Is Stoicism Working?

Last month I did the Stoicism Mindfulness and Resilience Training (SMRT) created by the folks at Modern Stoicism, a multidisciplinary group of dedicated people committed to providing accurate and informative information about Stoic Philosophy. This is the second course I’ve done by them (I did Stoic Week back in October). So, did this four week guided practice actually do anything? Sort of.

Here’s a comparison of my before and after survey results:
-Satisfaction with Life:
Before: 21 “Slightly satisfied”
After: 19 “Slightly Dissatisfied”

-Scale of Positive and Negative Experience where -24 is least positive feelings and 24 is most positive feelings:
Before: -3
After: 13

-Flourishing Scale (score is obtained by adding up the scores for the all eight items giving a range from 8 to 56)
Before: 43
After: 46

After doing the SMRT course the most obvious improvement is the Positive vs. Negative emotions which makes sense since that was a major component of the course and the thing I was focusing on the most. The scoring system for that is actually very easy so I’ll probably track my progress on that as I go along.

Now to the main question: Has Stoicism actually been beneficial to me?

Hmmm, overall I would say “yes” because the biggest positive impact Stoicism has had on me is self acceptance. I mentioned in a previous post that reading Epictetus’s quote about power was actually very helpful because he specifically mentions that our bodies are not within out control. That helped me accept my asexuality and I finally clicked that it wasn’t “my fault” that I hadn’t done anything “wrong”. Obviously Epictetus didn’t have any knowledge of DNA or environmental triggers, but I needed it spelled out.

Another thing I gained was Stoic compassion. It’s a lot easier to…not accept, per say, but be more mindful of idiots. Stoicism likes to point out that it’s only by chance that I was born into a nice, moderate family that values education. Both my parents were the first in their families to go to college. My dad literally told me growing up that our family mission was to fight against ignorance. That had a major impact on me and how I interact with the world, but it all comes down to chance. I could have been born into a family that didn’t value formal education, that was afraid of immigrants, and watches Fox & Friends. Now instead of dismissing people as “just idiots” I ask them, “Why do you think that?” My end goal changed from trying to convince people they were wrong (which, let’s be honest never works anyway) to asking them through polite questioning to think critically about their beliefs.

I think that being able to accept my asexuality and have constructive interactions with people I disagree with are worth taking the time to study Stoicism and I’ve become better at my customer service job and have been able to just deal better with people in general overall.

There is one thing Stoicism isn’t though. It’s not a magic wand that magically fixes all my problems and, oh boy, do I have problems. This past week if I had taken the survey again my results would have tanked. This has, for all intents and purposes, been a shitty week. The biggest problem is I’m not getting enough sleep.

Last Friday (my day off) my manager calls me an hour before my alarm goes off to ask if I can pick up a shift. Saturday my brother wakes me up an hour before my alarm goes off to give me some bullshit excuse of why there’s no gas in the car. Sunday/Monday are the first morning shifts I’ve worked in months so I’m waking up at 5am instead of my usual 9am. I make it to Tuesday thinking it’ll be okay because I get an easy closing shift with time and a half because of the holiday, but then my dad wakes me up two hours before my alarm goes off so we can take the dogs to the park. I keep telling myself, “It’ll be fine, I’m off on Wednesday.” Except Wednesday rolls around and bright and early my mom is yelling at us to high hell because we’re missing three car keys and it’s 200 dollars to make new spares.

Frankly, I’m just exhausted and there’s no Philosophy in the world that’s going to fix that. What I can credit Stoicism with is instead of thinking, “I’m so damn tired, I just want to die,” my thought process was actually very rational. My actual thought was, “I’m so damn tired I’m either going to a) use my work provided mental health benefits to see a counselor and kick them out of their office for an hour and take a god-damned nap; b) tell my family to ‘fuck-off’ and cash my holiday pay check to check into a motel six for two nights so I can finally sleep undisturbed; or I could c) pass out from exhaustion at work so I get workers comp, an overnight stay in a hospital, and a week’s worth of sleeping meds and a doctor’s note telling my family to ‘fuck-off and let me sleep.” Basically, I have options. I still have some control. Option b is looking very sexy right now. There’s like three hotels within walking distance to my choice movie theater. Dinner, movie, hotel, it’s like a date only it’s just me and Mr. Sandman. I could totally talk one of my coworkers into dropping me off or I could walk from work. Totally do-able. Oh, or I can just ask to crash at a coworker’s place for a few hours. See? Options.

