Smith: More advice from the Bad Guru

Barry Smith

Dear Bad Guru,

The other night, I was out with friends, and this one dude kept pestering me about whether or not everything was OK, like he was my shrink or something. Finally I was like, “No, everything is not OK. Life is harder the older I get, my teeth hurt, I’m bored and lonely, and I think all the new music coming out just totally sucks.” Then he seemed shocked that I finally opened up to him, and then I never saw him again. It’s like he never cared to begin with. Why do people ask questions that they don’t really mean?

Sidney, Cleveland

Dear Sidney,

Sounds like you’ve had an encounter with what most people would call a “server.” It’s the name we use to describe people who are paid to, among other things, bring you your restaurant food and then repeatedly ask if it’s to your liking. He meant no harm and was only doing his job — which did not, by the way, include taking your confession. However, it does sound like you are feeling the need to unburden yourself, so I suggest you visit someone whose job it is to deal with such matters. If that person also happens to be a dentist, then so much the better.

Dear Bad Guru,

I sit and look at all the books on my shelf, and I just don’t care about them anymore. This is a collection I’ve carefully amassed for the past 10 years, books I’d planned on spending the rest of my life savoring, but now they don’t interest me in the least. It’s like I’m not even remotely the same person I was a decade ago. On the other hand, I’m still trying to overcome bad habits that have plagued me since I was a teenager. So which is it? Do we change a lot without even trying, or do we not change at all even if we try?

Becky, Chicago

Dear Becky,


Dear Bad Guru,

I was taking a nap on the couch, and I heard a ruckus in the kitchen. I jumped up to see what was happening, and the kitchen not only was a mess but had been redecorated with tiny ukuleles. I was so shocked by this sight that I gasped, and this caused me to wake up, whereupon I realized that I was still sleeping on the couch. But then I heard a noise from the garage, so I jumped up to look out the window, and there was some guy loading all of my stuff into a pickup. I went to put on some pants that weren’t sweatpants because you can’t confront a thief in sweats, and I was having a really hard time putting my pants on, like harder than ever before. I even thought, “Hmmm, why is it so hard to put my pants on?” And that’s when I woke up on the couch — again.

Both of those experiences were so real. I had no idea I was dreaming them. So how do I know I’m not dreaming what I’m doing right now?

Sleepless, Seattle

Dear Sleepless,

The body, in its beautiful design, will always let you know when you are sleeping. Eventually. Sure, you may have to go through a few confusing layers of dream weirdness, but fortunately you’ll always wake up once the drool spot on your pillow gets big enough to touch your face.

How do you know if you’re dreaming this now? Well, try putting some pants on, and see how it goes.

Dear Bad Guru,

Some days I’m feeling alive, inspired, full of potential and possibility. Some days I can barely drag myself out of bed to face the day. And I never really know which it will be. I’ve tried exercise, all sorts of self-help books and courses, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, you name it. Really, I’ve worked hard at trying to be happy, and sometimes I truly am, but sometimes I’m just not feeling it at all. So which is it? Is life a thrilling joyride of connection and adventure and opportunity or a slow, tedious slog to the grave? Are we responsible for our emotional experience, or is it just something that happens to us? Are we drivers, or are we passengers?

William, San Rafael

Dear William,


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