Dear Abby: I am 66 and a 20-year widow. I live alone but have an active social life with my women friends. We live in a small town with very little to do, but we get together often to watch movies, eat out, etc. I never had children, and all my relatives have passed away. I’m the last family member left.
I’m mostly satisfied (but not happy) with my life. Everything I own is paid for, and I have enough money to last until my death. I have everything (materially) I could possibly want or need, yet I feel something vital is missing from my life. It’s not religion; I am a committed Christian.
I could pay cash for anything I want, but I don’t want for anything. I do volunteer work, am socially active and involved in my church. Yet, I feel empty inside. Something is definitely missing, and I can’t figure it out. I realize I’m blessed, and most people would give anything to sit where I’m sitting. Do you have any ideas as to what’s missing or where to go from here? Life is hard and old age isn’t for sissies.
— Living Life in Texas
Dear Living Life: You may be experiencing something people call an “existential crisis,” which is not uncommon. It refers to someone who wonders if his or her life has meaning or purpose. Rather than dwell on what may be missing from your life, perhaps consider spending some time reflecting on some of the positive differences you make in the lives of others.
When was the last time you helped someone feel better about herself? Have you gone out of your way to do a friend or an acquaintance a favor, or lent a willing ear to someone who needed to talk? If the answer is yes, start a journal. Write your thoughts and activities down and review it when you feel empty. If you do it for a while, it may give you a different perspective.
Discuss your feelings with your friends, some of whom have likely experienced something similar. And make 30 minutes of exercise a part of your daily routine. Exposure to sunlight can lift your mood. But if that doesn’t help, schedule an appointment with your doctor to make sure everything is in order emotionally and physically.
Dear Abby: Whether my siblings were right, wrong or indifferent, my mom always stood up for them. Even when she knew they lied, she would look at me and say, “I have to believe them. They are my daughters.” When I would ask her, “What am I?” she would restate her last comment.
Not surprisingly, my mother and I don’t see eye to eye on anything, and I would never feel comfortable going to her for help or advice. She has paid for all my sisters’ court costs. When I needed help as a student-teacher, she told me I would figure it out. I always did, but I can never understand why she truly didn’t like me. I guess I’m asking when I should just walk away.
— Ready to Call It Quits
Dear Ready: Your mother’s blatant favoritism was shameful. To stick around attempting to ingratiate yourself to someone who will never give you the love or respect you deserve would be a waste of time. When should you walk away? You have my blessing to start today. I know you will find it therapeutic.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com.