In pursuit of equanimity

Growing up, my mama used to say, “boy I’ve got half a mind to…” you fill in the blank depending on the degree of trouble that I found myself in. That phrase, half a mind, has always intrigued me. It’s sort of like saying, a part of me wants to do this, while the other part of me wants to do that. Which is right? Which path wins? Can I do both? Now as a parent I understand better what my mother must have felt. I think she was constantly holding in tension the balance of acting purposefully in the moment, while aiming for a future result. Rarely did I ever see my mom lose her cool (which is more than what I can say for myself… I average about 2-3 parental meltdowns a day rivaling that of my three year old!). My mom on the other hand, was practicing (quite gracefully I might add), equanimity, fully using her whole mind each time.

Equanimity, which the Oxford dictionary defines as mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation feels so elusive these days. It comes from two latin words which literally translated means equal mind. Parenthood is like a moving target. Once you’ve got one phase mastered, it’s on to the next. Case in point, just when I thought I’d figured out this #girldad thing, my oldest goes and turns twelve this week and now I’ve got a middle school tween on my hands. Just when we’d established a rhythm of life in this new pandemical world, we decide to get a puppy that has upended all our routines. Something is always changing, and sometimes we’re the cause of it!

Speaking of change, I recently listened to a podcast that talked about the first day of spring, and referred to this day as the spring equinox. I wasn’t familiar with the term so upon some research, I learned that this day, along with the fall equinox are the two times in the year where we experience equal lengths day and night. Imagine that, a day for balance in time. What’s fascinating is that I knew about the winter and summer solstice, the two extreme longest and shortest days of the year. Each year in fact I look forward to them both. Makes sense though, we tend to pay attention to the extremes (or at least I do).

This got me thinking as I head into what is shaping up to be a busy spring for our family. If such a thing as equanimity could exist, what would that even look like? Perhaps this week it looked like staying out late to attend a Hawks game with my brother in law, while crashing and going to bed early the next day leaving the house a mess and a long to do list undone. I needed both the relational time to enjoy family, and the headspace to simply rest, so I pursued both. Not simultaneously, but each in their own time. There’s always work to be caught up on, a house to clean, kids to raise, bills to pay, causes to fight, relationships to tend to, things to accomplish… I’m finding that in this season, maybe equanimity for me looks like finding my whole mind, and pursuing things that matter, each in their own time.

The podcaster Emily P Freeman concludes her musings on the Spring Equinox by saying:

That elusive balance, everyone both says isn’t possible, but also tries to find, equal parts work and play, trying and trusting just enough and not too much all held in perfect balance. The more I live and pay attention, I don’t think balance of time or schedule or skill or duty is what we really want.  What we really want is balance on the inside of us.

Balance on the inside of us, now that sounds like a worthy pursuit. Mama would be proud.


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