December 2016

Well, we thank you for your patience over these past months of technical difficulties. Osage Advice is currently seeking a permanent home in print!

If you have any leads or suggestions, they are welcome at <askmissosage@gmail.com>

Meanwhile, questions will be answered roughly once/month until we make the big move. Thank you for your support!

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June 15, 2016

* Osage Advice will resume in September 2016 – Happy Summer! *

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Dear Miss Osage,

      What is the point of dating?  A lot of my friends are making a big deal about it, and I just don’t understand.  Is there something I’m missing?

Mystified at Middle School, age 12

~ ~ ~

Wow, the bigger questions!  Thank you so much for bringing it up…

First, there is nothing wrong with being a bit baffled by the whole thing. Totally natural.

The thing to keep in mind is timing and experience. During middle school, kids mature at very different rates and have widely different experiences. In any given class, half could be very preoccupied with romance/dating while the other half is more indifferent or aloof. My guess is, if you really looked around, you would find you are not as alone as you might think.

A lot has to do with hormones – a word you may have heard used in bewildered or dismissing tones. Every body is a delicate mix and balance of hormones at any given time. Hormones influence the systems of our bodies and fluctuate throughout a life. During puberty, certain hormone levels rise – estrogen for girls, testosterone for boys, and oxytocin in both sexes. Sexual maturity means that a lot of biological development is at play. These changes will make some people very responsive to romantic feelings early on, while others will experience the sensations later, or in different ways.

I always say, just like plants in a garden naturally (and beautifully) grow at different rates, and in different shapes, our bodies are much the same.

The actual -point- of dating will vary a bit depending on a person’s values. According to the research though, making a deep connection to one person based on trust, respect and understanding can enhance a person’s overall health. The thrill, physical and emotional, of developing this kind of bond will eventually happen for most people – but in no rush. Being truly known, and knowing another (intimacy) is often considered the most fundamental of human needs.

Intimacy happens in our families, our friendships, and with romantic partners. Someone can be completely satisfied with the level of intimacy in their life, without ‘dating’ or being swept up in romance. This is also very natural. Finding meaning through your interests, hobbies and being of service is totally valid. Things come in their right time.

Growing as a person, and knowing yourself well, is a hugely valuable process that is supported by not focusing on dating before you are ready. So, there is value in this time for you, absolutely. I would encourage you to do your best to have acceptance for yourself, and your friends, along the way. Just trust that you are in different places – and both are good and true for each person.

I would also encourage you to go forth in this realm only when you truly feel the urge for yourself. It may take extra courage to be honest and hold to what you are feeling. But this as well is a practice in becoming the best version of You.

The meaning of dating for you will be a unique reflection of you and your life when it naturally arises. The point will be meaningful for you, especially if you pay attention to what has meaning in every area of your life.

Trust, have acceptance and stay true. It will all be clear in time.

Best of Luck ~

Miss Osage

May 15, 2016

Dear Miss Osage,

Last week, a guy in my class asked me out, and I didn’t want to be mean, so I said ok. I really don’t like him though. I wish I hadn’t said it and now I don’t know what to do. I’ve been trying to stay away from the places I usually see him and hoping he forgets. Luckily, we’re not friends on Facebook. But I feel trapped. Please help!

Ooops, age 15

~ ~ ~

Well, as they say, the only way out is through…  Yup, I see what’s happened, and understand that you are uncomfortable. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to drum up even more courage now and set things straight.

Thanks for writing in to ask for some guidance. I’ll be glad to flush it out with you.

First, let’s take a look at what happened. It sounds like someone approached you in person and you weren’t able to be honest in the moment. This can happen. Growing up and developing character means having practice at being more and more honest in every situation. So consider it a step towards learning and becoming more authentic. This was a chance to learn what happens when you – don’t – speak honestly at the time.

Some people need more time to process, and that is ok. A good skill for these times is to be prepared with a list of responses to buy yourself some time. These can be:

“Thanks for asking, let me think about it…”
“I appreciate the offer, I’ll get back to you in a few days…”
“Oh, thanks, I’m not sure yet, so I’ll let you know…”

Of course, if you make reference to letting someone know – you have to let them know.

It is said that there are two ways to lessen the painful sensations of fear. 1 – you can avoid the thing that inspires the fear. 2 – you can face the thing that inspires the fear. The biological drive is the same – wanting to avoid the painful feelings that arise when faced with something we fear – though the outcomes are very different.

