Yesterday was my birthday (February 18) and I am celebrating many joys – family, friends, but perhaps most importantly – me. At 54, I have come to enjoy my own company. I particularly enjoy my newfound patience in life. Perhaps my husband and kids don’t see it as clearly as I do (I’m still a bit controlling at times) but equanimity has shown its still face to me. Equanimity according to Webster’s means ‘right disposition’ or ‘evenness of mind, especially under stress’. Its synonym ’sangfroid’ literally means ‘cold-blooded’ implying a coolness of nature or self-possession under strain.
Cold-blooded is too cool hearted for the state of equanimity; it is much more even-headed and warm-hearted to me.
Where did this equanimity – this calm state of mind – arise? I think partly from age (now 54), partly from practice (yoga, meditation, contemplation), and partly from self-exploration (journaling, therapy, art). I can see clearly the multitude of states of mind we all experience in life – from extreme fear (for me a cancer scare), extreme sorrow (death of my parents), extreme joy (birth of my kids), extreme shame (childhood trauma), extremes of thought, worry, anxiety, pride, anger, jealousy, envy, etc. (I won’t go into detail) and their demise (the space between). Slowly looking across the landscape of these life experiences, I see them now as a vast range of mountains and valleys of thoughts, feelings, and actions left in my wake; my own imprints on a skyline.
These extremes of thought and feeling viewed from the vantage point of age look like a painting made from the passion and ignorance of an earlier age – vibrant in color, jagged, and textured. Now I am beginning to paint this landscape with more gentle sloping lines, pastel-filled, and warm to touch. The landscape I paint today may also be filled with haphazard growth, meandering trails, and wildlife roaming freely. And, there is an open expansion to the landscape such that I see myself as painter and part of the painting itself.
Equanimity is the state of mind revealed by the joy of patience with life that emerges from the frantic wings of flight of the 20s, 30s, and 40s to just stay aloft. In my 50s, it’s much more like gliding in a rather steady state of movement as this masterpiece painting moves toward completion.
But oh, this calm state of mind, this equanimity I have uncovered, is such a joyful way to explore the landscape and to add touches of cool, calm, and curving lines to the landscape of life.
So I wish a happy birthday to each of you celebrating yourself this time of year, and another Happy Birthday to Me.