Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reader Question

Dear Fiona,

There is magic in everything you write. It is more than just sharing how you choose to live your life. I noticed that every time after reading your post I feel emotionally uplifted/lighter, calmer, happier and more optimistic… I would like to learn how to maintain an authentic positive vibration.

There is something that makes me very sad sometimes. It is relationship dynamic with my parents. They were too busy living their own lives when I was growing up with grandparents. Now when I am almost 37 they need more space in my life than I am available to offer. It takes me to very dark place emotionally and has a negative effect on my productivity.

How to start over and be happy regardless of what past was like? How to protect yourself emotionally from relatives that make you sad? How to build healthy boundaries while still remaining polite?

Thank you.


Dear Anonymous,

Since you left this comment on the 7th of January, I have been thinking about what kind of answer I could write. I feel reluctant to actually advise someone as it seems such a big responsibility. I will give it a try though.

My main thought is to tell the truth. Tell your parents how you feel, how they make you feel, and that you want to change the way things are in the future.

If you don’t feel brave enough to start this conversation face to face, do it in an email or a letter. That way you can edit what you want to say before you ‘say’ it, and they can get a chance to digest it. Hopefully then it will lead onto a worthwhile conversation.

I sent my Dad an email a few years ago about something that was bothering me. I felt sick when I had sent it, but we had a good conversation afterwards and I felt infinitely better.

Anything big to talk about is always going to be hard, but worth it. It will feel like a weight has been lifted from you.

If you worry about what to say to them, just say the truth. Say you have been feeling sad about them and feel pulled between them and your life. Let them know they weren’t there for you then and that you have made your own life without them because of this.

See where that leads. If they aren’t willing to change, then there’s not much else you can do, but at least you tried to fix the problem. Hopefully they will be willing to meet you half way (or better still, more than half way) and this could be a brilliant new phase of life, for all of you.

Remember, we only have one life as us, why let it tick away with regrets and unhappiness. If there is something bothering us about our life, it is in our best interest to try and fix it.

To address your other question about maintaining an authentically positive disposition. I try to keep my energy level positive by not dwelling on unpleasant or sad things.

Because I am very sensitive, as I can probably imagine you are, these sorts of things really get me down. It could be a tragic newspaper article, a sad situation about someone I know, or good people struggling to make ends meet.

I still live in the real world, but if there is something I have no control over, I try not to think about it.

I read books that make me happy: spiritually uplifting ones, chick lit, my French Chic library and many more.

Our mind is like a garden some say – if we don’t plant flowers (good thoughts), then the weeds will take over (negative thoughts). If a weed pops up, replace it with a flower to crowd out that weed. As time goes on the flowers will regenerate naturally, as positive thinking is just as much a habit as negative thinking.

Make time for things you do that make you happy. A few examples of my own:

Yoga classes
Walking outside
Carrying out my household chores with plenty of time to spare so I am not rushed and can enjoy doing them
Going to see a movie by myself
Reading at any time of the day
A home spa day or evening
Quiet time to myself
Sewing, knitting, needlework, patchwork, crochet
Window shopping and seeing what is new out there without spending a cent, except perhaps for a cold drink or a coffee
Early nights
Planning ahead and being organised
A tidy, clean, orderly, peaceful home
Having a pet

Make your own list and do these things more.

If anyone reading this post has any thoughts for Anonymous, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I would be grateful as I feel a little out of my depth here!


  1. You've done beautifully in addressing Anonymous. Don't underestimate you wisdom :)

  2. I think you gave very helpful advice. However the writer may need professional help and support to have the needed conversations and move on with her life happily. It is so hard to tell how seriously unhappy someone is from a post.

    On the lighter side, I really like your list of things that make you happy and also the analogy of our mind being like a garden. The advice to not focus on things over which you have no control is perfect.

    Your blog is uplifting and I also enjoy all of your posts.

  3. Well said, Fiona. I think I am like you in the sense that I can't see or watch things that are tragic/depressing without it really bringing me down. Recently I tried to read a couple of memoirs written by Holocaust survivors--I started having nightmares at night. I don't want to be seen as someone with her head in the sand--I am very aware of the weightier issues of the world, they are there and I can't change that. I can do my part in not contributing to these negative things and that's how I need to live.

