DEAR AMY: Fifteen years ago, when I was 16, I stalked one of my teachers. While I never made any threats against them (I loved them), I did everything I could to be close, including joining clubs they moderated, offering gifts, casually going on walks past their house (we lived in the same neighborhood) and even showing up at the grocery store when I knew they would be shopping. While the teacher was generally calm and kind toward me, I was referred to the guidance counselor and my teacher passively told me our time spent together could get them into trouble. None of this sank in, and I kept pushing to be closer. I wanted nothing more than to be a member of their family and receive unconditional love. Needless to say, this ended very poorly. The teacher sent me a letter to never contact them again upon graduation. I’ve run into this teacher a handful of times over the years, and we have had very cold interactions. I grew up with an abusive mother who was very unpredictable. She went between smothering behavior and neglect. After years of therapy, I now know I suffer from an attachment disorder. I have been working hard to overcome it. The problem is I cannot forgive myself. I feel like a sick, disgusting, crazy person and feel awful for the discomfort and possible fear I inflicted on my teacher. The teacher has moved on and has done wonderful things. I have, too, but there is always this underlying feeling that my past will be relived and my entire life will fall apart. How can I learn to forgive myself and move on?
DEAR REFORMED: We all need to forgive ourselves, for a variety of reasons, because every human being fails and flails in large and small ways. You should start by assuming that your former teacher forgives you.
Your unwillingness (or inability) to forgive yourself is holding you back and keeping you stuck in a period of deep pain.
One perspective on this is to understand that you deserve to release and liberate yourself from this, because your guilt is holding you back and impairing your ability to give the world the generous and loving person that resides within.
Your choice to explore this in therapy and to face your actions speaks so well of you. The fact that you take responsibility for your actions and respect the process means that you will prevail. You already have insight. Now you need to cultivate gentleness, patience and self-love.
Meditation and daily self-affirmation can help you to uncouple your current self from the lonely and troubled young person you were.
I am currently reading “The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times,” by Buddhist thinker Pema Chodron (2002, Shambhala). You are already “leaning in” to your scariest places. The next phase for you is to continue the hard work of forgiveness, detachment and reconciliation.
DEAR AMY: I recently met a great lady on a dating site. I have been single for eight years, and I have never really felt butterflies until I met this girl. I think I tried too hard to impress her. She suggested I slow it down a notch. I did, but then I started to go fast again. She has just told me she cannot go that fast (not yet), so she suggested that we stop seeing each other. We had some great times together and she has said she is glad I am in her life. I admit this is my fault, but we have so much going for us, I don’t want to throw it away. How can I convince her to try again? I know I can go very slowly, if that is the only way we can date. She is certainly worth it to me. What should I do?
Sad & Lonely
DEAR LONELY: Now is the time to prove to this woman how slowly you can go, by backing off entirely. You absolutely must respect her choice here. If she is interested, she will contact you.
DEAR AMY: Like others, I thought you dropped the ball with your response to ”Sober Sally.” Her mother-in-law is obviously an alcoholic, and the baby should never be alone with her.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I urged this mother to advocate for her baby in every way. I agree with others that merely asking the mother-in-law not to drink is no guarantee that she will be sober.