Sunday, May 6, 2012

Elusive Equanimity

Equanimity means being OK with What Is. For me, it's pretty elusive. Not an hour goes by where I don't have some opinion on something. 

Being OK with What Is, is a tenet of yoga. 

I have a yoga class twice a week from one of the best yoga people I know. I met her when she subbed for one of the other best teachers I've ever had. I know, I hit the lottery. Guess what? I still manage to feel guilty for not going back to the first teacher. My reasons are excellent reasons and if I were my own best friend, I'd tell me to just let the guilt go. . .

When I don't go to class for yoga, I'm practicing a little at home in the morning or at the end of the day to wind up or wind down for the day. 

Practicing yoga. Practicing ... that sort of implies imperfection and acceptance with the process. That we are constantly evolving. 

The irony is not lost on me that I practice something that actively reminds me to be OK with What Is. 

Things that take time do well with equanimous spirits, people who are Zen. Thus, I do not deign to own an equanimous spirit, so I fake it.  I can feel my back molars grind into each other actually as I type this. I hate denial. 

Release. Breathe. Let it go. 

OK. So, while I said that Equanimity means being OK with What Is; that's sorta the tip of the iceberg. It's not just being OK with What Is, but being OK with What Is at all times, the easy times and the hard times.  

How many of you are OK with What Is at all times? 

Webster's says this: 
equanimity |ˌēkwəˈnimitē; ˌekwə-|

mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation : she accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity.
equanimous |iˈkwänəməs| adjective
ORIGIN early 17th cent. (also in the sense ‘fairness, impartiality’ ): from Latin aequanimitas, from aequus ‘equal’ + animus ‘mind.’

I realize, as I've matured (clearly I'm not equanimous about age) that I've selected pastimes that are far from immediately satisfying. 

I've given birth to three boys. BREATHE. 

I've recently taken up knitting. Again. Breathe. 

I have a fish tank, two cats and one beloved dog who truly, is my bestest bud on four feet. 

I have decided to write a book. Several actually, they're all in different stages of maturity. One's about motherhood; another is about a woman named Miriam and her transformation through illusion with the aide of therapy and a patient husband (sound familiar?); and another is about a pretty lost dude, its inspiration came after a long afternoon with my beloved cousins last summer. Which one do you want to hear about most? Really! Tell me and I'll get cracking. 

I garden. Anyone who gardens must be the equanimous type, right? 'Cause gardening takes time, patience and totally being OK with What Is.

I think my parents and brothers and anyone who knew me in a professional capacity would never describe me as being equanimous at my essence and I agree with them. I like results. I am detail oriented. I have an extremely driven personality. If you ever hired me to get your whatever done, you know it's gotten done. My work reviews were mostly "Consistently Exceeded Expectations" because I was like a dog on a hunt: motivated and insanely focused. I often remember my MCI corporate communications days when I'd relish hearing executives saying, "Don't tell me about BCDEFandG and all the rest; it doesn't matter... I want to hear about XYZ. Now." I'd be the one in the background "woof-woof"-ing (a lá Arsenio Hall) "That's right! She wants the reSULTS! y'all! Get going!"  In short, I don't let people down. 

Back to equanimity. Back to What Is.

As I said, another pastime is my garden. OMIGAWD I love my garden. Don't ask me any of the latin names, or the botanical breakdowns. I couldn't care less about phyla or kingdoms or whatever. Just show me what's annual, what works in shade, in acidic soil and I'm there. I like their street names: hosta "blue elephant's ear" (LOVE IT!), stripey, variegated this and that, daylily and the rest.  

Similar to just about everyone but the dead-for-a-long-time Dorothy Parker, I come alive in springtime. I love the leaves, with their translucent newness. The smell of dirt that wafts from under the leaves broken by fern and forest perennials is better than any fresh-brewed coffee.  I come alive with gardening in the spring. This particular hobby, fancy, interest, obsession, is one that takes practice, timing and being OK with the fact that you might not know what the heck you're doing. I've killed a ton of plants by placing them in the wrong places or overwatering. It is a hobby that completely demands equanimity. 