The other thing that happened was you made a self-judgment and edited yourself. What do I mean by that?  Well, you used what I consider one of the key indicators of inauthentic action. The phrase, “I didn’t want to be” immediately tells me you  were  something (feeling uncomfortable and registering a NO in your heart/body) and attempted to  act  as something else (the opposite of mean, some image of ‘nice’, etc.)

Saying no isn’t being mean. Everyone has the right to turn down an offer (of any kind!) and trust they are just as kind and worthwhile as a result. More important than ‘being nice’ is being honest and respectful. How can that look here? You might try:

“I was really surprised the other day when you asked me out, and I answered before thinking. I’m sorry. After sitting with it, I realize I’m not ready (this isn’t right for me) and I’ll have to say no thanks. I do appreciate you asking, though. I admire your courage.”

What?!  Approach him now and say all of that?   Yup.  That is the way through.

Even a slip-up or a moment of inauthenticity (not being real) can turn into an opportunity for even greater strength. This is what I suggest you do now.

How would respectful honesty have looked in the moment?  Let’s imagine this…

He:  “Would you go out with me?”
You:  “Oh, geez, I’m surprised that you asked… let me think about it”.

Totally honest, real and respectful. Here’s another one…

He: “Would you go out with me?”
You: “Oh, thanks for asking… I don’t know… can I let you know in a couple of days?”

[and a few days later]  “I thought it over and realized it’s not best for me, but thanks so much for asking. I appreciate your courage.”

Both of these options are fully kind and appropriate.

You are what you are, and you feel what you feel. Loving yourself means first accepting all of your own feelings and responses. Someone who wants to love you well would want this from you also. Loving well involves two true selves meeting in a space of respect and acceptance – even if one person is let down or scared. Everyone must face disappointment and it is far kinder to be honest and honor your connection by doing so. I’m sure you can feel the truth of this, especially when you imagine being on the other side of the situation.

So, again, I encourage you to approach him when you are ready and honestly admit what happened for you. You can give a lot of affirmation along the way. If this all rings true…

“I was really surprised the other day when you asked me out, and I answered before thinking. I’m sorry. After sitting with it, I realize I’m not ready (this isn’t right for me) and I’ll have to say no thanks. I do appreciate you asking, though. I admire your courage.”

… then I encourage you to rise to the occasion and bring your true self to the moment now.

Imagine how much better you’ll feel, once you get through.

Best of Luck ~

Miss Osage

April 15, 2016

Dear Miss Osage,

There is a girl in my class who says you can get AIDS from kissing someone. Is that true?

Confused, age 14

~ ~ ~

Well, thanks for asking. It can be scary to have this whole world of diseases that are mysterious, on top of learning about sexuality…

The answer is no – one cannot gets HIV/AIDS by kissing someone else, unless there is a way for blood to be exchanged (through an open sore, or other cut). HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus, that left untreated, can develop into AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection. AIDS is dangerous because the infection weakens the immune system to the point that it can no longer fight off diseases.

Luckily, these days a therapy has been developed (antiretroviral therapy or ART) that suppresses the virus to the levels that make it unlikely it will ever develop into AIDS. Prevention is still highly important.

So, let me clarify just a bit more about spread and contagion…  A person may contract the virus HIV mainly through:

* unprotected sexual activity with an infected person
* sharing of needles that inject drugs or medication
* an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding

Unprotected sexual activity  means any contact of sexual organs (penis, vulva, vagina or anus) without a barrier such as a condom. A condom is a piece of rubber latex made to fit over an erect, or hard, penis. When used correctly, it can prevent the spread of many STIs or Sexually Transmitted Infections, including HIV. For this purpose, contact would mean the sexual organs of both partners (as opposed to hand to sexual organ). Our sexual organs emit fluids that can transmit diseases and/or be entryways for disease to enter.

Again, about the kissing – HIV  cannot  be spread through saliva alone. So, simple kissing would not be a means of spreading the disease. As long as no blood-to-blood contact happens during kissing, it is safe.

The needles are a concern when people engage in recreational drug use. This means injecting substances into the bloodstream for effects beyond maintaining good health. So again, it is contact with the blood that carries the risk. You will not get HIV from getting a shot at a doctor’s office. Travel outside the US could be cause for concern with a medical clinic’s sanitation procedures. Standards in the United States are very high.

