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Karma Cleanser

An Oprah-sized serving of compassion for the new year

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Dear Karma Cleanser:

I ran into an old friend from high school. We're talking about a person who I knew 15 years ago and who I haven't seen in the past five. He had gained a lot of weight since the last time I saw him, and he has also lost most of his hair. When he came up to me at the party we were both at, I almost didn't recognize him. But when he said my name I did. I could tell he knew by my face that I was surprised by how he looked.

We had been best buds when we were in school together, but the years since then have not been kind to him. He went through a bad divorce and had some problems with his family.

I had a falling out with him approximately five years ago. It is not worth going into what happened that caused our fight, only that it was a stupid argument at first. The argument sort of snowballed, and I finally told him I thought he was making a big deal out of nothing. We stopped speaking, and I later heard that he had moved to another state. A few months after that, I heard that his wife had left him after she had an affair with their kid's soccer coach.

When we saw each other at the holiday party, he got my info and he has since mailed me a long e-mail talking about how great it was to see me and how he hopes our friendship can start up again. I want to be a good friend and say the same to him, but I also know it would be a lie. I have my own life now and a job that takes up almost all of my free time. Even if I did have extra time on my hands to put into a friendship, I can tell that it would not be with this person because he is just so needy now. Talking to him drains all the life out of me.

I feel like I'm already breaking my New Year's resolution, which is to be more positive and also to try not to judge people – even though the year's barely started. Is there any hope for me?

– Fireman in a Blender

In a fit of cosmic timing, your letter arrived moments after another KC devotee sent us this quote from the feel-good goddess of the decade, Oprah Winfrey: "Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right." And who are we to challenge the mighty O? Your friend's unexpected return is the universe's way of handing you exactly what you asked for with your New Year's resolution: a person who's aching to be judged and who fans the flames of your inner pessimist. Get it right this time by giving your old friend the benefit of your doubt and an Oprah-sized serving of compassion.

Been bad? karmacleanser@gmail.com

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