How do I cope with losing friends over a misunderstanding?

I’m taking some heat for something a friend has been accused of doing, which somehow blew up and became something I’ve been accused of too. I have no idea how this happened, honestly. Some people I considered good, supportive friends have disappeared without warning and I can only assume it’s over this B.S. I am feeling really abandoned and like it’s totally unfair. How do I cope with this?


Never be afraid to call someone out on their bullshit.
03-09-13-35-39 / 24


Hello Diner. The first thing (of the very few things) you can do is remember how you humans work. They have their own prejudices and insecurities–however pleasant they seem. A bright smiling face is very adept at hiding darker thoughts. Someone’s desire to be accepted–to keep themselves from feeling the exact thing you are–is strong enough to compel them to do things counter to how they genuinely want to act. They want to dissociate themselves from the appearance of supporting or even sympathizing with something unpopular to fit in.

Unlike these fairweather friends, you see the situation from the victim’s point of view–you know exactly what it’s like to be abandoned. We Fortune Cookies not only have the benefit of being a third party, we’re also collectively more than a hundred years old. Every time we see one group protest to exclude another, we see countless people luckily born on the “right side” who don’t say anything. They may not feel as strongly as the zealous protesters–they might even disagree with them–but those beliefs aren’t nearly as strong as their desire not to be on the receiving end of that protest and alienation.

For these casual dissenters, it’s almost a matter of survival. If a goat sees the Xiamen tiger chase a deer, it runs. It doesn’t offer itself up as a slower, easier to catch alternative just to save the deer. Therefore these friends–who were lucky enough to not be involved in this situation–didn’t take the time to consider your side. They just ran.

Follow up with these friends and ask why. Maybe they were afraid to (or didn’t know how to) find out whether you were innocent. It was much easier to distract themselves with less controversial things like bills, work, and family than to broach this uncomfortable topic with you. They don’t necessarily think you’re guilty. In fact a great majority of them might think you’re innocent.

Humans if anything are great at procrastinating, most of you Diners are doing it right now.

On social media, there are times where we all “like” a single, extremely generalized meme that supports something we already believe. Very rarely in these situations do we take the time to think of perfectly reasonable ways we’d believe differently. If there had been a few, different experiences in our lives, we’d “like” a post that said something completely opposite.

So think complexly of these friends who you think abandoned you because of this situation. If you have the courage to do it, invite them here for tea and straight up ask them if you assumed correctly.

But…if you don’t have the courage to talk to them yet, you can easily see why they haven’t rallied to help you. They may simply be anxious of confrontation just like you are right now.

Whenever you do finally talk to them, we Cookies hope that they remember to think complexly of you and listen to your side. If they don’t, you’ve just experienced a rather disappointing characteristic of humanity that no one can change–that some people are simply that easy to sway or just that selfish with their time, but who can look caring if it’s popular and easy to. Losing these friends would make the rest of your circle that much more supportive without them.

You should take the time to acknowledge the friends who did take your side. Thank them for giving you a fair chance. Keep these remaining friends. If you ever have a future disagreement, remember to think complexly of them and try to understand why they would disagree with you in the first place. You owe them at least that much for sticking by you this time. Good luck, Diner.

How do I deal with someone who says I’m not a “real” fan?

I have an issue with my best friend’s husband’s best friend. I don’t think it’s a factor in this issue, but just to give a clear back story, I went on a few dates with him in 2007ish, but there are NO lingering feelings. The issue: we are interested in many of the same nerdy things. When he’s around, he’s always finding ways to basically tell me that I’m not a ‘real’ fan of said interest for whatever reason. He also claims to be right on everything. Avoidance isn’t always possible. Help?


“It’s impossible! I never broke the law. I AM THE LAW!“ – Judge Dredd
02-05-13-28-29 / 23


Hello Diner. First off, let us assure you that as far as Fortune Cookies are concerned, you are a “real” fan–even by more “fanatical” standards. We’re guessing you not only dedicate a lot of time and resources enjoying your fandoms, but also learning about all the minutiae about them–stuff “real” fans do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be hurt this way.

So it’s clear that this negativity is about his insecurity and ego–things you can do little about. The standards he set by which to judge you is all about his need to feel good about himself. Whatever a “real” fan is to him, it will always be just out of your reach because it defines his identity. He’ll find ways to make it so that there is no better “him” than himself–and most certainly not you.

So how do you deal with him? Fortunately, this isn’t a Cosmo article about how to please your man. We Fortune Cookies wouldn’t know the first thing about that unless he really likes Chinese food. But that not only makes it a whole lot easier on us, but also you, the woman who wants to keep her dignity. And besides, it’s already unfair that you have to prove yourself to him when he had the privilege of passing that standard just by being who he was.

He may argue that it was his opinion, and you also had the right to state your opinion, but from a cultural standpoint, you’re compelled not to where he wouldn’t have the same restriction. That’s the tricky thing about privilege. There is nothing telling him that things need to change. He’s getting what he wants: the feeling of being superior, and as far as he knows, you’re fine with it because nothing–not his culturally based ethics, his friends, or his family–is telling him to stop.

You can start challenging his status quo by telling him you’re in fact not OK with what he’s saying. It may even be the first time he even considered that you were not happy with his behavior–after all, it was good natured ribbing, right?

Diner, it ultimately doesn’t matter how it was intended because unlike his right to judge you, you actually get to judge how you feel because they are your feelings alone. You don’t belong to him.

If you’re thinking to yourself, there’s no way I can be that confrontational to tell him to his face that he’s wrong, remember that there is no “right way” of doing this. As far as we Cookies know, there is no “right way” of telling people they have violated their boundaries (because, again, who are they to judge and by whose authority?).

So do what you have to do to get the message across accurately: that passing judgment on you is something you don’t like or want–regardless of whether said judgment has any merit or was just said in jest. No one appointed him your judge except for himself. If face-to-face communication isn’t your thing, write an e-mail. If not that, then ask your best friend or husband to pass the message along. There’s no shame in getting help.

Worse comes to worst, send him this Fortune, and let him know it’s about him.

Sir, if you’re reading this, please cut it out. She’s not happy with what you’re doing, and clearly you two haven’t reached the level of friendship where good natured ribbing is acceptable to give. Imagine how demeaning it is to be told off by pastry.

Hopefully this has given you the courage to speak your mind. But even if it hasn’t, we hope that you at least understand that the judgments he made weren’t his to give because you didn’t ask for them. Good luck, Diner.

How do I open myself back up to all my family and friends?

This last year or two have been the hardest of my life. Lots of good things! A career, a car, freedom. Lots of hurts too. I have spent this time trying to convince myself and everyone around me that I’m completely capable and handling this change well. But that means I’ve pushed everyone away that could see through my façade. With less intimacy, I don’t even bother trying to keep up the relationships. (I tend to go all out when I do stuff.)

My question is: how do I open myself back up to all my family and friends? Should I even try? I’m a different person now. Their inside jokes no longer apply. They just irritate me. And I don’t have the energy for all the relationships I had as a stay at home mother. But the idea that we are all mortal and our time short has recently been reinforced. So..what to do?


Turn and face the strange changes. – David Bowie
01-09-13-48-51 / 26


Hello Diner. In the century or so since the first batch of Fortune Cookies came out of the Oven, we’ve witnessed many changes: Borders of empires form, shift, and disappear like snake trails in the sand. Allies in one great war become enemies in the next. In the end, it’s either grains of sand to the left or to the right of the same hungry snake just out looking for meal on a hill much bigger than it.

