Mindfulness Matters: Tips for Living in the Present

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” Sylvia Boorstein

Sometimes, my brain feels like it’s not my own. I try to control the thoughts that come racing in when I wake up, but they bounce around with little regard for where I want them to go. Not now, I’ll tell them, but it falls on deaf ears. When this happens, I try not to let my thoughts carry me away with them. I may meditate, or I may just take a moment to take in where I am, noticing how it feels to be supported by the earth, and what sounds, smells, and colors I can see. Does it always work? No; sometimes, the thoughts still win. But the more I practice this skill, the better I become at being present in the moment. Mindfulness is a powerful psychological tool that can help you accept, study, and let go of the worries, fears, struggles, and persistent thoughts that cloud your mind, allowing you to feel lighter and more alive.

The best way to become more mindful is to practice meditation. However, even simply living more mindfully has its benefits. On my journey to become a more mindful person, I have found keeping certain things in mind has helped me make progress towards my goal.

Practice, Practice, Practice

One meditation session does not make you mindful. Mindfulness is like any type of exercise; with practice, you will improve. If you don’t practice, don’t be surprised when the worries that consumed you before come pouring back, filling your mind like static. You can practice mindfulness through daily meditation, or simply by going through your day in an aware manner. Try fully focusing on the task at hand, whether you are doing the dishes, walking home, writing a paper, or doing nothing at all. The practice of focusing on the present allows you to better ground yourself during those moments of crisis when you need it, as well as more fully experience the joys of life.

Accept Yourself

No one sits through a meditation session with a completely clear mind. Whatever creeps into your consciousness, whether you are thinking about what you will be eating later or contemplating your loneliness in the world, is normal and natural. A big part of meditation is accepting yourself without judgment. Don’t beat yourself up when you find yourself drifting away from the present moment; simply observe that these thoughts are coming to you, and let them go. For me, I will sometimes visualize my mind as a blank white canvas. Thoughts come in like splashes of watercolor, trying to draw my attention back to them, but I simply acknowledge them then slowly brush them away. Fighting with your thoughts only gives them more power; allow yourself to acknowledge that you have drifted away, then return to your breath and this moment in time.

Make it a Priority

Like any goal, you are only going to become more mindful if you prioritize it. You might finish this article, feel motivated to meditate for five minutes, then promptly forget your newfound commitment to living presently. You don’t have to be perfect, but practicing mindfulness on a daily basis is the only way to become more mindful. Whether you start your day with a fifteen-minute meditation or you simply take the time to check in with yourself and the present moment several times throughout the day, the more time you put towards this goal, the simpler it will be to access that presence of mind at any moment.

Make Room for Intention

These days, it easier to overschedule than ever. There are so many different things that demand your attention, your days may be filled to the brim with appointments, errands, chores, work obligations, and social engagements. You can keep busy for your entire life and never take a moment of self-reflection, and many people do, to the detriment of their mental and physical health. Avoid this by making sure to schedule more time than you really need in between your obligations to give yourself the ability to go about your life with more intention.

Listen Actively

Raise your hand if you have ever had this experience: you are having a conversation with someone and you find yourself so wrapped up in how you are about to respond, you have no idea what they just said. Mindfulness benefits not only your own health, but your relationships with others. When you bring mindfulness into your interactions with people, you can expect them to feel much more positively about you. When you are truly present with another person, you listen to exactly what they are saying instead of just waiting to speak. Focus on being with this person at this very moment, and experience more profound mindfulness.

Savor Every Moment

“We have only now, only this single eternal moment opening and unfolding before us, day and night.” Jack Kornfield

The only thing we are guaranteed is this present moment, so savor it while you have it. Instead of allowing your mind to be preoccupied by your mistakes from the past or worries of the future, take a moment to feel the joy of what is happening right now. Breathe in the scents that surround you, feel the warmth of your clothes against your skin, and appreciate the feeling of having someone who loves you looking at your face like you are something to be seen. When you feel joy, close your eyes and feel everything this moment has brought you.

I hope these mindfulness tips help you live more presently in your everyday life. It can be difficult to stay in the moment, but you don’t have to wait to start being mindful; in fact, the best time is right now.

Should I Break Up With My Live-In Boyfriend?

Dear Ginzo,

I currently live with my boyfriend, and while I love him, I am wondering whether or not our relationship is meant to be. We moved in together basically because he wanted to move out of his parents’ house and my lease was up with my old roommate who I did not get along with. It was just good timing for both of us but now it’s been 6 months and I am not sure whether or not it’s something that I was really ready for or we were ready for in our relationship. He is a good boyfriend but not a good roommate, he’s very messy and he expects me to cook and clean for him like his mom always did. And anytime I talk to him about this, or really any problem we have, he ends up just becoming really withdrawn and sullen and won’t talk to me. I still love him but living with him has made me realize he is way less mature than me. It’s starting to impact our relationship so much I am just not as attracted to him. I am just not really sure what to do. We still have another 6 months on our lease so I kind of want to just suck it up and stick it out and see if it gets better before then and part of me thinks that I just want to break up with him.

