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March 7-13, 2007

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, I wish there was a way to get my grown children to spend time together, or at least call each other, but they both have their own lives and don't make time. Do you have any ideas to help build relationships between siblings? It makes me sad that they aren't closer. I am estranged from my own sister, we haven't spoken in years, and even though I live in the same town with my parents, we haven't spoken in over five years (my mother and I had a fight, and we have never made up). I don't want my son and daughter to fall into this same pattern.--Family Meltdown

Dear Melt: Your past experiences with your sister and parents do not necessarily dictate the relationship that your own children will have, both with you and with each other. Your children are both adults, which means that the relationship they have with each other will have to develop on its own, over time. You can not control it. There are ways, however, that you can influence it. If you can facilitate family get-togethers, then do so. Make yourself the catalyst for them to spend time together, and remember, just because they are disconnected now does not mean that they always will be. Be creative and find enjoyable ways to bring your family together, but don't be too disappointed if your efforts don't bear evident results. Ultimately, it will be your son and daughter's choice. Some siblings are close, some aren't. It's rare that our "real" family meets every aspect of our often dreamlike expectations of what we feel family "should" be. It sounds as if you, like most, have to wrestle with the fate of your expectations versus your reality. It's your job to love both of your children equally and with great dedication. That is the best and most helpful thing you can do for yourself, and for both of them.

Dear Sydney, I really appreciated what you had to say to that guy whose stepmother was coming on to him, about not feeling bad about his fantasies. I have a similar "fantasy" issue, which is this: I don't feel bad about my fantasies in and of themselves, I just wish I didn't have to have them! Why can't I get really into sex with my girlfriend without fantasizing about something, or someone, else? I feel horrible about this, but I can't really get into it unless I am fantasizing about something. This makes me feel like crap and like I'm betraying my girlfriend, whom I really love. It's almost like I'm cheating on her even when I'm not. Why can't I just be in the moment? I can't decide if I'm totally dysfunctional, and that's why I have to fantasize to enjoy sex, or maybe it's something to do with the two of us? I'm a girl, by the way.--Stuck in My Brain

Dear Stuck: There are two types of fantasies: those that go on in the privacy of your own mind, and those that you act out in the real world. One is private, which makes it safe; the other is public, and for obvious reasons, involves the person or people you are having sex with. It seems like you are stuck in an internal fantasy mode. Try and figure out why this is. Are you embarrassed to express what it is you want? Are you self-conscious, and so fantasizing helps you relax? Does it help still the chatter in your brain? Or is it just easier? Whatever the reason, rest assured that millions of people across the globe, possibly even billions, suffer from the same necessity. And there's nothing wrong with that.

You aren't cheating on your girlfriend at all, no more then you would be if you wanted to try role playing or getting your girl to dress up in stiletto heels. You're just having a good time, albeit inside your own head. Your discomfort with your private fantasy world might just be an indication that you should try getting to the bottom of your possible detachment and find another way to access your pleasure that involves having your eyes wide open. If you're never present during sex, then you miss the potential for deeper intimacy and a more satisfying orgasm. What better reason to move into the moment? To facilitate this process, go to your local bookstore and check out the available literature in your subject area. There's not much that a little research won't cure.

Dear Sydney, I have recurring anger issues with my ex. Sydney, I try so hard to let it go. We're talking deep breathing, positive visualization--you name it, I've tried it. But then he'll do something to make me angry again. If we didn't have a child together, I would never see him again. But we do, so I have to, and I don't even want to go into all of the ways he makes me angry. I just don't want to get angry anymore; it makes me feel sick. Why can't I just let it go?--Holding On

Dear Holding: I am assuming that this ex of yours is a person that you once loved. Well, when couples break up, all of that love has to go somewhere! Unfortunately, it very often jumps over the bow of love and directly into the sea of anger and resentment. And you're right: if you didn't have a child together, you could be over and done with the entire relationship. You could swim to shore, flip him off and keep on walking. But it's too late for that now. Welcome to the rest of your life. No matter how angry you get, no matter how red-in-the-face-pissed-off, you will always have one thing in common. You both love the same person, and the kinder and more forgiving the two of you can be with each other, the more that your child will prosper.

Seeing as the surest way to overcome all anger and negativity is to spend thousands of dollars and years of time on deep personal therapy or meditation retreats, why not try having a ritual instead? What do you have to lose? Dig up any remnants of your ex that you can find: that ring he gave you, the one picture you haven't burned, that love letter from back in the day. Take these items out in the backyard, dig a small fire pit, start a fire with them and then roast and eat some marshmallows over the flames. I have no proof that this will work, but the best thing you can do is try and sever that cord of misplaced love that is still holding you together. You still might get mad, but then it won't hurt you quite so badly.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.