Pressure

I’ve been a HUGE fan of Billy Joel ever since I was a teenager.  The complex tunes he plays on the piano (one of my favorite instruments), combined with very thought-provoking lyrics just sings to me.  There are one or two of his songs that get played so often that I’ve become less enamored of them, but by and large, he’s “da bomb” in my estimation.

The other day, his song “Pressure” came through my mp3 player, and the words got me thinking about what constitutes as pressure to different people.  The whole song postulates on how pressure happens to us all, but suggests you might not be able to deal with it if your life was a cake walk up to that point . . .

“. . . you have no scars on your face, and you can not handle pressure . . .”

There are some that believe you’re less able to handle stressful things later in life if you had a relatively “easy” childhood.  Then there are others that follow the nature vs nurture argument.  Philosophers such as Plato and Descartes believed that much of a person’s character was something they were born with, not a result of happenings throughout his/her life.

For the most part, I tend to agree with the great philosophers.  I can see how some things that happen to us can help to bring about certain characteristics that may have lain dormant, but ultimately, it seems to me that we’re either born with an innate ability to handle tense situations, or we’re not.  Heck, some people even thrive on stress.

For a time, I used to wait until the last minute to do something.  Whether it was my daily chores, or a book report, I’d leave it until the last possible moment to get it done.  Looking back on those times I’m not certain exactly why I put things off as long as I did.  Was I lazy, and only motivated by the possibility of getting into trouble, or was there some part of me that thrived on the adrenaline coursing through my veins when I gave myself, say, thirty minutes to do an hour-long task?

Pressure means something different for everyone, and we all handle the various levels in different ways.  Maya Angelou said:

“. . . you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights . . .”

That may be very true, but I think there are often other factors involved.  I tend to be a relatively easy-going person, but I’ve had days where one thing piles on top of another, and so on, and so forth, until that missing baggage would be the final straw to send me over the edge.  Or, maybe a widow is having her first Christmas without her husband, who normally handled the tangled lights.  Depending on where she was in her cycle of grief, she might not be able to handle them with much aplomb.

But back to Mr. Joel and his ruminations on pressure.  I do think there might be something to the thought that, the more trials and tribulations you’ve dealt with in your life, the easier it is to deal with any larger ones that might crop up later.  A friend of mine just moved to Tokyo, and has been talking about how calmly everyone seems to take the resultant tremors that still course through that area.  He says they’re so used to them, that they don’t seem to even notice them much.

On the other hand, I know people who have had relatively carefree childhoods who get really angry over things like a store being out of stock on a sale item they really wanted.  They don’t have a hairy conniption over it, but they tend to view it as a much bigger ordeal than I would.

To a certain degree, I think it’s wonderful when someone has a relatively drama-free youth, but I also see how it might be a disservice to them and their ability to handle bigger issues.  It’s like our body’s immune system . . . we need certain “bad” cells so that our bodies can learn the best way to fight against them.  Friedrich Nietzsche said it quite succinctly:

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”

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16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 10:03:31

    What happens if it does kill us, did we learn? lol I’m one who doesn’t enjoy pressure. I have waited until the last minute to do things, but I don’t get off on the stress adrenaline. I just think I’m a member of the Procrastinators Club. ;}

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Mar 25, 2011 @ 10:15:23

      Yeah, I don’t like the stress of putting things off anymore. Especially since doing so adds extra stress with thinking about what you’re putting off…ugh! As for learning even if something kills us…I believe that’s what reincarnation is all about, right? 😉

      Reply

  2. E. B. Davis
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 10:23:45

    Yes, my father always said, “Adversity is what makes you.” After which, I wanted to slug him because he was an adversity carrier. I agree with everything that you said Alyx, but all things come in degrees of severity. Hearts and spirits can be broken. For some, lasting scars restrict their ability to respond positively to stress. If not too radical, a person may benefit from youthful challenges, enabling them to deal creatively with pressure. There isn’t a definitive answer, and yet, I question judging people in pressure situations. You may find out something about a person under stress, but reserve judgment because you never know the backstory until it’s revealed. Hope your bicycle accident injuries are better!

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Mar 25, 2011 @ 10:33:22

      I totally agree with you, EB, about being too quick to judge someone who’s under stress. We humans are complex creatures, & each of us has the breadth of emotions & traits living inside of us, & to assume you know a person’s character because you’ve seen her/him in one circumstance is a huge disservice to them. That’s why I made my amendments to Ms. Angelou’s quote.

