Emotional Dimes and Expectations

Dedicated to the Baucks, who shared this analogy with me during my first week in country.

You get 10 emotional dimes each day.

No matter what happens, you don’t get any more.

You can choose how to spend them.

So when it takes two hours to get a new bank account, you may spend a dime or two or three. But you may will almost certainly hit traffic on the way home, on which you may spend a dime or two or three. And you may want to make a new recipe but cannot find an ingredient for it. Your washing machine may break. You may have trouble unlocking the gate with your arms full of groceries.


If you have spent three emotional dimes on each of the first three issues, you will have trouble on the fourth one and lose.your.mind. on the fifth one.

So when the gate becomes your undoing, you are probably out of emotional dimes. You may not borrow from tomorrow, either. (You’ll probably need them then anyway!)

I find this analogy helpful for life anywhere, but it’s especially helpful in a new culture where there’s a lot I don’t know. When I adjust my expectations, I need fewer emotional dimes for the little things. If you expect to hit traffic, there’s no surprise (and fewer dimes spent).

It has also been helpful to think about the things that require emotional energy from me that may or may not require as much from someone else. I can only be me, so I’m learning to plan my spending well!

2 thoughts on “Emotional Dimes and Expectations

  1. I also prefer to think about introversion and extroversion in similar terms, simply called “People Dollars.” Introverts like people, but social interaction just costs more people dollars, whereas extroverts look at social interaction like a pay day. Sometimes you just don’t have the dollars and other times, it’s okay to spend a little bit. But when you’re out of dimes and dollars, it’s time to go home! 🙂

  2. I like this a lot. With Vienna here this week (we moved her stuff to the Bandon apartment today), it was fascinating to see her emotional dimes disappearing as she assumed some of my resonsibilities with the kids. By Wednesday night (0 dimes left) I sent her off to Bible study with the least frustrating kid as an “escape”, while I stayed home and put the two stinkers to bed. It was fun to see myself mirrored in her, so I feel more “normal” about my frustration level. I am getting up to go collect 10 dimes as a visual reminder right now. Thanks Angela 🙂

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