Dear Annie: I've been going through a lot lately, and it's taken an emotional toll. Among other things, I'm in love with someone I can't have. My family is a mess, too. My parents should have divorced a long time ago but are still married, probably just to avoid the hassle of splitting up. My brother's mentally unstable, and while I do absolutely everything I can to support him, that takes a toll on my own well-being.
In my own life, I've found myself exploring my sexuality — which is, of course, an important and beautiful part of figuring out one's identity. I'm having a good time, but I am concerned that I'm using this exploration to cope with the stressful stuff I'm going through. Every day spent without the person I love is full of heartache. So, as much as I believe that sex can be wholesome, I worry I'm partaking for the wrong reasons. Any advice as to how I can tell the difference between positive sexual experiences and sex for the sake of distraction? — Coping Via Sex
Dear Coping: What concerns me here is not just that you might be using intimacy for avoidance but the particular person with whom you're being intimate, the person with whom you're in love but "can't have." Friend, you are setting yourself up for a world of hurt if you believe you can convince someone to love you back by sleeping with them or by doing anything else: Love is not a matter of convincing.
All that said, the first line of your letter cuts to the heart of the matter — which is that you've been going through a lot. Therapy will equip you with tools to replace your unhealthy coping mechanisms. Make an appointment today.
Dear Annie: I've always wanted to have a beautiful garden, full of pretty greenery, flowers, herbs and vegetables, some of which I could use for cooking. The problem is, I don't really want to settle down any time soon. I'm too young to know where I'd like to live for the rest of my life. But I hope that doesn't mean I have to give up on my dream of tending to a lush group of plants. Is there a way I can have both a nomadic lifestyle and a thriving garden? I'm hoping there's some sort of portable, on-the-road option. — Gallivanting Green Thumb
Dear Gallivanting: You don't need to plant your roots to plant a garden. If you have access to an outdoor space, such as a balcony, patio, yard or alleyway, then container gardening — which simply means growing plants in pots as opposed to the ground or a bed — would be perfect for you. Many vegetables, including bell peppers, can be grown in large pots, provided they get at least six hours of sun per day, and most herbs commonly used in cooking can thrive in pots on sufficiently sunny windowsills. There are, of course, some limits to what you can grow in containers. Check seed packets or plant tags to see whether a plant is container-friendly before purchasing, and check out some books from the library, such as "The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs, and Other Containers," by Edward C. Smith and "Easy Container Gardens" by Pamela Crawford, for general knowledge. With your plants potted and portable, they can grow wherever you do.
In addition to container gardening, dig into community gardens in your neighborhood. Find one at https://communitygarden.org/find-a-garden. If there are none in your area yet, check out the page, on the same website, entitled "10 Steps to Starting a Community Garden."
"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]