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‘Dear Digby’ Category

  1. Tips for Introverts Who Feel Lost and Overwhelmed

    June 4, 2017 by Diane

    Dear Digby,

    I’m not sure which direction to go in my life, so I’m dabbling in a bit of everything and feeling overwhelmed! I’m an introvert with limited amounts of energy, so I need a clear sign. What can I do to determine what would be the best use of my time and energy?


    Dear Pooped:

    I hear you, and I sympathize. I, too, am an introvert with limited energy. I take on too much, and wonder why I’m spent at the end of the day, unable to do anything more than watch reruns of The Bachelor in my imagination. When I skip my coveted downtime on Sundays—hanging in the park like some beached whale, reading a novel and eating chocolate, my anxiety ramps up. I start the work week on limited reserves, adding more stress, exacerbating my symptoms. Then I scan the environment, both internal and external, for the cause of my anxiety, magnifying it.

    My advice: allow yourself downtime every day—even a half hour!—and for at least half a day on the weekend. During that downtime, do relaxing activities: doodle, color, read, listen to music, meditate, take a walk, spend time in nature, play, hang out with one or two close friends. Too many people in your orbit will drain you. It’s okay to be a lazy-bones. In fact, you need it, to recharge.

    Now, for a clear sign as to where your limited stores of energy would be most beneficial for your success, ask yourself these questions:

    What does success look like to me?

    Success means different things to different people. Everyone knows that. But not everyone knows what success means for themselves. Is success writing a novel and submitting it for publication? Getting hired by a specific company? Starting your own business? Recording your own music? Is success devoting time to a spiritual path? Teaching, coaching, or motivating others? What gets your juices flowing in a good way?

    What, specifically, am I doing? 

    If success is still a vague concept to you, imagine yourself doing things that make you feel accomplished. Are you writing? If so, what are you writing? A blog? A newsletter? A screenplay? Are you designing a web page or brochure? Visualize the activities that bring fulfillment to you.

    What are the steps I need to take to make that happen?

    Once you have a solid idea of what success means to you, jot down all the steps to reach that goal. List them in reverse. Start with the final step, then ask yourself: in order for that to happen, what do I need to do? And before that, what? And before that, what? And keep asking until you get to the very first step you need to take. For example, your list might look something like this:

    Receive a call from my agent that a publisher accepted my book

    Submit edited manuscript to my agent

    Edit manuscript

    Revise manuscript

    Get an agent

    Contact possible agents

    Research possible agents

    Get a copy of Guide to Literary Agents

    …and so on, to your very first step:

    Write an outline for my novel.

    Now that you know that first teensy-weensy step, it’s time to do it. Yeah, get up off the lawn, you beached whale. Ask yourself:

    What time of day am I most productive?

    For me, it’s 10 am – noon. Fat lot of good that does if my goal is a creative project, since four days a week I’m working my day job during that time. But that leaves three days a week that I can be productive doing my own projects. Are you a morning person? Or are you sharper after dinner? Surely you can find two hours, or one hour, or fifteen minutes of productive time in your day. Block that time out on your schedule.

    What time of day am I the least productive?

    For me, it’s afternoons. Right around 3:00, when I should be getting a nap and cookies instead of working. Maybe for you, mornings are snooze-ville. Schedule non-brain draining activities during that time. Answer emails. Return phone calls. Watch webinars. Do chores. Exercise. Or do the tasks on your list that don’t require a lot of brain power, like reading e-newsletters or books related to your field.

    Give your project a trial run

    Devote three weeks to see how it feels to work toward your goal. Twenty-one days, that’s all. Every day, check your energy barometer. Do you feel juiced up with excitement, or crispy from adrenaline surges? What is your body telling you? As introverts we’re super in touch with our bodies, so all we need to do is trust our instincts.

    By giving yourself a fair shot, trying something out for 21 days, you’ll find your answer. Either it’s the right direction to take, or it’s the Wrong Way. If it’s wrong, then let it go and focus on something else. Maybe during those 21 days you discovered a side road that looked promising. Go explore that now for 21 days.

    But I just want a clear sign. Now, not 21 days from now!

    Okay, calm down. Ask yourself this:

    What do I want?

    If you don’t know, pick something. Anything. Then find a comfortable place by yourself, turn off all devices, put up the “gone fishing” sign, close your eyes, mentally relax your muscles, and visualize yourself doing that one thing. How does your body feel? Sit with it for awhile.

    If you’re torn between possibilities, do the visualization for each one, checking in with your body’s signals at the end of each exercise. Jot down any buts you come up with:

    But I can’t do that because_________

    But I need _______ before I can do ________.

    But I don’t have the chops.

    But I’m not ready.

    But it’s impossible.

    Through the day, be aware of solutions that present themselves in whispery thoughts, or from something you read, or something someone told you. Or ask a friend what they would do to overcome these temporary obstacles.

    Still not clear?

    Pretend you know the answer. A friend recommended this to me recently. Say, “If I knew the answer, it would be ______.”

    How does that feel?

    Bottom line:

    You have your answers. Sometimes you won’t like the answers, but you’ll know, deep down, what’s true. Sometimes the answers are buried under all the chatter in your brain, or lost in the swirl of activities you use as distractions. Sometimes you need others to help nudge them out. But if you settle down, and trust those flashes of instinct, you’ll find your way.

