DEAR ABBY: I’m a divorced woman, soon to be 60, who is often haunted by vivid memories of the past. I constantly recall times in my life that I regret or cringe about, and things I wish I would have handled better. They range from being embarrassed at my 7th birthday party to being bullied from the 5th through 8th grades to awkward moments in high school to parenting decisions I wish I’d made differently.
These memories play over and over like videos in my mind, causing me to feel the emotions again and again. I’ve been through therapy three times in three cities over the past 24 years. One therapist even used eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), all to no avail. I know I can’t go back and change any poor choices or bad decisions, but how can I stop torturing myself over them? Also, would you say it’s normal for people my age to have such vivid memories of what others might have let go of decades ago?
— PRISONER OF THE PAST
DEAR PRISONER: People of every age have been known to revisit the past. Some have “conversations” with deceased parents, divorced husbands, old loves, etc. A technique that might help you would be to get up and move from wherever you are when those flashbacks happen to a new location. Take a 30-minute walk in the sunshine and smell the roses. Count your blessings. And say ALOUD to yourself, “That was THEN. This is NOW.” It is not possible to think of two things at once. Please try it. It’s cheaper than yet another therapist, and it works.
P.S. You are not a “prisoner” of your unhappy past; you CONQUERED it. Congratulations.
** ** **
DEAR ABBY: I recently married a younger lady and want to know the best way to get her to put her phone down, because she’s texting about 10 hours a day. She works from home now, and if she isn’t working, she’s texting. I feel like I can’t compete, and I’m not sure what to do about it. Please help.
— FIGHTING ABOUT THE PHONE
DEAR FIGHTING: Tell your wife you feel like you are in competition with her cellphone, and you don’t like coming out second best. Many people become so caught up in their electronic devices that their relationships suffer, which is why apps have been created that make the addicted more aware of how much time is spent on them. Using the “focus” and “do not disturb” features can also be helpful. I suggest that your wife start using one of them before your marriage deteriorates further.
** ** **
DEAR ABBY: While driving our car to a babysitting gig, our teenage daughter was asked by the parents to stop at a pizza place and pick up lunch for their child. While pulling into the restaurant’s parking garage, she hit a post, which caused significant damage to the bumper. Should she tell the parents with any expectation that they should offer to pay for some of the repair or is this all on her?
— WORK-RELATED IN THE WEST
DEAR WORK-RELATED: I’m sorry, but your daughter should not expect the parents to pay for her fender bender. She can certainly tell them what happened — if she hasn’t already — but with NO expectation that they will help her pay to have her bumper repaired.