Carefully examining what is within my power is an amazing tool. I haven’t perfected it yet, but I see it as a worthy practice. So, overall, I would say Stoicism is working out for me. I’m less miserable than I would be without it and it’s given me clarity over my real priorities, which it’s safe to say includes a well deserved nap.

Advertisements

Not stoic as in “Stiff Upper Lip”, but Stoic as in…I’m Working On it.

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for December 2018 hosted this month by Sennkestra on Next Step: Cake under the topic “Burn out”]

The topic of “Burn Out” is very appropriate because I’m in the middle of a burn out right now actually. I’m trying to finish school, but I ended up failing a class I needed twice so it’s obviously time to take a break. Every day while at work I’m constantly thinking, “I should not be this tired. This is not normal.” and when I talk about it to other people they’re like, “Tired and stressed? Welcome to adulthood,” or they break out into a story about how their grandmother survived as a single mother of five kids in 1934 during the Great Depression; Inspiring, yes. Helpful, no, but I’ll totally see the movie when it comes out.

I’ve burned out worse before several years ago to the point of more serious physical symptoms and thankfully I’m not to that point yet…I’m just tired. Very, very tired.

To deal with this I’ve been studying Stoicism through some free classes and by supporting the patreon accounts of my favorite Stoics. I’m currently doing a four week course called SMRT (Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training) where each week you’re putting a Stoic practice to use using the niffty audio recordings provided. I’ve been pairing that with the parteon articles and some youtube videos from the Stoi-con last October (and yes, there’s a Stoic Convention and someday I will attend). 

Oh! For folks who don’t know Stoicism is an ancient Hellenistic Philosophy that originated in Greece, but gained some major traction in Rome. Our three main sources of Stoic teachings come from “The Manual” and discourses from Epictetus who was a slave and later a teacher; Letters and essays by Lucius Seneca (usually as just called “Seneca” or “Seneca the younger”) who was a Roman Senator and adviser to Emperor Nero; and lastly Emperor Marcus Aurelius’s person diary which is today known as the “Meditations”. Each of these sources has their own flavor, but my personal favorite right now is Epictetus because it was actually his student who wrote everything down. A lot of ancient Philosophers were apparently allergic to writing because Socrates and Confucius also didn’t. write. that. shit. down. and it was their students who were like “….we should probably be taking notes.” seriously.

Epictetus is easier for me to understand because it’s geared more towards beginners. The modern Stoic guy I support on patreon is a college professor and he says he doesn’t always like or agree with what Epictetus is saying, but he sympathizes the frustration of keeping young minds engaged in less-than-exciting material. Seneca’s stuff is very formal, very knowledgeable, and obviously proof read (unlike this post) while Marcus Aurelius’s lack of punctuation makes me want to bang my head against the wall. To be fair the Meditations is his personal diary that he specifically asked TO BE BURNED after his death and now it’s never been out of print. So, if you want something done right…

Anywho, so how is adopting Stoicism helping my sanity? Well, for the first week of the resilience training we’re supposed to track our negative emotional episodes because as it turns out people don’t usually feel things willy-nilly, something usually triggers it. Like last week at work we’re busy as hell, I’m behind so I ask my coworker to do literally ONE THING for me, so we can catch up. He flat out refused and said, “That’s not my job.” Which, first of all, uh, yeah it is your job and secondly it would have taken five minutes that you would have spent goofing off anyway. Naturally I was pissed off so I wrote that down as a negative emotion incident. The goal is to become more aware of early warning signs, i.e. I’ll eventually be able (hopefully) to predict that “hey, it’s really busy today and that tends to stress me out so I should mentally prepare for that and plan for a timout if I need it.” The goal is to approach difficult situations as rationally as possible and anger doesn’t help rationality.