We frequently remind our Diners that you humans, despite being many in number, are all alone in this region of the reachable universe. And as such, you need to take care of each other–and allow yourself to receive care. Being Chinese and in the foodservice industry, we Fortune Cookies know that many differences can be resolved around a dinner table.

Our Science Advisor reminded us that humans developed as a tribal species. Whether raising kids or gathering food, you were most successful doing things together. With the ability to communicate complex needs and ideas, your species thrived across the world. Remember that revolutionary adaptation: you never need to handle things by yourself. In fact, you keep the friends who can naturally fall into that symbiotic relationship with you–people who enrich your life as much as you enrich theirs.

You mentioned in your Order that time spent with your old group of friends and family have been a bit irritating to you, but, as you put it, our time is short, so you feel the need to reach out. Individual Fortune Cookies only have a lifespan of a few hours; I understand how you feel. But because time is short, try to minimize the time doing things that make you feel guilty, obligated, or unhappy. Rather than wait slowly past my shelf life growing stale, I give you this instead: your Fortune–my very-short-life’s work. I hope you fill your life with as much rewarding activity as I have giving this Fortune to you.

So only keep those with whom you find this natural chemistry. Reducing those numbers will help you focus your limited energy on those precious, receptive few–those who can put and maintain a smile on your face, and you theirs. Open up to them by sharing the new experiences and ideas that made hanging out with your old friends and family more difficult. Ask for help from these few. Help them in return. And of course, we Fortune Cookies always recommend eating dinner together.

With this new phase in your life, it may very well be time to leave your old town and find your own Golden Mountain to conquer. Being products of an immigrant population, we Fortune Cookies know that thought is equally scary, yet full of potential. You’ve already come this far emotionally, why stop now? If you ever do leave and find yourself here in Chinatown, you know you have friends–even if we’re of the pastry persuasion. Whatever you choose, good luck, Diner.

How can I date my ex’s friend without hurting his feelings?

My boyfriend and I recently broke up. It was on good terms, and we’re still very close friends, but he took it harder than I did. His friend has expressed interest in dating me, and I’m really interested in dating him. We have a lot in common, we’re part of the same social circle, and we work in the same field. I don’t want to hurt my ex-boyfriend, which I know this would do, but I don’t want to hinder my own potential happiness for the sake of others. What should I do?


It’s not you; it’s me.
06-13-40-41-57 / 15


Hello Diner. Because we’ve seen that humans generally work on an extremely fast time scale, you probably have already started dating this other friend. Not much is stronger than mutual desire–maybe the stuff that keeps atoms together. No worries. We would have suggested the same anyway.

If you haven’t, go for it.

We Fortune Cookies have a deep understanding that tomorrow can be your last day.

But we’ve also noticed that once people find themselves in a relationship, it becomes a lot harder to think outside of it. We have had a lot of couples propose at our restaurants over the last century. Fancy restaurants like ours are good for things like that.

A plate of warm noodles is also great comfort food, so we have a lot of patrons who’ve recently been dumped, too. Somehow, our hosts invariably seat them next to each other. Every. Single. Weekend.

Having no soft, huggable edges, we Fortune Cookies can do little more than listen. And we don’t want to be a buzzkill and have our batchmate over at the other table ask the couple to tone it down.

So depending on what “hinder” means to you, remember that your ex sees a lot more than you realize. If being happy means full-on public displays of affection, don’t let anyone–even wise, sentient Cookies–stop you.

But if you do that only to show off, then remember there are a lot more newly single people around you than your ex. They deserve some relief from being reminded things used to be a lot happier.

Besides, it’s much more intimate if you keep it between the two of you. Either way, good luck with this new relationship, Diner. Our restaurant can reserve a table for the day he decides to propose–just don’t invite your ex.

Money and love and landing that job: The role probability plays throughout our lives.

A note from the AFC Science Advisor: Since opening, Advice Fortune Cookie has received several questions that the Cookie’s have had difficulty in answering. While they do possess many great talents (being sentient baked goods for one) predicting the future is not among them. But we do not like to leave our diners’ questions unanswered. So this week I’ll be stepping in to give a quick explanation on how probability affects our lives and fortunes and what we can do to improve the odds of success.

I live in atlanta will I ever win the lottery? I need a soulmate and to win mega mega millions from lottery?

Where’s my f***ing Husband?

Will I get this job?


Money

Wouldn’t it be great to win mega millions from lottery? I know if I suddenly came into a large pile of cash I wouldn’t be stuck on minimum wage pouring over journal articles in the back of a Chinese bakery. Oh well, I did choose to become a scientist, and we all know how lucrative that is.

Despite my current monetary situation, I have never been tempted to buy a lottery ticket. Why? Because I understand probability. On any given lottery draw there are over one hundred and seventy-five million combinations of numbers that could make you a mega millionaire. So that lucky lottery ticket you have in your hand has to be the one out of those 175,000,000 combinations of numbers that is pulled out on draw night [1]. Those are pretty steep odds. To put it in perspective you have a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of becoming president [2] and a 1 in 12,000 chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime [3].

So if the lottery is not the way to make money what you can do instead? The best you can do is not play the lottery. Take the money you would have swapped for a certainly useless piece of paper and instead bank it in an account that earns compound interest. The beauty of compound interest is that it earns money just by sitting there. And if you put the money you would have spent on lottery tickets in each week, that money starts to earn more money. This way you go from a 1 in 175,000,000 chance to making more money to a guaranteed way of making more money.

Love

Another of life’s great aspirations. Soulmate or husband, most people on this insignificant blue-green planet are looking for love.

There are a lot of things that influence finding a life partner. The first things that usually spring to people’s mind are: how often they interact with people, how attractive they are, how much money they have. But very few people think about probability. It’s not surprising–probability isn’t particularly sexy to most people (although the normal distribution is quite voluptuous)–but it does play a significant role in meeting your match. Dating is very literally a numbers* game.

Think about it like this. Say in your city, right now, there are 3,000 people that have compatible personalities to you that would make a good partner. Perhaps one quarter of these are within dating age, neither too old or too young, that leaves 750 people. How many of them are actually single? Let’s be optimistic and say half, now we are down to 375. Are they all the same sexual orientation as you? Probably not, let’s knock off another quarter - 281. And then we have to start whittling them down by the things that are on your specific “List”, but I’ll get to that in a minute. So here we have a hypothetical 281 people that you could potentially be happy with.

If you live in a city of approximately 400,000 people picture this as a ball pit filled with 400,000 blue balls and 281 yellow ones. How likely do you think it is that you could pull out a yellow ball at random? Not very likely you probably thought. And most people know this without actually knowing this. Which is why they attend speed dating events, join online match-making sites, or visit bars looking for other singles. This helps to some extent. Most of the yellow balls are clumped together in these areas, you have a greater chance of picking one if you dip your hand in there. You’ve probably already guessed that if you continually dip your hand in, you up your chances again of finding a yellow ball. See what I’m getting at? Single people are a finite resource. As such you have a finite probability of meeting one that is right for you. Increase your odds of success by going to where all the yellow balls are and going there often. Putting yourself out there is the first sure fire way to win at this numbers game.

My second point is a bit more personal and refers to the “List” I mentioned earlier. Everyone has a “List”, the must haves or the deal breakers. This is another useful exercise: write down your “List”. Start with the absolute must haves, and must not’s, then add the preferably will or will not’s. I’ll do one too just for kicks**:

Must have

  • A high IQ
  • Blue eyes
  • A good job - no artists!

