The chickens we eat are therapods, descended from the same family as T-Rex. When times get tough someone who needs “a lot” struggles and someone who needs less suddenly thrives, or at least survives.
In life, the moments we expect to be great, graduations, careers, weddings, births, parties, often let us down, they are often unexpectedly of small significance to our life overall. Whereas the small moments are sometimes the great ones that stay in our hearts like treasures.
My wedding was not the biggest, but it was a lot of planning and stress and some money, conversely, there was a day my husband and I took our dog to a golf course and let her run free and played with her, she ran in wild circles, happy as a bird on the wing. I wouldn’t trade my memory of being free and relaxed and happy with my husband (when we took the dog to play) for anything, but I wouldn’t mind forgetting our actual wedding day…
Real life is a mystery and real people behind the mask become interesting and subtly unique.
I’ve been wanting to live an intentional life this year, been wanting to clear my head, ground myself in the Earth, in the vast universe, in the beautiful ancient starlight that bathes the plants at night, but I haven’t really.
My head is just clearing again, not the clearest, but at least with some amount of clarity above 0%.
What I intended to do was review the same stoic quotes I did last year, one each week.
But I couldn’t even. I didn’t forget, I just couldn’t even.
But it’s not horrible, because I didn’t do what I wanted because I was giving the mental energy and time I had to a worthy cause.
Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Yeah, realistically sometimes what doesn’t matter more comes first, yet since reading this, the words give me power to try harder to get my priorities correct for me and live by my own values.
That’s one thing Martin Luther King Jr and I have in common, he lived by his values everyday, his were not mine, and I am not him. But I also do my best to LIVE my values not just TALK or THINK about them. It’s not always a huge event, but internally it makes a huge difference to me.
I’m always exploring new values, because my values are not static, I learn about life, I try something new, it works or it doesn’t. It’s a free life, it’s expansive, but it’s also turbulent and draining. Not having a pattern to sew a dress or pants usually means wasting a lot of fabric and I waste/use a lot of effort compared to other people who are more “set in their ways” but I’m also happier with a really low amount of anxiety on average. Because I “lay off” a lot of things that cause anxiety when I can as soon as I can (sometimes I can’t, but often I can).
In an ideal year I would have reflected on these four quotes already, maybe talked about them with my kids already brainstorming how to explain them to a 1 and 5 year old, preferably with visual or kinetic examples…
But in real life I’m starting where I wanted to be mentally 17 days late.
Because I wanted to get my daughter some treatment for her neurological condition and that took so much energy it’s not easy to explain, time wise it didn’t affect us so much, but getting and meeting a new doctor, exploring 9 different options, going over her life with a fine toothed comb to help determine what is going on, getting a diagnosis I had never heard of before (sensory processing disorder), adjusting myself to knowing what to expect and what my daughter goes through, adjusting myself to the rest of the family, trying to fill them in on what I know without them having had physiology or any neurology background, trying to make life work with 2 kids who want more than I can give in a burnt out state… I protected what mattered to me, for once my priorities were straight, and even though exhausted, it’s a triumphant kind of exhausted, even though burnt out it’s a hopeful for the future kind of burnt out…
I’m not perfect, I won’t be EVER, learning this at a visceral level has set part of my soul free.
I also want to set the past on fire and forget it, but I don’t know if it’s true the past has important lessons or if it’s just a weight that holds me underwater? I don’t know my own answer about that yet.
Anyways, the way the stoic quotes (as listed by Willem Van Zyl on Coach.me) randomly fall when applied to the year January (named for Juno queen of the Roman Gods) starts with:
1. “While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing … is ours, except time.”– Seneca (the Senator Philosopher)
2. “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”– Marcus Aurelius (the Emperor Philosopher)
3. “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.”– Epictetus (the Slave Philosopher)
4. “Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”– Seneca (the Senator Philosopher)
1. “While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing … is ours, except time.” – Seneca
The first quote is a good fit for New Years, sometimes one can rush through life feeling like our jobs or someone else owns our time (in my case it feels like my kids own it, since I spend it choosing to care for them).