This week we’re supposed to be tracking how long we dwell on negative incidents. Normally, I’m not one to hold a grudge, but Oh. My. Gods. this lady yesterday. We’re in the middle of a lunch rush and my coworker (different one from above) is stuck on a big order and is quartering six whole grilled chickens which is taking up the whole cutting board. I’m dancing around him trying to get the single plate orders out of the way. This lady orders a half-chicken plate and easy-breezy I just reach in the display case with my metal tongs and with a simple twist snap a grilled chicken in half and toss it on the plate as is because my coworker still has six chickens on the cutting board. But then the lady says, “Oh, no, no, I wanted the fresh chicken.” I’m staring at her stupefied like, what the fuck lady??? I look over at the grills because I think that’s where she’s pointing and the chickens on the grill are obviously still raw. Then she points to where my coworker is cutting up the chickens for the big order and she says, “Like what he has.” ????? My coworker seeing that I’m having problems reaches into the display-case with his tongs and picks up THE OTHER HALF OF THE SAME GODDAMNED CHICKEN and says, “Will this one work?” and she says “Yes, that one.” The way my coworker tells it he’s cackling on the inside like a Disney-villain-reject because he knows it’s the same chicken meanwhile I’m off to the side having a miniature aneurysm. I was off-and-on dwelling on this incident for 29 hours minus the awesome 8 hour sleep I got after my two hours of self-care. I bought special soap and everything.

Alright, let’s break it down Stoically:

  1. Idiots exists. Therefore if I am adequately mentally prepared, encountering one during lunch rush or be scheduled to work with one should not surprise me.
  2. Whether or my customer or coworker is an idiot should not impact my ability to serve people lunch to the best of my knowledge and ability. 
  3. I can’t control whether someone is an idiot or not, but I can take the time to educate myself and take responsibility for my own pool of knowledge because if circumstances had been different, that idiot could easily have been me

This model of thinking also applies to trying to educate people about asexuality. Seriously, giving asexuality 101 is one of my least favorite things, but I have to understand that the majority people grew up being told every single day of their lives that there are only two genders, that boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. If circumstances were different, if I had been born into a different family or my biology had presented differently, I totally have could turned out to be that same ignorant asshole that makes me want to beat my head against the wall. I know for a fact that someday I will walk into a fast-food place that I’ve never been to before and drive some poor food service person crazy because I misinterpreted reality.  Some days you’re the woke asexual advocate on a mission to save humanity from itself, some days you’re the idiot that can’t order fast-food correctly, that’s life.

At its core Stoicism is a very empathetic philosophy. Wisdom is the ultimate virtue, ignorance is the ultimate vice, but we are born ignorant and must be taught to be wise. Nobody wakes up one morning and knows everything about the universe, or asexuality, or grilled chickens, so we have to either be taught or learn by experience. When you are trying to convince somebody that a core belief that they have is wrong you have to understand that you cannot convince them using logic, arguments or data; they have to be the ones to convince themselves. Nobody actually believes in something they do not think is true. Even when somebody is intentionally lying about it, they still believe the truth. The example Epictetus gives is he tells his students to try and convince themselves that day is night. Not gonna happen. Nobody wants to be flat out wrong and they will spend a lot of time and energy defending their beliefs. Check out this segment of the Q&A where the speaker’s talking about his friend from Tennessee. It’s totally worth fighting the good fight against ignorance, but jeepers it’s exhausting

Right now I’m laying down in my bed thinking to myself, “I should not be this tired,” but I am. I’m sitting on a dozen story ideas for novels I want to write before I’m sixty. I have two other blog posts sitting in my draft box from months back that I still haven’t finished. My finals are this week and I haven’t studied. Plus there’s a million other little projects I want to do, but it’s not going to happen. “The spirit is willing…” and all that. The hardest thing I’m going to have to do the next couple of months is give myself a break, cut myself some slack, and just keep learning lots. A fun fact a day, an educational youtube video on my lunch, a quick audio book chapter on my drive to class, little things that keep me growing as a person.

I don’t really have the energy to make the word a better place right now, but I can definitely the time to make myself a better, wiser, person and Stoicism is helping me do that. Here’s a fun fact; there are no sages in Stoicism. We all just strive to do our best with the ability we have with as much wisdom as possible. I’m going to finish off the post with an excerpt from the SMRT morning meditation exercise:

As Epictetus tells his Stoic students, imagine that you’re entering a festival each day, and preparing yourself to endure the rough and tumble, and appreciate the spectacle, while accepting that soon it must all come to an end, and that you must take nothing for granted…
Take time to plan your day ahead, calmly and with reason and wisdom. Think of the day ahead, the tasks you face, and what you would prefer to achieve, fate permitting…Prepare yourself to meet adversity with as much practical wisdom as you can muster, with justice or fairness to others, and with self-discipline when it comes to any unruly emotions and desires… Epictetus says you should ask yourself what inner resources nature has armed you with to deal with external events… How can you excel in your character, and make the best use of whatever befalls you?

