was struggling in her learning to drive, so he took a job to tutor her at it.  He was surprised to find that she was actually quite good for a beginning driver, and just needed a few pointers to help her become that much better.  He and she talked about how odd this was – why had her parents thought she was so bad at it?  Then one day he went out to lunch with his friend, her mother.  And she was a HORRIBLE driver!  Distracted, even dangerous!  SO much worse than her daughter!  He found this hilarious – and, credit to her – so did his friend.  The fact is, your parents changed your diapers, they taught you to walk, they taught you to speak; and after all these years, they still see that completely helpless little child when they look at you.  How comfortable would you be seeing a 3-year-old driving?!  That’s probably what your dad sees in you now!

In other words, just like Handsome’s friend, your dad is condemned to being a really lousy and inept driving instructor – as well as failing at letting you know what he really feels about and toward you.  And this last one, I promise you, is a lack in him that causes him great pain.  The lack you feel is matched by so many others in his life.  Have you ever heard that beautiful song “To Make You Feel My Love?”  He can’t achieve that at all!

I’m not telling you to not be angry with him.  You get to.  You deserve to feel his love, and he fails at that.  

But this is who he is.  And you have the rest of your life ahead of you, and I hope will find the love you haven’t felt many times over.

So do your best, my friend.  You deserve better.  But Handsome deserves a dog who doesn’t shed everywhere and never pulled him down a hill so hard he nearly broke his arm and doesn’t bark super-loud right next to his ear — but he’s got me instead.  And loves me more than life.

Someday you might even feel that way about your dad.  But not now.  And that’s okay.

Just get through this.  (And find a better driving instructor!!!!)

Love,

Shirelle

What to do when self-consciousness makes you lose sleep

Arty asks:
School is starting very soon for me. I’m going into 8th grade! Lately it’s been really hard to go to sleep. I’m actually typing this at 3:39 am. I talked with a friend of mine earlier and we started talking about uniforms and stuff. (I go to a small private school) I wore my uniform and she wore hers. As usual I looked stupid in mine. My skirt was basically at my knees which isn’t too horrible but I feel like it makes me look old. And I just hated how I looked in it. Now, I’m not exactly a pretty girl. I’m overweight. Not extremely but enough to make me self-conscious. And I also have acne and pimples and stuff. It’s not super horrible compared to others but still.  And compared to my friends who all look amazing! They all have mainly clear skin and are fit and everything, I feel like crap. So my self-worth has really just gone down the drain. Anyways going back to my friend, I told her some of this. How I don’t look very pretty and I’m ugly compared to her and stuff. And throughout it she’s like ‘What no! Ur not ugly!! Dude I feel the same way’ and stuff like that ,and I kept telling her “Dude you’re literally gorgeous and I feel like whenever someone says ‘ur not ugly’ or ‘ur super pretty’ they’re just lying,’ and she was like ‘I feel the same way!!’ And so the call ended and everything and I was feeling better. But then I started overthinking hours after the call, and realized that throughout that conversation, she didn’t once call me pretty or anything like that. She just kept saying I wasn’t ugly!  And I feel so selfish saying this since she was just trying to help, but not once did she compliment me or anything. And so I realized that she really doesn’t think I’m pretty. And I honestly don’t know where I’m going with this – I just really need to rant and get some advice! So then I keep telling myself, who cares what anyone thinks! It literally does not matter! And everyone is also worried about how others perceive them. And with this new worry along with my stress of starting a new school year and leaving friends behind, and hoping that I still keep in touch with lots of them. It hurts. And also with just wanting to cry, to sob, to scream, to shout. But for some reason not being able to cry or shed tears – it’s just really piling up. I tried talking to another friend and I told her “I hope ur not still mad at me” (we got into a fight earlier) “cuz I really need you” and she was like “I’m here, what’s up” and usually I can talk to her. I can be honest with her and just tell her. But I was too embarrassed I think, so I just asked her about sleep pills and she said “you don’t need sleep pills, you just need to let go of some stress. And then she was like “I’m a little upset with you dude.  You say you need my help but don’t want it. Maybe you should think about what you say before you say it next time,” which made me feel even worse. I just didn’t wanna pile up more stress on her. Her mom has cancer and money is low and they’re in debt and on top of all that she cuts and stuff so I just didn’t wanna bother her with anything else. And she was being sweet about it and stuff, like “I can’t force u to tell me but I can’t help u if u don’t” so I have half the nerve to go tell her everything, but I’m too scared.  Honestly this was just a rant for me, but I would really appreciate it if you could tell me what you think I should do. Should I talk to my friend or should I get some insomnia pills?  How do I handle the stress better, and how do I get myself to cry? I know you don’t have all the answers, but I hope you can let me know soon!