    As for Anon--all I can say is that I hope she can find her voice and the support she needs. My Belle Fille is struggling (at 24) with unresolved inner conflict of growing up as a child of divorce. We talked at length just the other day about some of it. And while I think it is good she is sorting out these emotions and feelings (esp. since she is seriously dating someone/may get married), I told her there can be a danger in dwelling on them too much. She can't change the past. She can't let it own her, she needs to own it. And she has the power now, today, to move forward and focus on the positives in her life.


  4. You have written a very gracious and sensitive response here for anonymous.

    I feel that honesty and speaking from one's heart is always the best policy.

    Your tips are very much like the ones that I practice Fiona.

    I would advise anonymous to buy a beautiful pen and journal and each evening as you get ready for bed take a moment and write down 5 things that you are grateful for...
    Embracing an attitude of gratitude can turn one's life around.

  5. To Anonymous - I think Fiona, in her grace and wisdom, has given you very good advice. I think that you should write to your parents and tell them your thoughts and feelings simply and honestly. Once you do this, you will feel a lot better, because bottling these emotions up seems to be causing you stress in your daily life, that I'm sure you don't need. There's a lot of pressure on all of us (especially women) to make relationships within our families perfect, yet we all know "perfect" doesn't actually exist. From your letter, you sound resentful towards them both for their neglect of you in the past, and for their intrusion into your life now. This has to be addressed before you can move on. You're nearly 37 - it would be a shame to let more years slip by without all of you getting another chance to build the kind of relationship that works for all of you. If it turns out well, that's great - but if it doesn't, you will at least have the consolation that you were honest about your feelings and that you made the effort to try and improve your relationship with them.Either way, you can move on from the limbo you're in now. Good luck.

  6. Fiona you did a very thoughtful and kind job of offering your advice.
    To Anonymous: I had a similar issue with my parents. Like Fiona I chose how I think about things. What helped me the most was remembering: "We cannot choose our external circumstances, BUT we can always choose how to repond to them." Epictetus
    May you find the peace you are searching for...Darlene

  7. Fiona,

    You are so generous and gracious to help Anonymous the way you have. Your words are very wise - to speak the truth is always the right thing to do in a situation like this involving long-held hurt feelings associated with a loved one.

    I have been re-reading The Four Agreements and would recommend it to anyone having a difficult time with a relationship. One of the agreements is being impeccable with your word which includes always speaking the truth.

    I have a hard time with my mother. The difficulties have been ongoing since my late 20's and seem to only worsen with time. A few months ago, I finally decided to set boundaries with her and myself. There are certain behaviors I will not tolerate any longer. I want her in my life, but I also want to protect myself. It's a delicate balance and one that I am far from mastering. But I try.

    xoxo, Adrienne

  8. Excellent advice Fiona and others. A huge YES to the "Agreements".

    I've found the act of listing "gratitudes" daily to be proably the most transformational thing I have ever done. I list mine in order of importance to me.

    In terms of the parents, I one day realized that mine were not as present as I may have liked because they were working tirelessly to provide for us. Stress ruled them. Now I see them with the grandchildren, and they give all the time in the world selflessly.

    Being a parent can also have its challenges.

  9. Rebecca, Juhli, Bliss, Hostess, Sulky Kitten, Darlene, Adrienne and Anonymous, thank you very much for adding your thoughts. I learnt a lot too. I have the Four Agreements book so will go back for a proper read.

  10. Accept, forgive, move on.....

  11. Dear Fiona,
    Thanks for your blog. I recently discovered it and really enjoy your take on life.
    Dear Anonymous,
    If like me you are the adult child of narcissistic parents and have battled depression and anxiety as a result you probably already know that the well meaning advice to share your feelings and think happy thoughts doesn't work. In order to understand your parents and learn how to deal with them I recommend reading "Children of the Self Absorbed". Another book that I cannot recommend highly enogh is "the Happiness Trap" it taught me how to live a full and meaningful life, while dealing with the pain that is an inevitable part life.


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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