South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

ASK AMY His carpentry skills are not enough

- ByAmy Dickinson askamy@amydickins­ Twitter @askingamy Distribute­d by Tribune Content Agency

DearAmy: Iamina terrible relationsh­ip of two tumultuous years duration.

Imet him after recovering froman operation. I had been alone for years, as my lifewas consumed by raisingmy children, pulling a boy out of awar zone, and teaching music.

Unfortunat­ely, my boyfriend is a liar. He’s had another girlfriend, he is an alcoholic, has a prison record, has a kid in jail, grandchild­ren out of wedlock, no car, no license, fines, debt, is abusive, is not intellectu­al, and has no education. All he has is a funny sense of humor, a great body, and some carpentry skills.

I don’t knowhowwit­h two master’s degrees, material success, and happy and successful children, I could have picked such a narcissist­ic jerk. What is wrong with me? I’m in therapy, andmy therapist says it’s because I had an abusive family of alcoholics and ragers, and have all the classic characteri­stics of adult children of alcoholics.

I’m afraid to kick him out because I never meet anyone. I’ve been alone most ofmy life.

Any advice?

— Helpless Smart Dummy

DearHelple­ss: As long as you consider being alone a worse fate than being in an abusive relationsh­ip with a lying, narcissist­ic jerk, then keep doing what you’re doing. But in the immortal words of “Dr. Phil”: “How’s thatworkin­g for you?” It is obviously notworking for you at all.

I’m not a therapist, but, for what it’sworth, I agree with their assessment.

Peoplewho grewup in chaotic, neglectful, abusive and alcoholic households often internaliz­e the idea that they are somehow “not enough.” I assume this is because, despite their heroic efforts as children, they cannot fix, heal or alter the dynamic of their family.

Intelligen­ce, education and success in other realms will not offset this deep void, but you can change your current mindset and your behavior.

Ask your therapist to talk to you about codependen­cy. And connect with anAdult Children of Alcoholics group (adultchild­

DearAmy: I amalways struck when you and folks in your column talk about keeping a journal. I think that soundswond­erful!

I never kept a journal for long growing up. This is in part because therewere times that a familymemb­er readmy private writings, and I felt betrayed.

But nowI’m an adult with no excuses for failing to start something I’ve alwayswant­ed to do. I usually start, and then drift off after a few days.

Any advice for aspiring journal keepers?

I can’t help butwonder if part ofmy lack of motivation is the fear that someonewou­ld read them and judge them to be what is perfectlyO­Kfor them to be: Nothing too exciting.


DearM: Ihave journals going back to when I receivedmy first one for Christmas, whenIwas 8 years old.

However, I amnot and have never been a daily writer. I only write when I feel compelled to. Weeks can go by! But I keep a blank book handy (no dates on the pages— too muchpressu­re!).

Ifyouwant tostarta newhabit, oneway isby habit stacking. Basically, you “stack” anewhabit on top of an old habit. For instance, after your morning coffee, you try to write a few sentences. Don’t pressure yourself to create beautiful sentences, just freestyle it.

Writing is basically a muscle— the more you use it, the stronger and more skilled you become.

Technology can be helpful here. You can set a prompt on your phone to remind you to sit down and write. The downside of setting an alarm is that writing for pleasure can start to seem like a chore, which is one reason you’ve abandoned your efforts in the past.

DearAmy: I knowyou are awealth of knowledge for resources.

Are there any good books on dealing with all of the pain, death and suffering in theworld? I amnot a spiritual person.

— Mark

DearMark: What a thoughtful question. My answer is: All the books.

I turn to poetry during tough times: Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Billy Collins, Jericho Brown and Emily Dickinson. Poets write the lyrics to the music of life.

Copyright 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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