The Man I Live With Is Not The Man I Fell In Love With

I’m sorry this living arrangement has proven to be so unpleasant. It’s true that you really never know someone until you live with them, and sometimes, you don’t like what you find out. I also understand that a lease makes you feel like you are trapped in the relationship because if you were to break up, you either live together in awkward (dis)harmony or one or both of you figures out a way to move out, which probably sounds pretty daunting.

But here’s the thing: Yes, figuring out a new living situation and finding a subleaser and telling all your friends and family and all the scary, frustrating, sad, and annoying things that go along with breaking up with someone you live with would not be enjoyable. But in two years, are you going to look back and think, “Man, am I glad that I didn’t have to deal with the inconvenience of moving. Thank God I stayed in that dead-end relationship!” It’s one thing to try to make it work because you love him, it’s another to stay because you are scared of change. If your lease ended next week, would you still be thinking about staying with him? Or would you like, “Hallelujah! To a one-bedroom I go!” If the only reason you are even thinking of staying with him is the lease, end it now. Don’t waste your time and energy on being with someone you don’t want to be with. You only get one life; why spend it with someone who makes you miserable?

Don’t waste your time and energy on being with someone you don’t want to be with. You only get one life; why spend it with someone who makes you miserable?

That being said, if you still love him and want to be with him, try working it out. Yes, I agree that your boyfriend’s behavior is immature, but immaturity is something that can change. If he has only ever lived with his parents, he hasn’t been smacked in the face with the reality of living with people other than the ones who will forgive you for anything you do because they created you. If you weren’t his girlfriend and were instead, say, a Craigslist rando, he probably would have had his toothbrush dunked in the toilet by now. It shouldn’t be your job to teach him common courtesy, but if you want to be with him, you will have to help him work through his ignorance.
This will be work. This involves negotiating, enforcing your boundaries, practicing patience, forgiving him when he forgets things/doesn’t do things the way you would, and being completely honest with him, even when he withdraws. If he’s worth the work, best of luck to you. If he’s not, in the immortal words of Beyonce, “Boy, bye.”

XOXO,
Ginzo

How Do I Not Hate Myself For Having Unprotected Sex?

Hey Ginzo,

I did something stupid last week and I am flipping out. Long story short I ended up hooking up with a stranger. The problem? We didn’t use protection. I know I am an idiot. So I am just really freaking out because even though there is no risk of pregnancy I have absolutely no idea whether or not this person had an STD. Like what if I just gave myself HIV? I am so mad at myself and embarrassed that I haven’t been able to tell anyone about it. I just feel so stupid because I don’t even have a way to contact this person. I didn’t want to use anything in the moment but now I realize THAT IS SO STUPID. I guess how do I live with myself while I wait out the time it takes to show up on tests?

I’ve Made a Huge Mistake

Dear I’ve Made a Huge Mistake,

First of all, solid Arrested Development reference. Second of all, please be kinder to yourself.

You made a mistake. You had a moment of poor judgment, and now you know that in the future, using protection, whether a condom, internal condom, or dental dam (for oral sex), is a must not only for your health but for your peace of mind. Remember this level of anxiety for the future so when you are swept up in the moment, you can pause and remember how nerve-wracking an experience it was. Learn from this that whether you are having sex with a stranger or someone you know well, you need to have protection on hand to prevent yourself from getting lost in the moment again.

Even if you do have an STI now, this doesn’t make you less smart, worthy, sexy, or deserving of love.

That being said, stop beating yourself up about it. You made a mistake, a mistake that is probably more common than you think. People have unprotected sex a lot; sometimes they contract STIs, sometimes they don’t. This does not change their value as a person. Even if you do have an STI now, this doesn’t make you less smart, worthy, sexy, or deserving of love. There is a terrible stigma in this country around having an STI, yet one in four people have one. This means that right now, you know someone (probably several someones) who has had or does have an STI. They haven’t turned into monsters or piles of human waste because of their STI; you probably don’t even know that they have one. They go on their daily lives, going to school, going to work, having relationships, eating tasty brunches, riding bikes, laughing at funny movies, and generally doing everything everyone else does. Regardless of the results of your tests, you do not have to worry that it is the end of your happiness or chance at a healthy sex life.

Also, it’s normal to worry about other people judging us when we make a mistake. But I think hiding in shame with this weight on your heart is doing more harm than good. Reach out to a friend who you consider nonjudgmental and supportive to talk to them about your concerns. Emotional support will do wonders for anxiety, and feeling the unwavering love of a good friend will help you not be so hard on yourself. So get tested, keep condoms on you, and don’t stop loving yourself, regardless of your results!

