Monday, August 21, 2006

Response to Stress

Betina here. . . with the dazzling insight that you're never too old or too self-aware to learn something new about yourself.


Last summer on a tour through France and Italy-- which my nephew-in-law called our "forced march through Europe"-- I learned that I have a rather peculiar reaction to stress. Especially pricey, self-inflicted stress like PLANNED TOURS. My personality splits and I develop alternate egos who come out at strange and sometimes unfortunate times and entertain my fellow sufferers.

My family and closest friends have long known about The Duchess. She's a windy, imperious fog-horn voiced old British broad who is probably based on Aniteb. (Oooo, I'm going to pay for that one.) The Duchess is opinionated and garish and way too loud to permit into the sacred precincts of Europe's great cathedrals and monuments.

But it turned out, she has a few friends. . . like Madame LaBarge, who has a nasty signature laugh (Heh, heh, heeeeh) that announces her arrival and a voice like Chloris Leachman with testosterone poisioning. Needless to say, I discovered her in Paris and there are probably still people on the Champs Elysees looking over their shoulders for possessed American tourists.

Then in Nimes (Provence) I discovered Mademoiselle Fifi. . . a sly little coquette who has a high, squeaky voice and a flirtatious manner. Her signature saying is "My name is Mademoiselle Fifi. . . and I have a plan." This "plan " part is always said while tapping her temple with a finger and looking crafty. Needless to say, she bats her lashes a lot and giggles with fascinating insincerity. People adore her. She gets away with murder. And a year later I still don't have a clue what her blessed "plan" is.

It turns out. . . Europe is the perfect place for your personality to decompensate under stress. Apparently people there have been doing it for centuries. I ran into several in Florence. . .
















Back home. I thought I was safe from the chaos my alternate personalities had created "across the pond," but it turns out, I have a couple of other creatures inhabiting my already crowded skin. One is a sadly demented librarian, Maribelle, who made her public debut during Midwest Fiction Writers' 20th Anniversary celebration. She's cranky, abrasive, and liable to say anything. Still another, named Loletta, swipes her nose, hitches up her pants and mispronounces everything in sight. She happens to be an expert on home decoration and delivers a spontaneous and rather disarming little lecture on "fong shewie." She's sort of Larry the Cable guy in drag. And another, who only comes out at conferences is--

Oh, no. Hey, Aniteb-- it was only a joke-- give me back that--

Aniteb here. This woman needs serious help. Thank God she has ME to make certain she gets it. I'll be locking her up for the rest of the day and returning her keyboard when I think she's ready to handle it. It's sad, really. There ought to be some sort of government program to prevent this sort of thing. I've always found that a seven figure check goes a long way toward preventing the sort of decompensation poor Betina seems to suffer from. Where are the bloody Democrats when you need them?

Meanwhile-- what happens to you under extreme stress? Care to relate one of your worst travel moments or reveal what happens to your stomach before or after editor appointments? How about at cocktail parties thrown by publishers? Or meeting the prospective in-laws for the first time? What do you drink, chew, shred, watch, read, or hallucinate about. . . when you're under severe stress? Any quirkly little habits or superstitions you resort to when the pressure is on? I won't be taking notes. . . I promise. . .

14 comments:

Helen Brenna said...

Wow, Betina, Aniteb, Maribele, Loletta, Mme Fifi ... you're killing me here. LOL! I'd suggest therapy, but where's the fun in that?

Love the pics. Really wish I had your sense of humor when dealing with stress. But I don't. Never will.

I grind my teeth in my sleep. I cry, get angry at the drop of a hat. I blush. I laugh a little too loudly. (But then that happens even when I'm not stressed, so not sure that counts.) I have noticed lately that my stomach can get a bit queasy. Sometimes I get gas. How's that for an admission?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Wow! Are we letting it all out today or what? (Helen, stand over there, please.) Must be Monday Monday. (Can't trust that day...)

Hey, I'm a nail-biter from way back. I have a nightguard for the teeth grinding. My dad was a teeth grinder, and you could hear it all the way across the house, but I guess mine is the quiet kind. I didn't know I was doing it until the dentist pointed it out to me.

Years back I had a bout with some sort of gulping air syndrome, which I didn't know I was doing at the computer, but by the end of the day I was bloated with swallowed air. It took a doctor to figure that one out. Then there's the eating, snappishness, etc. When you're under dealine you tend to put off the exercise, which really helps most of this.