Also, pregnant mothers are routinely tested for HIV so that spread is very uncommon these days from mother to baby.

So, here is a review of activities that are safe in regards to HIV:

* shaking hands
* hugging
* closed mouth kissing
* sexual touch without exchanging body fluids (eg. touch with hands)

Most importantly, everyone has the right to know whether someone they are considering sexual contact with (beyond closed-mouth kissing) is infected with an STI. So, down the line, when this becomes a possibility, remember that asking a potential partner to get tested is just part of mutual care and respect. Being able to talk about this, and honor the request, is one of the signs that people are more ready to become sexual. So, always feel free to insist on having this information.

Thanks again for asking, and as always, choose for health.

Best of Luck ~

         Miss Osage 

March 15, 2016

Dear Miss Osage ~

    I have a friend who took my name off a project we did together. When I asked her about it, she said it wasn’t her. But she has been avoiding me ever since. I think she’s lying. What can I do?

Frustrated, age 12

~ ~ ~

Yup, this is hard.  Thanks for asking…

All relationships are built on trust – pure and simple. If you don’t have trust, you don’t have a foundation and your interactions become something like a scripted act in a play. They are not real. Naturally, this is frustrating. Satisfying relationships are the opposite – they ring of truth that you can feel in your heart and your body. You know when you are truly connecting.

So, what are your options?  You can try talking to her again privately and tell her you need to know what happened. If she continues to dodge and claim she had no part (and you are confident she was the only one motivated to do it), you can be clear in saying you don’t believe her story. You can express feelings of frustration and sadness. You can leave the door open for honest communication down the line.

Then, you mostly have to let it go.

Aside from pursuing sleuth work (looking into things from a research/spy angle), you have to trust your gut. Asking around and talking to others may only create a larger rift than already exists. I would encourage you to keep this between your friend and yourself. Definitely, ask a teacher for support if you believe it would help bring clarity to the situation.

But it sounds like you are now faced with deciding what to do with a ‘friend’ who refuses to honestly disclose to you an action s/he likely feels ashamed of. The choice you can make is to look at the situation through the eyes of  compassion. Perhaps s/he was feeling bad about her/his contribution and needing to somehow reclaim a sense of worth. This insight does not justify or excuse a dishonest act. It allows you to consider the person making the bad choice is likely in some kind of pain.

It is often said that people who are hurting hurt others. Or, hurt people hurt people. Again, not an excuse, but an insight. If you see the pain in the person (after defending yourself and your own honor), it helps you in more easily letting it go.

I am a strong believer in honesty, and sometimes joke that, “lying makes you lose your magic powers”. This can ultimately be true. Consider all the energy your friend is putting into being scared of facing her/his choice. Avoiding someone also causes strain, emotionally and physically, as someone hides to cover up what they have done. Eventually, this person is so on edge about this, and concealing to preserve their lie, that they cannot access their own personal power. They are too busy dealing with the subtle, and not-so-subtle, consequences of deceiving in the first place.

If you insist on honesty – and then take some space when honesty is not possible – you essentially maintain your own magic power.

Can you still be friends with someone who you sense and believe has lied to you?  That is for you to decide. Does your connection go back many years?  Can you imagine being close again on the other side of this?  What do you most value in your friendships?  Does that exist in this relationship?

Consider the foundation, and what can be built on the ground you currently have with each other. When you give someone your time, attention and emotional energy, you are making an investment. . .  Do you want to invest here?

Hopefully, a path soon becomes clear, even as you are frustrated now. Continue to trust your gut and only engage in connections you can trust. If rebuilding trust is possible here, you will know over time. If you find trust cannot be restored, you may consider investing your valuable ‘friend energy’ where the foundation is more reliable.

Hold tight to your honesty, and your magic powers, and choose for health.

Best of luck ~

Miss Osage

 

 

  • Osage Advice will answer one question/month for 2016. Find responses on the 15th of each month here. Send your anonymous questions to <askmissosage@gmail.com>

Valentine’s Day 2016

Dear Miss Osage,

My boyfriend told me he loved me last night – and it freaked me out!  I just froze and couldn’t say anything back. I think we’re still ok. But what’s wrong with me?

Deer in Headlights, age 15

~ ~ ~

Ah, yes. The power and impact of love. Thank you for bringing this to me. First, there is  Nothing  wrong with you. It was just a potent moment that inspired something big for you.

