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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 32 years old and have been divorced for about three years. My five-year marriage was a disaster. When my husband wasn't cheating, he was putting me down, telling me how fat and stupid I was, and that nobody liked me.

My life is 100 percent better now. I moved away and found a good job, and am once again at peace with myself. At the end of each workday, I enjoy going home, watching TV, turning in early -- then getting up for work in the morning and doing it all over again. The problem is that my family is worried about me.

On weekends, I go home on Friday night and don't leave my apartment until Monday morning. I am content with my routine, but my family disapproves. I don't usually worry about what others think, but I know they love me and are genuinely concerned. What do you think, Abby? -- PEACEFUL IN ARIZONA

DEAR PEACEFUL: That your family may have a point. There's an old saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," and it also applies to men and women.

Before you completely cloister yourself in your routine, please make absolutely certain that you are not confusing an absence of pain and abuse with happiness. It is important to have a balance in life, and by that I mean there's far more satisfaction to be found than just work and television.

A step in the right direction would be to sign up for a lecture series, or volunteer one or two days a month at a hospital, library or shelter.

DEAR ABBY: We have a close family friend of nearly 40 years. I'll call her Becky. She is nearly 80 years old and has no living relatives. Becky considers us her "family," and the feeling is mutual.

The problem we've run into is that Becky still lives by herself and continues to drive -- which she shouldn't be doing. She has had 10 wrecks that we know of in the past seven years. The most recent one totaled her car, and she promptly bought a new one. Becky has bad hips and legs, which has reduced her ability to walk or climb stairs. Also, last month there was a knock at her door late one night and she opened it without first looking through the peephole. Becky was robbed at gunpoint.

We have spoken with her several times over the past few years about moving into an assisted-living facility. However, Becky is one stubborn lady and doesn't think "those places" are for her. We disagree.

Becky depends on our family for everything, as though we are blood relatives. Since we're not, we cannot legally do anything to improve her situation. I speak for everyone in my family when I say we fear if Becky continues on the path she's on, she will not live much longer. Is there any advice you can offer on this sad situation, Abby? -- AFRAID FOR OUR FAMILY FRIEND IN DALLAS

DEAR AFRAID: Only this. Although Becky seems to have financial resources, she appears to be slowing down mentally as well as physically. Her physician should be made aware of her condition, because it's possible she should be supervised by a geriatric specialist or social worker. She appears to be a very vulnerable senior.

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