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Monday, July 17, 2000

How could I be this busy, and this frazzled, and not get anything done?

Oh yeah, it's Monday. I don't think it's any coincidence that my little episode last week, one which I'm now laying squarely in the lap, if laps be square, of stress, occurred on a Monday, or at least on the rim of the canyon between the fading edge of Monday night and the darkest corner of Tuesday morning.

I had calls from two old friends today. One is a psychologist who used to be the Boss's girlfriend. Now I hear from her once in a while, because they still own property together and I handle their mortgage and utility payments. They're trying to sell this place, a condominium in Sacramento, to the woman who's renting it. The renter is dragging her feet, probably because the rent they're charging is $250 less per month than the mortgage payment.

Anyway, I told her about my episode, and she made some recommendations. I've already had a lot of good advice since it happened, and I'm now taking aloe vera and bee pollen. My friend recommended the usual — exercise, cutting down on sugar and alcohol, and finding a way to take quiet breaks during the day.

She also told me about cognitive therapy, in which you verbalize the forces that are making you feel stressed or depressed, and then translate those statements into other, more positive, wording. For example, "Thanksgiving is going to be a disaster because my mother-in-law is going to be there," really means, "I can't be happy on Thanksgiving because I can't get along with my mother-in-law." You change it to, "Although I might have problems with my mother-in-law on Thanksgiving, there will be many other people there whose presence will make me happy."

Obviously, that specific example doesn't apply to me, but I can see trying to turn around my perception of the things that cause me stress. I'm always fighting deadlines and trying to get everything done at once. When money is tight, I worry that the choices I make about whom to pay will turn out to be wrong.

I have to alter these perceptions. My friend says that how you define a problem determines how you feel about it, and to feel better you have to change the definition. With regard to deadlines, I have to tell myself that I'm working at a steady pace and accomplishing as much as I can, and everything will get done eventually. As far as money goes, I have to believe that the choices I make are based on the best knowledge I can come up with of how to distribute the resources we have.

It sounds simple, until you try to put it into practice in real situations. When actual circumstances get in the way of a pretty theory, it doesn't always resolve your problems the way the textbooks say. But I do know that I have to keep telling myself these things, and be as positive as I can, in order to minimize the stresses that sometimes slow me down. These exercises should help me be more relaxed about my work, which should let me be more focused.

The other old friend who called today is a former co-worker and baseball buddy (we bought Giants season ticket packages together for many years) who recently moved to the former major league city of Houston.

Actually, it wasn't all that recently that he moved, it's just that we don't talk often any more. Once we got drunk together on Saturday nights, and then he got a life (and a wife) and found himself living in Texas. He calls me every six months or so; I call him back slightly less often, but now that his life has been enhanced by the magic of computer literacy, we'll be in contact more often. I've even given him the URL to this page (Hi, Barry), since I'm not likely to be in a position to write anything embarrassing about him here anyway.

Not that I couldn't. But the stories are a bit stale now, and frankly, he doesn't embarrass all that easily, even about things that would make you and me turn pomegranate red. He mellowed out a lot even before he got married, and besides, he has stories on me, too.

I miss him, and I miss the good times we had together. I've never really been able to replace that in my life, since he left. Somehow I was able to overcome some of my natural reticence and reserve when I was around him, and that made life more interesting and more fun. Maybe being in contact with him again will remind me how to relax more in social situations, just as my psychologist friend is trying to help me cope with work.

And despite my feeling that I was running in circles and getting nothing done today, when I look at the papers and invoices and projects I went through, I can (and should) be pleased with what I accomplished. And that, in turn, should take some of the heat off.

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I dreamed I had a good job and I got well paid;
I blew it all at the penny arcade.