Many moons ago, I had to stress about exams. That was all. Never had to stress about money, rent, food, no, all those things, by the Grace of God, were looked after by my parents. It was just exams. So, I did what every studious student does. Played on Atari till last day, then studied as if my life depended on it … resulting grades left much to be desired! Eventually I learnt that it was better to balance the two. Consequently grades improved, as did the quality of life. Stress, however, remained constant.
Fast forward to post school life, marriage, job and all the fun that goes with it, stress has been a constant companion. My children are old enough to embrace this companion, wonderful or not. And I, wiser to understand this companion of mine, am able to change focal point and embrace it differently.
Sometime ago, my son encountered exams for the first time. “Welcome to the world of stress,” he was told. I reflected upon his situation and concluded otherwise. It was time for discussion, but not until after the looming sword had fallen! I worked with him throughout his exams and encouraged him, gently reminding him of the privileges bestowed upon him by Canada. All praise to God who has given us shelter from fire that rages from the sky and bullets that pierce the barrier of sound and life. This of course, is a discussion for another day.
After his exams were over, we went out for a drive as we usually do and spoke about the ordeal. I wanted to understand his perception of stress. Pressure, ability to understand, comprehend and recall, wanting to stay in the top 5 percentile and other usual suspects emerged. I am sure you have been there. Then I offered a different perspective. I asked him to think about stress as an opportunity to grow, to make a difference. If the desire to grow was there, but lacked the effort, how would you grow? A blank look followed.
Addressing the blank look on his face, we spoke about how diamonds are formed. The diamonds that exist amongst our bazaars were sculptured over a period of billion years. Oil has taken millions of years to form and is now our central force for growth. Humans are similar in this regard. The more pressure, guided appropriately, better the result. If you cannot withstand pressure, you will only grow so much. If you dodge every curveball life throws at you, you will grow as far as you stand.
Stress, in my humble opinion, is a tool put on this earth by God as a gift for us to engage with and harness its ability to commence greatness. I encouraged him to ponder how he could have improved his previous experience and we discussed a few changes. Perhaps sleep earlier and wake earlier to meditate and study with the first burst of fresh oxygen pumped in the air. Well, okay, that is not happening. We discussed importance of managing time, and I welcomed the ‘aha’ look. Managing time is of critical importance, a lesson I learnt while playing PacMan one night before Physics exam. Ability to manage your time and priorities amiably can lead to great things. In my humble and very limited experience, time management + ability to focus on one things at a time = stress management.
I have now begun to apply this principle in everyday life and have watched stress and anxiety facilitate my growth towards becoming a better person, a better father, and a better husband. While too early to gauge, repeated doses of such discussions with children would result in similar outcome.
I leave you with the wisdom that was parted on my children and me by Master Oogway. In his words:
“Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”
Till we meet again, speak kindly, love always, stay in peace.