DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I have watched just about every show on TV, it seems. Even though there are lots of options now, what with cable and those other streaming services -- and we have them all, it feels like -- I can’t find anything I want to watch. We are bored out of our minds. We live in a high-rise apartment building, and we have no backyard. We have nowhere to go during this quarantine. What can we do that will bring us joy? -- Boredom
DEAR BOREDOM: My father used to call the television “the idiot box.” Though he enjoyed watching it, he believed that it sucked away our energy and time with few positive results. His recommendation would be to read a book. Have you considered that? If you have books in the house, choose something to read. Make it a shared activity. You can both read at the same time, and talk about what you read with each other.
If you don’t have books, go online. You can buy an audiobook to listen to together. Books can transport you into faraway worlds and spark interesting conversations that can bring you closer as they also stimulate your brain. Try it!
DEAR HARRIETTE: My sister and I have a distant relationship -- to put it nicely. When we were kids, she always picked on me. Even after we became adults, she would take her jabs at every possible turn. It got so bad that I stopped calling her. She and I don’t live in the same town, so it is only by choice that we talk to each other now. I got tired of her always berating me, so I talk to her only at family get-togethers or on her birthday. That’s pretty much it. I’m wondering if I should try to mend that fence now that we have no idea when we will see each other again. I am married with children. She is single and alone. I imagine that she is feeling lonely. How can I mend the fence when so much time has gone by? -- Crossing the Divide
DEAR CROSSING THE DIVIDE: The first step is often the hardest. When a lot of time has gone by, it can seem impossible to get close to someone, even a family member. But that first step is often the hardest, and once you take it, the next will seem easier.
Set an intention for your connection with your sister. Remember that you are adults now, and you do not have to slip into old behaviors. There is absolutely no reason why she should have any dominion over you. Speak to her the way you speak to anyone else, with your own confidence and personality. Do not feel the need to dredge up old feelings. Instead, just be in the moment. Call her and ask her how she’s managing. Ask her how she is spending her days. Get her talking. You should also share with her some highlights of your time in quarantine. If you miss her, say as much. Be honest and kind about wanting to have a closer relationship with her. Suggest that you speak more regularly. See if she likes that idea. Take baby steps. And if either of you slips back into old behaviors, take a breath and remind yourself that you are no longer children. You have the power to choose how you will react to whatever is happening before you.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)