XOXO,
Ginzo

P.S. Though it sounds like you may have already researched this, I just wanted to link the information in case anyone who has stumbled upon this needs the information: here is an infographic from STDchecker.com that outlines how long after unprotected sex you should get tested for specific STIs. If you need to find free testing, you can visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/ to find a clinic near you.

Am I Selfish for Not Wanting to Settle?

Dear Ginzo,

I have been with my partner for about 8 years. I can honestly say that he’s a great person (kind, generous, selfless at times and very loving). I feel like he loves me more than I love him. He always wants to be around me and spend time with me. I’m just indifferent. I feel like we’re best friends but for all intents and purposes, we’re glorified roommates. I can’t say that I’m in love with him anymore but I do know I love him, its more platonic than romantic. His family loves me and my family loves him. I feel like I’m settling and I don’t want to hurt him but I also don’t want to be unhappy and stuck in a relationship that does nothing for me. Am I being selfish? What should I do?

Scared to Settle

Dear Scared to Settle,

My heart goes out to you. It must be so difficult to contend with these feelings of doubt, to care for your partner but to feel like it is just not right. There is nothing selfish about that. I am sure you wish you could just magic those romantic feelings for him again instead of having to contemplate starting a new life without him.

I can’t tell you what to do, but to me, there are two options here: you either stick around and try to work through it with your partner, or you end the relationship. Reading that, you may have felt in your gut what you must do. Did one option make you feel relief, while the other felt like a weight on your chest? If so, go for the one that lifts your burden. If not, here are some thoughts to help you with your decision.

For door number one (staying and working it out), you will have to talk to your partner about how you are feeling. Being honest and vulnerable is terrifying, but it is the only way you can work through it. Of course, he will likely have a lot of feelings about it; he may feel hurt, rejected, or confused if he hasn’t picked up your feelings. Or he may surprise you by expressing the same doubts, or relief that you are finally opening up about yours. Trust that your partner can handle your truth, and accept his, whatever his proves to be. You may pursue couples counseling, or maybe go into counseling by yourself. Sometimes, unhappiness within ourselves manifests as unhappiness with others. Maybe your feelings of indifference in your relationship are not about your partner, but unhappiness within yourself. If that rings true to you, I encourage you to work through these feelings with a therapist.

On the other hand, your heart may be telling you that it really is over; that as much as you care for him, you just don’t want to be in a relationship with your partner anymore. And that’s okay. There’s an expression that is floating around the internet that goes like this: “Don’t keep making a mistake because you spent a lot time making it.” That is not to say I think your relationship is a mistake at all. I’m sure that you have gotten a lot out of it over the past eight years. Just because a relationship doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worthwhile and successful. On the flip side, just because a relationship lasts for a long time doesn’t mean it is a success, as is demonstrated by the many miserable marriages in the world. The point I am trying to make with this quote is that the length of a relationship is not a good reason to stay in it. You have a lot of history with this person, but that doesn’t mean that you have a future with him.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Eight years is a long time, and a lot has changed. It’s okay that you are not the same person with the same needs you were eight years ago when you first got together. Actually, it is better that you aren’t. Sometimes in relationships, you grow together, but often, you grow apart. There is nothing wrong with that, and as generous, kind, and loving as your partner may be, if he isn’t the person you want to be with, then it is the kinder choice to let him go. The selfish decision would be to stay in a relationship with him while he continues to think that everything is fine when it really is not. Being broken up with is a terrible feeling, but not as bad as waking up one day to find that your partner has spent years feeling indifferent about you, building up resentment that makes things impossible to fix.

Of course, breakups are the literal worst, and it means jumping back into the unknown that is being single. And I am sure you are not eager to break the heart of someone you truly care about, especially when you don’t know for sure if you will find someone who is better suited to you (though you’ll never know unless you try). Keep in mind that no one can predict the future. You may be catastrophizing, thinking that if you break up with him, you will ruin any friendship you could have with him while simultaneously fating yourself to a life of loneliness and cat lady status (at least, that is what my brain likes to do to me). In reality, no cities will topple if you end this relationship.

Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” If you decide to close that door, don’t spend too long lingering around it, wondering if you made a mistake. It may be hard for a long time, but one day, you will wake up and it won’t be the first thing you think about. Then a little while later, you wake up and you feel pretty good. As time moves on, you accept the change in your life, and you start opening yourself up to new possibilities. Suddenly, there are new doors everywhere, and you might find yourself willing to open one more than just a crack.
I hope that, regardless of what you decide to do, you find the happiness you seek. Best of luck, my friend.

XOXO,
Ginzo

How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist sucks. Whether you have a mental illness, suspect that you do, or are just having a difficult time and need someone to talk to, a therapist is a powerful tool for healing and problem-solving. Yet when you’re going through hell, taking the time to find a therapist can be exhausting. However, the right therapist can completely change your life, so it is worth it to put effort into the search, even when it seems completely daunting. To make it a little easier for you, I have broken down the process to give you a jumping off point.

