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DEAR ABBY: My wife of 43 years died nine months ago after losing her four-year battle with cancer. I met a woman who had also experienced tragedy in her life, and we started seeing each other casually. When my wife's three sisters found out, I became the outcast. Why do people think there is a set time to grieve? Life is too short to sit and pine. Memories will always be there.

This woman has brought me out of my depression and sorrow. I can't understand how people I thought cared for me could be so mean. I was told by the pastor and hospice counselor that grieving takes time, but what is enough time? I was also told to look at the marriages of these women. When I did, I realized that they were unhappy in their unions and probably don't want anyone else to be happy. So what do I do now? -- OUTCAST IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR OUTCAST: You have had more than four years to grieve your late wife's illness and death. Now go on with your life and don't look back.

There's a story in the book of Genesis about a man named Lot, whose wife looked back during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and was turned into a pillar of salt. What I take from the story is that sometimes it isn't healthy for people to spend a lot of time looking backward, because if you do, you too can become "frozen" and unable to move forward with your life.


DEAR ABBY: One of my co-workers, "Bob," has the same bad habit as I do -- smoking. (I know smoking isn't good for me and I have tried to quit several times. One day I will, but not just yet.)

Bob has been bumming cigarettes from me two to three times a day, five days a week, since I started here over a year ago. He's always asking me or another co-worker. He never buys his own. Strike that! He has bought two cartons about eight months apart to "thank me" for giving him cigarettes, but in the end, I smoked only one pack total out of both cartons. It's like he gave them to me so I could ration them to him.

My problem is, Bob is the vice president of the company, and I'm the receptionist. There's a huge salary gap between our positions. How can I respectfully tell him I can no longer afford his habit and mine, and that he should support his own habit?

I have tried to think of different ways to say it, but our cultures are different as well, and I don't want to come across as disrespectful and end up not getting promoted -- or worse, lose my job. -- TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF IN SUGAR LAND, TEXAS

DEAR TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF: Sometimes what we regard as a problem is actually an opportunity. Because you feel that refusing to be your boss' supplier could jeopardize your job, the safest way to handle this would be for you to quit smoking now.

Talk to your doctor (who will be thrilled, I'm sure) about a nicotine withdrawal system to help ease you through the withdrawal. Then, when Mr. VP asks to bum his next cigarette, give him a smile along with the good news that you're kicking your addiction and suggest he join you.

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