Her AUNT Isn’t Accepting Me (sniff)!!

Dear Mitch,  I am having trouble with family, but not my own. My girlfriend and I have been together now for 3 1/2 years, and we have a great relationship. Yet getting to know her extended family has been such a pain.

The biggest challenge is my girlfriend’s aunt. She (call her Dawn) thinks the world of her aunt, as they’ve been very close for 25 years. Ever since she was a child, her aunt has “been there”, taking care of Dawn when she was very ill, consoling her during hard times, etc.. My girlfriend’s parents and brothers all accept me, and we get along great. Her aunt isn’t receptive at all, even though I’ve made effort by going with Dawn whenever she visits, and by trying to talk with this aunt. According to Dawn and her family, “she’s just like that.. You’ve gotta be the one to come to her”, and make all of the effort basically. However, I’m not willing to do this.

My feeling is that relationships take effort from both sides, but her family insists I need to work harder “to make her feel important”. I’m stuck between feeling like I’m overextending for a woman who seems to have no interest in reciprocating, and giving up!

What should I do?

Thank you,

Olive Branch Rejected

Lodi, California

* *

Hey Olive Branch,

…And family is SUPPOSED to be a haven in the harsh world! Ironically, I help a lot of people find their way by identifying their goals.. That’s particularly rough here, isn’t it? As in: What IS your goal in such a tough scenario?!

The first place I’d take you is right back to YOU! What are you committed to in your primary relationship with Dawn?..

● Is there ANY chance this aunt is actually picking up on something incongruous about you? Maybe Dawn’s aunt is attuned to something even very intuitive that seems “wrong” to her. And YOU may not even be aware of this “wrong” element, even if it IS real..

● I can’t totally accept sans scrutiny your representation – Only because ALL descriptions of “reality” are subjective, and based on our interpretations and meanings. Thus, I’m challenging you to take a solid look at any potential areas for your own growth and contribution to this situation. A GREAT place to start… …With your girlfriend!…

● If your girlfriend’s so close to both you and her aunt, what is she saying about this whole scenario? Is SHE suggesting you need to “work harder”?.. If Dawn IS saying this, you need to look at whether she has a good point… Or perhaps she doesn’t know how to deal with a family dynamic that’s been around long before she was born.. Or, maybe she’s a player in a truly dysfunctional family system, and you have the opportunity to discern if you want to “play along”, or move along…

Now if Dawn ISN’T saying you need to make more effort, has she advocated for you with the family? Who is actually on your “side” here.. Are you still the outsider? This can be characteristic of homeostatic dysfunctional family systems – Families that have found relative balance & serenity by accepting everything EXCEPT newcomers! You may have heard, “When you marry, you marry the family”… While this isn’t true in all cases, your presentation suggests that Dawn is very close to her family.

PERHAPS she isn’t as close as I perceive.. MAYBE as you and your girlfriend gain intimacy, she MAY break some of the ties to this aunt… MAYBE. 25 years of “closeness” is pretty hard to break. Frankly, the tenor of your letter doesn’t leave me sensing that you and your girlfriend are totally on the same page.

◆ Intimacy is the foundation on which to build your relationship, and on which you and Dawn should be able to rely for all challenges and decisions.

◆ Intimacy is only accessed via raw honesty, and full acceptance of each other.

◆ Intimacy is built through communication: Verbal, Touch, Silent, Action Communication.. Relationships most powerful aspects..

My friend, it seems that Dawn’s aunt isn’t comfortable with “family”-level intimacy with you.. Perhaps that is “her personality”. Maybe she needs time to trust and let others in, or perhaps others aren’t EVER truly “in”! Focus on development of honest intimacy with Dawn, and challenges like relationship with this aunt become much more manageable..

Sometimes, the best way to love another is to leave them outside your Inner Circle of Closeness, or even…To let them go..



~ (( ~~~~~ ~~

Intimidated, Uninspired, But I Want To Exercise!

Dear Mitch,


 I am writing to you about my health and motivation.  The fact of the matter is, I need to start exercising because I eat like garbage, and it’s just good to be in shape.  The problem is it is very difficult for me to find the motivations, and because I am really insecure.


