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July 4-10, 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, I'm a fairly together person, and that sure has drawbacks! I get tired of being the one who is so safe to be around that people can let down their hair and act out all the things they won't do when they're being their own fairly together selves. I don't want to become one of those self-centered jerks who takes and takes or is oblivious to other people's feelings or keeps all relationships at a superficial level, but it sure would be nice to not have to always be the bigger person. It's hard having to always enforce my boundaries instead of having friendships or romantic relationships where I get to just relax for a while. How do I turn myself into a partner rather than a mentor or teacher or therapist--or advice columnist?--Not Their Mom

Dear Mom: It seems you naturally find yourself in the role of caretaker, otherwise known as the maternal figure or perpetual nurturer. Because this is a role you take on for yourself, it makes sense that those around you, once they discover your strengths in this regard, will willingly allow themselves to fall apart and become needy in your presence. The best way to deal with this is to examine your own role in these relationship paradigms. It's not your job to mother the entire world, and if you try, you are apt to become waiflike and depleted, like Angelina Jolie.

Perhaps past experience has told you that your ability to be supportive and helpful is what attracts people to you in the first place. Consider whether or not you take care of others as a way to gain their love or because you genuinely enjoy it. After all, who is more needed than the eternal mother? Defining clear boundaries is important, but so is knowing what it is you need from others.

Begin a new pattern in your relationships, where you provide others with your excellent mothering services, and they provide you with something equally as important in return. If there is no return, then put your energy elsewhere, otherwise you run the risk of becoming the resentful mother, a bitter and unattractive role that many mothers find themselves in and which is detrimental both to themselves and everyone else around them.

Dear Sydney, I met a woman with whom I would like to become friends. We're both people with busy lives, so I haven't even tried to arrange a get-together. Kids in school find it easy to make friends, because they're thrown together every day. The same goes for adult co-workers, but it's a rare and wonderful thing to find myself in a workplace with people I can be more than happily acquainted. Regarding co-workers with whom I have become actual friends, it's hard to carve out time for more than a watercooler chat. This woman would be fine to know as a happy acquaintance, but I'd like to see about becoming actual friends. How does one go about this when nobody has time to even go out for coffee any more?--Not a Stalker

Dear NA Stalker: Until you reach retirement age, and unless you are unemployed and childless, it can be difficult to keep up with the friends you already have, much less find time to make new ones. Add to this the fact that we live in a cautious society, and it can seem impossible to meet cool people and make them a part of your authentic life. You can always plan a social event at your house, and then extend a casual invitation. This is a great way to get to know someone better. But who has time to go to parties at someone's house they hardly know?

Try beginning a friendship through e-mail. If you meet someone interesting, find an excuse to get her e-mail address, then drop her a note. If you say something inquisitive, like "Loved your top, where did you get it?" or "Have you heard about that new play in town?" it will prompt her to write back. Let your relationship travel through cyberspace. Soon it will seem natural to suggest meeting for coffee somewhere, and now that you have shared enough information to know what you have in common, you will both be far more willing and motivated to make time for each other.

Dear Sydney, what is a "coincidence," exactly? Some people say that there is no such thing as coincidence, that everything happens for a reason. Others feel the exact opposite, that everything is basically one big coincidence, and that life is made up of totally random happenings that have no deeper meanings than the ones we read into them. I have an ongoing debate with a friend as to whether or not everything happens for a reason, or if life is made of genuine random coincidences that we make important by believing they happened for a reason, when really they didn't. I'm hoping you could lend some perspective to our argument before we "coincidentally" stop talking to each other.--No Deeper Meaning

Dear Shallow: A coincidence, according to Webster's Dictionary, is a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time, apparently by mere chance, accident, luck or fate. The word "apparently" is very telling--even Noah Webster was clearly unsure as to the true meaning of the word. The three definitions--accident, luck and fate--don't answer your question either. Which is it? All three are intrinsically different. It's the nature of coincidences to be mysterious; this is what makes them so fascinating and tantalizing.

I'll give you an example. Recently, I drove past a car in Carmel that was the same make and color as mine, and with the same bumper sticker that was stolen from my car in Santa Rosa a few months ago. I've never seen the bumper sticker on any other car. So I left a note with my e-mail, and asked her where she got her sticker, as I purchased mine on Valencia Street in S.F., and now the store no longer carries them.

She e-mailed me back and said she got hers on Valencia Street, and hers had also been stolen, so she bought another. Not only that, but she saw my car the last time I was in Carmel, with my bumper sticker still intact. And get this: We have the same first name. Life is full of coincidences, and whether they are accidents, luck or fate depends on what you find most satisfying to believe. You and your friend may never agree, because the fact is, you're both right.

'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.