Dear Annie: My family relocated the year I was entering ninth grade, and on the third day at my new school, as I was walking home, a girl I'll call Ann ran up to my side, introduced herself and insisted on carrying my books to my home, some three blocks away. The next morning, Ann and three other girls waited on the sidewalk outside my house so they could walk to school with me. This went on for the entire school year.
In 10th grade, Ann was in very few of my classes but would show up in unusual places where I might be in the evenings, and I would then walk her home, though we never even held hands. In the spring of our senior year, the school held a sports banquet, and as I was departing and in line to shake hands with the baseball coach, I glanced to my right, and some 30 feet away stood Ann. She was alone and seemed to be staring at me. I came very close to doing a U-turn to see what was bothering her but kept going, and I haven't seen her since that moment.
Recently, at a class reunion some 60 years later, her name came up in a trivia quiz, and I haven't been able to forget about my last contact with her since. The image of her seemingly staring at me shows up in my feeble mind way too often.
I have had a wonderful life shared with my lovely wife for 54 years and don't have any yearnings for Ann, but how does an old goat forget about her? — Losing My Mind
Dear LMM: Taking a stroll down memory lane can actually be a healthy mental exercise, according to researchers at the University of Southampton. They have found that nostalgia can increase positive self-regard and decrease boredom, loneliness and anxiety. Relatedly, geropsychologist Geoffrey W. Lane has observed and written at length about the "antidepressant effect of reminiscence in older adults."
That said, it sounds as if your preoccupation with Ann is bordering on unhealthy. At the very least, it's bothering you enough that you wrote to me. Rather than attempt to put the memory out of your mind, analyze it. Try to discern what emotional nutrient it's offering, and then work toward finding a source for that in the present. Memory lane is a nice place to visit, but it's no place to live.
Dear Annie: I am wondering whether you know of any organization that helps people who are dealing with addiction — whether it be themselves or someone they love — but doesn't have anything to do with religion. I am agnostic, and I have many friends who are, too. But every rehab center and help source we have found requires one to hand things over to this higher power that we are not sure exists. How are we supposed to trust that? Is there a way for us to get help? — Don't Buy It in Colorado
Dear Don't Buy It: For what it's worth, it is possible for agnostics and atheists to go through 12-step programs, as the only requirement when choosing your "higher power" is that it be something bigger than yourself. Still, people who are uncomfortable with the spiritual nature of such programs shouldn't despair. There are other options. One is SMART Recovery. As stated on its website, "participants learn tools for addiction recovery based on the latest scientific research." Find a meeting at https://www.smartrecovery.org. You might also consider LifeRing Secular Recovery. For more information, visit https://lifering.org.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]