Sometimes it feels like we don’t have time, but “time is all we have” in that we can’t buy things with money without spending the time to browse and buy, we can’t use the things we own simply because we own them, without having the “free time” off of work and then using the time to use those things. Time is a key that all things are accessed with, it’s like insulin that allows sugar into our cells to feed us. To buy we need money and time both, to dance we need energy and time both. Time is kind of the most precious thing we will ever have, but it’s so overwhelming to live with that gravity that it’s easier to turn away from that truth and think either we have all the time in the world or no time at all, both of which are wrong. Those of us living still have 24 hours each day. Not 0, not a life time. Each day we have 24 cubes of time. Our body needs most of it back, sleeping takes a third more or less, working takes a third more or less, of the last third eating and washing, laundry and dishes take some, what is left becomes scarce… different than money, because it isn’t interchangeable. No one can loan you time to live in a normal scenario and you can’t gift someone else time to live in a normal scenario. Do parents give life to children or does God? That I’m not sure. Because some people want children so much and never have them… it seems outside the hands of parents, but I’m not sure. As a parent it felt like it wasn’t me giving anything, but more of being a witness to a miracle that is pretty far from being fully described as of now by science.
I probably needed that lesson, but reviewing it today was the best I could do this year. I’ve been missing things left and right and forgetting things and avoiding making a new set of daily habits for quite sometime. Sometimes parenting gets harder and I take 2 steps back, other times it gets easier and I load up so many “enrichment” activities that when it gets harder again, I can’t bear the same load.
Anyways, summary of quote 1, “in one sense, time is ALL you ever really have.”
January Week 1 in Summary:
2. “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
This quote was meant for the second week 1-3 to 1-9, it has been the overarching source of emotional strength I turn to when things go wrong. When a family member takes something the wrong way and sulks, when I cut my finger in the beginning of the day, when my kids tell me to die if I can’t get them a pet golden dragon (which I can’t), when a boisterous lady feels like cursing at me while my child has a fit downtown when the baby dragon toy she wanted to buy is gone… and I have to carry her out screaming and kicking and I’m telling her to stop, because it is more than enough for me and I have the parental choice of saying stop or sitting in the middle of the sidewalk and trying to talk someone through a melt down that has never and may never respond like some street lady expects her to respond. The misunderstandings, small cuts, annoying “townies”, childhood meltdowns, culture clashes, the stress of my husband moving, the stress of social distancing, those things are out of my hands. What I have power over is if I take a moment to see how I feel (using Bitmoji to journal it easily), if I beat myself up for not being what I or other people want me to be, if I make a healthy metric for what I can even really do in a given day with two kids (yes some other mom can do X with 2 kids, but what I can do is not necessarily what she can do).
I have power over, if I’m on my side, if I take a moment to see how I feel so I can at least monitor burn out since I was too late to prevent it, if I enjoy the small enjoyable moments that pepper most days despite the winter or despite the drama of politics in my country being a bit “extra” right now.
I was thinking when I was a kid I would have loved to get an ocarina and play it, now we have one, and I don’t play it. I still didn’t, I wasn’t in the mood, didn’t have the energy, but I got thinking about doing it, about doing the things right in my own home that I want to, but don’t do.
I would have liked to remember to check into this quote, but it wasn’t vital, because it never leaves me, this one has gotten down to my bones sometime in the past 5 years that I’ve been reviewing the stoic quotes often.
Quote 2 Summary: Knowing what is out of your hands leaves you the strength to care for what IS in your hands.
January Week 2 in Summary:
So starting week 2, I felt so weak, I looked for strength in music, in nature, and I found it instead in my own attitude towards life, and I didn’t communicate kindly, but I did communicate effectively at least, I returned a lot of baggage my father had put on me throughout the years back to him, it was ugly in the way it aged him so much in an instant, but actually it was uglier for him to expect me as a child and adult to somehow soothe his anxiety rather than him getting professional help or taking action such as meditation or yoga or just facing harsh truths and making changes to his life. Really that was uglier. It’s hard enough to be a child without your parents asking you to do their homework on top of yours.
