Monday, March 9, 2009 @ 21:40:41
Equanimity - (1) evenness of mind especially under stress; (2) right disposition: balance, harmony
I've had several performance reviews over the years in which my supervisors have commented on my outgoing nature and my equanimity. They love that I remain calm under pressure and keep a positive outlook even when others tend to despair.
This strikes me as funny.
As a kid, I was extremely shy. I hid behind my mother's skirt and tended to shy away from conversation, preferring instead to read, draw, observe, and watch other people.
I was also anxious. I stressed about everything. A sideways glance from a teacher made me wonder if I had failed my test. Piano recitals were horrific. I stressed about my family's financial troubles after my dad's car wreck. I stressed about what would happen if my cat died, whether I had loved on him enough, and if he knew how much I loved him. As a late bloomer, I stressed about when my boobs when arrive. Flute auditions could send my colon into spasms. I fretted about maintaining good grades to get into a great college one day. I agonized and threw a temper tantrum when my mother told me I couldn't be a crossing guard in the fifth grade. I was sure that it would keep me from being seen as a high achiever. I worked myself into a tizzy and had frequent bouts of stomach upset that went unexplained at the time (at least to me), but which I now realize were stress-related. While I was always a good student, I had the tendency to procrastinate. This caused even more stress, as I constantly operated in last-minute mode.
As I got older, I noticed the ease with which my father and certain friends navigated the social terrain - how they put people at ease and made them smile. I studied them. I tried to emulate these traits. This was extremely stressful at first, but it gradually got easier. I sought out opportunities to push myself beyond my comfort zone, whether that be public performances, leadership roles, or living in a foreign language dorm in which I was only allowed to speak French.
Time passed, and one day I realized that many people saw me as an extrovert. I felt like an extrovert. This was totally contrary to my earlier self-image. This was huge. This meant that I had succeeded, at least in that moment, in my efforts to mitigate my natural tendencies. More importantly, I was feeling less stress as a result. This meant that I had the emotional bandwidth to exude positivity. Most of the time.
I still get stressed. My brain sometimes keeps me up at night. I can turn the smallest health symptom into a terminal disease thanks to the internet. I wonder if I'm giving my dogs enough attention. I still get fighting mad on occasion. The DNA I inherited from my father's side of the family means that I am hard-wired to love a good fight. I enjoy dealing with poor customer service issues - it's a twisted outlet for this energy. The difference is that I have developed ways to address the situation, manage the stress, and alter my response.
I cannot control other people or many things that might happen in this life, but I can choose my response. I can choose to remain calm or fly off the handle. I can choose to allow my heart rate to skyrocket in response to stress, or I can stop, take a few deep breaths, and move on. I can pick my battles. I can choose to see change as an opportunity and hardship as a challenge. I can choose to smile and enjoy the effect it has on me and those around me. My focus determines my reality.
Equanimity - the perpetual search for calm and balance - it has its benefits. A colleague recently told me that, because I'm so calm, he cannot read me very well, and that I would probably send him to the poorhouse if we ever played poker.
You know what? He's probably right.