I did the 15-countries-in-3-weeks tour many years back with 20 ND teachers and my mother. She enjoyed telling stories on me afterward. I'm a marcher. I'm determined to see as much in one day as inhumanly possible, and Mama just wanted to enjoy the ambiance. Well, you know how much there is to see in Florence. And it was hot. And I'm on the march. Mama's grumbling, and I finally turn and shout at her many paces behind me on the trail: "Mother! You are trying my patience." Much-quoted forever after.

Ah, but what a blessing we took that trip when we did...

Betina Krahn said...

Teeth grinding-- I do that sometimes, too-- and not always in my sleep! Helen, I'm a loud laugher, too. The family hates taking me to an animated movie-- they "duck and cover" as I laugh my head off and people turn to glare. We've taken to witting close to the front of the theater so we don't have to see them staring.

Gulping air? Now, that's a new one. Leave it to you, Kathy, to come up with something totally unique! And I loved your "Florence" story! LOL! So you know what the "forced march" tour thing is like! got any pics? I bet they're a hoot!

Betina Krahn said...

Sorry. We don't "wit" close to the front, we SIT close to the front. Sheesh.

Helen Brenna said...

Darn, Betina, I thought you'd come up with a solution for my family with that witting thing.

anne frasier said...

both my kids have told me on numerous occasions that living/hanging out with me is like living with woody allen. when i get stressed, my mouth starts going and doesn't stop. out pours everything that could possibly go wrong in any given situation. when i'm done with everything that could possibly go wrong, i start over and enhance it because i didn't get a big enough reaction the first time.

anne frasier said...

concerning editors, publishers, conferences...

i don't like to speak in front of people. i often get migraines beforehand. once i passed out in the bathroom and cracked my chin open before a speaking engagement.

it's almost impossible to EAT when being wined and dined by publishers. i have that coming up in sept and am now wondering why in the hell i said i'd go. looks like were going to some fancy-schmancy joint that serves baby animals and stuff i've never heard of and will probably give me a severe case of stomach cramps in indigestion. oops. i spelled craps. well, that too. can i just order a bowl of cereal or a scone?

Betina Krahn said...

Ewwwww, Anne. Baby animals? Can't you just tell them you're preggers and the smell of cooked meat makes you queazy. heh, heh. I know it's underhanded, but a girl has an obligation to protect her stomach.

And as for the talking thing. . . ditto here. That probably accounts for the many voices I harbor.
Ooooo and eating. Can't forget the sweets and salties. Coffee, too. And tea. And soda. I'm a devoted drinker. . .

anne frasier said...

betina,
i'll have to try the faces of eve thing. :)

oh, BTW, those photos of you are adorable!!!

Betina Krahn said...

Thanks, Anne. These guys do this for a living. Can you imagine the entry on a resume? "Faux Mona Lisa" duties: wore picture frame and make-up outside the Uffizi Gallery and flirted with strangers and posed for photos.

Can't say it wasn't fun!

Kathleen Eagle said...

I love the Mona Lisa shot! Hey...Italy...wouldn't that be a cool place for a girls' week out? We could do some serious shopping in Florence. Can't you see us tooling through Tuscany with the top down? That settles it. Pizza tonight.

Melissa said...

Too funny, Betina!

As for stress, I can't sleep, which just adds to the stress. And then when I can't keep going I simply fall apart usually at the moment that whatever was stressing me out is about to or already happening.

And I also eat. Whatever I can find that has chocolate as an ingredient.

Betina Krahn said...

Melissa, you have good company at the table. I love chocolate, but I'm having to watch my sugar intake. So I found that 85% Lindt chocolate that is low in sugar and WOW. One square of that dark, slightly bitter stuff with a cup of coffee and I'm in HEAVEN! Talk about chocolate taste! But of course, you have to love the bittersweet chocolate taste. And-- hey, according to the label it even has FIBER!!!

God is good.

TatrD said...

Betina, I've done a review of your new book "Book of True Desires" for The Romance Reader's Connection website but can't locate an e-mail address for you anywhere so I can send it to you. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and think you'll appreciate the review. Could you please e-mail me at jenharden12498@yahoo.com and I'll be glad to send it to you?

Thanks!