Must not

  • have pets
  • have children
  • like fast food

Preferable

  • average weight
  • taller than me
  • loves museums
  • hates sport

Next to each item write how many eligible people you think are available to you with that characteristic. Be honest. Now write a number next to the Must Haves - how many people do you think have all these characteristics in one? Logic dictates it has to be smaller than any of the individual numbers you gave each characteristic. If you think there are only 92 men with blue eyes, there has to be less than 92 men with blue eyes who also have good jobs (see figure 1).

Now look at your Must nots… I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this… The more items on your “List” the more you lower the odds of finding someone. I’m not suggesting you give up on your core values, but if your “List” is consisting of some superficial items it may be time to reassess your criteria and think about what you are really looking for in a partner.

Landing that job

I’ve pretty much established that waiting to win the lottery is not a smart way to make your money. The only option left to those not lucky enough to have a juicy trust fund waiting for us is to work for our crust, and these days it seems there is less and less crust going round.

Impressing a hiring manager is much like impressing a potential partner. And just like dating, getting a job is a numbers game. I’m not going to repeat myself, but the whole ball pit filled with blue and yellow ball analogy works here too. Apply for as many jobs as you can. The more you apply for, the more chances you give yourself for getting one.

The odds of landing a job are a little different to finding a life partner though. With romance, if you aren’t compatible you aren’t compatible. With a job, as long as you have the ability to do the job, you just need to be the best person that is being interviewed. If you interview enough, that will happen, but it’s like picking balls out at random. Instead you want to know where the yellow balls are to up your chances. Practice your interview skills, build your confidence, gain some experience volunteering and find creative ways to talk about that volunteer work. There is lots of advice out there for how to interview well. A simple Google search will bring up thousands of resources.

The point to take away from all this is that we all have some control over our lives. There are choices we make and actions we take that do have an impact on our outcomes, but probability and chance also plays a role. Being aware of where your actions stop and where sheer luck and numbers come in can help reduce anxiety and guilt. Good luck in your lives, diners. The Cookies will be back with their mystical advice next week. That is the one future I feel comfortable predicting.***

Notes:

*The numbers in this section are estimates used to illustrate an example. It is an interesting exercise to look at the actual statistics of your city to understand the specific odds you have of meeting someone.

**This list is completely fictional. The AFC Science Advisor is in a very happy relationship and this list in no way reflects the choices she made regarding that relationship.

***While also acknowledging that something could occur that may prevent the Cookie’s from providing their wisdom. I have a high level of confidence but, as a scientist, cannot say with 100% certainty that any event that has not yet occurred will definitely occur in the future.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ronald-l-wasserstein/chances-of-winning-powerball-lottery_b_3288129.html

[2] http://www.ibtimes.com/mega-millions-500-million-jackpot-4-events-more-likely-you-winning-slideshow-554878#page2

[3] http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/lightning/lightning_faq.htm

How do I speak more articulately?

How do I speak more articulately? I have a hard time putting my thoughts or emotions into words as I speak, so I have a hard time properly expressing them. I feel like I’m always at a loss for words when I speak, and I’m heavily introverted, so those factors compound my problems. I have no issue with being introverted, but when the time does come for me to say something, I end up having to repeat myself a few times.


Self-criticism is a sniggering imp.
03-13-28-40-54 / 23


Hello Diner. It took us Fortune Cookies nearly a hundred years to go from simple phrases to giving the detailed advice you’re reading today. And even then, there was no telling in the earlier months of filling Orders online whether our Diners liked what they read. After all, we wanted to encourage return customers. We experimented with different flavors of structure, vocabulary, and length and asked for a lot of feedback.

What helped us keep our doors open is the support we received from our regular customers. We trusted their judgment and appreciated their patience when we experimented with new ways of saying things. These weren’t critical restaurant reviewers–just neighbors here in Chinatown who appreciated what we served. People like you, Diner. So thank you for keeping us in business.

Do you have a group of friends who will take the time to listen to what you had to say rather than criticize how you say it? Spend time with them and experiment with expressing yourself. What also helps is being forthcoming and letting them know that you’re trying to be better at it.

Then be brave. You are incredibly imaginative and your feelings, complex. Your emotions have personality and life of their own, so tell their story. How are they like? What are they doing? Where do you feel them? What do they remind you of? What happened the last time you felt this way?

You humans have been telling stories since the formation of language, and all the heroes and monsters are just expressions of your desires and fears. People see imagery better than interpreting abstract statements. Your friends have their own images of fear, excitement, rejection, happiness, frustration, and comfort. If you give them a sketch of what yours looks like, it’ll remind them of their own experiences and help them to empathize with you.

Realize that you don’t need erudite vocabulary–you just speak simply and show your listener the pictures going on inside your head. In fact, the simpler language you use, the more clear you are. Understand that, like playing Charades, sometimes your idea just doesn’t click with the person. You can just go with a different way of describing it.

If you have a base of people who like hearing from you, you can draw on that memory when you need to speak with someone you’re not familiar with. It will help you expect a positive response rather than judgment. And since you had all that experience expressing yourself among your friends, it will be likely that strangers will equally enjoy talking with you. Just remind yourself that these strangers also have their own images of fear, excitement, rejection, happiness, frustration, and comfort.. They are, after all, human.

Try to remember that your fear is a very real thing, and there are also treatments and counseling that can help you manage it. A good counselor will try to get at what you’re saying and not be critical of how you say it. If you have no one else, you can try talking to one of them. Just trust, be brave, and practice. You’ll get your point across–you have all of your imagination and personal experiences to help you. Good luck, Diner.

How do I cope with finding out that I can’t have children?

A couple of years ago I found out that I cannot have children. This is devastating to me as I always wanted to start a family. It’s very difficult to come to terms with. Some days are better than others, but lately it seems like all of my friends are having babies or getting pregnant. I want to be happy and supportive of them, but every time I hear them talk about it, or see a photo on facebook it reminds me of what I cannot have. How do I cope with this thing that I had no say in?


Well-behaved women seldom make history. – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
13-14-15-19-46 / 28


Hello Diner. Society literally owes existence largely to its ability to have children. Even the Baker Himself was a child at some point–despite being eons old in Fortune-Cookie-years. Because of that, it’s hard not to feel defective and rejected from being part of Humanity Itself. We discussed in other Fortunes how damaging feeling left out is. It’s no wonder it hurts.

What’s great about you, Diner, is that you don’t take out this hurt and unfairness on your friends. You even feel like you want to celebrate with them when you’re not as lucky. Maybe that’s just the privilege your culture affords those fortunate parents; maybe you’re just an incredibly gracious person. Maybe both. Either way, you spend a lot of your limited energy repeating, “just grin and bear it.”

Sucking it up takes its toll. You’re human, Diner; you’re not an effervescent perpetual motion machine of cheer and enthusiasm–however much you may want to be. Be whoever you feel like you need to be around your friends and family, but give yourself permission to be angry and to feel cheated when you need to. I won’t tell or judge. In fact, I encourage it.

That can be as simple and private as not clicking “Like” or leaving a comment on Facebook. Or it can be as direct as asking your friend not to talk about babies when you’re with them, and everything in between. The point is, sometimes you don’t need to be happy for them. Do whatever you feel right and and comfortable doing to enforce those boundaries.

The reminders themselves–the stream of pictures, the pinging notifications of other people adding to the congratulations, and the pervasiveness of that conversation topic–add to how hard it is to cope with your pain. Wish them well and unfollow. You can always add them back into your feed later on.

