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"Dear Vicki: I know these are difficult times for many people, but the chaos became personal for me last month when the art gallery where I’ve worked for 20 years was sold. As an artist and homemaker, I so appreciated that the previous owner was a kind, gentle soul who ran a gallery that allowed for the joy of discovering art to steal over his patrons in a quiet way. But he retired and the new owner, Mr. Miller, is a bombastic man who thinks he needs to hit people over the head with ads, promotions, and events to increase attendance. The chaos he creates on a daily basis terrifies me. What can I do?"...

“Our daughter divorced last year and when the pandemic started, she moved back home with her two-year-old son. Since they’ve been with us, Weston has really changed. I thought this would be a great time for our family with Stacy managing her IT team from here and Weston’s promotion. But my previously optimistic, go with the flow husband has become a gloomy cynic who ignores Stacy, picks on Jimmy, and eats potato chips like there’s no tomorrow.”...

Lately, many of you have inquired if the Five Elements can help manage the fear we’re all feeling regarding the global coronavirus pandemic. All of this is very understandable and yet I do think there are ways we can approach our lives now that will help mitigate some of this fear. And of course, I think the Five Elements can help....

“My sister Cate used to be a pretty trusting, optimistic person. I love my sister but have noticed over the years that she seems more likely to assume the worst in a given situation, rather than the best. She doesn’t trust anyone or anything anymore (except her six cats) and appears really frightened about what’s going on in the world these days. Is there any way I can help her return to some version of her trusting, optimistic self?”...

Dear Vicki: I’m writing with a question regarding how I relate to myself. I’m hoping you can help. Over the past several years I’ve turned into a crabby person. I’m not that old, but I seem to have lost a lot of joy in my life, especially as it relates to the holidays. They are over now, and I’m happy about that, but I just never found the holiday spirit. I remember even 15 years ago I could sit with a cup of tea and feel the blessings of the season. Now, they are just one big whirl of anxious activity and sadly, pretty empty or meaningless. They are busy times, but as I’ve climbed the corporate ladder at the consulting firm where I work, the holidays and other times that used to be fun, magical, or even just happy don’t seem that way anymore. Is this part of growing up, or growing old? And can I change it back? Signed: Empty in Edgewater Dear Empty: Your letter probably could have been written by half the people in the United States. It’s a common problem that comes from believing we can/should/need to do it all. This tendency is especially strong in people with a primary Wood personality, and it sounds to me like that might be the case for you. Wood people do believe at some level that they can do it all. They carry the motive power and manifestation directive of Spring energy. That’s the energy that allows tender leaves to burst through tough bark, or crocuses to emerge from the snow. At some level, Wood personalities see everything as a personal challenge, one they are determined to meet. Climbing the corporate ladder is a perfect example, but it isn’t just about work. Creating a perfect holiday season – or the ultimate vacation – can also be taken up as a worthy challenge. Do it all, and do it better than anyone, often describes Woods who have taken on so much they are out of balance. Success will always matter to Wood people, but the wise ones know that balance in all things is important. I think losing sight of that truth may be what’s tripping you up. No one human being can do it all, all the time, but the Wood personality will try. In doing so, they build up more of that “can do” aspect of their personality to a point that it becomes unbalanced. If we look at the Five Elements model, remember that Wood relates to the other four elements in the following manner: Wood feeds Fire, so too much Wood can lead to too much Fire, which can lead to more activity and anxiety than normal. Wood controls Earth, which can lead to less Earthiness, which is where home, family, and often holiday enjoyment sits. Wood is controlled by Metal, meaning it is Metal’s job to make sure that the level of Wood energy doesn’t get too high. But too much Wood for too long can deplete Metal...

