God bless the wonderful John and Kitty, who built and later sold us this house! I never would have thought to put in a little gym, but they did. Since the shutdown, my son Adam has been working out harder than ever, video-conferencing with his awesome trainer.

Here’s the thing, folks: Adam is doing this because he wants to. He decided to start working out when he was in high school. I’ve never been able to force any of my children to do anything. I lack the stamina. But when they follow their bliss, they do things that blow my mind.

These days people keep asking me, “How can I make my loved ones follow safety guidelines (or take better care of themselves, or cheer up)?” The pandemic has put our normal human urge to control on steroids.

If you’re freaking out because someone’s not doing what you think they should do, I SO understand how you’re feeling. But here’s what I’ve learned. YOU CAN’T CONTROL OTHER PEOPLE. Not entirely. Trying will just make you angry and resentful. It will kill the very love that put it in motion.

So go ahead and give people advice. Demonstrate proper handwashing technique, coughing into elbows, and all that. Then, give yourself some peace. Let go.

Say, for example, you can’t get your parents to wear facemasks to the grocery store, even by wrestling them to the floor. Accept that it’s their decision, then turn your attention to what’s happening in YOU. You’re afraid. You’re angry. You’re in despair.

How can you address those issues even if your loved ones never, ever do what you want? By being kind to your terrified, raging desperate self. Be as gentle to yourself as you would be to a frightened baby.

Give YOURSELF the warm bath, the quiet walk outside, the vigilant hygiene, or the workout. Then, gratefully receive your own love. It will heal you. And it will teach you what we all have to learn one way or another: Real love, always always, sets the beloved free.