Understand the Labels

First of all, there are a couple of different types of therapists that you can see, so it is a good idea to know what they are to see which one is best for you.

Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in mental health. They are licensed to prescribe medication and also provide psychotherapy. Psychiatrists are a great option if you are struggling with severe mental health symptoms that may benefit from medication. Psychiatrist’s sessions do tend to be more expensive, so if you don’t think medication is right for you and are really just looking for therapy, a psychiatrist may not be necessary.

Psychologist

Psychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology and are licensed to provide psychotherapy and psychological testing. While they can’t prescribe medication, they can diagnose you with mental health conditions, and refer you to a psychiatrist if need be. They generally offer cognitive behavior therapy, which helps address your mental health goals by helping you change thought and/or behavioral patterns that are harmful.

Social Worker

You can find a social worker either in a healthcare or social services setting, or some provide private counseling in their own office. They are trained to provide empathetic counseling to help people improve their mental health by addressing interpersonal problems, like family or relationship issues. Social workers are great mediators who may be able to help you if you want couples or family counseling, but they can also counsel one-on-one.

Licensed Counselor

A licensed counselor has at least a master’s degree in counseling and a license from the state in which they practice to diagnose and treat mental illnesses and emotional problems. They can provide help for a whole range of issues, and a session is often more affordable than one with a psychiatrist or psychologist because they don’t require as much higher education to practice.

Keep in mind that having more education, a higher certification, or more years of experience does not necessarily mean that one therapist is better than the other. A newly licensed therapist who has a good grasp on your problem and who jives well with you could help you much more than a psychiatrist with 25 years of experience who you can’t seem to connect with. Keep an open mind to different types of therapists in your search.

Explore Your Options

One way to start looking for therapists is through your health insurance. Many companies will have a provider list on their website that allows you to search for specialists who are covered by your policy. You can also ask your doctor for a referral, or see if your friends or family know of anyone. Another great resource is Psychology Today, where therapists can put up profiles so you can see what they specialize in, get a general idea of their counseling style, and if they take your insurance. The American Psychological Association (APA) also has a similar type of search function on their site as well.

Think About What is Important to You

Once you have a few options, consider what you need in a therapist. There are the more obvious things, such as being nonjudgmental and empathetic, but also think about little logistical things that will influence how much you get out of therapy. For example, consider the location of any potential therapist; is that somewhere you are going to be able to get to on a regular basis? That one counselor who is an hour away may seem like a great personality fit, but if there is a different therapist who is located within five miles of your home who could help you too, you will be more likely to make the trek each week. Additionally, consider what they specialize in and whether their background seems like they would be able to help with your specific needs. You should also think about whether or not you would feel more comfortable opening up to a therapist of a certain gender. Keep an open mind because you may be surprised who can help you, but be honest with yourself about what you really want out of therapy and who can provide it.

Ask Questions

The next step will be to call up your remaining options and see if they are taking new clients. If they are, see if they provide a free consultation session (this is pretty common). Don’t be afraid to schedule these sessions with several therapists to help you figure out which is the best fit. Whether you get in front of them for these questions or they happen over the phone, here are a couple of things you may want to ask:

  • Do you take my insurance? Even if you found this therapist through your health insurance, that information could be outdated, so it is always a good idea to double-check with the therapist.
  • Do you do regular appointments or is scheduling more flexible?
  • What do you specialize in? Even if you saw their list of specialities online, hearing them tell you gives you a better idea of what they truly have a strong background in.
  • What is your approach to therapy?
  • What happens if I have to miss or am late to a session?
  • What do we do during a session? Do I have to do things between sessions like homework?
  • Do you do phone sessions?
  • Do you think you can help me with my problem?

Give it a Try

You might leave your first therapy session feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed. Starting a new relationship with a therapist can be daunting, and the experience of talking about your deepest feelings for an hour can be really disorienting if you’re not used to it. Don’t let this dissuade you from going back. The benefits of therapy happen over time as you grow your relationship and unpack more of your issues. It may only take few sessions, or you may form a long-term relationship with this therapist, but if you give therapy your best try, you may find that you find relief from whatever is troubling you, or at least, some perspective on it.

I hope these tips help you find a therapist who can truly help you. Godspeed in your search!

XOXO,
Ginzo

I Think I’m Depressed. What Do I Do About It?

Hi Ginzo,

I think I’m maybe depressed. I like my life a lot: I have a great job, a great relationship, a great family, but I feel empty about it all recently. Sometimes I just don’t feel as lucky as I really am. I just feel sort of numb to it all. Sometimes I feel happy or just okay but most of the time I don’t feel anything or I feel vaguely sad. Nothing in particular happened to make me feel this way but for the last few weeks I just don’t really feel like myself, sort of like I am a shell most of the time. Writing this down makes me feel more and more like it is depression. So I guess what I am really asking is what do I do about it?