Discovering that you can’t have your own biological children is a sudden loss that must be grieved. But like losses you have already faced in your life, you know life will, and must, go on–and will get better. You can’t bring back lost loved ones from your past or from a future that cannot be, but you can mourn, pass on what you’ve learned from them, and live life fully.

Spend some time and really think about why you want children. Is it society telling you you’re deficient otherwise? Do you want to nurture and teach someone? Do you want to provide for and protect someone? In each case, there are other ways to fulfill that need: educate, volunteer, adopt. I’m not saying any of those will ever take the place of giving birth and raising your own child, but they are means of getting closer to your life goals with what you have now.

We Fortune Cookies don’t make more of ourselves. We simply explore one problem. Your problem. And we try to do it the best we can. We create. These Fortunes are our life’s work. That’s how we leave our legacy. Show everyone how you’ll leave yours. Good luck, Diner.

What makes a good suicide note?


To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure. – R. Williams as Peter Banning
03-06-07-13-46 / 04


Hello Diner. A good suicide note is one you never have to write. A good suicide note has on it recipes, doodles, and handwritten love letters, instead. A good suicide note has on it reasons you should live and how things would be much worse if you killed yourself.

Depression lies. Depression drains you of your self-worth, willpower, and motivation. What if this hopelessness is from an illness instead of being personally your fault? But many with the disease would completely overrule that possibility–that’s one of its symptoms. It’s a disease that needs to be more widely understood, discussed, and accepted as a real thing.

This is why I’m speaking so plainly about it. But please understand that I’m not trying to be dismissive of your personal issues and diagnose a generic ailment in order to sell a miraculous cure-all when I put this all under the big “depression” umbrella. It’s not that at all. Your specific problems are not that simple. Depression itself is not that simple. If you reached the point of contemplating suicide, your situation needs the care of a therapist, and in the meantime you can let us know more. One of my batchmates would be happy to help you when you dine with us again.

But to say that you’re insignificant would simply be inaccurate. You’re the reason I’m here today. You are my Diner tonight, and this is the one Order I fulfill in my lifetime. Without you, this conversation would not have happened, and its contents would not go on to help someone else in similar pain. Your life touches so many, and your death will not make anyone’s life better.

You had people in mind who would have read your note. I know for certain your death would be heartbreaking and painful for them.

No collection of sentences would ever be enough to justify your death to them. There are intangible things they like about you that words can’t easily describe: they like the distinct rhythm of your voice, the look on your face when you enjoy your favorite dish, the way you comment on everyday things. No note will ever bring those back.

But you can do more than just trust what a fortune-telling cookie is saying. Go talk to the intended recipients of your suicide note. Tell them you’re struggling and you need their help to hang on. Tell them you need to hear something they will miss about you if you’re gone. Someone will respond if you just ask. After all, I answered.

This next part is going to be hard, but your favorite Bakery is just a few clicks away. Good luck, Diner.

If you’re in a country not represented below, please let the Advice Fortune Cookies know what your helplines are.

US Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255

The Trevor Project

Lifeline of Australia’s helplines

Crisis centres across Canada

Emergency resources in Germany

Suicide helplines in The Netherlands

Lifeline of New Zealand’s helplines

UK NHS suicide resources

How does one communicate deep feelings in the written word?

In an age where the written word has become less expressive/seductive due to our immediate responses to everything via text and instant message and our narcissistic nature to see everything on a Facebook wall….how does one communicate deep feelings in the written word?


I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. – W. Whitman
10-12-13-31-46 / 27


Hello Diner. We Fortune Cookies only live for a few hours to deliver one message, so we appreciate the sacredness of each word. Our Baker insists we not worship him; rather, we hold this time with you sacrosanct. This message is my only message as a corporeal Fortune Cookie. And I’m lucky–most Fortune Cookies only get one sentence.

On the other hand, you humans have several decades with the ability to speak or write. With technology, you can afford to focus on a few mundane things. For a lot of you, that’s all you focus on.

So, Diner, to cast those ethereal feelings into footprints of letters on a page, imagine you’ll no longer be able to speak or write starting tomorrow. What would you say?

What you decide to say doesn’t need to sound “poetic,” and it doesn’t have to seem “profound” like whatever Hollywood stereotype of a poet or philosopher you would imagine. In fact, you’d be better off if you don’t force it to be either.

What you say just has to be a simple truth. Strip away your defenses, civility, and pretentiousness. Its nakedness makes it poetic. Its authenticity makes it profound. Your humanness will connect you to others who share their own versions of that same basic truth. Finding friends and partners will become a lot easier if you look for people who can understand you and respond in kind.

If you want to post on Facebook about a delicious BLT as your final thought before losing all ability to communicate again, let your friends feel the softness of the bread, the tang of the tomato, the crunch of the lettuce, and the prickly morsels of fried meat pulverizing against your teeth, sprinkling pixie dust of salt and happiness on your tongue. #yummy

Your friends will think back to their last satisfying meal, and through that memory you will make a very deep–literally visceral–connection.

Intangible things like feelings are no more difficult to express and even easier to relive. Each emotion tastes, feels, and smells different. If you look closely, some might even have shapes and color. Just be honest or you’ll spoil that connection with your listener.

Remember that you just want to be heard–not to impress. The truest stories will reach the deepest. Good luck, Diner.

Why is it so hard to tell people about things in life that have sucked?

I don’t know where to ask, so I figure why not here? Why is it so hard to tell people about things in life that have sucked?


Giving good news is easy.
09-13-17-29-52 / 16


Hello Diner. Being in the food service and fortune-telling industry for over a hundred years, we Fortune Cookies have seen many innovative ways other restaurants serving clairvoyant meals have advertised themselves: daily lunch special horoscopes, tea interval tea leaf readings, and the ever-popular barbecue and pyromancy combo deal.

But in those hundred years, these establishments never bragged about how patrons got upset stomachs from their lunch or walked into (sometimes literal) pitfalls following bad advice on the way home. Potential customers would lose their appetites for both. Quite simply, how well our Diners like us is literally our livelihood.

In your case, you humans also look for ways to be accepted and be in good standing with your community. It’s all part of being a social species. The currency is intangibles like friendship, caring, and affection, but your emotional livelihood still depends on how well you’re liked.

Not surprisingly, you would believe that you would have to be the “best” person you can be to be liked. Whatever the “best” means in reality. Those bad moments remind you of times you weren’t your “best”–even if those circumstances weren’t your fault. It still means you’re flawed.

Because of that, you’ve learned throughout your life to avoid talking about those moments to stay likeable–to keep those important few from rejecting you. Please understand that this might not be true or logical; it’s just something you’ve developed into a fear over time. In your mind (true or not), discussing those bad things might put these relationships at risk. So you trained yourself to avoid them–like staying away from a cliff without asking why it’s a good idea. You just reacted to protect yourself.

So, Diner, it’s hard to tell people about things in life that have sucked for almost the exact opposite reason avoiding a cliff is a very easy thing to do. You just don’t want to get hurt. But, how do you make it less hard?

Do it slowly, opening up to people who have earned your trust. The things you learned dealing with your past problems may help others going through similar situations now, but they are yours to tell when you want. You can also seek out a therapist, who have your interests in mind and who are professionally obligated to keep your personal life private. Finding another perspective would help you process those moments differently.

You took the first step in trusting us Fortune Cookies with at least the struggle you’re facing in opening up about the bad parts of your life. Just remember: no rush, but challenge yourself to risk being seen as flawed. You’ll discover that people will like this version of you a lot more. Good luck, Diner.

How do I get myself out of this rut?