"Demands equanimity." There's an irony. 

It demands equanimity because as a farmer, a true farmer, knows: mother nature is the ultimate decider. She says when it's gonna rain, when it's gonna shine, or frost; when it's gonna be dry or cloudy. She says so. As farmers, they know: there is no guarantee and there are no promises. So we must be OK with What Is. 

Even if What Is means no crops. Even if What Is means too much rain. 

Even if What Is means everything's OK, because if you're anything like me: even when everything's OK, you wonder when it won't be anymore. That's a painful reminder of life: even though everything's OK, we humans have a tendency to screw it all up by considering that somewhere, something's not OK and then therefore, we should do something about it.  


Therein lies the equanimity. We must **MUST** be OK with What Is. Even if it's hideous or awful (as I hear sirens joined by other sirens in the distance, quick, say a prayer). Because you know why? It will be OK. One way or another: peace will come. Possibly in a way we might not prefer, but peace will come. 

Here's another way of looking at it: if whatever is happening is happening and you aren't OK with it... is being not OK with it going to change it? Chances are: no. If it's something like a tablecloth off center or a song being just not right, pause and think. If you're doing that all the time? It's you. It's not the circumstances. So let it go. Be equanimous.

 . . .

It's Sunday night and I've blissfully spent almost every possible free moment in my gardens this weekend. Friday I went with my neighbor/bff/buddy to the local nursery and dropped little over a hundy on some annuals and vegetable (eggplant, beans, burpless cukes, and beans) plants for our actual vegetable garden that my husband Dan tends with Thing 3 who is 8. The rest was flowers in those little 4-packs. About 78 of those single guys. 

I planted them all that afternoon. I couldn't stop myself. It rained. I dug. It poured. I planted. It thundered. I counted. It lightening-ed. I went inside. 

Waiting.... Waiting... checking the sky. 

Is it clear?  Clouds. 

Did it stop? No coronas pinging off the pavement.  

Can I go? It's quiet. 

Ok. Let's try...

I have tennis elbow again. This time in my left (dominant) arm.  Equanimity raises her head. It's hard to be a gardener with this condition. Tennis elbow afflicts the motion for dishwasher unloading (tragic, I know) but more importantly, it affects weed plucking and dirt combing and plant moving. Equanimity has sort of lost her fashionability right now. I have decided that because I love gardening more than I love unloading the dishwasher, that I will save the pain for the appliance and wince through the gardening.  I am OK with What Is and I'm defiant.

Gardening for me is a passion, a vice that I find hard to resist. I love splitting hostas, dividing peonies, liriope, ferns, bugloss (are you still with me?), lilies, irises, forget-me-nots, astilbe, lily-of-the-valley, bleeding hearts, nandina and wild violets. Yes, if you're still with me, you can probably figure out by now that I have a shade garden for the most part. 

the fiddlerhead of an unfurling fern

As I've said, "I love plants that make their own babies!" 

bleeding hearts, aren't they wonderful? 

we are not in this gig, life, alone: even this peony needs an ant to help him / her along. and it takes TIME... about 3 weeks from first ant sighting to bloom: there's a lot of trust required. 

When we moved into this house almost 12 years ago, the back yard was nothing like it is now. It had 18 tree stumps, almost no grass, a white, plastic, scalloped border around every tree and in the corners. That was awful: I wanted the trees to be like a parkland: in the grass, part of the experience. Setting them off? That was just weird. The yard also had very compacted soil and a single bed of shade-loving annuals along the back fence and a ton of random planters placed upside-down to cover the tree stumps. 

Since 2000, we have upgraded the backyard to be a very nice, lush and cozy place. Of the last two years, the Field Family botanical campaign of has been: Operation Decorum, Screen Shirtless Mike. We have endeavored through non-deciduous means to build an evergreen screen along the fence-line that separates us from our neighbor, "Shirtless Mike." 

