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How Thinking Like a Man Can Help You Write More

Recently, my husband and I have had temporary guardianship of our granddaughters who are two and seven. We’ve been battling dirty diapers, temper tantrums, homework, and disciplining naughty behavior—which isn’t what I pictured us doing at our age.

Here’s what I look like: 

I enjoy my time with the girls, but I’ve been obsessed with worry about how long we’ll have to help. Is this going to be a lifelong situation? Will we need to give up our retirement plans?

Some nights I lie in bed and stress about how I’m going to do it all. And then one large worry hangs over me, smothering all other thoughts: WHAT IF I DIE? Who will be an advocate for our grand-girls? (I know, I’m a drama queen.)

But seriously, I’ve developed asthma and a few other weird health problems even though I’ve been healthy my whole life. I asked my doctor, “Why?”

She said, “Stress.”

Stress can kill. It silently worms its way through our bodies, sucking our energy and making us boring, complaining people. It had taken over my body like one of those sci-fi characters from Star Trek.

I decided I wasn’t going to let it violate me anymore. I needed more writing time and less worrying time. I had to take charge. After all, I’m a woman, a creative thinker, someone who can do almost anything she sets her mind to. I can figure this out. Right? What’s the solution?

And then I knew: I had to find the secret to coping like a MAN.

Yep, a man.

I’ve often asked my husband, “Teach me how you cope.” Nothing seems to rattle him. He can have obstacles thrown at him all day long and it doesn’t change his calm disposition. I love that about him.

But HOW does he do it?

He says he COMPARTMENTALIZES.

Huh? What’s that, I asked him.

“I divide things up into segments or chunks as a way to keep from feeling overwhelmed by the stress. I only think of one thing at a time.”

Really? That’s all?

I thought, shoot, can’t I do the same?

So, I decided to go into training to be more like a man. 

First, I researched how men COMPARTMENTALIZE, confident I could learn from this. (I’m hopeful it’ll help you, too. If you’re a man you’re probably already doing this, but if you have anything to add, please don’t be shy. I need to know! Leave a comment or two.)

Next, I outlined a PLAN to follow.

Here it is:

  • I’ll visualize drawers in my mind.
  • Each drawer will contain something important: my health, family, novel, blogging, grandchildren, home, etc. but only one item per drawer.
  • Emotions go in a separate drawer–all by themselves, only to be opened when I’m working on finding solutions.
  • Only one drawer can be opened at a time. For instance, when I’m working on my novel I’ll only have that drawer open.
  • When I take a break from my novel I have to shut the drawer first before I can open another.
  • Before I go to sleep I’ll make sure each drawer is tightly closed.
  • If worries still consume me, I’ll visualize each worrisome thought floating into its corresponding drawer and slam it shut.
  • At the end of the day (or the beginning) I’ll make a list of everything that needs to get done and put the list in its appropriate drawer.
  • I can’t share what’s in my emotion drawer with friends if it’s nonproductive. That drawer has a lock. I’m only allowed to unlock it when I’m with family, and when it’s to find a solution to a particular problem.
  • When I’m exercising I’m allowed to open any drawer I want to think about, but only one at a time.
  • There isn’t a “worry” drawer or any drawers for negative thoughts because they’re too nonproductive.
  • All social media, email, Twitter, and FB are together in one drawer. I’m only allowed to work on them when all the other work is done. Preferably for only an hour in the morning and one in the evening.
  • I’ll only open those drawers I have time for and they’ll be in order of priority.
  • God will be in each drawer like a flashlight leading the way, guiding my efforts.
Wow, do you think I can do this? Do any of you ladies think you could? I’m going to try. I’ll let you know in a few weeks if I’m successful. It’s going to take a lot of practice!
(Teen girls–this whole idea of men thinking differently than us might be new to you, but the sooner you learn this, the better.)
Am I crazy? Do you think women can learn to compartmentalize?
How do YOU cope with stress? Do you compartmentalize?

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Lynette Bleed says:

    Great post. First, Michelle—you do NOT look like that picture! I’ve heard it said that a woman’s brain is like spaghetti (a mass of interconnection) and a man’s brain is like a waffle (with compartments)–just like your observation. A few of my coping techniques are: saying Psalm 23 as I go to sleep, and asking God to take care of a bunch of my worries while I take a break from them and sleep on it. 2) Working in 50 minute increments, then taking 10 minutes to detach from the work, and 3) putting a verse in my head every time a negative thought creeps in and remembering that Jesus said to take it a day at a time, or an hour at a time, if needed. : ) Thanks for your great blog! Wishing you a restful and productive day.

  2. I understand, Michelle. I’m very involved w/ care of my precious youngest grandchildren, a girl 8 1/2 and a boy barely 7. I’ll pray refreshing and wisdom on you and I also know you and your husband’s love and care is a great blessing.

  3. Hi Lynette!
    Thanks for adding some other tips that will help. I appreciate it! I’m going to keep Psalm 23 next to my bed and try that, too. I love the “verse in my head” idea too.
    Hope you have a great writing day!

  4. Hi Dee! You know exactly how thin my time is if you’re involved with your grandchildren, too. I think there are a lot of us out there, don’t you?
    How do you cope? What helps you write more?

