Wait a minute. I’ve been writing about equanimity for weeks. Hailing it. Paying tribute to those who display it. Wanting to be known for it in my own life. Then I go and completely blow it. What the heck happened?
I started out calm. Determined to display some measure of that admirable quality my father taught me for times like this. Then my heart started to speed up a little. My jaw tightened. But, no problem. It was a phone conversation. No one could see that I was clenching my teeth. I did notice that I was talking a little faster than usual, but I couldn’t seem to slow myself down. My speech was keeping perfect rhythm with the sledge hammer inside my chest. Like a variable metronome. And then I heard myself. The sound of my voice. The pitch, the volume.
I was clearly losing it, and before I could do a thing about it, all equanimity had completely escaped me. Not that I had that much to begin with, but I wanted to stay calm. I intended to. I tried. Doesn’t that count for anything? Of course it does, and good for us when we’re motivated by admirable qualities and good intentions. Even when we fail. It just means we need more practice. More patience. More kindness toward ourselves. And that’s what I’m trying to do.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I’m so late learning so many things. Mortifying, in fact. But in order to defeat the shame of it, I’m practicing equanimity and empathy. I’m choosing to scan my faults gently and practice kindly words * when I blow it. I’m learning to be honest and vulnerable, and to ask for help or advice when I need it. I’m reminding myself that there’s always a space between admiring a quality in others and developing it in our own lives. It’s why we need to let others into the process with us. We were never meant to attempt it alone in the first place.
I had no idea that vulnerability could bring such utter relief. That it would actually help me feel safe and calm. Just like I had no idea until I wrote this blog post that the KEEP CALM poster was designed in 1939. Why did I not know that? How did I get to be my age and not know that the original purpose of this simple message was to bolster the morale and courage of the British when they were facing the threat of air raids and war?
Somehow I completely missed that little piece of history. And I’m actually quite calm as I admit my embarrassment. I may be late learning a few things in my life, but what a thrill to realize that every time I choose to share something vulnerable or admit something embarrassing, I’m declaring war on shame.
And the power of a simple message becomes a victory for us all as we collectively KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON in the face of universal struggles and great battles.
* Aequanimitas, Sir William Osler