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June 6-12, 2007

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, how do you meet someone in public? I saw her at the Sebastopol farmers market, dancing in the "love choir." She had a black knapsack with a peace sign on it, and she was so free and happy that I was completely smitten. I'm still smitten. It feels like one of those times when you say, "That was the only thing I missed in my life, a free spirit like me." She left before I could say anything. The feeling was so strong that it convinced me I'd rather be alone and wait for the person I really want to be with.--Missed Chances

Dear Missed Chances: Sounds like a great experience. Sometimes, when we have an energetic connection with someone, it's not necessarily the person, but rather something they are reflecting, something that you desire. In this case, it seems to be her spontaneity and the feeling of joy that came over you in this moment of watching a beautiful lady dance. What a gift! One dancer at the farmers market and you are motivated to search for true love, and at the same time, you are reminded how you want to live. What you are experiencing is not necessarily the discovery of your soul mate; rather, it's an epiphany or the glimpsing of a muse, if you prefer. Enjoy it.

If you have that much of a connection with the dancer, you will probably see her again, at which point introduce yourself, tell her that you would love to take her to the movies some time, and give her a card with your name and number on it. This way you are making your intentions clear from the very beginning, and she can say, "Thanks, I'm married and have five children all under the age of eight" or she can say, "Thanks, I'll think about it," and the power is in her pocket, and she doesn't have to feel obligated or uncomfortable.

Dear Sydney, of my three children, two of them are severely depressed. They are successful in their lives, but this doesn't seem to lessen their depression. I have always felt that depression is caused by environmental factors, that there is something missing in our society that leads to this feeling of sadness and emptiness. But recently, I was watching The Sopranos, and in the show, Tony's son has become depressed and begun to have anxiety attacks, and so they trace the depression back through the blood line all the way to Sicily. If I listen to The Sopranos, perhaps this is a genetic issue. I feel so responsible for my adult children's moods, and yet at the same time, powerless. How do you know if depression is hereditary or environmental, and does it make a difference?--Helpless Mom

Dear Mom: It is my understanding that depression can be caused by environmental factors, brain chemistry or genetics. Often, they are intertwined, and one can lead to the other. For instance, a soldier returning from Iraq who is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome is experiencing an imbalance in the brain caused by environmental factors, and which may or may not be exacerbated by a genetic predisposition. Some possibilities to look into are a brain scan, herbal supplements, pharmaceuticals, therapy and creating a life change.

The issue of depression is complex, and like anything involving the human brain, full of hypothesis and little fact. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying to find solutions. As a loving mother, it would be nearly impossible for you not to feel somehow responsible for, and deeply affected by, your children's suffering. Try talking to your children about what's going on, and see if there's any sort of support you can lend them. Try talking to someone in the supplement section at your local health food store to see if they have any suggestions, and ask around for a reputable therapist in the area.

Just remember, you can help by providing the tools and phone numbers necessary for them to begin creating change, but ultimately they will have to take the steps necessary to ensure their own happiness. All you can do is offer support, and try not to forget to take care of your own well-being. Two depressed people accomplish nothing, and being the cheerleader sucks. By taking care of yourself, you will be a far better support system. It's like when you are on the airplane; if the air bags fall down, secure yours first and then your child's, because if you can't breathe, you are far more likely to make a mistake.

Dear Sydney, what does a fifty-eight-year-old single woman in Sebastopol have to do to meet someone if she doesn't want to go to the bars? It seems like celibacy is the only available option at this point, and that's a pretty sad option. Any suggestions for hooking up around here that don't involve obscene levels of intoxication?--Hard Up

Dear Hard Up: Try not to let time jade you against the possibility that you might find a great relationship. Though age is undeniably an obstacle, if only because the dating pool begins to shrink with each decade, it is by no means an insurmountable one. I've done a little research on your behalf and come away with the following suggestions. Ace-in-the-Hole Pub, at the corner of Graton Road, comes highly recommended. Of course, as the name suggests, there is alcohol served there, but there is also food, music and a laid-back atmosphere, and most importantly, it is kid-friendly.

There are also some great public dances around. Check out the Teen Center, the Community Center and Wischemann Hall, all located in Sebastopol. Among the three, you should be able to contra dance, square dance, improv dance, sweat your prayers and do any number of things in between. There is nothing quite like improv dancing to get you interacting with other people, so you might want to start there. With so much incredible stuff going on in this community, including a wide spectrum of much-needed volunteer work, meeting someone without a drink in hand should not be a problem. After all, you are fortunate enough to live in West County, where the locals seem to believe that celibacy should only exist as a personal choice, not an ultimatum.

'Ask Sydney' is penned by a Sonoma County resident. There is no question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Inquire at or write [email protected].

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.