Amy dickinson

Dear Amy: Several weeks ago, my longtime next-door neighbor and friend, “Meredith,” called me with a dilemma. One of her former students was on the run from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This student had fled his apartment without his belongings, including an address book containing Meredith’s address, making it unsafe for him to take refuge with her.

The other day, I was visiting a mutual neighbor and Meredith stopped by. She clearly did not expect to see me, and her demeanor was cold. I sat there feeling shamed and hurt. Even if she doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation, her behavior toward me seems cruel. I had composed an email to her explaining myself, but all my friends have said to leave it, that I owe her no explanation, but rather she might owe me one for asking me to do something illegal.

Rather than merely absorb your friend’s reaction, you should now be brave enough to confront your own choice and accept her disappointment. I disagree with your friends who counsel you to leave well enough alone. You should acknowledge her efforts and apologize for reversing your impetuous decision. You should do this in person (not via email), hear her out and do your best to revive this friendship moving forward.

My family first came to this country almost 400 years ago. They left their home country to make a better life, before this nation even had a name. Some of my ancestors went on to write the founding documents of this country. They fought in the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War. They became poets and teachers, musicians, artists, and writers, like me. Some of them were judges, politicians, and physicians. Some of them were scoundrels – or led deeply ordinary lives. They built buildings, tilled the earth, and raised cows and chickens. They started businesses. A few of them rose to great heights. Most did not.

On behalf of all of the past generations of my own family, I am honored to be the first person to welcome you as American citizens. From now on, we are all equally sisters and brothers, because we share the most important and beautiful quality a person can possess – which is the freedom to be ourselves. To do what we want to do. To live our lives, make our homes, raise our children and send them out into the world. To worship as we please – or not worship at all. To push forward toward new frontiers, or to stay put – like I have done. To nurture our own beliefs, and to communicate our values. We have the freedom to be with and marry the person we love and to form families, regardless of biology – or to move through this world as proud individuals.

We have duties, too. Our job as humans is to love one another. Our responsibilities as citizens are to live our own truths, but respect those who disagree with us. To honor our laws. To use our voice to reject hatred, intolerance, and injustice. To engage in the civic life of our communities. To treasure our freedom and to participate in democracy by voting. To share our good fortune and lend a hand up to those who need it. To be good stewards to the earth.

Today, and from here on out, you embody that promise, and you should always work to protect it. Of course, you will never forget where you are from, and you will contribute to our shared culture by adding your foods, faith practices, traditions, and stories to it. American culture is always growing and changing, and you are part of what makes it colorful, complex, vibrant, grand, and beautiful. Your story is now part of our shared story.

I also thought that we might simply tire of one another, in the way that happens in so many long relationships. This column runs 365 days each year, and aside from some brief breaks while I worked on other projects, I’ve consistently assumed the role of Ask Amy while this column grew into its adolescence. I’ve written while onboard planes, trains and ferry boats, sitting in the public library, and in my home office, which is located in an old red barn. I’ve opened bushels of postal mail, run through eight laptops and (by my estimation) clicked open 520,000 emails.

Like the almost 4 in 10 Americans who help to take care of an ill family member, I entered a period of challenges that I was not prepared to face. After living in New York City, Washington, D.C., London and Chicago, I was plunged back into the universe of the small town where I was born and raised on a dairy farm. After 17 years of being (mostly) happily single, I fell in love, and, after a whirlwind courtship, I married a man I have known since I was 12 years old. I became a stepmother, and then, quickly, a grandmother.

Through it all, I have continued to do my job (as all of you do yours, during good and tough times). Although I am someone others turn to for answers, I have often been surprised by my own frailty and failings. My search for ways to live my own best life has taken me through a shelf of self-help books, into therapy, nature, art, music, meditation and a return to my faith through my hometown church.

The constant and most inspiring through-line in this phase of late-middle age has been the deep connection I share with my readers and the people who are brave enough to air their problems in this space. At my deepest moments of personal questioning, I have anchored to the inspiring reality of this connection, and the sure knowledge that I am not alone. None of us is alone, if we are brave and generous enough to hold onto each other.

With the exception of my immediate family, my relationship with you has been the longest of my life. It has lasted longer than my first marriage and longer than any of the succession of brazen and beloved tabby cats who have wandered through my household. This connection has grown more fierce and faithful with time, and I am truly grateful. And so I have dedicated my memoir to the readers of the “Ask Amy” column. You have been generous with your own stories. You have trusted me and have taught me so much. Thank you.

Dear Amy: I am a healthy and vibrant 40-year-old woman in a same-sex marriage. After only six months of marriage, I feel like an old maid. My wife and I have suffered a lot of turmoil in a short time, with a death in the family, job loss, illness, financial problems and exes trying to come between us. I understand that these things could cause a rift. However, the rift comes in the form of my wife constantly arguing with me, putting me down, always yelling at me and having a terrible attitude toward me. I can’t ask a simple question without being verbally attacked. I’ve talked to my wife about this, and she doesn’t see it. She makes fun of me when I say she has an “attitude in her voice,” telling me that I’m taking things the wrong way. She was on the phone with her sister the other night and I started crying uncontrollably because of the way she spoke to her sister. She was loving and affectionate, softly encouraging and full of love. Amy, she hasn’t spoken to me like that in months! I feel like as soon as I said, “I do,” all of her promises went out the window. I’m working twice as hard, she doesn’t help with any household chores and I feel like her unappreciated servant. When I bring this up, she accuses me of being mentally ill. She says that I need to be medicated and that we need counseling. I agree with the counseling, but I do not have bipolar disorder, or any of the other mental illnesses she accuses me of having. How can I make her change something she refuses to see?