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Originally published Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 5:01 AM

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Focus on making the world a better place

While Carolyn’s away, readers give their advice.

Syndicated columnist

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Dear Carolyn

On envying your friends’ success:

(1) Get rid of your TV — for mountains of reasons that become obvious when you think about it.

(2) Cultivate a few friends who value giving, and who believe living lightly on the earth is a better goal than acquiring. There are a lot of us.

(3) Focus on what you can do to make the world a better place. Even a tiny improvement helps.

I made the transition 30 years ago and still wake up with a smile every morning.

— D.

On having friends disappear on you:

Please, folks who are feeling miffed about plans being canceled, emails going unanswered or friends acting funny, please consider they may have something going on in their lives bigger than you, and it’s OK, the friendship is still there.

This smacked me upside the head recently. A friend was acting moody, and I later learned his wife had a miscarriage. Another friend finally showed up for a night with the gang, and he emailed later to thank us since he’s been dealing with his ailing father, which we had no idea about. And now I’m pregnant! I’m having to lie like a dog about not drinking and I’m canceling plans that called for late nights (I’m soooo tired). It’s too early to tell them, and it’s none of their business.

But I know we’ll all celebrate when the time is right. Same goes for my other friends. Their struggles are not my business until they’re ready to talk about them, and it doesn’t mean they value my friendship any less.

— Unmiffed

On being badgered:

I had many conversations with my mother along the lines of, “If you don’t (whatever), you’ll end up old and alone” ... until I realized I could never please her, ever.

So at the next opportunity, I chirped, “Well, you never know, maybe I’ll die young!” Or, “Maybe there will be a nuclear war and I won’t have to worry about Social Security running out!” Our conversations were never quite the same again.

Truly, if you want things to change, then do something different.

— S.

On making a big change in the way you eat or drink:

A couple of years ago, we stopped drinking because we were on a trajectory that looked like it could end badly. A year ago, we adopted a healthier diet. The reaction from others:

(1) They seem nervous around us when they drink. Sincerely saying, “Don’t worry about us” is ineffective.

(2) The endless comments about food intake and diet are tedious.

(3) Social invitations diminished. Dramatically.

Consequently, we find that friends now go one direction while we go another.

— C.

On not becoming a mother-in-law statistic:

My first rule of mother-in-lawing is: Do not meddle. Even when a child-in-law seems to be asking my advice, I always inquire as to whether they are looking for advice, or just need me to listen. So far so good. They talk to me about their lives and relationship while I listen and keep my big mouth shut (not always easy).

— Anonymous

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living

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