Probably Depressed

Dear Probably Depressed,

I am so sorry you are feeling this way. I hate that empty feeling. It’s almost worse than the sadness or the anger because it just feels like nothing can move you either way. That numbness can feel so paralyzing.

I am not a doctor and even if I was, I couldn’t diagnose you from a letter, but I will say that as a person with depression, I can relate to the symptoms you’re describing. It doesn’t matter if everything in my life is going wonderfully; if I don’t have enough serotonin and dopamine in my brain, a depressive episode is inevitable. This is one way I like to look at it that helps me; from a more clinical perspective. Maybe it is from my psychology degree, but breaking down my mental illness into a more removed, scientific explanation makes me feel better. It’s not that I am this horrible person who doesn’t deserve to feel happiness; it’s that my brain chemistry is a little wonky and I need to do what I can to rebalance it.

Depression has a way of telling you that you are stupid or wrong or weird for feeling the way that you do. You are not. And it’s okay if you can’t believe that right now, or if you don’t have it in you to do a single thing about it today, that’s okay. But if you feel capable of making some changes, here are some strategies I use when I am depressed.

Identify It

When you start to feel those feelings of numbness and sadness, it can help just to identify it. Knowing what you are feeling is the first step in changing it. Even if you can’t change it, identifying your emotions alone can be a good practice in emotional regulation. Every time you realize “I feel sad” or “I feel depressed” or “I feel numb,” you are gaining a greater understanding of your emotions, giving you the tools you need to better control them.

Talk to Someone

Honestly, this is the one I have the hardest time with. I am not one to be quick to reach out when I am depressed; it feels like an insurmountable task, and there is always that scary feeling of “What if they don’t respond the way I want them to?” While it’s true that even the most well-intentioned might not say what you wanted or needed to hear, it’s less about what they say and more about the act of saying it out loud. Talking about it makes it not a secret anymore. Both secrets and depression are big loads to carry by yourself. Give yourself a break from carrying such heaviness alone by leaning on someone for a moment, whether it’s a friend, family member, therapist, religious leader, or someone else you trust.

Do Something for Ten Minutes

This is a strategy I use even when I am not depressed, but am feeling unmotivated or lethargic and need to get something done. I commit to doing that something for ten minutes. I set a timer and if after ten minutes, I want to continue doing it, I can, but if I don’t want to, I can stop and do whatever I want. When you’re feeling numb, it can be hard to motivate yourself to do a damn thing, but letting your responsibilities pile up can be an anxiety nightmare that just makes things worse. If there is an obligation that is hanging over your head, whether it is writing a paper or cleaning your room, set a timer and give it ten minutes of your time. Even if you quit after ten minutes, at least you are ten minutes closer to finishing the task than you were before.

Write it Down

Awesome news: the fact that you feel like writing this letter made you think you might be depressed means that you would be a kickass journaler. If this is not something you already do, buy yourself a cool notebook to write in and try writing down your thoughts before you go to sleep at night or first thing when you wake up in the morning or really whenever, as long as you keep up with it. Journaling not only lets us process our feelings, as an added bonus, it gives us a log of all of our feels that we can then go back over to look for patterns. This can be a great way to figure out times when you are particularly vulnerable to feeling that numb or sad feeling.

Find Your Form of Meditation

Meditation is a really powerful tool for dealing with depression because it brings you back to the present moment. Instead of focusing on the intrusive negative thoughts or numbness you feel, you are aware of your breath or the way your skin feels or a certain sound. Some people find it impossible to sit still for just meditating (myself included) so they have to find other ways to recreate this same effect. Yoga has been really helpful for me because of its mind/body connection. By focusing on what I am doing with my body, I must stay present. Pretty much anything that calms you that you focus on entirely in the moment can help with this, though. For example, I like to deep clean my kitchen as another form of meditation. It makes me feel productive and in control while allowing me to kind of switch off my brain. You could also knit, color, draw, run, bike, cook a delicious meal, or any other activity that encourages mindfulness.

Seek Treatment

There are a lot of reasons why people avoid seeking professional help, and as someone who has avoided it in the past, I can understand it. That being said, going to therapy has been incredibly helpful in treating my depression, and I really believe it is something that everyone should experience at least once. Other people find medication way more helpful in managing their mental health. Regardless of your preferred treatment method, consider seeking professional help for the way you are feeling. A helpful tool for finding therapists is Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist search. Your health insurance should also have a database available online of therapists and psychiatrists that are covered by your plan.

I hope that you find a way to ease the numbness and sadness, or at least manage it in a way that it doesn’t intrude on your joy. Know that you are not alone, and even when it doesn’t feel like it, there is hope. Sending you solidarity and good vibes.

XOXO,
Ginzo

How Do I Forgive?