Hi Arty!

So first of all – I love hearing from you, and it’s totally fine to write me and rant.  No problem at all. So don’t worry if you don’t have an exact question.  Sometimes the most useful thing a dog can do is just be there to hug and cry into their fur, I know!  I’m happy to be that!

But I will talk about two things here.  Your self-consciousness and your sleep.

First, about the self-consciousness.  You are going into 8th grade, so I’m guessing you’re 13 years old, is that right?  Your body is changing more and faster than it has since you were a tiny baby, and more and faster than it ever will again.  This is the biggest lasting change you’ll ever go through (unless of course, heaven forbid,  something happens to you that causes a permanent injury!).  Most particularly your hormones are exploding, which causes weight gain and skin issues.  Now I don’t know what you look like, and as a dog I judge people by other things than looks anyway.  But I can say it’s totally normal that you’re going through a phase when you don’t look as pretty as you did a couple of years ago, or as pretty as you will a couple of years from now!  My human friend Handsome told me that he was a “late bloomer,” so his face didn’t break out till he was two years older than you.  Meaning that you might go through this now and then look a lot better than the kids like him in a couple of years!  But in the meantime, of course I’ll suggest you do things for your health that improve your looks, like exercise more, drink more water, keep sugars and caffeine down and please please please don’t start smoking or vaping, as those will only make things worse.  Will these guarantee a perfect complexion and a model figure next month?  No.  But they will keep you heading toward the best you can be.

Now one thing we dogs have over you humans is this whole self-consciousness thing.  Because our brains are smaller, we literally Don’t Have it!  Humans tell me I’m a beautiful dog, but I’m not aware of that beauty, or of the beauty in any other pooch.  I call my human Handsome because I love the way he looks and smells, but is he someone others would call Handsome or Plain or Ugly?  I don’t know – or care!  He’s gorgeous to me!  

And there’s no time in a human’s life when they’re more self-conscious than their teen years.  Right where you are!  So it’s normal to feel like you’re the ugliest person in the room, or the least liked, or the one everyone thinks of as dumb.  And let me tell you – you’re wrong!  Because everyone else in the room feels the same way.  Your friend was telling you the truth when she said she feels the same fears you do.  Now was she purposely avoiding telling you you’re pretty, or did she just not think of it?  I don’t know.  

But here’s what I do know.  You Will Get Prettier.  Your face will clear up, and if you choose to work at it, your figure will improve.  So no matter what you think of yourself today, this all can get way better.  

Now onto sleep – It’s also normal for teens to have sleep issues, and especially to feel the need to stay up late and sleep in late.  But you do want to – for your studies, for your looks, and just your health in general – work to get your sleep patterns at least a little closer to school hours.  Worries and stress will always make anyone have trouble falling asleep, but I know a few tricks you can try to help you doze off earlier.

First, stop all electronics at least half an hour before you want to sleep.  Yes, that includes your phone!  The light from them seems to make lots of people’s brains stay awake.  Instead, do all the electronic stuff you want earlier, and then stop, get yourself ready for bed, and climb in with a book or a magazine.  Why?  The reflected light from pages affects you differently from the radiated light of a phone or tablet or computer.  Reading printed material will actually get your eyes tired instead and lead to your falling asleep.

If that’s not enough, though, here’s an idea I like a lot.  Lie there in the dark, and ask yourself two questions:  What was the worst thing that happened to me today, and what was the best?  As your mind works to answer each, it will have to scan over your whole day.  And in doing that, it might uncover something you’ve forgotten.  “Oh, I was supposed to call my aunt back!”  “Oops I have to do that one page of homework!”  Then just turn a light on, write that thing down, and try again.  Often you’ll fall right asleep then; your brain hadn’t let you go unconscious while that issue was still there unremembered!

And if that’s still not enough?  That’s when I’d say you might consider talking to a doctor.  But until then, I’d focus on the effects of electronic light and the stress of too many things being on your mind.  

Okay, Arty, that’s a lot to take in, I know!  

Oh, but there’s one bit that pulls this whole letter together.  Did you know that the body burns off lots of fat while sleeping?  And that getting good nights’ sleep is as helpful for weight-loss as exercise?  And did you know that getting lots of sleep is great for your skin too?  So ironically, fixing the one issue here is going to help the other!