 I am slender, but I have a difficult time getting over this when I decide I need to work out.  It feels like all eyes are on me, and people are judging me because I’m young and out of shape.  It terrifies me to be judged by my peers because I have experienced people judging and bullying me.


 How can I get over fear of people judging me, especially about my body?  I know people aren’t really focused on me, but I’m still desperately insecure!  I really want to conquer my insecurities – not only so I can feel confident about myself, but so I can be healthy mentally and physically as well.


Thank you,

Deactivated By Insecurities

Stockton, California

 * ~ *


Hey Deactivated,


  OK Readers: Raise your hand if you’ve NEVER felt at ALL self-conscious and/or insecure about your “appearance” in a gym!.. And I thought I was the only one!!


  “People Who Go To The Gym” is a subculture… A group whose members identify at least somewhat with the group, and has at least some affect on the members.  For example People Who Go To The Gym include a  reasonable percentage of people who appear to be in fairly good shape (Note: APPEAR)!  Yep, go to the gym and there’s guys with serious 6-pack abs, monstrous biceps, toned everything… And that’s just the dudes!


 Meanwhile, we have national Obesity and Diabetes issues… Maybe our general population isn’t well represented by “People Who Go To The Gym”.


 Hey, it’s natural to “compare” and make assumptions about ourselves based on our subcultures.  You’re not strange for looking at other people in your shared groups for “comparison”…


 A great place for you to start is your verbage, like:  “I need to start exercising”.. Sounds like a mandate from the oppressive regime!  Says WHO you “need” to start exercising?..


● Who owns your body?  Ever consider the fact that our media feels entitled to your body rights?  Yep, everywhere you go, someone is telling you, “You’re NOT good enough!  There’s ABSOLUTELY SOMETHING you MUST HAVE to be OK – And WE sell it!”


Frankly, exercising to please a husband, boyfriend, girlfriends, whoever FEELS LIKE SLAVERY!  Between the media and anyone else who you feel you might “exercise for”, insecurity is BORN, even IF we didn’t have plenty of other insecurity triggers!


Thus: Drop thoughts of “needing” to exercise!  Obliterate that tension!  Give the “shoulds” back to whoever threw them in your face!!


● Just what does “exercising” MEAN to you?!  When we’ve “gotta” do something, where’s the fun in that?!  Doesn’t sound like it comes from within YOU, does it?


 ◆  If you REALLY want to “start exercising”..


        ~ Stop calling it “exercising”… UNLESS that word turns you on!  How about “Playing”, “Powering Up”…. Or “Personal Empowerment”?!..  Which would YOU LIKE to be doing- Apply that term to what you’ve called “exercising”!!


      ~  THEN, choose “Personal Empowerment” (or whatever term you like) activities which are not a total drag!!..


DON’T get on a treadmill day after day if you abhor it!!  Find something FUN or interesting to do that’s active, and your “Personal Empowerment” will come naturally!  I love to shoot baskets – Blending that in with the variety of cardio equipment at my gym (Cal Fam Fitness) makes my workouts MUCH more enjoyable, and I’m inspired to do it!


      ~ Last column, I nudged readers to learn the definition of the term “namaste’.. Part of that term acknowledges the light within YOU… The fact that YOU are valuable REGARDLESS of whether you exercise or not!


This is YOUR life, your body, your mind and your soul.  While you DO have a karmic “debt” to take care of all three, you owe nothing to others except as your self-care affects them!  Taking care of yourself IS important for those you love, but it is of NO VALUE unless you start with LOVING YOURSELF!


Doing anything solely for someone else only builds resentment!  And that increases cortisol production, which counteracts some of your “Personal Empowerment” goals…


      ~ Finally, speaking of GOALS!!  Once you take ownership of your body and yourself, choose YOUR Goals!  Make them realistic, but a stretch, and measurable-tangible.. And, GO FOR IT!!





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Fortunate, Lucky & Seeing Others’ Losses… And Depressed

Dear Mitch,

 I’m having a really hard time, and I am someone who has nothing to complain about!  But this is truly very difficult, Mitch.