The neighbor, "Shirtless Mike" has been our backyard guy for the whole time. We call him "SM" because well, he doesn't wear a shirt. Ever. He's in pretty good shape, but c'mon, it's sorta ridiculous. He just had a bypass last December. My Australian neighbor who moved away, used to call him "Mr. Big'n'Chesty." While he's a pretty decent guy and he's nice to my kids, I'll never forget what he said to me the first time we met when I was seven months pregnant with Thing 2. Thing 1 was doing his best drunken sailor / toddler routine through the new yard. We were taking a break from unpacking and our dog, Maggie, was relieving herself, trotting and sniffing.  Shirtless Mike said as he gestured his arm to shake over the fence and into our domain, "Hello. Nice to meet you. She [the former owner] kept it real clean." 

I felt like saying, "What clean? This backyard? This wasteland? This dustbowl of dead grass and holes, her rusting swing set (that we replaced with a wooden one), the 70-year-old double-leader red oak in the driveway that's got a hole the size of my husband's jelly cupboard in it, or that decomposing red wagon she left behind that's covering three tree stumps? Or could it be that you're referring to her complete lack of the botanic aesthetic? No problem. I'll just let my golden retriever shit all over the dirt and maybe something will come up." What I said instead was, "Oh, yes. Well, I'm pregnant, we've just moved in and we have a boy and a dog. We will do what we can cough*asshole*cough."   

our well-loved swingset

I've been known to appropriately cough*asshole*cough at just about any asshole deserving of it. Just ask my friends.

I should have considered the source. This guy has all of his gardens, excuse me, hosta of one variety only behind retaining walls. Which of course makes sense if you're on a slope, but we're not. In fact, everything is behind a retaining wall. Even his shirts, I'm guessing. He clearly likes things Just So. Especially that stack of mulch bags that he keeps in his yard for six months and the dying crabapple tree in his front yard.  His retaining walls have retaining walls. I've heard he works for the CIA. So if I'm silent for a really long time, I'm either finally committing to my book(s) or I'm in one of his gardens, behind a retaining wall, likely the one nearest the mulch bags under the brick landing he has beneath his bird feeder to keep seeds from germinating. 

So much for equanimity. It is elusive. 

Who was it? Frost who said "Good fencing makes for good neighbors."? He was brilliant. My natural screen fencing will take years to grow, but that is part of its charm; it is teaching me to be equanimous. 

So here I am (actually truly on my deck) overlooking over my .23 acre domain with my buddy neighbor at 1 o'clock and I know that when I have her and my other friend, that Crazy Broad from Queens around, I'm equanimous because they force me to be so. They remind me to my face: This Is What It Is. Deal. 

And when I have my garden around, I have no choice. When I have my kids around, I must be OK with what is or if I'm not, take a pulse from the Team and friends to see what we need to do to bring any one of them back. I'm learning, from my garden to be equanimous because I have no choice. 

Equanimity eventually wins. Right?!

Which begs the question then: who's elusive? Is it equanimity? Or is it me? Cough*shutup*cough. I know. It's me.  

I can hear a neighbor mowing their lawn in the dark. It's 8:50 now. The sun set an hour ago. 

The garden beds will turn out OK or they won't. They tomatoes, basil, cukes, eggplant (I know! Come over and we'll nosh!) will grow or they won't. I think they might. I've never grown eggplant before; I'll let you know.  As for the kids, we've got plenty of >fleeting!< time. They will behave or they won't. The bottom line is that I have to be OK with it and work when it doesn't. 

The thing is: it's spring! It's time for renewal so everyone gets a pass, a mulligan. It's what we do with this renewal, this mulligan, that matters. Do we squander and repeat? Or do we truly grow, with the luscious breaths of equanimity, and move on? 

But I've figured part of this out: I'm elusive; equanimity is right here like she always has been. 

Thank you. 


  1. LOVE this post…absolutely love it! I think I'm just gonna have to link to it on my FB page :).


    1. Hey Carrie! Thank you for your comments! I saw that you also linked on your page; that was very kind. I appreciate your support. Equanimity is a quest of mine. I also fixate on the irony: wondering if I'm equanimous ... if I wonder, I'm not OK with What Is. Oy! :) thanks again! -molly


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