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Karma Cleanser

Will it come back to bite you?


Dear Karma Cleanser:

I am 33 years old and a stay-home mom. I have a son from my first marriage who is now almost 14. I also just had twins last year with my new husband.

My son lived with his father for a couple of years until I got remarried and moved into a neighborhood with a better school system. At that time he came to live with me. I was disappointed to find that my previously happy child was becoming sullen, withdrawn and no longer motivated to do well in school. My ex-husband says my son was not like this before he moved in with me.

I have tried to talk to him but he refuses to let me. I feel like he's mad at me for getting remarried and starting a new family. I have brought this up with him and he says this is not the case. Still, he comes home from school and closes the door to his bedroom. I have my hands full with the twins so I can't drop everything to try and coddle him. I don't know what he wants or what I did to deserve this.

I was talking about my son's behavior with my mother's friend, a woman who claims to be psychic. She informed me that my son is "haunted by the ghosts of unfinished business" between my ex-husband and me.

This just doesn't sound very true. I get along with the boy's father just fine. Our divorce was an amicable split. However, I am starting to wonder if something from my past is causing this situation. Is my son's withdrawal a sign that there really is "unfinished business" somewhere that needs my attention?

-- Second Opinion

Your letter brings to mind Byron Katie and her gospel of "the turnaround." The author of Loving What Is advises her students to take a stressful thought and flip it around to find its opposite. (To you die-hard Katie-heads out there, we realize that the turnaround should be paired with serious self-examination first, but bear with us.) If what you're feeling is summed up as, "My son should talk to me more," then consider its antithesis: "My son shouldn't talk to me more." Or, even better, "I should talk to me more." Meditate on the paradoxical truths found in such opposites and you'll discover that even if your son's alienation stems from screw ups on your part, the answer always lies right here in the present. (For more on Byron Katie, check out

Dear Karma Cleanser:

(In response to "Brokedown Roller," the guy whose car got hit after he lied to his friend): Dude, did it never occur to you that maybe your buddy "Teeth" is the one who sideswiped your ride? Obviously he got sick of you not wanting to hang out with him, so he took it out on your vehicle!

-- The Truth is Out There

Um, yeah. Play on, playa.

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