3. “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” – Epictetus
This quote was meant for 1-10 to 1-16, this seems really similar to quote 2, but it isn’t really the same. Quote 2 talks of strength to do things in your own mind and own life, power, quote 3 talks about happiness and freedom. Strength lies directly within knowing you have power over some things and not others, the martial art of jiu jitsu is almost entirely a meditation on that fact, it relies on leverage and torque ie changing what you can (your position) and not what you can’t (the strength of the opponent). Happiness and freedom are not found from this understanding, but instead understanding proactivity is the beginning towards them, a foundation to build upon. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is very much a longer meditation of the same theme of building happiness on a foundation of proactivity. That book was life changing for me because it gives a breakdown of how to stop being reactive to life that I needed to be able to apply some of the advice (from Never Get Angry Again by David J. Lieberman) that was right, but above my proactivity pay grade at the time.
Quote 3 Summary: Happiness is surrendering what you can’t hold and freedom is owning what is truly yours.
January Week 3 in Summary:
4. “Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.” – Seneca
This is the quote for today and the upcoming week, so now I am “synced” between where I wanted to be and where I am, which is nice. It’s okay to be late, but it’s nice to be on time once in awhile.
Challenges I faced while writing just this article remind me why I haven’t finished a book yet, an article is a bit of a river raft and a book is a ship for sea…
- Not being able to install a night light app into the new Linux even though I tried… having to decide to risk getting wired at bedtime due to blue light vs red light on the screen.
- Worried the typing would wake my kids. But it didn’t.
- Gnawingly uncertain as always that it doesn’t matter what I write, so why write at all rather than read or take a break or play a game.
- You, the reader, it’s inspiring to write in today’s world, where maybe what I wrote was meaningful or helpful or uplifting or helped someone remember a word they were thinking of to someone out there.
- My persistent readers, having so many cool writers that read and comment (and also kind individuals) is very uplifting. It inspires me to write freely, this or maybe someday a book, and also to be more kind. Receiving kindness seems to give me a little more patience, in a way that simply being commanded to be more kind never replicated.
- My sister, she worked really hard fixing this computer on January 2nd, without her, I wouldn’t have most of the problems solved I have solved because she is an excellent problem solver.
- The Gallium OS team, they are Linux, which supports my Chromebook which is so old it’s operating system is no longer supported, meaning it was abandoned by Google and Chrome OS, but that Linux team supported it so that I can use my same physical computer as a new computer instead of scraping it.
- David Attenborough, he made a new show in 2020 at 94… so kind of shamed my unproductivity, but at the same time comforted me to see his new documentary “A Life on Our Planet” (on Netflix right now).
- Jean Craighead George author of Julie of the Wolves and The Talking Earth. (from 1972)
- Laura Ingalls Wilder of the Little House books. (from 1871)
- Scott O’ Dell author of Island of the Blue Dolphins. (from 1960)
- Marcus Aurelius author of Meditations. (from 180)
- Rachel Macy Stafford, an author, but kind of a blogger first in a way. She runs Hands Free Mama she kept going throughout her tough times and is very honest and open and it inspires me that it’s possible to do all those things.
- Actually many more bloggers, Lovie Price, Mark Manson, Nomzamo Madide and Thomas “the Happiness Nerd”. Lovie because she has really interesting insights into everyday life I haven’t seen anywhere else, she also always inspires me to take action towards change.
- Mark because he covers intellectual debates and philosophy in a current way and covers a lot of habit change and values based living struggle points.
- Nomzamo because her writing opens my eyes to a different level of reflection and social responsibility that widens my horizons externally and internally.
- Thomas because he gives me so many suggestions that I eventually try and enjoy, so many solutions to adding mindfulness, or simple joy or shifting perspective to enjoy life more that I always end up with a few that work for me.
I wanted to explore what I love about the authors that inspire me, not as a compliment primarily, but because it tells me a lot about myself, what I like to explore and what matters to me as a reader is not exactly who I am as a writer, but it gives me some clues about perhaps where I am headed.
I guess when support outweighs challenges something difficult like writing/publishing becomes enjoyable and possible and perhaps instead of beating myself up that I haven’t finished something major like a book, I can instead wonder how much support I need to find and accept before I have the capacity to do that, and also be grateful for the time to meditate on where I fit in the world without rushing into a project that turns something I love (writing) into a 9-5 kind of job that leeches the passion out of what I once enjoyed?