 You see, I’m one of the “lucky ones”; I’ve very blessed.  Healthy family, 22-year marriage… Now, I find myself very fortunate to still have my decent, well-paying job with benefits!  My employer has laid off  thousands of employees over the past 12 years.  Those of us left are surrounded by the empty cubicles where loyal co-workers worked hard daily!

 Mitch, I feel so horribly for so many people who’ve suddenly lost everything, and can’t find jobs!  And, it’s my most talented, hard-working friends who can’t get an interview for the life of themselves.  We still have our home in a neighborhood where our best friends have all had to move away after losing their homes.  Hard work, loyalty, and a college degree are not rewarded anymore!

 The worst is the positions that have been re-filled (though redefined, so they don’t have to hire our former employees) with very incompetent, unmotivated and unprofessional younger workers.  In my 40’s I’m suddenly the “dinosaur” who feels like I’m supposed to give up my job! 

 Really depressing, Mitch.  Can you help me, please?


Uncomfortably Fortunate

Sacramento, California

 * ~ *

Hey Fortunate,

 These “times” are such a dramatic reminder of our vulnerability, life’s irreverent epochs, and of the fact that the human experience lacks “logic”…

 Thank you for caring – For reaching across the perceived “Haves & Have-Nots” chasm.  This recession seemingly “hits” so randomly and viciously that the neighbors of those stung can feel as shattered and destabilized as their unfortunate friends.  I liken the recession’s generally arbitrary devastation of families’ lives to a tornado’s erratic calling card: One home or building is leveled while the next-door neighbors sit unscathed.

 We try so hard to find the “keys” to life – Work hard, help others, think positively.. Hoping that if we adjust, twist, capitulate, sacrifice and combine diet with good exercise… We’ll live a fairly sane life!

 As with death, others’ losses can leave us grieving most painfully when “logic” and “fairness” seem trampled.  The single father who loses his job because the boss didn’t like him leaving at 5:30 to pick up his kids…  The 20-year, 5-time “Employee of the Month” abruptly let go “because times are hard” while upper management gets raises and the stockholders see gains and bonuses.

 When we signed up for “Life”, the description did NOT include, “Logical”, or “Fair”.  “Random” and “Unfair” (per human perception)?!..  Clearly in the “Life” brochure! 

  • Allow yourself to grieve your friends’ and loved ones’ losses!  Real things are unfairly happening to real people…

    You know that saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”?  The saying SHOULD be, “There Go I!”, as we are all of one Spirit, all of the same energy field!  

  • MAYBE part of your grief (disguised as guilt) is in response to the fact that others’ challenges and traumas remind you that no matter what we do, buy, accept, join or adopt, life still has its vagrancies.  Thus we catch green lights, watch pebbles crack our windshields, and experience millions of various good/bad luck moments!

 ~ Ultimately, ALL ARE BLESSINGS!

    …While suffering is SO real, and definitely must be honored (such as by grieving), it’s really our sense of individuality – our “Ego-Ness” – That has us stuck at, “Why HIM?”, or “Why ME?”.. Not to mention, “I’m the dinosaur”!

So.. First allow yourself to BE Human: To feel grief; to feel fortunate/unfortunate.  Then… 

  • Honor your powerful boundaries – based on commitment to others while respecting  your needs and value!
  • Accept that we don’t really know either the full human experience for another (what decisions has he/she made that are aspects of their experience?), nor what their Life Journey comprises – what LifeLessons they’re attending.
  • Stay in a place of honoring your blessings, and in passing the blessings onto others!  A smile, a warm hug.. Or even better, taking the time to really listen to someone who is in pain is an awesome way to make a difference for those we care about.  Distancing yourself from someone who is struggling is distancing yourself from YOURSELF!

~ If you don’t yet know the definition of the term “Namaste”, look it up!!!

 Caring is the correct place to start and end.  In between, it’s something about “Letting Go”…



     ~    ((

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Life’s HyperPace & “Down Time”?!