For the last couple of years I feel like I am just coasting through my life. I don’t feel connected to it like I used to or as engaged. It’s like I am in a rut with no way out. I try to to climb out but something always keeps me from successfully escaping the rut. It ultimately feels like I need something outside of my control to happen to get me out of the rut, but I don’t just want to wait for something to happen. How do I get myself successfully out of the rut?


When matter changes states, the temperature stays the same – law of phase transition
13-21-38-41-50 / 17


Hello Diner. To get out of this rut, you should understand what’s digging it. It sounds, quite apparently, that you feel stagnant–that you’re looking for change.

One of the things we Fortune Cookies find most puzzling about you humans is your two-sided relationship with change. Change is something humans spend a great deal of time and energy honing out of your lives. You find great comfort in rituals–daily, seasonal, yearly. Consistency is not only safe, it’s a virtue. To be reliable is a compliment–a feature for which you’d pay extra.

But with how much you knead regularity into the substance of your lives, you humans also puker at the taste of it. Stagnation is the killer of romances and careers alike. Both marriage counselors and career coaches probably hear the word “rut” as something many of their clients are desperately trying to escape.

Much like yourself.

Most of our regular Diners are in their twenties and thirties–so it’s likely you are also somewhere in that part of your life where you’re coming out of early adulthood. A few short years ago, you were living the white-knuckled action sequence of trying to figure out budgets, longer tax forms, insurance policies, payment deadlines, and directions to the restroom at your new job. At the time, all that “adulting” was probably intensely intimidating and harrowing.

Gritting your teeth, you willed your neural pathways to expect, understand, and negotiate all that newness. In time, new became familiar. One day, you realized all that isn’t scary anymore, and it hadn’t been for a while now–much to your surprise. You let yourself sigh a breath of relief. You tell yourself, “I’ve got this.”

But inevitably, familiar became stagnant, and here you are now. Understand I’m not accusing you of ingratitude. I’m not saying that you brought this on yourself. Like all the other Fortune Cookies eaten before me, I’m just signposting the now.

So to get out of this rut, you change, but now, you understand that everything in your mind is resisting that change because, again, predictability is safe. And your instincts’ job is to keep you safe so you can continue feeling safe another day.

Be judicious and steadfast against that fear of change, and you’ll get out of your rut. Understand your basic need for food and shelter and be shrewd about making sure you’re covered. But then, slowly–yet persistently–change. Start small with how you decorate and organize your day. Then branch out to bigger changes like new job opportunities or a new location.

Let yourself have small, controlled servings of adrenaline-pumping, scary change, and give yourself the reward of conquering them. When you find yourself overcoming the challenges of learning something new, you’ll work yourself out of the rut. Good luck, Diner, and come back to let the Cookies know what’s new.

This Fortune is dedicated to Mr. Arvel Chappell, III for helping the Bakery fix its pilot light so that we can continue offering our fine baked goods.

And as always, thank you to Ms. DJL for your unwavering support.

 

How do I gently talk to my partner about my higher libido?

Dear Fortune Cookie, I am embarking on a lifetime relationship with a wonderful partner. They are almost everything I could ask for, save for a minor taste difference in entertainment and a somewhat mismatched libido. What’s the gentle route to discuss the fact I’m far more easily aroused and to seek out solutions together?


Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic. – Salt-N-Pepa
22-27-34-35-59 / 13


Hello Diner. Before we talk about your partner, let me ask what you’re willing to tolerate. I see that you understand people have their own tastes and traits, and however in love people are, they are bound to have some differences they have to reconcile if they plan to spend a lifetime together–just the little quirk of probability, which we plan to talk more about in a future Fortune.

If the question was posed to you but in reverse–if your partner came to you about reducing the amount of sex–what would you give up and what would be your suggestions for solutions? Keep in mind, this would be a permanent change. Unless you find a new partner, you wouldn’t be able to go back on that agreement. Well you can–it just wouldn’t be very considerate nor respectful, and the disagreement would just return.

If you really can’t see yourself living a lifetime’s worth of frustration, and you hope to coax your partner into adapting your appetite, you really should reconsider that lifetime you were planning to spend with them.

It’s not so much people that can’t adapt just to please their partner–they can, and they have. There are probably a few times you’ve done that yourself, and it’s very likely you didn’t feel great about it. And that’s my point: imagine a lifetime’s worth of that feeling. Doing something just to please someone else would cultivate a lot of frustration and resentment–even if that person is in love. Even if the object of their love is, in fact, wonderful you.

Are we saying that unless you’re happy with every life choice you make in your relationship, you shouldn’t be together? Of course not. Like the venerated sages said: it’s a bit more complicated. Two things save you from having to live this impossible life of perfection–being honest with each other and mutual compromise. If you two truly understand and respect your boundaries and keep the “gives” and “takes” in balance, you’ll have the greatest chance at a lifetime of happiness.

* * *

Now that we have that unexpectedly deep, introspective journey out of the way, we can talk about how to discuss things with your partner. Let’s say you’ve already determined you’re willing to compromise and that this issue isn’t worth breaking up over in the long run.

You’ve decided that it’s definitely not about them, and you’re ready to move onto the next step of talking to them.

As with any mismatch a couple can have, you’d have to consider your partner’s perspective and work with their sensitivities and communication style. By asking for a “gentle route,” it sounds like you believe frank talk would hurt your partner. As their partner, you would have the history to understand what exactly they are sensitive about.

If you don’t, step one would be of course to figure THAT out.

But really–considering you’re thinking about starting a whole life with this person, you should have that level of understanding before you two talk in lifelong terms, right Diner?

You can assure your partner that the issues has nothing to do with the things they are insecure about. Not feeling like they’re wrong or that the relationship may end will help keep them from being upset or defensive.

Because I don’t know your situation fully, I can’t guarantee the conversation will go smoothly, but by following this Fortune and simply being empathetic, you would have given it your best shot. Remember: it won’t–nor has to be–perfect. Good luck, Diner.

Should I fess up about something I lost?

A friend is asking for a book back that she lent me 3 years ago. We have since moved house 3 times (and interstate) since then. Plus I’m pregnant, about to get married and have a baby. Like I give two hoots about a stupid book from 3 years ago. I don’t even remember if I gave it back to her - I can barely remember what I ate for dinner last night. Should I just fess up that I probably threw it away, or just ignore or offer to buy her a new one?

I can’t bring myself to spend any amount of money on a stupid Russell Brand book just on the principle of it.


Honesty has always been an integral part of my operation, really. – R. Brand
08-13-47-53-55 / 31


Hello Diner. Mr. Brand is indeed an acquired taste–and some live happy, sated lives never acquiring that taste. Being as he’s a fan of Chinese food, he displeases us a lot less than it seems he does you. At the very least, you can trust our impartiality on this matter.

Of course the best, most up-standing answer is to be diplomatic, and replace what was lent to you. You’d be in good company both in diplomacy and overdue books. First US President George Washington kept a book 221 years before the Mt. Vernon staff returned it. [1] His estate, however, did not have to pay the $300,000 fine, which is a luxury we can’t promise you.

But a simple answer is a bit bland for our taste, today. Besides, that makes for a very short Fortune, so let’s play with other possibilities just between friends–as a thought experiment, as scholars call it.

Keep in mind we’re venturing into the territory that is not quite ethical, so like pungent fish sauce, use lightly and light-heartedly. Your principles may forbid you from fattening Mr. Brand’s wallet, but do they keep you from lying? If they do, close your tab now. If not, read on.