There are so many things I would need to ask to understand what is going on here. But let’s start with some basics of communication.

1. Timing.  Every message has its right time and place. If this message came too early in your relationship, it may have been a case of poor timing.  When people – young people especially – are unsure of how to be, they might internalize other’s expectations and act from that place. What do I mean by that?  They are doing what they think other people think they are supposed to do. You know what I’m talking about?

In this stage – puberty, middle/high school, early years of romance – there is a lot of concern about ‘doing it right’. So kids will naturally look for clues in how to act to achieve that ‘right’ status. This can often backfire.

While it’s perfectly normal to seek guidance and orientation, acting from a sense of pressure will always be less effective than acting from what is truly existing within. He may truly love you. Still, given that it was Valentine’s Day (and there are a lot of messages via media for men to create ‘romance’ on that night), it’s possible the expression was forced for the sake of the occasion.

What did your body feel?  Did you reel back and feel dizzy?  Was it more of a sinking in the stomach?  The body is always a first guide in discerning important messages.

Our bodies are very intelligent and often let us know when we sense something is off. There’s a good chance you sensed something awry, and you are now trying to make sense of that here. Bravo for continually down the path of understanding…

So, maybe the timing for you two was a little premature – and you sensed this.

2. Association. Of course, a big inner reaction always begs the question, “What did this bring up for you?”. This is personal business. Do you have any associations with the concept of “love” that might inspire such a reaction?  Again, this can all be perfectly normal. It’s just an opportunity to look over your history and ask soul-searching questions…  When you think of love, what comes to mind?  If you like to write, you might try a ‘free association’. Write the word “Love” at the top of a page and then write down all of the random words that come to mind.

Just let your hand move and then, look over what you have when you’re done. See if you can do this with a kind gaze.  Imagine an all-loving grandparent or protective figure reviewing the list with you, bringing nothing but acceptance. What do you see?

If your list includes some painful words, it may be time to tend to those. If it contains ideas about commitment and/or obligation that you’re not ready for, you can address these too. Is there something connected to love that you are uneasy about right now?

Because we’re all so imperfect – and we love deeply anyway – love can sometimes be associated with pain. Connections that were severed for a variety of reasons can leave a feeling of aversion (backing away from) the concept or idea of love. The response can keep us from very sense of connection we seek.

It’s helpful to think of all of this in timing as well. If you had a recent painful experience with someone you loved (a friend, parent, relative, even a pet), the idea of love may bring up self-protective urges. It’s ok. It just means you still need time, and care, to tend to this wound before love can feel safe and exciting for you again.

Everyone deserves to move forward in their own time. So, there’s another possibility.

3. Authenticity.  Lastly, I have to put in a word for authenticity. This is the quality of being fully honest and true about who you are, where you stand, and what you feel. It can be hard. Sometimes authenticity can feel risky, especially when your friends are so important to you.

Here’s something to keep in mind – people can always sense when someone is not being authentic.

If a person is trying to ‘be’ something or even to act like they ‘feel’ something that isn’t truly there, others always know it. On a deep level, we can pick this up. In some ways, this is the great personal challenge of these years – tuning in to what is true for you, and combining it with the courage to represent that truth with all people, all the time.

Self-acceptance is a huge asset in forming quality relationships. Consider that you and your friends/boyfriend are all on this courageous path together.  Have compassion – but also insist on authenticity in yourself and others.

When the time is right, and you’ve looked into this reaction for yourself, you can talk to your boyfriend about it. It sounds like you need clarity. It may be that you need clarity from him (“So, I appreciate you saying that, but it felt weird because we don’t really know each other yet… What’s going on?”).  Or, it may be that clarity comes from reviewing personal exercises in point #2 (“I had a big reaction to you saying that, because I’m still feeling pain about [my last breakup/my dad dying/my best friend leaving town/etc]. I care about you too, and just need to go a little more slowly in the emotional commitment thing”).

It will all smooth out.  Again, authenticity means being honest with your boyfriend, and insisting on honesty from him. This is the heart of what really satisfies us. So, strive to meet each other there, when you are both ready.

Love is resilient.  It can surely endure an awkward moment if that’s what you both want. You both might even laugh about it down the line. Love is powerful, and it can evoke big reactions in anyone. You are well on your way now to navigating all of this with ease and strength.

Best of luck ~

Miss Osage