Dear Vicki: Last September, my husband and I were in a serious car accident. We both survived and have recovered completely, but for six or seven months, life was a blur of hospitals, medicines, doctors appointments, and physical therapy. Initially, we seemed closer than ever. My husband Frank managed all the little details of the appointments, pharmaceuticals, live-in care, etc. for both of us. I didn't have to worry about anything except keeping our hope alive and trying to stay optimistic. It all worked great, too, until we got back to “normal” the beginning of summer. Now, Frank seems preoccupied with his work and barely notices me, and I have to admit I’m feeling pretty depressed about everything. When we do interact, we disagree and fight. How could we have made it through the tough times and now be falling apart? Signed: Down in Denver   Dear Down in Denver: It’s not uncommon to tough it out during a crisis and then fall apart afterward. It’s very instinctive to focus all of our resources on survival, but that leaves us depleted when the crisis passes. This certainly happened for you and Frank, not only physically, but also emotionally. You pulled together when you had to, made it though, and now are each retreating within yourselves to rebuild your resources. The good news is that each of you will likely build your stamina and zest for life back to pre-accident levels by the first anniversary of the accident. That happens automatically when we take care of ourselves and give ourselves time to heal. The concerning news is that healing after a trauma is not necessarily automatic for a relationship. You may need to help it along, so let’s look at what can be done to get you and Frank back to your pre-accident connection. You don’t mention where you think you and Frank fall within the Five Elements model, but you have given us some excellent clues. The fact that Frank was good at managing all the details of your respective recoveries suggests that he has a lot of Metal energy in his personality. Metal people are excellent with detail; organizing minutia actually makes them happy. Your gift to the joint recovery process was optimism and hope. These are natural places to go for someone with a lot of Water energy in their personality. We also see your primary elements manifesting in out of balance ways after the crisis abated. When unbalanced, Metals can become unreasonably focused on work and dismiss anything unrelated, and Waters can easily become depressed. You and Frank have a Metal/Water relationship, which also tells us a lot about you. In the Five Elements model, Metal and Water relate via the Nurturing Cycle, with Metal feeding Water. You don't mention how long you and Frank have been married, but you’ve probably had a stable connection for some time because your relationship needs will be similar. Neither Metal nor Water need a lot of “togetherness” time in a marriage: Metal will want alone...

Dear Vicki: I know these are difficult times for many people, but the chaos became personal for me last month when the art gallery where I’ve worked for 20 years was sold. The previous owner was a kind, gentle soul who ran a gallery that allowed the joy of discovering art to steal over his patrons in a quiet way. But he retired and the new owner, Mr. Cardon, is a bombastic man who thinks he needs to hit people over the head with ads, promotions, and events to increase attendance at the gallery. And honestly, maybe he’s right; I have no idea if the gallery was making money before or not. But for me, it was a sweet place to work, and now it’s not. The chaos Mr. Cardon creates on a daily basis terrifies me and makes me want to quit. What can I do? Oh, if it helps, I’m pretty sure I’m a Water/Earth. Signed: Terrified in Tennessee Dear Terrified: It’s always difficult where there’s a change in leadership, whether at a personal or national level. We tend to appreciate reliability and steadiness, and by definition, change will disrupt this. Your situation at work is an excellent example. The previous owner was someone you enjoyed working with, someone who created an environment that pleased you and made you happy. As a Water/Earth, quiet and comfortable will be very important to you. Water carries full yin energy, an energy of withdrawal, peace, and silence. Earth is about comfort and long-term connections. You clearly found a perfect job at the gallery and it sounds like you had 20 years of happiness there. But now that’s changed. The new owner, Mr. Cardon, sounds like a Wood. Remember that Woods like personal accomplishment. Quietness and sameness usually aren’t appreciated by Woods; they enjoy shaking things up to make their mark. The good news is that Woods are usually excellent planners, so there should be some degree of reasoning behind what Mr. Cardon is doing. The best you can hope for is that he is a balanced Wood who has a reasonable plan for the gallery. This would mean that the chaos you’re experiencing will eventually subside into a more stable routine of events that he deems effective. The worst-case scenario is that he isn’t a balanced Wood and life at the gallery will be forever changed while he owns it. Either way, you have options for making this time of transition easier for you. First, remember that as a Water/Earth, you relate to Mr. Cardon on both the Control Cycle (Wood controls Earth) and the Nurturing Cycle (Water feeds Wood). Unfortunately, neither of these will be particularly pleasant for you right now. For your Earth, the disruptions to long-standing connections and stability that his new policies are creating have literally caused an earthquake in your world. The balance you were used is gone. However, your Earth can rise to the occasion and eventually settle into new patterns once you’re clear what they are. Earths are good that...