Dear Annie: I have a longtime friend who lives on the other side of the country. We’re all retired now. We used to tell each other all about our lives, but for the past few years, I only hear from her how wonderful her life is and how she plans and goes on so many vacations. They have lots of money, and I’m glad that they are so happy.
But I’m not so happy on this end. I’m stuck here in a life I didn’t really know I was going to get. I’m married, but that is of no help. We have no friends or family around us, and now, with this coronavirus going on, I’m scared. I have family in hard-hit areas of the world. I try not to complain, but I can’t paint a happy face over this.
So how do I go about trying to reply to her over-the-top happy emails about herself? Other than a one-sentence, “How are you?” there is no concern for what I might be going through. Is she just so self-absorbed that it doesn’t occur to her that not everyone is so well-off? Or am I just jealous and being a martyr?
— Do I Have an Unconscious Friend?
Dear Friend: Given the level of uncertainty and isolation that many Americans, and the rest of the world, are feeling, it is understandable that you can’t paint a happy face over this. Everyone deals with anxiety differently, and some people become completely narcissistic and can only focus on what they’re doing and boasting about how fabulous their life is. No one likes a braggart.
On the other hand, you are very self-aware to question if you are jealous. My guess is that it is a mixture of both. On the one hand, she is bragging and being obnoxious, and, on the other, you might be more sensitive to it because you are having an understandably difficult time being far away from family and friends during this pandemic.
The best way to feel better fast is to focus on the good in your life. When you say you are “stuck” in a life you never wanted, I ask you to seek out ways to get unstuck. Write down goals and dreams that would allow you to live the life of your dreams. Focus on how you can achieve them each day, all the while appreciating what you already have. Try and find moments of joy in this time of uncertainty.
I know it is challenging, but as we focus on positive things that happen each day, the more joy we will feel and the more joy we will radiate out to the world.
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Dear Readers: Please send in any positive stories you would like to share in the midst of this pandemic. While there is a great deal of suffering because of it, there is also a great deal of connection, slowing down and appreciation of the beauty of the world and our loved ones. Out of every storm comes a rainbow.
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— A native Californian, Annie Lane writes her Dear Annie advice columns from her home outside New York City, where she lives with her husband, two kids and two dogs. Her debut book, Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie, features favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette. Email your Dear Annie questions to email@example.com. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.