While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On playing a bad hand: I've been going toe-to-toe with an autoimmune disorder for 40 years. It went undiagnosed for 13 months; once it became clear what it was, I spent several years being livid that it was not cancer, because I was sure at least cancer would kill me. I also went through periods when I had to get up in the morning to take my meds, then go back to bed to wait for them to work. Even after four decades, I'm still learning the choreography.
Life kicks sand in all of our faces. The face full of sand (or the dune up to your earlobes) is an invitation to be a jerk, but not a license to be one.
No matter how constricting your situation looks, remember you still have choices, if not the ones you had planned on having. You can choose to be wed to your diagnosis, or you can choose to be bigger than mere physical stuff. You have no choice about being in need, but you can choose not to be needy. No matter how reduced your circumstances, you still have a responsibility to be alive.
None of us is born knowing innately how to deal with someone who is suddenly outside the usual order of things. You can choose to help your friends learn how to be with you (and, consequently, others), and you can choose to give them the pleasure of doing something for you. Always say thank you, but remember, you get to choose whether you say it warmly or glistening with hoarfrost.
And for those days when you have no response left, and everyone seems to have scattered, just shake your fist and yell, "Well, @+$% it! Alleluia anyway!"
On being single in a familial sea of marrieds: I highly recommend that those who are married consider the following do's and don'ts before they spend time with only one single person (or very few).
Do not monopolize the conversation with discussions of your kids. Being interested in keeping up with nieces, nephews, and other relatives doesn't mean wanting to hear a scene-by-scene description of little Sally's role in the kindergarten play. Besides being mind-numbingly boring, it can be disheartening to hear someone else go on about their joy in raising a child when you may never experience it for yourself.
Do engage single people in conversations about their own lives, such as job/career, hobbies, or travel.
Do not offer unasked-for advice. No one wants to hear: "Why don't you join a dating service?" If they're in their 40s and wanted to get married, they've probably already tried anything you could think of, and then some. Moreover, there are plenty who've gotten married without taking those steps you think are so "helpful."
Do offer to fix them up on a blind date if you know a potential match. Just don't press them on it if they're not interested.
Above all, do not, and I mean never, ever ask, "Why haven't you gotten married?" or, "Why don't you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" These dreaded questions imply that a single person must be aberrant or have something wrong. More important, it is no one's business but their own.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.