    And when you do, enjoy the journey. With plenty of rest stops along the way. Now, where’s my beach blanket?

    Takeaways this week:

    For more tips on finding your ideal productivity time, check out Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done, by Josh Davis.

    To learn productivity tips from a guy who spent a year experimenting on the subject, read The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, by Chris Bailey.

  2. How to Effectively Cope with Passive-Aggressive Behavior

    June 5, 2016 by Diane

    Dear Digby, 

    I am exasperated! I serve on the board for a social club; we had one board member who was constantly creating drama, acting passive-aggressive–she acts agreeable in board meetings but then posts quotes on her Facebook page that are digs (that’s her passive-aggressive side coming out) and then screams at the President that she has issue with every point brought out in the board meeting. Her behavior is like that of a middle schooler yet she’s nearing 60. 


    I left middle school about 35 years ago, how about you?

    Dear I left middle school,

    Interesting, that this woman who serves on the board of a social club, has the social skills of a mosquito.

    First, you need to educate her on how to behave like an adult.

    The next time she screams at the president, I advise you, and the entire board, to stick your fingers in your ears and chant, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.”

    The woman will do one of three things:

    1. Stop mid-sentence and stare at you, slack-jawed.
    2. Turn red with embarrassment and forget what she was saying.
    3. Pick up her toys, and go home.


    If none of your fellow board members are willing to execute this simple solution for an ongoing problem, then I advise the following:

    The next time she screams at the president, stare at her for a full five minutes without saying a word. All of you. Her diatribe will hang in the air like thought bubbles in a cartoon.

    The woman will do one of three things:

    1. Run out of steam.
    2. Hear what she’s saying, turn red with embarrassment, and stop talking.
    3. Pick up her toys, and go home.


    If none of your fellow board members have the fortitude to challenge the woman in a stare-down, then my advice is this:

    Unfriend her on Facebook.

    Passive-aggressive people are responding from their own hurt. You don’t need to resonate with it. Her opinions are no business of yours. You have better things to do with your time. You have noble pursuits ahead. You are going to make this social club a roaring success!

    You can, however, view this woman as an opportunity to practice compassion. Recognize that her behavior is coming from pain, accept it, and observe her actions from a place of non-attachment. With an open heart, watch her mouth moving as if from a great distance.

    And then get up, walk over, and smother her in a giant bear hug.

    Love your enemies. It pisses ‘em off.

    Need advice? Ask Digby! Submit your question via the contact form.

  3. Is it Wrong to Make “Grrr!” Noises at my Brother?

    April 2, 2016 by Diane

    Dear Digby,

    I’m not sure if this counts as a squirrelly moment. When I was about nine, I bought a fantastically huge burger from Burger King (I think). I only just had enough money for it and I was so looking forward to it.

    My brother asked if he could have a bite, so reluctantly, I held the burger towards him. Then I swear, his jaws opened wider than the monster’s in Alien and it was clear he was going to leave me with nothing but a pathetic crescent moon of a bun. I pulled my hands back quickly, but the burger dropped onto the street, and the bun split so the patty fell onto the ground and beyond saving.

    Is it wrong that still now, some forty years later, if I happen to be with my brother and then recall that day, I make “Grrr!” noises in his direction?


    Dear Bun,

    This is an appropriate response. I suggest you bare your teeth as well. Because after 40 years of repressing your anger over the “burger incident,” a mere “Grrr!” and snarl is a much healthier option than flinging yourself across the dinner table at a family gathering, grabbing your brother by the throat and wrestling him to the carpet.

    On the other hand, it might be time to let go of this 40-year grudge. If you were the kind of nine-year old who stuffed his feelings into his metaphorical pocket, try this: close your eyes, breathe deeply, climb into your imaginary time machine and zoom back to that moment. See your brother’s gargantuan jaws open. See your hands yank back and the burger plop onto the ground. Feel whatever emotion rises. Then look your brother in the eye and say whatever is in your heart. Give him a shove if you want. Get it out of your system.

    If, after 40 years, you’re still mourning the loss of this burger, well, can anyone blame you? After all, you saved your pennies to buy the thing. You probably lay in your bunk bed at night in your cowboy pajamas and thought about riding your bike down to Burger King and buying it. When you finally had it in your hand, and smelled the aroma, and saw the juices running down the sides of that big toasty bun you could almost taste it. And then…plop.

    I know your pain. I had a “sock incident” with my boyfriend. One day I spied him pulling on my favorite pair of hiking socks, stretching them over his big ‘ol feet. “Hey, those are mine!” I said, and tried to pull them off as he laughed uncontrollably. After a lengthy tug-of-war, those socks were never the same. My favorite pair.

    However, this is one of my fondest memories. Remembering his impish expression and utter joy never fails to make  me smile. And I suspect that your “Grrr!” is a long-standing joke between you and your brother, recalling that special moment on the sidewalk in front of Burger King when his piggishness cost you a precious patty.

    So by all means, carry on.


    Got a question for Digby? Need advice on dating, relating, in-laws, out-laws, the medical profession, overcoming insomnia (yeah, me too!) or dealing with anxiety? Post your question on the Contact page (it’s working now) or in the comments below.