DEAR ABBY: I’m a columnist who writes various news, feature and column stories. The other day, I received my first criticism. A reader chewed me out for challenging their program.

It’s hard being a young writer. Facing criticism for doing my job makes it even harder. I work long hours and pour my life into my work.

After being chewed out, I couldn’t get past it. I suffer from severe anxiety, so everything gets to me. I sit here every day thinking about how I’m not going to let this irritate me anymore, but it still does. How can I let this go? — STRESSED REPORTER

DEAR STRESSED: Criticism goes with the territory. If you think readers are going to fill your inbox with nothing but praise for your efforts every day, you are in the wrong business. The way to get beyond this would be to ask yourself whether the criticism was valid. If it was, then learn from it. If it wasn’t, realize that by dwelling on negativity, you hurt only yourself.

You should discuss your extreme anxiety with a licensed mental health professional. If you cannot break this self-defeating pattern, consider switching to another kind of writing, because constantly second-guessing yourself will only hold you back in your career.

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DEAR ABBY: I was about to break off the relationship with my girlfriend two years ago, right before she was diagnosed with cancer. Because of the diagnosis, I decided to stay while she was fighting.

After two years of chemo, radiation and many, many surgeries, she’s still fighting hard and may beat it. But I’m ready to move on with my life. Do I need to stay in the relationship until there’s some type of conclusion with her cancer? — ON HOLD IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR ON HOLD: Considering that you were about to break up with this woman before she was diagnosed, I commend you for staying as long as you have. Your girlfriend could live this way for many more years to come. After two years, you should have a right to enjoy your own life. It might lessen the blow if you assure her that you are not abandoning her, and although your relationship may be changing, you will continue to be her supportive friend.

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DEAR ABBY: My husband and I argue over which way to put the silverware in the dishwasher. He says when he worked in restaurants he was told to put the handles down. I was taught by my Gramma to put the handles up, so when you grab the utensils to put them away you’re not touching the part that goes in your mouth.

I said, ”Well, when you’re doing the dishes, do them your way, and when I do them, I’ll do it my way.” But, of course, we spend a lot of time rearranging each other’s silverware. What’s the correct way? — JOELLE IN WASHINGTON

DEAR JOELLE: The answer to your question should be as simple as consulting the user handbook that came with your dishwasher. Most, if not all, brands caution owners to put knives in the basket with the points facing down. However, to prevent ”nesting,” spoons and forks will get optimum water pressure if they are facing up.

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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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