Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Presence

When I was in graduate school, there was a time when I felt such a weight of stress on my shoulders that I was beginning to see myself as an unhappy person. I was having trouble sleeping, complaining all the time, snapping at everyone. It was not the way I wanted to live. I asked a friend for some advice, and she told me something that I've never forgotten...she said, "Be an un-anxious presence."

I've thought about this phrase a's like a motto, a quote to model my life after. For example, when I enter a room full of people, do they think, "Good! Look who's here!" or do they wonder, "Uh-oh...what kind of mood will SHE be in today?" I want to be a presence that makes everyone comfortable. I want to calm tensions, not add to them. My sister-in-law, L, has this down to a science. She's a natural at being un-anxious. No matter how late she's running, or what crisis is going on in the room, she never loses her cool. I can imagine her saying something like, "You know what? You need to put that fire out, and then go to your room. That was not a good decision. Get going, you know where we keep the fire extinguisher."

It is not in my nature to be un-anxious. I remember my music teacher in elementary school scolding me for worrying aloud about another student who was late to class. My kindergarten report card grades me down for trying to finish the projects of other children. But I strive, and sometimes even succeed, to be calm when I really want to explode. I did make it through grad school, through the exams and the edits, all the red pen marks, without having a breakdown. Sometimes I'm even proud of how I keep my cool with E, or confrontational students at work, or a computer that hates me.

I don't even know if un-anxious is a word, but this simple phrase has really helped me be a better person, sometimes. I keep it written on a sticky note in my office...too bad I didn't have it stuck to my forehead when I was going through a bad break-up or planning my wedding! Oh well. No body's presence is perfect all the time! I'm sure even L has lost her cool...but I'll bet she never threw someone's Christmas present at them during a fight. Yes, I actually did that. It was a lacrosse stick. Don't judge me. That was before I had the sticky note.


Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr