DEAR NATALIE: I’m in my late 50s and I have had two best friends for more than 30 years. The three of us love to go hunting, fishing, and enjoy the great outdoors together. Recently, our trips have been harder to manage because our friend Jack has become steeped in conspiracy theories and following QAnon. My friend Frank and I have been trying to ignore it, but this is beyond politics. I don’t care who he voted for, but the reality is, the stuff he says is out of line and disturbing. Frank doesn’t want to invite him on any more trips. We do a big couples’ weekend before the holidays, where we all go to my family’s cabin upstate. Jack’s wife is not into QAnon, but she definitely has turned hard right, which I know makes my wife and Frank’s wife uncomfortable, as well. No one wants to invite them, but it’s been a tradition for the past 12 years. Jack was asking me what they should bring. I don’t have the heart to hurt his feelings, but no one wants them around. How do I handle this without feeling like the bad guy? QA-NO WAY
DEAR QA-NO WAY: There is no easy way to deal with this. He is a dear friend and while you don’t want to hurt him, you also have to take into consideration everyone else’s feelings in the group. If he is spouting things that are making people uncomfortable to the point where they don’t want him around anymore, that isn’t acceptable. I would try to be diplomatic about this. Say something like: “I know we are all planning our yearly getaway together, but with everyone’s emotions running so high around the election and politics, the group is feeling uncomfortable about having you and your wife with us. We don’t want either of you to feel slighted, but the rhetoric you’ve been sharing for the past several months has us all on edge. If you can’t refrain from talking politics or conspiracy theories, we would prefer to take some space from group dynamics for a while.” The sad truth is, people lost to QAnon are living in a cult-like state of mind. Most likely, he is going to become antagonistic and cut you off. Until he hits some sort of bottom and realizes that all the people he loves are not in the picture, there may not be much you can do. Leave the door to communication open with him. Check in on him. Make it clear that you still care about him, but you just can’t follow him on this path. QAnon is robbing families and friends of loved ones. It is sickening to see how misinformation has poisoned so many minds and hurt so many lives and communities. All you can do is be there for him if he turns the ship around. But you can’t drown with him.
DEAR NATALIE: I recently decided to do one of those DNA tests that shares what your genetic background is. In the process, the results showed that I have a sister living in the same state. She is much older than me. I was raised as an only child and both of my parents are no longer living. The idea that I could have a sister is both thrilling and terrifying. I would like to meet her, but I have no idea if that is appropriate or if I should just let it be. I was asking my family members about her, and my aunt hinted at the fact that my mother may have given a baby up for adoption many years ago. I don’t have any anger about this. I don’t know what my mother was dealing with and we weren’t very close growing up. My grandmother and my dad raised me. Is it possible that she had a baby and never told anyone? Why would she carry that secret to the grave, knowing that I was an only child? I would like to connect these dots, but I'm not sure how to go about it. What should I do? –SO MANY QUESTIONS
DEAR SO MANY QUESTIONS: This is a lot to process, so give yourself space and grace to do so. The idea that you may have a sister out there would be both exciting and terrifying, I agree! While you may want to meet her, be prepared that she may not be willing to do that. Since she is in the same state, perhaps reach out to her with a handwritten letter first. Introduce yourself and tell her how you came across this information. Did she also know that she may have a sibling? Would she like to meet and talk? Make it clear that you have zero expectations, but because your parents aren’t around anymore, the idea of a long-lost sibling seems miraculous and worth exploring. Let her know that you want nothing from her, just the opportunity to meet and connect. Who knows? It may just be a one-time experience or – and I hope this is what happens – it may blossom into a wonderful friendship.
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