Dear Nicole,

How do you support someone you love and live with who is suffering from depression and massive self doubt?

Dear You,

One of the best things you can do, first and foremost, is to make sure you take care of yourself and your own needs & happiness. Find a different way (for now) to fill up your heart coffer, so that you are not putting resentment or unrealistic emotional expectations on someone who is struggling. 

Then. Cultivate empathy. Don’t try to solve their problems. Just listen. Ask what they need. Maybe they don’t know. That’s okay. It might just mean you being kind in the now. Drawing a bath or listening or making a treat. Sometimes dodging negative lightning bolts that might erupt from your sad sweetheart along the way.

But keep an eye on yourself, dear inquisitor. Make sure you know your own limits and you honor them. Consider how long, how much, and at what point this life slump will seem like just a new style of being. Is it a style you can handle? If, at some point, you end up needing something different, it’s okay. 

Dear Nicole,

Should I drop everything, as somebody I know almost did, and move to Portland and take your college drawing class? Signed, RR

Dear RR,

No! Because I am not teaching in Portland right now. I’m teaching at the College of William & Mary and at California College of the Arts, where they have an MFA in Comics program. It’s a distance course, so you don’t even have to move. You just come to San Francisco in the summer time.
I’ll see you there.

Dear Nicole,

My dog wants to know where he should wipe his butt if not on my couch, thanks. Signed, Grossed out

Dear Grossed,

I think he should get his anal glands expressed because they seem itchy. Some people like to do it at home, but I am not one of those people. In the meantime, I recommend he goes outside as soon as his butt starts to itch, to use the grass like the rest of us. 

Dear Nicole,

can I not feel like a shitty daughter/sister when I live thousands of
miles away and come home to visit a sick/dying parent that they’ve been
tending to 24/7?

Dear You,

Who is They? I’m going to assume for our purposes it’s one of your siblings. And to them, I say DETACH WITH LOVE, BABY! Your siblings have made a choice, and you have made a choice, there are pluses and minuses to each, and if you want to have a sit-down talk to re-establish who’s doing what care-giving-wise that is one thing, but just beating yourself up to no end is another. If you feel like you want to be there for the sick/dying person, that’s between you and them. What will you be glad you did?

I find guilt to be just a signal (also, insert raised-Catholic joke here). You feel a pang of guilt? Maybe you’re doing something that compromises your own ideas of what is acceptable conduct. So either make amends, living or verbal, to the people you feel you’ve wronged, or, if you don’t think that is applicable for whatever reason, forgive yourself. I know for absolute certain that living in the eternal purgatory of  beating yourself up is not going to help anyone, not even you.

Dear Nicole,

What should I do if this couple I invite to potlucks always brings just home-canned kimchee to share, but eats enough for a football team and also brings their kid? p.s. They are not poor. Signed, Unpotlucky

Dear Unpotlucky,

If you want to control what they bring, and not leave the “luck of the pot” up to fate, I say accept it and move towards a curated potluck. “I’ll bring an appetizer, you bring a dessert. So and so will bring a soup.” That kind of thing.

As a side-note, I would love homemade kimchee, and would eat their entire jar of it like a salad. So maybe if you want to invite me, to punitively eat their entire offering and I’ll bring maybe some Triscuits just to show them what it feels like, that could also work.

p.s. My potluck offerings post-age 22 have been distilled down to: tater tots or a watermelon. No prep time necesary. Always a pleasure.