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November 15-21, 2006

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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, my mother has a history of giving everything to my little sister. When my sister complained about how her car payments were too high, my mom gave her a Lexus that she had owned. I just got a call from my mom saying, "I have a great idea! Can you go with your little sister to Australia? You'll have to buy your own ticket, but I'm paying her way." I told her I couldn't afford it, but later called her back and told her this made me feel bad. She said she didn't want to talk about it now, and hung up on me. She may never call back! I've given up on trying to change my mom and sister's co-dependency, but now it seems like my relationship with my mom is on the line. What should I do?--Hurt

Dear Hurt: Contrary to popular belief, our parents are in our lives to teach us how to be more evolved human beings; they are not necessarily in our lives to mirror perfect behaviors, which we then try to emulate. This means, we must watch them carefully (in fact, we don't watch anyone as closely and critically as we watch our own parents), and then record all of their mistakes. These mistakes must then be analyzed and critiqued, so that we learn how to avoid making them ourselves.

You mother is obviously not a prefect mother, and I can see why her behaviors are hurtful and upsetting for you. But just because she's your mother doesn't take away from the fact that she's a human being, and most human beings are at least marginally fucked-up. You don't have to pass a driving test to have a baby. Anyone can have one. So, if you love your mom and you want her in your life, then you have to accept her as she is, flaws and all. Go ahead, tell her how you feel, but if she doesn't want to hear it, then there's nothing you can do to control that. At least she has the nerve to just hang up on you, rather then pretend that she's listening. And remember, all parents have different relationships with each of their children, just as we have different relationships with each of our parents. My guess is, her tendency to baby your little sister has more to do with the fact that she is your "little" sister than anything else.

Dear Sydney, it was my birthday last week, and my brother forgot to call me. It didn't really bother me on my birthday, because I was having a really nice day. But afterwards, I started feeling resentful, because it's not too hard to make a phone call and we had talked about it beforehand and he knew it was my birthday. Plus, when he called the next day, he said, "Happy belated birthday," and didn't apologize. Then, when we had a family dinner a few days later, he still didn't mention his failure to call. To top it off, the following morning he went out to get coffee for us and didn't come back for an hour and a half. I finally had to go get my own damned coffee. Since then, we've talked briefly and he has only said, "Sorry the time before and after your really fun birthday dinner were kinda lame." I didn't say anything then, but I'm still feeling unsettled. My brother and I get along really well, but he can be so self-centered. Should I bring it up or just get over it?--Bummed by Belated Birthday Bro

Dear B5: Lighten up on your brother! So he forgot to call you on your birthday. So he went to get coffee and didn't come back for a long time. Just because he's your brother doesn't make him different then any other person, as fallible and likely to be inconsiderate as any of us. He probably is selfish, I'm not denying you that, and if it really bothers you that he didn't call you on your birthday, then tell him so. It sounds like you just aren't really letting him know how you feel. My guess is that he picked up on your negative vibe, and that when he acknowledged that the "before" and "after" of your birthday were "kinda lame," he was trying, albeit in a roundabout way, to apologize.

My suggestion to you is that you accept that oblique apology. I think your brother loves you and that's a gift. Next time you want to talk to someone on your birthday, pick up the phone and just call them. Sure, it's nice when people remember, but it doesn't mean they don't love you if they forget.

Dear Sydney, In general, I have enjoyed your pithy and sassy responses to readers since you joined the Bohemian. However, I was greatly saddened to read the reply you gave to Rant 'n' Rave (Nov. 1): "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but I just don't see that we have the collective intelligence, and overwhelming selfless love of others, to make peace a worldwide and never ending reality."

I beg to differ. Although we are bombarded daily with news of the atrocious ways others behave, I feel that each of us, no matter how depraved, innately craves the very peace you make sound impossible. Therefore, I also feel--nay, know--that it is possible to create peace, no matter the circumstances. But it is up to each of us to find the will to do so. As one piece of evidence, I offer, created out of the decision of a man who lost his wife to a horrendous murder, to respond with kindness and compassion for others.

I have worked for peace on this planet for many years, finding it necessary to first discover it in my own heart and spread it from there. Yes, there are times when I, too, "rant and rave" and feel overwhelmed by anger. But then I look around at my own life and the serenity, love and kindness that surround me. I get the strength to take a deep drink from this well, and go out once more to do my small part.

Humanity is the product of a couple of billion years of unbroken evolution. For much of that time, we did have to struggle just to live. Now we not only have the tools to destroy ourselves, but also those to create ways to live and evolve to an even higher place. It is our choice. I am betting we choose the high road.--Well Wisher

Dear WW: Thank you for your perspective. Your letter has a very soothing quality. I attribute this to the fact that what you have to say needs to be heard, with much more frequency that it currently is. And though I stick by my previously held assumptions in regards to humanity, I sincerely hope that I am in the wrong, and you, in the right.

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