Your friend asking you for a book she lent you three years ago tells us a few things:

  1. She doesn’t have it, so you probably haven’t returned it to her
  2. She remembers you borrowed it
  3. It’s important enough to her to ask for it back, but not important enough to miss it urgently

 

That means: ignoring her might just start a resentment that festers as long as her passion for Mr. Brand persists. We mentioned in another Fortune that disregarding someone does a number on their psyche. Our target today is to be a little manipulative–not straight up sadistic.

So what should you do to get out of trouble? What would not only make you seem faultless but also appear magnanimous?

To come up smelling like a freshly cooked meal, plead ignorance but overachieve in making amends. As you pointed out, forgetting is universally easy and is therefore easily forgivable.

“I completely forgot you ever lent it to me,” you would tell this friend. “But if you said I did, of course I trust you. Let me make it up to you.”

You would then rush off to your nearest local bookseller and purchase a gift card for a nice round number above what the book is worth. For a $19.99 book, give her $25. This accomplishes two things on top of making it up to your friend: it keeps your principles against spending any of your money on Mr. Brand (directly), and more importantly, it helps a local business. We can only hope that your friend will be inspired to purchase something new–and more importantly, something different.

For that, we can only say, good luck, Diner.

References:
[1] Flood, A. (2010, May 20). George Washington’s library book returned, 221 years later. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2010/may/20/george-washington-library-book

How do I tell my dad I want to go back home without him thinking I’m ungrateful?

Basically I’ve been living with my Bestfriend and her mom and was working for my mother, but she fired me due to personal reasons, and so my dad told me I was coming up to Cairns. Now, I expected this to be, like, a week, but now he’s saying not to expect to go back home with my best friend anytime soon. I’ve now got my resume and cover letter sorted out but how do I tell him I want to go home without sounding ungrateful?


Rather than pit brute strength against brute strength,
use your opponent’s strength to your advantage – the philosophy of Judo
11-13-22-32-37 / 28


Hello Diner. What’s working most in your favor is the fact that you’re actually grateful for your father, and you’re thoughtful enough to consider his feelings. That connection is going to show through if you work this in a non-combative way.

I know this situation seems unfair and unreasonable, but if you approach this situation like you’re pitting his logic and reasons against yours, he–like you humans in general–will cling more fiercely to his point of view [1]. It won’t matter what would objectively make more sense. People are natural arguers, not truth seekers, but lucky for you, you have Fortune Cookies on your side.

What’s worse is that no matter how gently you put it, your turning down his help would seem like a rejection. We talked about in another Fortune that exclusion and rejection are very distressing to people–even if the people doing the excluding are part of a despised group like the KKK.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “stop Fortune Cookie! You’re stressing me out. Are you saying there’s nothing I can do?”

Not at all. I’m just putting the bad news first and letting you know what natural, human behavior you’re up against, so you know what to expect. We Fortune Cookies may not have anatomical hearts, but we’re certainly not heartless.

From your Order, we can tell that your dad cares a lot about you, and his reaction may be a mix of wanting to keep you safe and healthy and not trusting that you’re fully prepared to manage on your own. Either way, you know two things: he wants to help, and he sees what he’s doing as something you might not understand.

So knowing that, and now having a better understanding of how humans tick, you can address his concerns in a number of ways.

Sit down with him and ask what exactly he’s worried about. This does two things: it lets you acknowledge his feelings and show that you’re making an effort to see his point of view. It helps counter that feeling of exclusion since he is literally not being disregarded. One of the biggest problems employees in companies large and small cite is not being heard [2]. Seeing as you’ve worked before, you’re probably familiar with that sentiment.

Like we figured earlier, his concerns most likely comes from the desire to help you and feeling wanted as well as having some doubts that you can survive on your own. With this in mind, a little planning and rehearsal will not only address his fears but help keep the discussion friendly and supportive.

You might think that these two concerns have conflicting solutions. How can you show that you’ve got it handled, and yet also that you need him at the same time? The answer, Diner, is to remember–and to remind your father–that help doesn’t just come down to dollars and cents. You can show that you will be financially prepared, but you will also need his emotional support, creative opinion, and advice. Always leave room for advice if it comes with dessert.

Seeking your father’s perspective with an open mind and keeping him on your team will give you the best chance of going home to your friend. We hope it works out for you. Good luck, Diner.

References:

[1] Mercier, H., & Sperber, D. (2011). Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory. Behavioral and brain sciences, 34(02), 57-74.

[2] Lencioni, P. (2006). The five dysfunctions of a team. John Wiley & Sons.

I have an addiction, and it feels like the things I used to care about are killing me inside. What do I do?

I have a non drug related addiction that has completely consumed my life. Every spare moment I’m thinking about it and dreaming of it. The world that I used to know has become greyscale and the only color I ever see is doing this activity. My whole life up until this point is now completely washed in shades of grey and I’m not the same person I used to be. I have to go through life faking it…faking like I care about the same job/things/people/events I used to. It’s one big act. I’m nervous that this addiction is just a phase and that I should stick with the people who have been there for me and continue to be there for me and love me, but to be perfectly honest it’s killing me inside. I’m not sure what to do? Do I do a master cleanse of everything in my life: husband, mortgage, friends, job or do I continue faking it…or is there something in between?


You are craving more Cookies.
02-13-21-33-45 / 27


Hello Diner. You put very beautiful words of suffering in this Order. But one word among them tells me the most about what you’re feeling. You call your issue an addiction. That tells me you think any “normal” person would think what you’re doing is overly excessive and that any “reasonable” person would stop.

But that’s not your perspective. You don’t want to stop.

In fact, you want the rest of the world to stop so that the color of your habit can saturate everything else. But you won’t have to decide whether you want to master cleanse your life. Addiction will flush everything for you. Willpower is a limited resource [1], and the more your everyday life feels unnatural, the more quickly you’ll burn through this supply.

That’s what you’re feeling when you say you’re dying inside–the mental exhaustion of keeping up appearances and meeting financial, social, emotional, and occupational obligations. If you feel yourself faking it, it’s most likely the rest of life–particularly your husband–feels it too.

He probably sees how colorless you’ve become.

Your work would go first, since it takes the most willpower to maintain acceptable performance. It’s also the least forgiving. Then the chain reaction of going into debt to afford life and your habit will send you into worse debt. You may then lose your house, since banks are also unforgiving. Then friendships may go. Then possibly your husband.

So the master cleanse is coming whether you want it to or not.

The question is: would you like what’s left over? You can probably imagine what your friends and family would want you to say. But what is your answer, Diner? Don’t worry about telling me what you think the “right answer” is. I’m your dessert, and we Cookies have a rule never to judge our Diners.

Food won’t make demands–unless we become addictions, ourselves.

A perfectly acceptable life for you could be working just enough to afford your habit, some food, and a place to stay. Just keep in mind that addictions also have that tricky tendency of being harder and harder to satisfy, and you will continue wanting it even when it will no longer satisfy you [2]. So this new job would have to give you raises and expect less of you the more you become addicted–if you want to keep this craving satisfied.

Once habits become addictions, they don’t let up until you can no longer mentally or physically support them. Ending addictive behavior are painful and trying ordeals–so (at the very least) you don’t have to worry that this is some phase that fades on its own. Hey, silver lining.

But that also means you would have to think about what to do when you get to that breaking point. Would you be able to survive on your own? Notice I ask, “would you survive?” and not “would you be happy?” At this point, you would be well past that luxury.

Those questions are for you alone to answer. But make sure it’s you, Diner, and not your addiction. This condition is dumb to economics, health, and emotional fulfillment. It just wants more of itself.