Dear Ginzo,

I don’t want to get into the details, but basically, I am having a hard time forgiving someone. What they did to hurt me happened a while ago, we talked about it and they apologized, but I still can’t seem to let it go. There’s no point in rehashing it with them at this point. I just need to know, how do you forgive someone when you can’t seem to move past it?

Fighting to Forgive

Dear Fighting to Forgive,

You’re pissed. You’re hurt. You’re sad. And forgiving the person who brought you to this place isn’t easy. It doesn’t matter if they apologized, if you felt that they heard you out, if the initial hurt was months or even years ago; the burden remains on your heart and it doesn’t seem to be able to budge.

As someone who has held many an unwilling grudge in her lifetime, I can empathize with you on this one. For me, past emotions often come back in waves; I will think I have moved on from something, and then suddenly, it crashes over me. This is because I didn’t take the time to work through the emotions when they were most relevant. You say that you talked about it and they apologized, so perhaps there really is nothing else they can do for you to help you forgive them. So what can you do for yourself?

Forgiveness is not about the other person. The act of forgiveness is about freeing yourself from the weight of your pain.

Here’s the thing: forgiveness is not about the other person. The act of forgiveness is about freeing yourself from the weight of your pain. Despite people who act as though being a victim is some sort of desired status that people adopt for attention, it is actually a heavy burden to bear. It’s true that anger can be invigorating, particularly if it is of the self-righteous variety. But it is also exhausting, makes you feel powerless, and is hard to move past to work through the other emotions that are at play, like sadness. Whether they meant to or not, this person failed to be who you thought they were. They hurt your feelings, and you feel betrayed. Maybe you feel like you can’t truly trust and be vulnerable with this person, and that is a loss. It’s normal to feel sad about this loss. Maybe you haven’t let yourself be sad yet. Alternatively, perhaps you haven’t decided whether or not you should open your battered heart up to this person again, and that’s what is holding you back. Whatever the unresolved issue, the first step is to identify it.

In his book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, Philosopher/Poet David Whyte said,

“To forgive is to put oneself in a larger gravitational field of experience than the one that first seemed to hurt us. We reimagine ourselves in the light of our maturity and we reimagine the past in the light of our new identity, we allow ourselves to be gifted by a story larger than the story that first hurt us and left us bereft.”

Give yourself permission to move on with your life and to the bigger, happier, newer feelings it has in store for you. If there is truly nothing this person can do to help you forgive them, then you have everything in your power to let it go right now. Find a place of silence, write in a journal, or talk to a trusted confidant and listen to what your mind has to say about why you haven’t moved on. If it is a barrier you can tear down right at this moment, do it. If it isn’t, take the first step. You don’t need to live with this grudge inside of you forever. Be kinder to yourself.

I hope you can work through the journey of forgiveness and have a lighter heart on the other side. Good luck, my friend.

XOXO,
Ginzo

Help! I Am Freaking Out About Moving

Dear Ginzo,

I’ve lived in the same city my whole life, with the exception of college. I love my current job and am generally happy with my life right now, but my husband is not. He has a job that he doesn’t love and he is in a city away from his friends and family. So he has been applying to graduate programs in new cities, and he just found out that he got into one in a city where he has a support circle, and he accepted it.

I am so happy that he is pursuing this dream, but crap am I terrified to move. We did discuss this and honestly I will follow him wherever he goes because he gave up a lot to live with me in “my city”. We have a lot of mutual friends in this new city. I’m just terrified because my new boss actually respects my work and values me as an employee. I’m finally being treated like a leader for the first time in my life and I love it. BUT I definitely love my husband more and I want him to be happy. Starting over with a new reputation is terrifying. Moving to a new state away from my family, finding somewhere to live… it’s so scary! There is no question. I’m just freaking out internally.

Packing and Panicking

Dear Packing and Panicking,

I know what it’s like to start over in a brand new city, so I can relate to your straight up terror about moving. For me, making the decision to move across the country took me months of going back and forth about whether or not was a good idea. I too was scared to leave behind my family and my hometown that I knew so well. Your life is all figured out currently, with a great job and a place to live and people around you to count on, and starting all over to find those things in a new place is really intimidating. Add onto this that you aren’t moving of your own volition and I can understand why you are feeling so scared.

While you have so much in your hometown, here is what you have going for you in your new city:

  • A supportive partner to share the experience with
  • Mutual friends that will show you around your new city
  • Good experience in your field and recommendations to help you find a new job
  • An opportunity for adventure and a fresh start

So yes, while you have a lot going for you in your hometown, your new city has some pretty great potential too. You will miss many things about your hometown, and it may take some time to think about your new city as your home (I have heard it takes three years,so I will report back if that rings true). Things will probably be scary for a while as you figure out all the moving pieces that come together to form a life. But change is inevitable; it will happen, whether we accept it or not. You don’t have control over the future, but you do have control over your perspective on this move. You can focus on the scary, unknown, okay-but-where-can-I-live-in-town-and-not-get-murdered-oh-god-what-am-I-doing-what-is-this-place part of moving, or you can focus on the life-affirming, exhilarating possibilities of starting over. This won’t make it any less scary, but it will make it easier to let go of what you know and take the leap. Good luck with your move!

