Book Review: Stress Less, or Walking the Walk is Hard

If you have been reading this blog for, well, any amount of time, you will probably be aware that I am a person who really strives to live a life of calmness and mindfulness. It doesn’t always work that way, of course, but life is a journey and we are all works in progress, tomorrow is fresh new page in our own personal Book of Life, etcetera, etcetera.

The other thing you may know about me is that I love books and reading, and I love my friends, and sometimes those two things overlap in the Venn Diagram of Nicole’s Life. My friend Kate Hanley wrote a book called Stress Less, and when I heard that I could get a free copy in exchange for a blog review, well, I jumped at the chance. Stressing less is my jam! Reading books my friends write is also my jam! This is a win-win situation.

Here’s the part where I disclose, in case you were unable to read the above paragraph, that I received a free copy of Stress Less by Kate Hanley from the good people at Simon and Schuster. I was not compensated in any other way, all views are my own, etcetera, etcetera again.

Stress Less is a lovely little book with 100 mindfulness exercises for calmness and clarity, which means that it is not a “chapter book,” as I would say to my kids. It’s more of a collection of daily meditations, each including an inspirational quote from everyone from the Dalai Lama to Dolly Parton. Don’t you just love an eclectic cast of characters? I sure do. The mindfulness exercises are easy to incorporate into everyday life, and I have introduced the book to my children as well. In particular, I brought their attention to Mindfulness Exercise #13, in which we learn to Listen Better. Most of the time when we are talking to someone else, Kate writes, we’re not truly hearing what they’re saying. Rather, we’re thinking about what we’ll say in response, or wondering when they’ll stop talking so we can speak. Truer words were never spoken, and I brought this up to the kids to say that not only could THEY work on this, but I really should as well. We all could.

So yes, I endeavor to live a life of mindfulness, but in that journey there are bumps on the road. Walking the walk is not always easy, as I will illustrate in the following anecdote.

Last week I had a phone call from a delivery company, to inform me that the stand-up paddleboards (yay!) we had ordered would be delivered the following day, between 1:00 and 5:00. The driver would call me one hour prior to delivering the giant packages. Great, I said, but I will not be home until 1:30 because I am teaching a class. I also will not be able to answer the phone if the driver calls prior to that, because it’s a yoga class and my phone will be off.

No problem, the lady on the phone assured me that she would make a note of it and the driver would certainly be able to accommodate. NO PROBLEM AT ALL.

You see where I’m going with this.

The following day I finished my class, and was on my way home when the Bluetooth rang. It was, for those wondering, 1:25. The man on the other end was very, very angry with me. He asked if I would be home anytime soon for this delivery, and when I said I was about five minutes away, he informed me that he had already been waiting for twenty minutes and he couldn’t wait all goddamn day.

Well, I have to say I was pretty taken aback. I said I would be home in five minutes, and if he couldn’t wait, should we reschedule? I was flustered for sure, having come from the warm, lovely studio with a warm, lovely post-yoga feeling, and being, as I say to my children, Spoken To Sharply.

He said he’d call the dispatcher and then figure out what to do but in the meantime he’d called SEVERAL TIMES AND TEXTED and I had ignored all of those.

Of course I hit a few lights when I drove home, so I ended up pulling in front of my house at 1:32. A young man jumped from the delivery truck, smiling at me in a nervous kind of way. He asked if I could go open the garage so he could bring in the stuff, and of course I agreed.

I had a chance to peek at my phone as I was going to the garage, and sure enough, there was one phone call at 12:20 – with no voice message – and one text, at 1:18, reading that Steve had just pulled up to my house and had a delivery for me. 1:18, or seven minutes prior to the angry phone call. Not what I would classify as SEVERAL TIMES but we all have different standards, I guess.

I spoke with the smiling young man about where to put the packages, when Steve got out of the truck, looking at me like I was, if not the worst person in the world, then at least in the top ten. He asked me What I Had Said To Dispatch, and I explained, saying that dispatch had said she would put a note on my file. Steve said angrily that the Delivery Time is Between One and Five, and my schedule wasn’t His Problem, and meanwhile, I needed to not only sign for the packages, but also sign a form that said he had been waiting for me. He said, Someone has to pay for this! As far as the company is concerned, I haven’t been doing anything for all this time!

When I told my husband this part of the story, he asked in a worried sort of way if I had paid him anything. I had not. In fact, at this point I was so taken aback all I could do was stare at him and apologize for inconveniencing him.

But here’s the interesting part: the piece of paper he asked me to sign had written on it, in black Sharpie, my name and the words, Yoga Teacher will be home by 1:30 and will not be able to answer the phone before that time. It was very clear and bold. The other thing that was written on it was Steve’s scrawl that said Arrived 1:15, Customer Delivery at 1:45. 

Did I mention the first text was at 1:18 and by the time they had driven off – everything delivered and they were GONE – it was 1:37?

So here was my dilemma. As I say, I try to be mindful, calm, and kind, but in the moment, I kind of wanted to tear a strip off this guy. I mean, who did he think he was? First, he was a total aggressive jerk from the get-go. Second, he was asking me to sign something that wasn’t even true. Third, all the information was RIGHT THERE and he ignored it and then became irate with me! As I looked at the piece of paper, I wondered what to do.

My first instinct was to point out the error in the time, and snap at him, because at this point I had had enough. But I took a deep breath and remembered Mindfulness Exercise #10: Become Curious, Not Furious.

What if this has nothing to do with me?

In the few, probably very uncomfortable seconds in which I contemplated my reaction options, I tried to step into Steve’s place. Here was a guy, probably early sixties, driving a truck and delivering things to someone who appeared to be unconcerned with this schedule. Maybe the job really sucked, maybe he’d been doing this his whole life and was close to retirement, maybe he couldn’t retire. Maybe he was getting a divorce or his wife was sick or his kid was a junkie, I don’t know. I didn’t know one thing about him except that my not being home at 1:18 pushed him over the edge. Given the look on his young assistant’s face, this behaviour was obviously not out of the ordinary. If I refused to sign the sheet, or made a big deal about it, it would benefit me not at all but it would probably ruin his entire day, and that of his assistant’s.

In the grand scheme of things, did it really matter?

So I signed it. I looked him right in the eyes and said I am so sorry to have inconvenienced you. I hope you have a good weekend, now.

He grunted and grabbed the sheet away, getting back into his truck.

The young assistant smiled at me and wished me a good weekend, and although the entire exchange was less than satisfactory, I felt – and still feel – that becoming curious, not furious, was the best course of action. It de-escalated the situation, it allowed me to feel like I took the high road, and hopefully it made things easier for Steve and his assistant. I hope he really did have a good weekend, although I’m guessing he probably didn’t. But I did my best.


  1. That’s the kind of situation that would just wreck my day. I’m glad you found a way to say centered throughout it.

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