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home : columns : dear harriette February 23, 2019

1/18/2019 8:18:00 AM
Past still haunting formerly homeless reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was homeless for about two years. Finally, after a few false starts, a housing specialist was able to find me an amazing apartment in Brooklyn, New York. What I realize is that while I was homeless, I did not have to worry about purchasing groceries because the shelter I stayed in provided me with three meals per day. After two years, I went to the grocery store for the first time. While I was walking down the aisles, I stopped in my tracks. I stood still for about 10 minutes, paralyzed, because I didn't know what to purchase. I finally pulled myself together, bought a few items and went home.

Harriette, there are days when I have flashbacks to when I lived in the shelter system, and my past is trying to sabotage my future. I have come so far, but I realize how terrible my life had gotten. I have a job and am getting back on my feet. How do I stay focused on my positive progress without looking back? -- Next Steps

DEAR NEXT STEPS: Congratulations for getting through the system and staying as strong as you have. It is natural to have moments when it is hard to believe how far you have come. Now is a time when your faith is essential. You have made tremendous strides. Instead of trying to avoid your past, make a gratitude list that identifies what you have gone through and where you are today. Express gratitude for being able to go to the grocery store and having money to buy food. Be grateful for your job, which is helping you to be independent. When flashbacks occur, offer thanks for being able to survive the hard times.

Check with the caseworker who helped you to see if there is any mental health support that you can receive from the city to help you work through this transition period.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A few years ago, my daughter moved to New York City to pursue a career in fashion. She is now moving to Los Angeles to pursue her modeling career, and she has secured a couple of campaigns prior to her moving west. I am proud of her because she is taking advantage of every opportunity in front of her, but this presents a dilemma for me. My daughter is my last child to leave the house, and I will have an empty nest for the first time in 23 years. The idea of living in this large house by myself bothers me. I'm thinking about moving to LA start a new life for myself and see what the world has to offer. What are your thoughts? -- Going West

DEAR GOING WEST: It is understandable that you want to downsize your life and make a change since your children will be gone, but following your daughter should be done with caution. Talk to her to see if she welcomes the idea of you moving to LA with her. Your daughter is building her life and exercising her independence. Make sure that you don't stymie that because of your new insecurities. If she likes your idea, be sure to set up your own life and not be reliant on her.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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