I won’t tell you to just have fun in 8th grade.  You’ll be self-conscious, tired, and go through some rough experiences I’m sure.  But I can and will urge you to try as best as you can to break through all that, and connect with friends, enjoy growing up, and laugh as much as you can.

After all, laughter is one of the few joys in life we dogs don’t get to experience.  And since you don’t get a tail to wag, you really ought to indulge it!!

All my best,

Shirelle

Should you accept someone back after they ghost you?

Pkt asks:

My boyfriend ghosted me almost 10 days ago.  We were together for 2 years, and the  last couple of days I’ve been feeling really terrible. We did have a few small fights before he ghosted me, but we sorted them out so I thought everything was fine (and it actually was; we had a really good talk just a day before he blocked me everywhere). So when he blocked me I panicked. I texted him on snapchat and finally he replied by saying “he doesn’t wants to be in a relationship anymore.” That’s the only thing he has said I asked him what happened, but he never replied. I just don’t understand. In the past he did say that our relationship doesn’t have any future, as we come from extremely different family backgrounds, and our families would never approve of it, so he was worried about it, but we are just 18 now and I feel hopeful that maybe in the future they might approve of it. I’ve assured him many times that, no matter what, we will find a way to be together and I’ll be always be there for him. A month ago the same thing happened; he told me his family found out about us and so we broke up. But a few days later he told me that he lied, his family doesn’t know anything, and he was just irritated. We met after that and sort of patched up. After that everything was pretty fine. We did have some small arguments and he kept complaining that he is tired of “my behaviour” and how dumb I am, and how he needs to explain everything to me. He feels like I should automatically understand everything that’s going on in his mind. I am so confused right now. I feel like he at least owes me an
explanation. I don’t know how to move on if I don’t get a closure. I even asked him if I have done something that hurt him, but he just replied “no.” But still I feel like it’s my fault and his silence is just making me restless. Today I called him from my mom’s phone (because he has blocked my number) but he didn’t pick up. I’ve tried everything I could to try to talk to him and make this work, or at least find the reason behind all this. I’ve tried my best to be a better person for both of us, and I’m still trying. All I wanted was for him to be a little bit patient for me, and it’s still not enough. I just want to know what happened.  So how do I let go?
I feel like this is so wrong, like how can he just walk away like that? He knew how much it would hurt me if he just left me like this, without an explanation, but he did it anyway – and it hurts terribly. Is it even worth trying now? Should I give up trying to reach to him? Have we really broken up? What do I do if he ever comes back (I don’t think he ever would, but I’m a very hopeful person)?

Hi pkt –

Of course I don’t know your boyfriend, but two things really stick out to me here.  One, that he has told you that he believes your different backgrounds would preclude your families accepting your relationship, and two that he seems to think he’s told you more than he has, as if he’s expecting you to have read his mind.

These two things together make me think that his family has made very clear to him what he should be doing, including in relationships, and that he’s unhappily decided he needs to obey their wishes and cut things off with you.  And that, very importantly, he thinks he’s explained this to you – even though, for you, he hasn’t explained enough!

So if I’m right, when you write him and ask what’s going on, he just finds it irritating, thinking you ought to know exactly what’s happening since he’s explained it all – Even though he really hasn’t!

And if I’m right… then my advice is to let this go.  And let him go.  Not so much because of whatever differences your families might have, but because he’s not mature enough yet to handle such a situation.  He’s frightened (ghosting is an act of fear) and trying to do what they say is right.  I’m not saying he’s wrong to obey his family, but a more mature man would have handled this in a much clearer, and braver, way. 

There may be a day in the future when he realizes what he’s done.  And that day he might well come back to you, either just to apologize for doing such a clumsy job of things, or to try to restart the relationship.  And if and when he does, I hope you accept his apology, and maybe even him.  We all have to mature at the rate we do (I didn’t stop biting Handsome’s ankles till I was about three!), and he doesn’t sound like a bad guy.

But he’s not what you need right now, or what you deserve.  My suggestion is to enjoy the memories of the times you had together, but now find people who are more able to handle life’s difficulties in a strong and open way.

All my best,

Shirelle

Why do our parents irritate us so much!

Akenn asks: I really love my parents and they love me too but sometimes they bring out the worst in me.  Why am I feeling this?

Hi Akenn –

What you’re describing isn’t just normal, it’s universal.  It’s been true as long as parents have had children.

