If anyone is still out there after my long spring break hiatus, here is the update...We had snow on the ground when I left for the West Coast. My trip was postponed for a day because all the flights out of Postdoc City were cancelled. It took me hours on the phone to try to get a flight out the next day.
Still, since I had already planned to return on Monday, I got a full week off and thoroughly soaked in the relaxation, caught up with friends and family, and had a fabulously long, guilt-free break. I noticed how much calmer I felt on the flight back than I did on the way in. I tend to get wound up and nervous when I am flying.
On the way back, as I was checking in for my flight, a very stressed-out ticket agent was helping a woman with three children to check in for her flight. She was no longer thinking clearly, and, as a small example of her skewed thinking, asked the woman who was dressed in a hejab if she was traveling with a passport for a domestic flight after she had already given her a driver's license that identified her as a U.S.citizen. It was obvious to everyone (but herself) that the ticket agent was in a state of panic, for no apparent reason. I realized that I am a stressed woman much of the time, I spend a lot of time feeling wound up and nervous instead of relaxing and doing what I have to do calmly.
On the trip, I caught up with a few friends, one of whom is a super-woman who has landed an enviable job in academia, is married and has a two year old daughter. It has been a year since she finished her PhD (while her husband was away for work and she was the only person watching her daughter.) My sister, who also has a young daughter asked how college friend can balance all these responsibilities. College friend humbly replied, "badly," but actually, she is doing great. My sister observed that she is very calm about everything. I think that's a keen observation on her part, and something I hadn't noticed about my own friend. Maybe calmness is under-appreciated in academia, where everyone is hyped up on coffee, perfectionist, and mostly nervous. Not necessarily qualities that improve one's work, as ecogeofemme recently noted.
I don't think my own nervous perfectionism helps my productivity. If anything, it makes me slow down because of panic-induced poor thinking. Now that I am feeling relaxed, I want to make it a priority to maintain this state of mind, planning time to meditate and exercise. I have no doubt that this state of mind makes me a better Alice, I just couldn't have figured this out if I wasn't relaxed in the first place.