XOXO,
Ginzo

Help! My Work Friend Is Driving Me Crazy

Hi Ginzo!

I work with a friend who I really like, but I’m finding that his work habits are really irritating me. He never seems to make deadlines and is a really bad project manager. He always wants to say yes and completely over-promises and extremely under-delivers. It really gets under my skin! What’s the best way to stop this from making me completely crazy – especially because he’s my friend and I don’t want to completely ruin that.

Irritated at the Office

Dear Irritated,

Conflict with coworkers in the worst. We spend the majority of our time with these people, and with different personality types and work styles, we are going to get irritated with them sometimes. Add in the sensitivity of the fact that he is your friend, and I understand why this is weighing on your mind.

When you are frustrated with a situation, you have two options: do something about it, or let it go. In this case, both might work. In reality, you only have control over yourself, which you seem to know because you did not write in asking me how to make your coworker a more organized and efficient worker, but how to stop yourself from going nuts over it. However, just because you cannot control his actions, doesn’t mean that you can’t do something to at least feel like the problem is being addressed. I will suggest a couple of things you can do that may help, but if neither sounds applicable, just skip to the last and most important step.

The first thing you can do is give your friend feedback about his work, but be careful about how you do so. When working with friends, it can be easy for criticism to get personal because, after all, you have a personal relationship with them. This might make you avoid constructive criticism. However, feedback is important for any type of work, and it could be especially valuable coming from someone he respects. If you find that your friendship makes you hesitate to say anything when he does something wrong, whether because you are worried you will be too visibly frustrated or you don’t want to hurt his feelings, it might help to write it down first. If you are about to go into a meeting with him where you will have to address something he messed up, write a couple bullet points about what you would want to say to him. Adjust it for maximum diplomacy and professionalism, then go into the meeting and let him know what he is doing well, and what he could improve.

However, if you are not in a position where it would be appropriate for you to give you feedback like that, you might try a more roundabout way. Talk to your boss about having everyone in the office do a personality test and strengths and weaknesses assessment. This could be helpful for everyone, and it could cause your friend to either realize for himself what he needs to improve or give your boss the insight necessary to give him feedback. It might also help you more clearly recognize the strengths he brings to the table, and have a greater understanding of why he works the way he does. If your boss isn’t into the idea, you could try taking an assessment yourself and bringing it up in conversation with him. He may be intrigued enough to take it himself, or at minimum, it could get him thinking about his own strengths and weaknesses.

Again, these steps may do nothing to improve his work ethic; the purpose of doing something about it is for your own peace of mind, and you shouldn’t expect him to change. That is why the most important step is the last step: let it go. Things drive us crazy because we don’t stop thinking about them. Give this situation less real estate in your mind. When you find yourself thinking about what a crappy project manager he is, match that thought with something you really admire about him. If you find yourself getting very frustrated with the quality of his work, take a break to cool down; meditate, take a walk, or call a friend to shift your focus. At the end of the day, all you can do is do your own good work. Maybe your friend will learn by your example; maybe not. Either way, you have done your best. Keep focus and don’t let things out of your control distract you from what is really important to you. Good luck!

XOXO,
Ginzo

Am I Wrong For Wanting to Cut Off These Friendships?

Hey Ginzo!

So super long story here, I’ll try to shorten it as much as possible…

So my brother in law, let’s call him Tyler, started dating this girl named Sierra a few years back. My husband’s family is very close and we all hang out frequently, so when we met her we were… underwhelmed. It took awhile but we eventually warmed up to her and she started sort of becoming part of the family.

In an effort to make her more comfortable during the rocky period (since I was closest in age), I introduced her to my close friend Anna. They completely hit it off and the three of us hung out a ton for awhile. I started getting busier, however, but the two of them continued to hang out all the time and became really really good friends.

Well, fast forward to this past October — Tyler and Sierra broke up. And now (about a week and a half ago near the end of February), he’s engaged to a girl he met at work. So their relationship has literally gone further than his and Sierra’s ever did in about 1/12 of the time. Ouch.

At this point, Tyler told me that Sierra had been sort of stalking his new fiance, Faye. Sierra had messaged him a few times angrily because she found out how shortly after their breakup he had moved on. Faye fixed her Facebook privacy settings and now has it to where it’s totally impossible to see ANYTHING unless you’re her friend. So Tyler, knowing Sierra, Anna, and I were close at one time, begged me to cut contact with her and severely limit what I tell Anna. I hadn’t seen Sierra in months and we rarely ever talked anymore, so I really had no issue complying.