  5. Right there with ya’ girlfriend. I decided a few weeks back that I refuse to endure. I insist upon LIVING. I can do everything I need to do with a sling attached to my shoulder. And all the rest, takes time and faith. I asked hubby a while back- how in the world are we going to do this middle aged parenting thing? He said, “We just are. Stop worrying.” We pray together every day anyway, so we have started praying over our emotions concerning this issue. It has been much calmer since. And I have my bearings back. I had to surrender to the Lord all those ill and fearful feelings, and I had to focus on task by task instead of overwhelming myself with a long list of to do’s and details. One step at a time, and one day at a time. The word says Give us this day our DAILY… what belongs to today, not to tomorrow or next week. And there are support groups EVERYWHERE for grandparents raising their grand kids (I just found out yesterday), so that we can have some back up and realize we are not alone in this fight. I love you Michelle. You got this!

  6. Dear Michelle,
    I’m going to try it, too. I hope it works–for both of us! Good luck with the girls.
    Angie

    • Hi Angie!
      Today is Day One and I’m not doing so well with this ‘compartmentalizing’ thing, but I’m going to keep trying. Ha!
      Let me know how it goes for you! I want to know, okay?

  7. Hi Jeannette!
    You are so sweet to comment here and share what’s worked for you. I never thought about a support group. How lame is that? Sheesh, sometimes I’m so “in the moment” dealing with a crisis that I forget about these types of groups.
    I love your phrase, “Give us this day our daily… ” I keep saying, one day at a time.” It’s working. I’m really trying to focus on the positive and keeping things in compartments, too. Faith is the key, for sure. And prayer. Hugs to you. Glad your girl is doing better. I was scared about your hospital visit y’day. Our oldest has Meckle’s which can lead to an intesusseption and turn the intestines inside out. Not a good thing. Sometimes fatal. I wondered if she was having similar problems. I hope not!

  8. Robin says:

    I love this post, Michelle. Mike and I use the comparison of the dresser drawer all the time when talking about the different ways we communicate, but I never thought about how useful it could be to apply it to work and productivity. I’ll have to try it.

  9. Beth Steury says:

    Michelle– Great post! Life can certainly be overwhelming, can’t it? Great visuals with the drawers, and the waffles & spaghetti, Lynette. My brain feels like spaghetti on steroids when I have too many irons in the fire–which is very often. I’m a worrier which we all know is the least productive way to spend our time. I also like to feel like i have a handle on things, that i know what’s ahead. Kind of a control freak. When i’m freaking out because i can’t fix things, I hand them over to God–which has gotten easier with time AND as the situation have become bigger– then I spend time writing and connecting with other writers. I give myself permission to put aside the situation i can’t do anything about and allow myself to work on the novel God planted in my heart and brain. Eventually i have to push the novel “drawer” closed and check in on the rest of my life. Wishing you the best with those grandkids!

  10. Hi Beth!
    Thanks for the note and your support. I like your reminder to hand things over to God when I get freaked out. I’ll have to try that more often. The “drawer” idea is going just OK. Old habits are hard to change and I’ve been a woman worrier for a long time. Ha!
    I hope you have a great writing week!
    M

  11. I love this blog, and I think compartmentalizing is a great idea. I’m not sure how good I am at this task, though. I think there should be a drawer labeled “Menopause”. It should be a great big honking sized drawer. Menopause is taking over my life. As a result, it causes me to open too many drawers at once. All of these drawers contain hot flashes, and they all hit me straight in the face. Keep us all posted on how this new way of life works for you. You may need to give lessons. Of course, I will be too busy wiping sweat to listen!

    • Hey Carol! Thanks for stopping by and complimenting us on our blog. You crack me up! I love your sense of humor. How could I forget the MENOPAUSE drawer? Is that why I can’t remember to shut one before opening another? Today wasn’t really successful. I had filing problems and put certain topics in the wrong drawer, but I’m not giving up yet. I’m just doing it with less clothes on. Ha!
      Btw, if you’d like to post at Random please know you’re always welcome. We’d love to share your humor here.
      M

      • Michelle, I have 2 of my teenage grandchildren living with me. I would trade 17-yr-old girl angst and drama and driving lessons for diapers again in a heartneat. (I don’t mean to trivialize dirty diapers.) I have a bit of resentment that I work through each day, because I already raised 5 of my own children; I really didn’t want to sign on for 2 more, but God had other plans and I try to never question His decisions. I have submitted an article for publication about the problems and humor (yes, there is some) of the millions of grandparents in our country who are raising their grandchildren. I will let you know if it is accepted. This was a great post, by the way.

        • Hi Gloria!
          Thanks for stopping by. I would love to read your article! Let me know when it’s published. I’m sure it’ll be accepted. It’s healthy to find humor in this job, isn’t it?
          I also have a 17 year old daughter I’m raising, but fortunately she’s calm, with no angst or drama. That’s a gift. I know.
          I have that same resentment some days, (when I’m trying to finish editing my book) but overall, I try to look at it as a blessing. I’m writing a book with the seven-year-old and potty training the two-year-old. These are positives, for sure! Great memories.

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