Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Friend Not Capable of Providing Comfort

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently learned my father has heart failure and will need surgery to have a balloon placed in his heart. This information hurts emotionally, and I also feel stuck physically -- I live in New York City and my father is in Chicago. When I learned of my father's failing health, I told a good friend who's been having trouble with her mother, and her response was to be strong and to keep him in my prayers. I thanked her, and before I knew it, the conversation went back to her and her situation with her mother, which has been proceeding for a while. I was completely shocked and felt dismissed. What kind of friend is she for disregarding my feelings? How should I address my friend's dismissive behavior? -- Dissed, Bronx, N.Y.

DEAR DISSED: It is likely that your friend is totally self-absorbed, consumed by the troubles her family is going through. She may have little awareness of how troubled she is by her mother's plight. From that view, she may not realize that she was insensitive to you. Chances are she believes she acknowledged your father's challenge adequately.

What you can do is tell her how you feel. Follow up with her and let her know that your feelings are hurt because she did not seem to care much about your family crisis even though you have been there for her consistently as she has been dealing with her mother's failing health. Let her know that you need her support and her attentive ear right now. It is likely that she will apologize and say that she didn't realize she was being insensitive.

I will add, though, that a friend who is dealing with her own parental crisis may not have the emotional space to be there for you as you want and need.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a senior in college and I have had trouble identifying the career I would like to pursue. I see myself as an author, a therapist, an artist ... a "Jackie of all trades"! I just don't know where to start. Can I pursue all of my career dreams without making a big mess of my life? -- Choiceless, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR CHOICELESS: Here's the thing: You can pursue your various dreams, just not all at the same time. I recommend that you choose to first pursue the career path where you have the most experience. If you have had internships or job experience of any kind in one of your areas of interest, seek employment in that area so you can build on your experience. Master that career goal and then add another. In this way you can be successful.