Think of it like a computer.  If you got a completely unprogrammed computer, and started to program it, you’d give it certain orders, right?  Like “When I push 3A, it puts out a beep” or “When I write out 1382721, it skips down three lines.”  Right?  So from then on, any time anyone pushes 3A or 1382721, that computer will do those things.  Okay?

Well you’re the same way.  You were born largely unprogrammed.  And the programming started immediately.  And all that data was entered by your parents!

Now everybody (yes even me) has qualities that can irritate or anger someone.  Maybe someone has a slightly grating voice.  Or gets upset in an annoyingly passive-aggressive way.  Or loses their temper too quickly.  Or even makes an irritating sound when they chew! 

Now most people would just shrug off these qualities.  “Big deal, I like being around _______, so I’ll put up with that about them.”  But not when it’s your parents!

You see, when you were a little child, you saw them as perfect (the way I see Handsome, and he sees me).  But as you got old enough to think for yourself, those qualities in your parents started to bug you more.  But you still feel you should see them as perfect, as a good kid. 

And when you mix those mild (or bigger) irritations with voices inside you saying you should see these people as flawless, you’re bound to get SUPER IRRITATED!

And then we get back to what I said about programming.  Because now, while your friend’s parent will have some irritating qualities too, they don’t bother you nearly as much as your parents’ silly quirks do.  And – and here’s the bad news – for the rest of your life, those weird things about your parents will keep showing up in other people (friends, coworkers, spouses!) and bug you even more!

And in the meantime, you correctly say they “bring out the worst in” you.  What’s the worst?  Oh intolerance, judgment, even cruelty. 

And how do I know all this about you?  Because, as I said before, this is true of EVERYBODY!

So what can you do about it? 

Struggle.

Yes, as you get older, you’ll learn to accept your parents more, especially as you meet more people and learn more qualities that bother you.  You see, your parents might chew too loudly, but someone else will really betray you, or rob you, or lie about you… and suddenly those qualities of your parents, which will always bug you, won’t seem like such big deals.  And your parents’ great qualities – their love for you, the fact that they took care of you as a child, the qualities you share – like senses of humor or love of art or music or sports, whatever it is – will become more treasured to you.

So it’s going to be fine.  All will be alright.  Just try to take a deep breath when your dad turns that same turn of phrase he always does, or your mother cuts vegetables in that particular way.  There will be a day, maybe not too long from now, when you’ll actually treasure the irritation!

Now I’m sorry I have to go, since Handsome’s calling me.  In that same way he always does with that tone of voice that is so demanding and unfair and bothersome…  the love of my life!

All my best,

Shirelle

Does wishing for things push them away?

Bts army asks: I like to create fake scenarios in my mind about how my future will look or how I want it to be. Sometimes I think doing this will take me further from achieving, but other times think that I’m creating my future, so it’s okay. But I feel like I am not enjoying the present as much and, honestly, there’s not much to enjoy. So what should I do? How do I stay happy with things I have, even if there isn’t anything great going on?  How do I stop myself from expecting so much from someone or from something?

Hi Bts army –

As you probably know, lots of people believe in something called the Law of Attraction.  According to this, if you put your mind in a position of believing something good will happen to you – or even more so, that it’s already happened – and feel grateful about that, you will attract that good thing to you.  So “I’m grateful I’m a millionaire,” or “I’m grateful I got the job I wanted” or “I’m grateful I married the person I most love” helps make those things happen. 

I’m a believer in this, but more in the way that it avoids the opposite from happening.  I can’t be sure that positive thinking will bring what a person wants, but I know very well that negative thinking will push those good things away.  “I hate that I’ll never have enough money” keeps money away.  “I hate that I only get crummy job offers” will keep away that dream gig.  And most of all, “I hate that I only meet losers, and that everyone remotely worthy is already married or attracted to the opposite sex from me!” will definitely push potential partners away!

And of course the whole concept of prayer, which people have been doing for millennia, is based on this.  “I believe that if I pray for _______, it has a better chance of happening.”  So prayer then puts you in the mindset that that good thing is coming.

Where I disagree, of course, is, as a friend told me years ago, “God is not a vending machine!”  Envisioning something doesn’t make it come true, and prayer doesn’t automatically manifest what you want.  I think of it more like a garden – you plant a seed (wishing for something) and then treat the soil with just the right amount of water and sun and maybe nutrients (belief, faith, clearing space for that thing you want in your life), and there’s a really good chance that seed will grow.

