Some people are wired for the pause. Other people are wired to be explosive and reactive. They’re emotionally intense.
I heard this in a podcast interview with Brené Brown on my flight to New York. She had so many incredible one-liners that it took me nearly double the time to listen as I paused and scribbled them onto the side of my planner. The one-liner above is present in my daily lived experience, but I don’t think I had every heard it put so bluntly. My husband, thank goodness, is wired for the pause. I, on the other hand, have a hard GO wiring. There are perks— I can get a lot done in a little bit of time, I try to think ahead with logistics, and I can try things without attachment to outcome. I get plenty of positive reinforcement for acting quickly and intensely.
And there are drawbacks. That emotional intensity—explosion, reaction— can make me act like a brat. I can react with a sharpness or sarcasm that I’m not proud of, that impacts my relationship. I can go from angry to wanting a hug in the time it takes to flip a light switch. I can create a self-indulgent story about being wronged with little information. I don’t read the directions before I try to set up the complicated 40 piece Ikea wardrobe.
I waiver between this is who I am! Take it or leave it! and maybe it would serve me to slow down sometimes. I remember traveling in Japan a few years ago and feeling stunned by the intention. There was ritual and deliberateness in every moment of life, from how you stand in a subway line to evening bath time habits. I’m sure I did more things improperly than I’ll ever know, and I already know a lot of them— I laid under the tatami mat thinking it was a very rigid blanket, I rode public transportation wrong, I’m certain I was too loud. But I remember coming home and wanting to change. Really wanting to hold that same reverence for each moment that I saw others doing. Trying to focus on washing the dishes and laying the silverware just so, because that moment, too, mattered.
Jake and I were engaged in a heated discussion recently. I think it came after I responded mindlessly to him. Like a brat. Zero reverence/attention/awareness. He reminded me that we can’t only act on purpose for the “special” moments. Or I guess that there are no special moments. We can carry ourselves with reverence for each and every moment. Life is fleeting and fast and who knows what could happen tomorrow.
When my ego is hot and all of my defenses are up (like in the moment of proving my rightness and trying to dismiss his response as too sensitive), I can find ways to justify and downplay flippancy. I’m human! So I rolled my eyes! Who cares!
When I can temper that self-destructive (and relationship destructive) behavior, it’s so clear how right he is. Can’t I move on purpose ALWAYS? Not just once we’re fighting and I realize I need to? Brené Brown kept going: I think calm is a practice you can teach yourself. Breath is huge— breath, questions, slow.
Calm is a practice I can teach myself. I’m not compromising my personality or changing anything core to my being by learning to breathe, by choosing kindness, by being aware of my tone. When I state it so simply, it seems twisted that I could ever resist calm, resist moving on purpose.
Breathe more. Ask more questions. Move more slowly. Thank you, Jake, for always being my role model.