While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On "never leaving my children with a stranger":
You've had a built-in audience for this because your children are always present, watching your decisions. What they're learning is that everyone's to be feared until they've proven themselves.
If that's the message you want them to take away, then I'd suggest being prepared for them to take your position to the opposite extreme. There are true red flags out there, people who are legitimately untrustworthy, but if you continue on this path, you aren't teaching them how to sensibly meet and evaluate new people.
By teaching them that everyone's a threat, you have chosen not to teach them how to identify real warning signs. So one day they'll figure out that no, actually, most people are OK. And when that happens, they won't have the skills to properly figure out when something's seriously wrong, and they'll go too far in the "trust everybody" direction.
Also, the implied incredulity that anyone could possibly feel differently than you about "a stranger" is probably not helpful.
On discovering you're out of the in crowd:
Groups implode, fade, reconstitute and more in so many ways. The tapestry is much more interesting with the many hues of the threads that flow through the years.
Step back, people, and really look at who you enjoy; that is where friends form the groups, where people flow in and out of over the years.
Do you really want it any other way? I'm in an inner circle of friends and one outer circle and that's finally just fine, though some people are still not comfortable with it, sounding tentative about talking more with some people and not with me.
I make my life full to overflowing with the people I care about and that's all that really matters to me. And it took a lifetime.
-- In With All My Friends
On finally facing the box of artifacts from a painful part of your life:
My first husband died young in an accident. For several years, I had a couple of boxes of his papers and possessions that I couldn't face sorting. My second husband asked gently if it would help if he sat in the same room while I sorted the boxes. So I sorted boxes while he sat beside me and read his book and listened when I shared memories.
This is a favorite example of my current husband's loving gestures. As with many things in life, actually sorting the boxes wasn't as painful as anticipating the task.
Perhaps, too, someone else (a sibling or cousin?) could sort the material, removing things you do not want to ever see again.
On the definition of unconditional love:
To me, it is a lot like justice. An important goal, but actually unattainable in real life.
This does not let us off the hook, but each has to determine what level of effort to expend toward the goal. I have to look to the spiritual to see what unconditional love might look like.
I am uncomfortable with how short I fall from the goal after 65 years of life.
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