To use myself as an example, I’m a very optimistic pup.  Now wishing for my human friend Handsome to come home from work sooner won’t necessarily make it happen.  But when he does, if I show him how happy I am to see him, he’s more likely to pet and play with me.  And hanging around the kitchen with my eyes wide, and maybe sniffing at my bowl, will help him remember I haven’t been fed all day, which will likely get me a treat and then dinner!

So do I think your envisioning what you want will bring things to you sooner?  Maybe, especially if you act on it.  Do I think it’ll push things away?  No, not at all.

But can your envisioning be one of the reasons you’re feeling disappointed and frustrated?  Sure!

If I don’t think about Handsome not being home, and how much I want him to come back, I won’t feel bad about it.  If I don’t think about how much I’d love a nice snack, I won’t feel bad about not having one.

But I think the trick is to change how you think about those things.  Thinking “I want a big beautiful house.  So I’m miserable that I don’t have that house” isn’t working for you.  But what if you change it to: “I want a big beautiful house.  And the best way to get that house will be to get a great job I love and am good at.  And the best way to get that job will be to take this particular class.  And the best way for me to take that class is to apply to ten schools so I’m sure to get into at least one, but I’m going to hope I get into my top choice.”  That’s pretty good.

But then, while you’re doing that, you meet someone and get chatting, and you tell them about your dream and what you’re doing, and they say “Wow that’s amazing.  I’m actually hiring someone for just a job like that.  You don’t really need that class, since I already know you.  You can come start tomorrow!  And meanwhile, I know someone with a mansion looking for a house-sitter while they’re out of town for a year.  Would you be interested?”

And that’s possible.  BECAUSE you envisioned it, and owned your vision.  Is it a guarantee?  Of course not.  But it’s possible, because you have made it possible.

And there’s my advice to you, Bts army.

And my wish for you, that all your best wishes come true!

Shirelle

What to do when your spouse has unacceptable activities

Punita asks: This is my second marriage, and I am going through a bad situation.  My husband is a video game addict and smokes at home, and we have fights often.  Today I found he had plans to meet a sex worker, and I’m sure this isn’t the first time. What should I do? I am broken. I haven’t worked the past 4 months.  I am searching for a job. I have no savings. I really don’t know what to do or whom to tell, as my mother won’t be supporting me if I break this marriage – as this is my second marriage and I chose the guy.

Hi Punita –

As you well know, no marriage is easy or perfect.  Even my relationship with my human friend Handsome has some tough moments, and it’s easier than any relationship between two people could ever be (I find people and dogs to be far more accepting of each other’s flaws than either is with their own kind!).  But you’re in a particularly tough situation.  You clearly are saying you’d like to get out of this, or at least to be able to, but find yourself unable because of your jobless status and a lack of support from your mother.

So the giant question then is whether or not you can actually improve things.  Or, rather, whether your husband will allow things to improve.

You list three problems.  First, the smoking.  Of course that’s not only irritating but physically dangerous for you.  And do you two have children?  If so it’s particularly bad for them (and for dogs and cats too!).  I know smoking is a very hard addiction to break, but if you could just get him to be willing to go outdoors when he wants to smoke, that would improve your home in a gigantic way. 

Second, the video game addiction.  This is a very common problem today, and one where, unlike addictions to drugs or alcohol, it’s usually not necessary for the addict to completely eliminate the “substance” from their life, but just to give themselves limits.  Such as a person cutting themselves off from the games after two hours a day, or something like that.  

The problem for you, just as it would be if your husband were a drug addict, is that the only way for him to agree to this change is for him to admit he has a problem.  Does he?  Does he agree he plays too much, or gets too involved in the games?  Or does he think what he’s doing is normal and healthy and that you’re crazy to be concerned?!  If it’s one of the former answers, this is very fixable.  But if it’s the last one, there’s not so much you can do for now.

Then there’s the sex worker.  Okay, is he at least admitting that that is some sort of problem?  Even if he denies your suspicion that he’s done this before? 

If he’s not admitting any of these are problems, then yes, I agree, you should be looking at getting a job that will give you some choices in life.  But if he’s admitting any of them, then that gives you two a chance to work on things.

And here’s my big wish – if so, is it possible for you two to go into some sort of couples counseling?  A therapist would be great, but if you’re in a religious organization they’ll usually have someone qualified who can help too. 

The biggest question is Does He Want To Improve Things.  If so, the possibilities are endless.  If not, it makes everything far more difficult.

If I can help in any way, please let me know.

Thanks, and all my very best wishes,

Shirelle

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