      My leg is feeling much better. Thank you so much for checking. &, thank you for stopping by today. 🙂

      Reply

  3. Craig
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 11:11:07

    Yes, I am one of those people who led a stress-free childhood. Oddly enough, I was the one people went to for advice. So I definitely related to the line in ‘Pressure’ where Billy sings, “…with your Peter Pan advice..”
    Now that I’m an adult, I have, what I consider, much more pressure. And I agree with Alyx when she talks about some people’s pressure being insignificant compared with other people’s pressure. On a scale of 1 – 10 of the pressure scale, even if someone else’s situation would be a 4 on your scale, it could be a 10 on their own, and cause them every bit of tension and anxiety as one of YOUR 10’s. That’s why I like another line Billy put into that song… “You’ll have to answer to your OWN… pressure!”

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Mar 25, 2011 @ 11:18:44

      Nicely said, Craig. I re read all the lyrics again when writing this one up, & there really are so many good points Billy made in that song. However, I wasn’t trying to say anyone’s pressure is insignificant, but rather point out the differences in what each of us perceives as stress. Like so many things in life, pressure is entirely subjective, which ties in very nicely with the lyric you quoted. 🙂

      Thanks for posting today, babe.

      Reply

  4. Dana
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 11:12:15

    I used to joke about having a tombstone engraving that said “That which did not make me stronger finally killed me.”

    Too funny you wrote about this today – I just got off phone with my work ‘coach’ and the subject of the day was how to identify stress reactions and replace with calm response instead!

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Mar 25, 2011 @ 11:21:04

      LOL Wow, Dana. I could make some pithy comment about your work “coach” & I being in cahoots, but it’s definitely interesting that it seems to be your focus for today. Good luck with that.

      &, I LOVE the epitaph! That’s great. 🙂

      Reply

  5. Maddy
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 11:14:44

    Yes, I know what you mean. Although strangely it’s often the little things that knock me over the top- the straw and the camel come to mind. But on the whole a positive attitude and a sense of humor can take you a long way.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Mar 25, 2011 @ 11:24:27

      It’s weird when it’s the little things that push us over the edge, isn’t it, Maddy? Whenever I look closely at those times, I find that it’s not just one little thing, but rather a conglomeration of “little things” that add up to one huge ordeal. Any one of those, when dealt with on its own, wouldn’t be a bother. But, put two or five or twelve of them together, & it can definitely attack your day & mood.

      But you’re right…a sense of humor is invaluable during those times. Too bad we can’t always find it then.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply

  6. Ellis Vidler
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 15:01:03

    I had a very happy childhood, but I think my reaction to pressure correlates directly to the amount of sleep I’ve had.

    Deadlines drive me though. They hang over me and even when I wait till late to start, I just have to meet them. Interesting blog. It’s making me think about how I handle things.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Mar 25, 2011 @ 15:35:27

      Thanks for stopping by, Ellis. I agree, sleep can be a large factor in how one handles stress/pressure. I know I become a “cranky baby” if I’m feeling sleep deprived. My fiance & I joke about how I might as well rub my eyes & exclaim “I’m NOT tired!” in my best five year-old pouty voice when those times occur. 🙂

      Reply

  7. Kaye George
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 22:13:46

    I guess there are some people who bend and bend and bend, and there are those who break. It’s hard to tell ahead of time which ones are which, too. People constantly surprise me, anyway.

    I did a panel with Darynda Jones at LCC on Sunday and she mentioned a person who wrote a book, got an agent, and got published–all with very little trouble. Then she fell apart at her first negative review. So the years of rejections I’ve dealt with, as most writers have, may actually serve a purpose! Preparing us for bad reviews. 🙂

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Mar 29, 2011 @ 05:09:35

      So, I guess…”Yay, rejections”? LOL Yeah, I know that I’ve gotten a little stronger with each rejection. So, hopefully it won’t hurt too much when I see that first bad review.

      Hope you enjoyed LCC, Kaye. I heard from someone else who just got back & said it was great.

      Thanks for stopping by, today! 🙂

      Reply

  8. Kaye George
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 06:44:06

    You’re welcome, Alyx. I had a terrific time at LCC!

    Reply

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