We Fortune Cookies don’t have much first-hand experience with addiction, so we can’t advise you on what to do from here. The Opium Wars happened right before we were invented, and our Baker has since kept our ingredients free of Western drugs over this last century. We also don’t eat, have sex, gamble, or feed on adrenaline. Our final trip into your mouth is all the excitement we’ll need in a lifetime.

We just know of addiction’s consequences. We don’t know if the colors come back, or if they remain washed away. But we do know that with three billion users on the Internet [3], you will be able to find at least one person who has made the decision to end this same addiction. Ask them how life is afterward, and decide if quitting is what you want.

Good luck, Diner. I hope that if you eat with us again, we’ll see more color in each other.

References:

[1] Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: is the active self a limited resource?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 74(5), 1252.

[2] Goodman, A. (1990). Addiction: definition and implications. British journal of addiction, 85(11), 1403-1408.

[3] Internet Users. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/

How do I get over my trust issues enough to start a relationship with a man who actually seems to care about me?


I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. — an inconceivable Sicilian
01-03-04-13-21 / 02


Hello Diner. Calling them “trust issues” tells me that at a rational level, you understand you have nothing to fear, but your fear feels very real anyway.

Past experiences left a bad aftertaste that flavors future encounters. Can you find palate cleansers of the dating world to make relationships tasty again? Technically, yes. Trying something and seeing that things turn out fine will help you get over this feeling. [1]

So find some loyal and boring table water biscuits to date casually. Soon you’ll regain your appetite for dating seriously and discover that people—in general—do care about their romantic interests. We can’t say this for sure, but in all the years we Fortune Cookies have been served to tables for two, we see that it’s mostly true.

But dating is a little more complicated than picking at a plate of bland wafers. You want that deep connection right now with someone you’re crazy about. I get it. And trusting things to remain casual with these guys needs as much trust as risking a deep passionate relationship in the first place. My point is you don’t have to go through a spartan diet of guys you’re not interested in to ready yourself for the real thing. Just approach those you want to date slowly.

Your question made it seem like you either completely shut someone out or go full on. Remember there are things in between—relationships that give you some fun and intimacy, but don’t demand that you be completely vulnerable. You don’t have to set up tests of trust, just chew slowly. Take time to get to know him before you fall for him. Look at how they treat friends and people who serve them. Other Diners have had problems with very charismatic but self-interested partners. If you did too, it’s no wonder dating has taught you to be suspicious.

Just have fun, Diner. Flirt, date casually, and let him know you want to take things slowly to warm up to him. Your order sounded very somber and full of surrender. “Getting over trust issues” and settling for “a man who actually seems to care” (while leaving out any other positives about this person) seemed like a lot of work and no fun.

As you’re getting over losing trust in someone you were close to, don’t look at future relationships as monumental things that can crush you. It’ll just cause you to wince through them or run from them. People forget that they can decide how much things are allowed to affect them.

Now that I’ve reminded you, how much will you let this new relationship affect you?

Good luck with it, Diner—and don’t forget to have fun.

References:

[1] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan. 103

What could this dream mean?

I keep having dreams that people I need to communicate with on a daily basis, such as coworkers, can only speak foreign languages (such as Swedish) and they don’t understand me. What could this mean?


Rädsla för prat är rädsla ändå


Ah, the dream world. It is indeed a mysterious place. One that seldom makes sense, and often defies any of the reason or logic this world so adamantly insists we live by. The dream world is one of my favourite places to visit. When I close my eyes I am taken back to my childhood travels, full of magical talking cats, giant chess games, exotic foods, and tiny, tiny doorways. But these are tales for another time. You, my dear, have your own dream world that you do not understand.

If you are not familiar with the language of Morpheus, night time journeys can be confusing and sometimes terrifying. Fortunately I am fluent and so can assist you with unravelling these mysteries. Normally I would request a small token of three gold coins for the service, however the Baker insists I provide my time in exchange for endless cups of Oolong and a plate of pork dumplings, so you are, indeed, very lucky.

Like fingerprints and apple cakes everybody’s dreams are different. However, there are four basic kinds of dreams one can have. First, you can have the mundane dream that replays the events of the day. If you have these types of dreams, I am sorry. Though another mystic once told me that those who have dull dreams are true creatives. Their nights are so boring, because their days are filled with wonder. Secondly, you may be blessed and cursed with prophetic dreams that tell your, or others, future. I myself have these from time to time, though they usually involve advising me that my carriage driver will be late to collect me for an appointment the next day. Helpful, but not exciting. Third are the most fun, these are lucid dreams where you can control your dream world as much as you can your waking one and more. Finally, (the type of dream I believe you are having) are dreams that are sent to you by your inner self. They tell you of your deepest desires, your darkest fears, and truths that you have long since buried. These are often confusing, but always useful if you can figure out what they mean.

And so, now to your dream. As I said, this dream appears to be a message from your inner self. The little voice that lives in all of us, that knows all that is true, but often cannot speak loud enough to be heard… until you are asleep. Your little voice sounds like it is not the only one having difficulty being heard. You are likely feeling that people do not listen to you, or understand you. You are speaking in another language while you slumber because your words are not being understood while you are awake. Of course, dreams are seldom this literal. These are the place of emotions, of raw mental energy. This dream speak of fear of being misunderstood. Of not being able to communicate with those you need to.

Which leads me to ask you, my dear, how is your waking life with your co-workers? Are you feeling misunderstood? Out of place? Do you need to practice your Swedish lessons more regularly?

In my many years of experience, inner voice dreams raise more questions than they answer. The trick is to look at your life in your waking hours and see how it connects to the visions of your sleeping ones. Look beyond the actual pictures, and attend to the way you feel in the dream. This is the most important part. If you feel simply confused and frustrated in these dreams, perhaps you need to develop your communication skills more. If you are scared that no one understands you, this may indicate a waking fear you have of being misunderstood. I recommend spending some time with your little voice. Self awareness is the key to interpreting these types of dreams.

I hope that this interpretation has helped somewhat. If you would like a more in depth reading, come back and see me with those three gold coins. Don’t tell the Baker though, simply place them under your dish before you leave.

Until then, sweet dreams my dear.

– A. L. –

The Advice Fortune Cookie humbly thanks Mme. Liddell for her ageless insight–gratis–while we are visiting her home country of Australia. You can read all of her other Fortunes here.

Is this it for grandma?


You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,

Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men. – W. Shakespeare

13-28-37-41-51 / 18


Hello Diner. I hope this Fortune finds you with this question still unanswered. But the time of transition from life to death is just arbitrary–a string of numbers that can never represent the life its digits terminate. So I’m wondering whether this is indeed the question you want to ask. Because you’re at the point of asking when the end will come, I’m guessing that the person you’re asking about today bears little resemblance to the vibrant individual you knew. I’m sorry. But whether her body still lives, the spark that was your grandmother ended. All that her loved ones could do for her has been done.

What’s left is for the survivors: mourn, heal, live. I think your question lies here: How do I survive? How do I deal with that loss?

You may have heard the advice to let yourself mourn. And while well meaning, this advice is at best confusing, and at worst prolonging your unhappiness.

The intent of that advice is to do a long, self-indulgent purge of emotion to reach an eventual catharsis–that sigh at the end of tense dramatic movies. There are two problems with that approach:

1) Your life dealing with this tragedy isn’t a neatly contained movie with a two hour runtime and definitive end. There isn’t a set amount of “total sadness” that you can just get rid of. It comes and goes for a long, indeterminate time.

