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A self-portrait by Lynda Barry.
What’s the cure for hopeless indecision (from big life decisions to what to do on a Thursday evening to whether you should buy nail polish in that shade of Cabernet)? Possibilities are dizzying—sometimes a little too dizzying. Even when I make pro/con lists, flip coins, and ask fate, I still hesitate and second guess all the decisions I do make. How do I choose and be happy with what I choose?
The tangle is this: it’s not that you are indecisive, it’s that you have strong-willed warring parts of yourself that show up to argue whenever you make a move forward. My guess is that whenever you are about to make a decision, it’s like a sudden fist fight in your head and then a yelling at yourself all the way home in the car after the decision. It’s awful. It would be interesting to see if you can identify these selves, see who wants what.
Try pretending you are someone else: a friend, someone you know well who has no problem being decisive in that particular situation. Or—for a wilder experience, just pretend you are an asshole with no doubts about anything. Imitate that posture and facial expression. Fight to sustain the illusion long enough to just give in and order the fucking onion rings.
My dog keeps pulling the rubber gloves out from under the sink and stuffing them under the couch cushions. Why does he do this? How do I make him stop?
All the very best,
Dear G-L G
All I can think of is that dogs have some secret cosplay thing going on with gloves, socks, shoes, and underwear. Some kind of costume reenactment, but of what?
I asked my character, Marlys, about what to do about the glove loving. She says, “The secret formula is to put some mustard on them and then your dog will hate them and also you. He will spit out the gloves. Only bad side effect: all your gloves have mustard on them.
Marlys’s instant solution: put gloves in higher drawer.
I’m a woman stuck in an unhappy ten-year relationship with another woman. Sometimes I think we have a chance, but most of the time I don’t. Our couple’s counselor looks like Amy Winehouse and she gets along with my partner better than me. We haven’t had sex for a long, long, long, long time.
To make things more complicated, I went and fell in love with my straight friend. And I think I’ve messed up that friendship as well. My friend made it clear she wasn’t interested in women, so I looked at her social media and started liking all of her photos. She blocked me from her page. When she called to yell at me, I hung up on her. My partner asked who was yelling at me and I came clean. Now my partner has banned me from answering the phone and my “friend” won’t answer my texts.
This is a mess I can’t fix and I’m sad.
How do I let go and move on besides write a fifties pulp-fiction novella with time travel in it?
I’d say you need to make a commitment to do some short-term but regular volunteer work while you consider your future. Volunteer someplace where you will have to move your body, such as at an animal shelter or a food pantry or a clean up crew. There seems to be a big mix up in your life and I don’t think you can fix it by going at it directly. Put the energy toward volunteering. Help foster something that will have no direct benefit to you. While you give your time to something apart from you, think about the kind of life you want to have. It’s the one sure way I know to get out the cul-de-sac of oh fuck now what. Expect to feel lonely. That’s the awful part of sorting such things out and also a sign of coming back alive. It also helps to study something. Study anything but yourself and all your recent screw ups. My guess is that you already know those by heart.
You can read previous installments of our Dear Lynda series here. If you have a question for Lynda, write to us.
Lynda Barry is a cartoonist, writer, and associate professor in interdisciplinary creativity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her book The Good Times Are Killing Me was recently reissued by Drawn and Quarterly.
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