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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trials and Tribulations

Today I am writing a "free form" blog post as it isn't based on our Stoic reading for the day.  A close friend of mine has been dealing with a chronic illness that she was diagnosed with last year.  She has become a voice for the chronically ill, writing a blog to help make people aware and to make people aware of symptoms and complications of the disease.  In taking on her role as "a voice of the chronically ill" some people see her as whining on Facebook, being a depressing read, etc.  Unfortunately, she has lost friends because of it.  People that she thought were close and good friends.  They don't want to hear about her struggles, challenges or illness on a daily basis.  It makes them uncomfortable and they don't want to be reminded that life is not always comfortable.

I responded to her blog and wrote a somewhat naked response, talking about my own health issues and thanking her for speaking out and making it "okay" to not be "normal", making it okay to let people know what we are really struggling with.

As a Stoic how does that effect how I deal with my "disability"?  *I was born with a congenital malformation of my right side.  It is a genetic defect which means I have no inner ear, canal, etc. and have only a bone piece and an ear lobe where my ear should be.  This has also caused my jaw to be malformed, etc. causing severe TMJ and painful headaches.  I am hearing impaired due to this deformity which I barely acknowledged until I hit my 30s.*  Being a Stoic has allowed me to acknowledge my challenges, allow myself my idiosyncrasies, realize that sometimes my hearing loss causes me to react differently, sometimes I read lips and body language to fill in the gaps of my understanding, a lot of the time this "filling in the gaps" causes misunderstandings and hurt feelings on my part.  Studying Stoicism has allowed me to recognize my universe is the way it is.  If I cannot hear someone I need to let them know, ask them to repeat themselves, rather than filling in the blanks and opening the door to the possibility of misunderstandings and injury.  It is okay that I want to craft a life with as little stress as possible.  To live according to nature is the primary Stoic principle and my nature is part of that principle.  To avoid loud, noisy environments, to ask people to repeat what I have not heard, to craft my life into a life that is beautiful for me.

We all need to face our reality and craft a life in which we flourish.  A life in which we put our individual gifts in the sunlight, out from the shadows of what we feel society wishes, and face the light of day with strength and courage.  Our "normal" doesn't have to be everyone else's "normal", to accept ourselves for who we are and allow ourselves to grow and shine.  LOVE ourselves, truly and deeply, as the gift to the Universe that we all are. 

In accepting ourselves fully we also need to accept others fully.  Nurture others and help them become the unique individual gifts to the Universe that we all are.  Nurture a community in which people can be themselves, giving them opportunities to grow in ways that are appropriate to their challenges in this life, a place of discipline with love and understanding.  I hope to create an Intentional Community in a world that is increasingly isolationist; ostracizing those who do not conform to the definition of "normal" that society at large has decided.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Little is Needed

Always remember that very little is needed for living a happy life.
Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, book vii, sec. 67

I read this quote this morning and was humbled.  My daughter is getting married early June and only yesterday I was figuring out all the things I want changed in my home before the visiting for the wedding begins.  I was going off the rails ready to make lists and sink down into madness and a scurry of activity for this one weekend.  Wow, this reminder above has put the brakes on that craziness.  Yes I have things that need to be done in our 1960's raised ranch bungalow but I can use discretion and weigh what is necessary against the need to impress others.  

My kitchen needs some reorganization and repairs to make it function well.  The floor needs updating and the paint needs refreshing .  Our downstairs bathroom does need gutting due to some water damage but we can do that within budget and have a modest functioning bathroom.  Our bathroom upstairs need painting and new towel bars... trim needs to be finished in the living room from installing the laminate flooring and the laminate needs to be finished in the entry way closet.

None of this list includes knocking down walls or remodeling the world in order to impress for one day.

More importantly I want to order seeds for the spring and plan my garden so that I will be harvesting our food and living closer to nature this summer.  It really is all about focus and priorities, realizing that enough is good enough.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crafting our Future

Today's "Words of the Ancient Wise" post was from Epictetus...

This is education, to learn to wish that things should happen as they do. - Epictetus' Discourses, book i, chap, xii, sec. 15

My personal response to this was:  "If we can learn to be content with what we have, to realize that life is what it must be, we will live a peaceful life. Every decision we have made has contributed to the present life that we are living. Rather than wishing to change the past and the present lets be conscious of our choices so that we craft our future."

I want to craft my future... what a wonderful turn of phrase I have stumbled upon.  I am not just living, surviving the day to day...  I am crafting my future.  It fills me with a sense of wonder, awe and gleeful anticipation of what the future holds.  I am like Pocahontas, peeking with hope around the next river bend, seeking a glimpse into the near future to what treasures lie waiting for me to discover.  The present is a perfect result of my past and my decisions.  I need to rest peacefully with my present and look with anticipation at the future, crafting it with conscious choices and "right" living.  Sowing seeds that will mature into the type of crop I want in my life and yet leaving the results to the Universe knowing that I have sown with forethought and the best of intentions.

What do I want for my future?  I want simple things...  I am going to sow simple seeds of love, thoughtfulness, kindness, self-control, healthy eating, moderation and look forward with anticipation for the simple yet beautiful flowers of my life that will unfurl from my mindful planting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Teach and Lead By Example

This morning's stoic reading on our blog Words of the Ancient Wise was from Seneca. 
It is better to look at common customs and vices calmly, without either laughing or weeping, since the former is a cruel pleasure, and the latter an endless grief.

My response that I posted was this...  "If we observe behaviour in the world that we find abhorrent we need to look for ways to help change that behaviour rather than to judge and berate but do nothing to help. It is better to teach correct behaviour by example and sound teaching than to just scorn others for their lack of refinement."

While I was in the process of actively raising my children I really tried to instill the principles of kindness, gentleness and self-control.  Whenever behaviour didn't follow these guidelines we would often say is that following the "Family Rule"?  This reminder would allow the perpetrator to reflect on whether their actions had been kind, gentle, or if they were exhibiting self-control...  This allowed my children to learn to self-correct from a fairly early age.  If, on the rare occasion, they needed to be further disciplined at least they knew why they were being disciplined and how they had fallen short of the ideal for behaviour. 

We raised our children to be citizens of the world, the family being their first "circle" that they were related to.  When they got older they realized that the circles continued into their friends, school, community, country and the planet that we live on.  We have a "family circle", one of the mexican candle rings that has five figures (one for each family member) that we light as a symbol of our family.  When behaviour was not at the best it was illustrated that such behaviour could break apart the family circle, etc.  Relationships are fragile, like the ceramic candle holder, and need to be nurtured with kindness, gentleness and self-control.

Raising my children with a sense of their citizenship in the world around them has, in my opinion, created reasonable, responsible and exemplary adults.  Each one a unique gift to the world around them.  

When we see behaviour in the world around us that is not gentle, kind or people are acting selfish or viciously, we need to seek out ways that we can change that behaviour rather than despise the people and walk away.  We can lead by example, be the proverbial "light shining on the hill" to encourage people to change their lives,  to be able to embrace the virtues as axioms for behaviour on a daily basis, to leave the world a better place for our having been here.  To live a life that can be an example to others and let this be our Legacy.