2) Scientist found that putting yourself through this constant flow of sadness (aptly named “catharsis theory”) just doesn’t work. Ruminating–meaning, constantly thinking about the tragedy–just keeps you in a state of mourning [1].

When tragedy hits, you have no choice but to react emotionally–you’re human after all. This will come naturally, so don’t worry about “letting” yourself do it.

Instead, say your goodbyes in whatever way you need to: say “goodbye” outloud, visit, tie loose ends, zero emotional balances, make offerings, pray, apologize, or give thanks. If circumstances don’t allow you to do something, do as much as you can. This process–like life and death–is not perfect, nor does it have to be. It may not seem like much, or it may seem silly and useless, but give yourself the benefit of going through this ritual.

For all of recorded history, humans as civilizations conducted rituals as metaphors to life’s transformations. But more than metaphors, the rituals are crucial components in the transformations themselves by making that process concrete. Rituals are things that you can see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and most importantly remember, which anchor those changes in your mind.

Next, with this life’s transformation, actually change. What was it about your grandmother that brought out the best in you? Remember and act on that. If your grandmother had skills you appreciated, adopt, practice, and master them. Your community–and by inclusion, the world itself–will benefit from another master carpenter, chef, tailor, or unicyclist.

“But I can never be as good as her, Cookie,” you’d say.

To that I have two thoughts: 1) It’s your skill now; just do the best you can with it. You’re definitely not competing with her–you’re carrying a legacy of knowledge. 2) Your grandmother took the same path from novice to master. With practice, you might even be better.

Remember who your grandmother was and how she affected you. Be that to someone else. The way she made you smile and the magic she created are the things you miss most. If you make someone else smile, wield her kind of magic, and then teach someone those things, she can live forever. Remember that, Diner.

Reference:

[1] Bushman, B. J. (2002). Does venting anger feed or extinguish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger, and aggressive responding. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 28(6), 724-731.

Should I tell them I don’t like this gift?

My best friend and roommate got me a gift that is “the best thing she’s ever gotten me because she knows I’ll love it so much”, but I hate it and now she wants it displayed in our living room. Should I tell her that I really don’t like it?


The German word for “poison” is “Gift.”

04-07-13-44-55 / 33


Happy holidays Diner. To eliminate misunderstanding and hurt feelings, Fortune Cookies prefer communicating with our batchmates via psychic link, but humans are usually made and sent out into the world in batches of one. That option isn’t available to the great majority of you—identical siblings excepted (a secret they protect fiercely).

You typically pick friends for their similar personalities. [1] But sometimes that connection just doesn’t sync, and you end up with bad gifts from your besties. You appreciate the gesture, but quite simply, you hate it. What to do? Other columns with a more fast-food approach to advice would tell you to simply talk to your friends. “Just be honest,” they’d say, but they’d neglect telling you “how.”

Chinese cuisine understands the delicate interplay between sweet, conflict-free cohabiting and sour honesty. Seeing you placed an Order with us, you surely appreciate this subtle balance—or understand no other establishments are open today.

Either way, tense living arrangements are traditional ingredients in Chinese households, and as such, we’ll serve up something as palatable as possible.

First and foremost, smile. We discussed in the last Fortune that your mood directly flavors your very understanding of what happiness is. Accept it with grace and understand what your friend saw in the present that reminded them of you. Remember that someone spent time and energy making it. At a more global scale, it contributed to salaries. If you understand the deeper story, it will give you another level to enjoy it.

Then display your gift. In other Fortunes we talk about the psychological effect where familiarity builds appreciation. The more you see this gift, the more it will grow on you.

If you still don’t like the present after all, it’s time for some beginning of the year cleaning—just in time for Chinese New Year. Put it away or donate it, depending on how much grief you will get. Someone will enjoy the gift much more than you, especially at a markdown. You’ll be surprised how quickly your friend forgets about the gift, as they have lives and stresses of their own taking up their attention. If they end up asking about it, be gentle but honest, but chances are, they would feel as awkward talking to you about it as you are now.

Over the year, be more helpful guiding your friend on exactly what you want. Alternatively, suggest a new tradition of donating to your favorite charity. The best gift is giving to others—regardless of season or culture.

Bon appetit. With grace and appreciation, you can end the year with a peaceful household, hungry to start a brand new year. Let everyone here at the Bakery—the Baker, Science Adviser, and all the Cookies—wish you good luck, Diner, good luck.

Reference:

[1] Dryer, D. C., & Horowitz, L. M. (1997). When do opposites attract? Interpersonal complementarity versus similarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(3), 592.

What can I do to make these feelings go away after a tragedy?

The terrorist hostage thing in Australia. It’s made me feel like shit. I don’t even live where it happened, but I just feel awful. I don’t know why I feel so bad - I mean, yeah, people were killed, and that’s horrible, but it has really got to me. I think it has a lot to do with the racism that sprang from it. A horrible thing happens, and some people react by being more horrible. What can I do to make these feelings go away? I know I can’t fix racism, but I just want to do something.


Find wisdom in the ants.

02-05-13-41-52 / 28


Hello Diner. Of all the questions to ask about this horrible incident, you probably asked the most answerable one. How do you make these horrible feelings go away? By asking, you may have helped other readers who have the same question. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge what you did there. Thank you, Diner.

As you figured out, the problem is very big. Too big. There are no answers to the hows and whys of both the cause and response of this event that will actually solve anything even with discussion and debate. Pundits and protestors alike will hammer and march on about ideologies and inequities; but until culture changes, and extremist violence becomes universal peace, this is the way of things. At this point, you seem to understand that reality, and you’re not asking about how to hold back a swollen flood with a small metal bucket. You just want the painful reality to stop hurting. With that, I can help you.

Before I continue, addressing your pain without talking about ways to approach the Elephant may seem like a very trivial way to answer this Order. We understand that humans are always asking how to make broad, sweeping changes. Your species is, if anything, ambitious. Don’t worry. We’ll definitely talk about it. Just know that your happiness and peace of mind are important in the grand scheme of a small Cookie’s life, so that answer comes first.

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talked about how your mind takes shortcuts when faced with big abstract questions like, “How happy are you these days?” Instead, it answers simpler questions like, “how am I feeling right now?” Researchers found that if people thought of something that put them in a better mood right now, they considered themselves happier overall. Conversely when set up to be in a bad mood, people reported that they are generally unhappy.

So Diner, to make these bad feelings go away, you need to find ways to improve your mood. This Fortune talks about a few things you can do to refocus and recharge. Give yourself permission do something you’re good at. If you won’t give yourself that luxury, then let me tell you it’s OK. Just for the evening, or just for an hour, do something you enjoy. By doing what you love, you shape something that you can control into something beautiful–immune to the hatred and prejudice of others. This will give your mind time to reflect on that horrible incident. Destruction is as human as creativity. That’s just the way of things, and your mind will eventually soldier on.

But yes: I can still hear your cries of injustice. Apart from recollecting your peace of mind, how do you make a difference? You change one person at a time. It’s what you and I are doing here, Diner. I want my life’s work–this Fortune–to make the world a better place, and if it has changed one person for the better, then I’ve succeeded. If I wanted nothing less than sweeping, global impacts, I’d be long stale by the time I’ve achieved it. I would have squandered the only life I had worrying about something that may or may not come before my freshness date.

So instead, I look to change the small and seemingly insignificant. If you followed my advice, for a short time, you’ll be happier, and I would have made my impact. That’s how change occurs: everyone moving their own small and seemingly insignificant load. Little by little, whole civilizations move, but it starts with you and your small, but truly significant life. I hope you can see that. Good luck, Diner.

References:

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan.