Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.
Although Red has tackled most of the critical issues brought on by her new "life", she now hears herself saying the most outrageous things (at least for her) and recognizes her behavior's out of character. Nothing serious, but enough for her to realize she was becoming overwhelmed by stress caused by her new responsibilities. Black sends her an email with a sarcastic stress management technique, but Red needs more than humor.
P. S. – This excerpt's as relevant today as it was when Red was going through her crisis. Maybe even more so. Because for Red, she realizes it's not always about learning something new, sometimes it's about remembering something learned in the past.
||I loved your e-mail. Obviously, I can't "drown" my problems, but I sure need some other ways to reduce stress. Any ideas?|
|Here are your options:|
A: Identify and eliminate things that are causing you stress.
B: Adjust your attitude and/or outlook.
C: Find a way to temporarily escape.
D: All of the above.
||I vote for C. Listing what's causing me stress won't eliminate any of them. And I'm not sure what you mean by adjusting my attitude or outlook.|
|Change your perspective and how you look at things.|
|Still not sure what you mean. Give me an example.|
|OK. If I get annoyed or frustrated with Larry, I realize the best way to a man's heart is through his chest with a sharp knife!|
|Funny, but not a real answer.|
|Realer than you realize. One of the health columns in The Wall Street Journal referenced research that shows a connection between laughter and health, and how laughter reduces a stress hormone.|
|Thank you for that scientific study, but besides male-bashing jokes, do you have any advice which is a bit more practical?|
||That was practical. You need to try and lighten up. First of all, worrying about what has already happened is a total waste of time. Worrying about what might happen is also a waste of time. I know that things happen for a reason and things will work out, one way or another, and so I look ahead and do not dwell on the past. I may not be able to control the situation, but I know I can control how I deal with it — and that eliminates much of the stress in my life. And if I can laugh about any aspect of it — that makes things even better.|
|I guess we look at things differently. I don't think I can put myself in your shoes (beside the fact I can't afford them) and look at things that pragmatically. But I know there are times you are under stress because you get pissy with me.|
|True. And when I sense a "pissy" mood, as you call it, I go for a long run and think things out. Because running is a rhythmic activity (as is vacuuming, or so I am told), it allows my body to get into its own rhythm and then my mind is free to work out problems, find solutions or merely daydream. I usually come back with a plan or at least a clearer perspective on things, which makes me feel much better.|
||I don't picture myself in your running shoes, either! And vacuuming was not exactly the suggestion I was hoping for. Any other suggestions?|
|I will save the "Escape through Exercise" lecture for another time. Right now, you need to acknowledge that stress is going to be part of your life. Although you cannot avoid it, you can learn to deal with it. Find an activity — it could be as simple as a walk in the neighborhood or reading a magazine at Starbucks — that functions as a temporary escape. Let Nick and the girls know that you need some time away. And then last, but not least, schedule it. Put it on your calendar like an appointment. And make it a priority.|
|You make it sound so easy.|
||It is. Do not complicate it.|
Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List
"Once upon a time" is how fairy tales begin, but once upon a time in Red's life, she had lots of things to do but was able to fit everything into any given day. And her worst-case scenario? Something might slide but would still get done in a timely fashion. But when her husband got fired, her fairy tale life ended and she had to take on more day-to-day responsibilities, which meant Red soon began to run out of hours in the day, the week, the month. Luckily, Black's advice about how to manage her time, although not an obvious "approach" until it was explained to her, made a big difference.
P.S. – If Red thought she was busy when her husband got fired, she had no idea what busy was until years later when she had to juggle being a single mom with being the warm and fuzzy half of Red & Black. In fact, this new level of crazy busy (Black likes to clarify that it's "good crazy") has now become the "new norm", which means that Red still struggles with way too much to do and way too little time to do it in. It's then, when she's really stressing out, that Black often has to remind her of the original advice she gave Red, and usually tells her she needs to re-read this excerpt …
||I do have one question. What exactly did you mean by time management? I understand there's a limited amount of time in the day, but unless I give up sleeping altogether, I'm not sure how to find the time to do everything on my lists. I'm already getting up at 5:00 a.m. (and this morning even earlier!) so that I have some quiet time before I start the "mom" thing. Any suggestions? And just this once, skip the smart-ass comments!|
||If I could tell you how to create more time in your day, I could make a fortune. There are countless books on time management, but I doubt you will find the time to read one, so I will tell you what works best for me.|
||Type faster. What's the secret?|
Chapter 18: Whine Or Lemonade? Your Choice
Three months into her "crisis" (Red's word, not Black's), Red looks back and begins to realize the impact of the lessons she was forced to learn were truly invaluable. And that as much as she initially fought having to face reality and actually make changes, vs. just hoping she could "wish" everything to be better, that would've fixed nothing. In fact, it would've only made things worse. Of course, she'll always question how Black could have been so optimistic, going so far as to say Red's crisis was going to be the best thing that ever happened to her.
P.S. – Red still questions Black's optimism, but that's because she's come to realize her natural tendency is to initially focus on the negative. She claims it's because she's "wired" that way, but that's ok because she has learned that just means she has to work harder to overcome the negative and focus on the positive. And challenging times are the perfect time to remind herself that although this mindset and approach may seem hard to do, the results can be so much better than initially hoped for.
|I'm surprised to find you online again.|
|Why? Typical Saturday night. Done with dinner and no one to talk to once I get home. Only tonight home is a hotel and there is no one snoring on the couch.|
|No reason to be. Everything will work out. One way or another.|
|That's what you told me when Nick was fired. In fact, you went so far as to say you thought it was the best thing that ever happened to us. Did you really mean that, or were you trying to make me feel better?|
Chapter 5: Open Your Eyes Before Your Wallet
To say that Red fought having to deal with her family finances is a huge understatement. But she finally summoned up the courage to start looking at their financial situation (well, maybe not so much courage as it was surrendering to Black's insistence) and slowly starts working her way through Black's six step "Where Is Your Money Going" checklist. As she prepares to tackle Step 4: Develop A Realistic Budget, Red gets to break some surprising news to Black about a fond childhood memory.
P.S. – Red rarely gets the "upper hand" in terms of her older sister, Black, and for it to be related to money makes it even sweeter. Yet, she'll admit that for all the enjoyment of getting to "break the news" to Black, she'd have been better off having the same childhood "punishment" as Black.
||OK. I'm ready to tackle Step 4. Is this something we can do via e-mail or do I need to come over and see how you do your budget?|
||Here is where I have to say, "Do as I say, not as I do," because I have not done a personal budget in years. But I can remember my first one.|
||You remember your first budget? You have a strange collection of fond memories!|
||It was when Mom put me on a clothing budget. She gave me an amount I could spend every year and wrote it on a big manila envelope. Every time I bought something, I would deduct that amount from the total and put the receipt in the envelope. I always knew how much was left in my budget, so I never had to ask if I could buy something. Mom was brilliant!|
||[Silence for 5 seconds, followed by a burst of laughter.] You're kidding, right?|