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DEAR HARRIETTE: My mom owes me a lot of money, but she keeps trying to guilt me every time I ask for it back. I’ve been helping my mom pay rent since I was 18 years old; now I’m almost 24. I can’t afford my own place, but I can afford to help out. She asks for help with a lot of things — aside from rent — and I always feel obligated to say yes, but she usually promises that she will pay me back. I haven’t seen a dime from her in years, but she keeps asking for more. What should I do? — Pay Me Back
DEAR PAY ME BACK: My guess is that your mother has asked you to help pay rent all these years because she needed your assistance. Out of guilt, she didn’t completely tell you the truth — she needed you to support the family budget. I recommend that you consider the money you have contributed to your household a contribution that will not be repaid. It will help you to stop keeping score.
Looking at this moment and the future, you can adopt a different approach. Thank your mother for allowing you to live with her now that you are an adult. Tell her you need to manage your finances so that eventually you can live on your own. Let her know how much you can contribute monthly to the household, and stick to that.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks, but earlier this year she completely forgot my birthday. She still hasn’t said anything about it, and it’s been more than eight months. Is it petty of me to not acknowledge her birthday because she didn’t acknowledge mine? She isn’t throwing any type of celebration, so it would be easy enough to act like I genuinely forgot. — Friend Forgot Birthday
DEAR FRIEND FORGOT BIRTHDAY: It is past time for you to let this go. Chances are your friend has zero recollection of missing your birthday. Is that hurtful? Clearly it is for you. But you have held a grudge about this for nearly a year. That is long enough. Instead, forgive your friend for forgetting, for being distracted, for missing your birthday — for whatever the reason may have been. Let that go. And, of course, wish her a happy birthday since you do remember.
Yes, one’s birthday can be considered one’s most special day — or not. Life happens. Whatever caused your friend to miss celebrating you on your big day does not mean that you should snub her in retaliation.
I have a friend from high school. Our practice is to reach out and say happy birthday every year, even if we don’t speak otherwise. I recall a few years ago when I did not hear from this friend, and I admit that it hurt my feelings. I did not say anything. Some months later, he reached out to apologize for not contacting me on my big day. I appreciated it, but it also made me realize that I did not nor should not need his validation of my day to feel complete. Instead, I decided to focus on enjoying my day in the moment and basking in whatever acknowledgment comes my way. This approach has made me much happier. Try it!
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.