Dear Mitch,

 Let me paint the picture..  Fairly smart kid grows up in really a very “normal” middle-class family.  I look back, and we were pretty average.  Fortunate, as my parents worked hard to ensure we had the basics plus a little extra.  Me: First born big Sis to one younger brother.  We fought like siblings do.  Nothing very interesting.  Out of this normal, healthy upbringing, how did I end up such a mess??

 OK, so everybody ensures me I’m normal!  “Everyone’s stressed out these days” is all I hear!  If I hear that again, I might go nuts, Mitch!  I feel like an empty shell most of the time, running.  I have a sweet husband and three wonderful children who keep us busy.  My husband’s salary has dropped 60% due to the economy, but we’re luckier than most people today.

 I miss my friends, and very much miss my mother (she died four years ago) and my best friend in Canada.  The neighborhood don’t care to talk to each other.  My husband and I marvel at how the months just fly by.  I miss sitting with a good book, sipping my tea!

 Is THIS “normal” now?  I’m not sure I like it.  I miss the days before technology took over!

Thank you,

Head Above Water                                              

Stockton, California

* *

Hey Above Water,

 NORMAL?!  You’re asking for NORMAL?!

.. Frankly, your feelings and experience are VERY normal, and, ironically, SHARED by a huge percentage of the US population – At least those over the age of, say, 30!

 Much of my column’s discussion revolves around regaining connection with and/or developing connection with our touchstones, our sense of “self”, and a future. 

 You CAN focus on cognitions (thoughts), behaviours, her beliefs, family of origin experience, LifePath work, nutrition and fitness…. You and I are a combination of all of these systems – all are aspects of our phyio-bio-psycho-spiritual existence!

 One immediate answer, which some of you won’t like:

    ● Stop!! YOU are blocking your own happiness!!  Life offers many opportunities to contemplate, evaluate and adjust.  Doing this is good!  Yet eventuallly we must push ourselves away from the Contemplation Chair.. rise.. and make things happen!

        “You can sit around… waiting for someone to tell you everything”

                 – The Travelin’ Wilburys

       Some of the most awesome people need to STOP THINKING and MOVE FORWARD!!  Call that friend you’ve overlooked for the past sixteen years!  Send a nice card to that family member who is alone and could use finding something in his/her mailbox!  Who is someone who could possibly benefit from a connection?!

   …Just DO IT!!  

       “I just don’t have time” = “I’m a Victim!  Someone else controls my life!”

… More like we don’t CHOOSE to priortize something…


    ● Put down whatever life-sucking (my son’s term) object is in your hands!!  When you’re on your death bed, will you’ll wish you’d done something different than what you’re doing at this moment?

    Often We Must STOP to move FORWARD!!

    ● BE “Rocky”!… Or Luke Skywalker… WonderWoman… Batman… Be: HERO!!

       YOU have Hero in your genes!!  Yes: YOU = HERO!!  If you’re a conscious Parent, TRULY doing your best for your child(ren), take a minute, look in the mirror and say, “I’m proud of you!  You are (your childrens’ names) Hero!!”

           If you take extra time for an employee (above and beyond your job duties), lend a truly present ear to a friend, do ANYTHING TRULY for someone else, you’re exercising your Inner Hero!

           If you truly AREN’T doing anything for anyone else:

  • Are you working and supporting yourself?  Then you’re not a burden on someone else, and that is heroic to a degree!…
  • AND I’d challenge you!: There ABSOLUTELY are people in your world who are crying out for even a moment of friendship!

.. Life has challenged humanoids since caveman days!  “Busy” is relative to our resources and perceived needs!  Step away from the “Too Busy” Story!!  Step into the “I Have The Time, The Energy, and the Gifts To Be A Hero” Story!!

 I think a big part of the problem is our search for Normal.  “Normal” inspires no one.  Going home after volunteering for foster children inspires.. Powering past our challenges to do for others (being “Hero”) motivates and gives Life meaning!!

 Rise way above “the water”! 

Grab YOUR Green Ring.. Hammer… “Belt of Truth”… whatever.. And BECOME THE LIFE YOU’LL FEEL FULFILLED FOR HAVING LIVED!!



     ~    ((

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