I remember reading somewhere that writer Anne Lamott thinks about herself in the third person, to take better care of herself: “I’m sorry, Anne Lamott can’t accept that invitation to speak; she’s finishing a book so needs to keep her schedule clear.”
Similarly, I imagine myself as a toddler. “Gretchen gets cranky when she’s over-tired. We really need to stick to the usual bedtimes.” “Gretchen gets frantic when she’s really hungry, so she can’t wait too long for dinner.” “Gretchen needs some quiet time each day.” “Gretchen really feels the cold, so we can’t be outside for too long.”
The fact is, if you’re dealing with a toddler, you have to plan. You have to think ahead about eating, sleeping, proper winter clothes, necessary equipment, a limit on sweets, etc. Because with a toddler, the consequences can be very unpleasant. In the same way, to be good-humored and well-behaved, I need to make sure I have my coffee, my cell-phone charger, my constant snacks, and my eight hours of sleep.
I mentioned this new approach to a friend, who laughed and said, “As a toddler, I don’t handle noise or crowds well. I can’t be in that kind of situation for long.”
It’s easy to expect that you “should” be able to deal with a particular situation, and of course, to a point, it’s admirable to be flexible, to be low-maintenance. But I realize that I’m much happier — and more fun to be around — if I recognize my limits.
How about you? What kind of toddler are you? Or do you have other strategies to help manage yourself?
I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now.
On the blog Drinking Diaries, my friend Leah Odze Epstein picks up on the "abstainers vs. moderators" split that I discuss in Happier at Home and discusses it in the context of alcohol (and ice cream). So interesting.
If you're thinking, "Hmmm, do I want to read Happier at Home?" here's some information to help you decide. Short answer: Of course you do!
-- read a sample chapter on the subject of "time"
-- watch the one-minute book trailer, "Ten ways to be happier at home"
-- request the one-page book club discussion guide
-- read the Behind-the-Scenes extra (I had a great time writing this)