Off the rails

Joey Garcia

My boyfriend and I broke up ago three months ago. His parents were getting a divorce, and he felt like he had too much going on to be in a relationship. We were also fighting a lot because he kept pushing me away when I tried to help. After two months of not talking, I texted him to see what’s up and said we should hang out sometime. He said yeah, and to let him know when. I texted him last weekend and told him where I would be, but he didn’t text back until hours later. By then, I was home. Should I text him again about hanging out, or is he blowing me off? I don’t want to seem clingy, or like I’m trying to get back with him, although I wouldn’t mind if that happened. We’re both 17 years old, by the way.

You may be broken up, but you still have a lot invested in this relationship—too much, actually. Step back for your sake. Remember, the brain sets tracks in adolescence based on our responses to life’s challenges. Like this: if a couple breaks up, and one of them thinks, “I’ve been abandoned!” and holes up in bed with a package of Oreos and a tub of mint chip ice cream to binge watch Grey’s Anatomy, that person is directing his or her brain to handle a crisis by hiding, noshing on sugar and escaping reality. After a while, the brain is programmed to respond to downer days, or even downer moments, by ordering a 500-calorie mocha cappuccino to sip while losing hours on the Internet, or by getting stupid drunk (alcohol = sugar + escaping reality).

Of course, it’s possible later in life to rip out the tracks laid in adolescence, and to reconstruct new pathways. But doing so requires enormous personal discipline along with consistent support from family, friends and professionals in mental and spiritual health. Why not make smart choices starting now? Begin here: Train your mind to stop longing for your ex-boyfriend. When memories arise in your thoughts, say “thank you” and then bring yourself back into the present moment. One simple technique is to silently narrate your feelings and actions: “I am grateful for my body, and am choosing food that gives me vibrant health.” With practice, you will gain self-awareness. With self-awareness, you can begin to choose a response, rather than letting your history create a reaction. That’s empowering.

So is your ex-boyfriend trying to blow you off? It’s none of your business, really. What’s important is that you focus your energy on your own life, and not on your former boyfriend’s.

There’s a new guy in our department, and he and I have history. We worked together briefly about 10 years ago, hooked up, fell out, and I’m sorry to say stalked each other. It got nasty. I went to therapy and that changed everything. He doesn’t recognize me—I look different and I’m going by my first name now instead of my middle name. I’m not sure how to handle the situation, though. Advice?

If you struggle with anxiety, deflate its power by being first to reintroduce yourself. Say, “We met a long time ago. I was very different then. I’m sorry for my behavior. I trust that we can work together professionally now.” Keep the conversation short. Don’t suggest catching up over cocktails, or having lunch. You’re not the woman you once were. Act accordingly.

Meditation of the week
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph,” said Haile Selassie, spiritual leader of the Rastafari movement. Are you the sheep or the shepherd of your life?

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