Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I use a wheelchair as a result of a congenital disability. I am in my 30s. Recently I was sitting outside a cafe, drinking a cup of coffee, when a man at a nearby table approached me and asked if he could pray for me. I shrugged and said OK. He then proceeded to grab my hand and asked Jesus to “heal” me. Then he continued to explain to me — at great length — all about how I could be “healed” if I “accepted Jesus into my heart.” I realize this man meant well, but I can’t help finding his behavior a tad presumptuous. First of all, my spirituality is very personal to me. I don’t wave it around in public or shove it in other people’s faces, and I don’t like other people doing it to me. Second, I’ve been disabled since birth, so I don’t have any experience of what it is to be otherwise. I’ve never considered myself to be “sick.” I have a loving family, many good friends and a rewarding career. The conditions of my life are already fulfilling. The wheelchair is just transportation. Is there any way I can say no to these kinds of approaches without coming across as rude?
DEAR CHAIRCHICK: It is always challenging to respond well when you feel suddenly sideswiped by someone who is both presumptuous and kindly. But you are an individual and you have the right to feel free within your space. He did ask if he could pray for you; if this happens in the future you can say, “No, thank you.”
Otherwise, I suggest a gentle interruption. This man placed his hands on you, and so you could place a hand on his, make eye contact and say, “Excuse me, sir. I understand that you mean well, but I’m not sick or in need of healing. Please don’t presume what I need because, obviously, I’m perfect just as I am.”
DEAR AMY: I live on the West Coast with a 1-month-old baby. My husband travels to the East Coast for work four nights a week. My tightknit family lives 2,000 miles away, it’s just me out here, alone with a newborn. This is an impossible situation. I hate my husband for sleeping through the night and eating his dinners uninterrupted. I hate him even more when he lets his phone die or simply doesn’t take my once-daily call because the timing is inconvenient. I go back to work in two months and I know my career will suffer, as I try to single-parent an infant four days a week. My husband will continue with his nicely compartmentalized life. He will never know what it’s like to walk into the office exhausted. My husband should be able to switch to something local in six months or a year. How do I (and our marriage) survive the next six to 12 months? Postpartum depression, thankfully, isn’t a factor here.
Sleepless in Seattle
DEAR SLEEPLESS: You should set up a time each evening to do a “FaceTime” call, where he and you can talk face to face and include the baby. Given the time difference, right before he goes to bed might be a good time to have this daily appointment. The very least he can do is to be available for this short daily conference call with his family while he is away, and his one responsibility is to be present for this call.
Additionally, when he is home you should have times when you leave the household while he is alone with the baby. Given the extreme distance and travel, if he comes home and acts (and is treated) like a guest in the household, he will never successfully integrate into family life. It is vital that he spend alone time with the baby, where he holds her and physically cares for her. As you well know, it is through physical contact and caretaking that those magical moments of connection occur. He needs to step up, but, unfortunately, you are going to have to show him how.
This is an extremely tough situation, but it is finite. He needs to show you that you are appreciated, valued and emotionally supported.
DEAR AMY: I want to applaud you for your evenhanded and compassionate responses to letters from and about GLBT people, reflected in recent questions to your column.
DEAR THANKFUL: My goal is to respond to all letters from all people in a way that reflects our shared humanity. Thank you.