When Tyler and Faye announced their engagement and said they didn’t care who knew anymore, I felt obligated to at least tell Anna so she could relay it to Sierra (since I didn’t think Sierra would find out any other way). The whole thing blew up in my face.
Anna started insisting that I lied to her because Tyler had asked me to keep their relationship a secret since he knew Sierra and Anna were good friends. She claimed she and Sierra aren’t that close anymore, but I know that’s a complete lie. Now Anna is pressuring me and saying that I’m a bad friend to a girl I used to be close with since I’ve chosen my family over my brother’s ex. Anna keeps stirring up drama where there shouldn’t be any, and she constantly wants me to update her on Tyler’s fiancee and what they’re doing (which is super obviously digging so she can relay it all back to Sierra). It feels like our relationship has become a quiz every time I see her, and though she believes she’s being discreet with her questioning, she really, really isn’t.

I guess my question is twofold–one, am I wrong to cut ties with Sierra mainly only because she’s an ex of a brother I’m very close to?

And two–is being friends with Anna even worth it if she’s going to try to stir the pot on any and everything I do (and all she cares about now is gathering intel and reporting it back to a girl who is heartbroken and really hasn’t had the appropriate amount of time to heal)?

Over the Drama

Dear Over the Drama,

When I read your questions, it seems to me that you know what you want to do. Having written into advice columns myself, I find just the act of writing out the problem helps the decision become clearer, and I suspect that this may have happened for you. So while I am happy to weigh in with my opinion because, hi, that is why I’m here, I think you already know that you don’t want to waste any more of your time on these people, and I can’t blame you. Is that wrong? Not at all.

As you get older, you will have less and less time for your friends, and as everyone goes down different life paths, you lose some along the way. Not every person you befriend is going to stand the test of time. As you get to know them better and face different situations with them, people prove to you exactly how invested they are in you, and you learn how invest you are in them. They show you who they are and sometimes, this is the most beautiful thing in the world, and sometimes, it is a rude awakening.This doesn’t mean that you are disloyal if you decide not to maintain certain friendships; it’s just a natural part of becoming who you really are. Someone you befriend at age 15 may not grow into someone you want to be friends with when you’re 25, and that’s okay. And if these friendships are causing you more stress than they’re worth, it’s okay to let go of them.

Regarding Sierra: you were lukewarm about her when you first met her, it seems like you may never have fully warmed to her, and now the only reason that you were friends with her, her relationship with Tyler, is over. There is no reason to be cruel, but you don’t need to feel obligated to continue being her friend. I understand why she would be upset about Tyler’s engagement; she must feel rejected and insecure right now. While I can empathize with the emotions behind it, ultimately, it isn’t about her. Dating isn’t a competition to see who is going to win the engagement ring. She wasn’t the right person for him, and the timing just worked out that he found someone better suited for him very quickly. Yes, that hurts. But by sending a bunch of nasty messages and trying to find out every scrap of information she can about Tyler and his new relationship, she isn’t doing herself any favors, and she is putting you in an awkward position on top of it. She needs some time to work through her emotions and let the relationship go. Some distance from the entire situation is probably better for her; hearing all about Tyler and Faye from Anna is just making it more difficult for her to move on. Even if, with time, you were to decide that you do want to be friends with Sierra, it’s probably better right now for you both to have distance.

As to the question of whether or not it is worth it to maintain a friendship with Anna, that is up to you to decide. Feeling used by someone is certainly a great reason not to want to spend time with them anymore, and based on this story, I am not convinced that Anna gives you the level of empathy and understanding that you deserve as a friend. She may be working under the guise that she is helping Sierra, and she may sincerely believe she is, but she is not being a good friend to you in the process. Think about the reasons you became friends with Anna, why you are friends with her now, and why you would want to maintain a friendship with her. If your only motivation is obligation, feel free to let it go.

Does this mean you need to them outright to get lost? Not necessarily. It seems like there is distance growing between you all anyway, and you may just be able to let the friendships fade. If a big confrontation is only going to cause more drama, it might be worth it to just phase both of them out, spending less and less time talking to or hanging out with them. When Anna hits you up for the latest gossip, you may be able to be vague or unresponsive enough ( perhaps with a “I don’t really know,” “Just the usual,” or a pointed subject change) that she loses interest with time. Indulging in her need for the gossip even a little bit is only going to keep her coming back for more, so don’t give her anything to work with. Without your supply of information, if gossip is really her only motivation, you may find that the friendship fizzles out on its own. However, if this doesn’t happen, you may have to just tell Anna upfront that you don’t want to be a part of the gossip train anymore, that it is emotionally draining and putting you in a weird position with your family. Based on her recent MO, she will probably try to guilt you, but stand your ground. If you’re over the drama, don’t let it dictate your life; say how you really feel, and the people who are worth your time will accept it. If she can’t understand where you are coming from, she wasn’t your friend to begin with.

XOXO,
Ginzo