Rest well, everyone!

“Emotional Cheating” aka WTF is this Heteronormative Bullshit?

Hi folks! It’s been a while (because I’ve been busy failing derivative calculus, again! and continuing my personal study of philosophy which is going much better than the calculus), but today I’m having a pity party and y’all are invited.

Alrighty, let’s begin with the context. I first heard about “emotional cheating” when it showed up in the last season of BBC’s Sherlock; John Watson is married to Mary, but he meets this pretty chick on the train, they swap numbers and it’s hinted that he shares a budding quasi-romantic relationship with pretty chick through texting. From what I understood the “cheating” part was that he was actively keeping the texting relationship a secret from his wife and that there were hints of romantic overtones to the texts. I was like “okay, cool. Emotional cheating is bad. I got-cha.”

But, no, oh no-no no. That apparently is not what emotional cheating is in RL. According to my coworkers it’s “if you are married and you go to someone other than your spouse for ANY emotional needs [not just romantic ones] first- that is emotional cheating”.

Like, Whut. The. Literal. Fuck. Is. This. CisHeteroNorm. Bull. Shit.

Like, are y’all okay? Every fiber of my being is screaming the Mental Health First Aid steps and I feel like I should be asking all my cis-hetero coworkers if they are having suicidal thoughts BECAUSE:

  1. That’s a LOT pressure to put on one person
  2. What the fuck do y’all think friends are for? Emotional needs/support are IN the friend job description, and-
  3. This is totally ace and aro erasure and I will not stand for it.

So, this very rigid definition of emotion cheating is a modern thing that has no historical precedent (that I could find in a quick Google Scholar with a paywall) before social media was a thing. It also pisses me off because how the hell am I supposed to make friends now??? I thought that my lack of friends was something I did or was some weird aro-quirk thing, but oh, ho, no-no no. Turns out there’s so much wtf.ness going on at my work (and probably other places) that I had no idea was even a thing.

A number of my coworkers are Hispanic (I live in San Antonio, so go figure right?) and very Catholic and one of my coworkers said that’s where the strict rules on marrage comes from but….I don’t think so? I need more data, but I don’t think the Church is completely to blame because my Irish Catholic relatives are crazy for different reasons. I was always super confused because these specific coworkers liked to take a personal interest in my relationship status and I was trying to figure out what the big deal was. Apparently they ascribe to several well-known relationship tenets such as 1) guys and gals can’t be “just friends” and 2) once you’re married you’re spouse is everything and all else are just polite acquaintances.

So, I literally can’t be friends with anybody. I can’t be friends with single people because we’ll all somehow magically start dating (or fucking) because we’re all actually living in a 90s sitcom or something(???) and I can’t be friends with my married coworkers outside of work because their wives will find out and divorce them for “emotionally cheating” on them with an aromantic-asexual. I totally [do not] see the logic. Basically dreams of forming and epic Bromance with my fellow philosophy nerd coworker have crumbled into dust because he literally can’t come to me for anything resembling an emotional connection without checking with the wife first.

I see now why my coworkers put so much emphasis on romantic relationships because at the end of the day, apparently that’s all they’re allowed to have, but the problem with that system is it’s taken away the possible, healthy and fulfilling platonic-relationships I could have had if it wasn’t for this ridiculous societal norm.

So, in light of that I’m going to do what any well-adjusted adult would do in this situation-
I’m going to cuddle my cat and cry about it. *tears*

Rats (Yet Again)

For anyone who’s been keeping track there’s this dude at work who keeps. asking. me out. And it’s getting a little ridiculous. Actually, no, it’s been ridiculous.

Quick recap:

  • Dude at my work (same store different department) kept asking me if I wanted to “hang out” which seemed to imply alone time with food and movies which was too date-ish for me so after one time I kept saying no.
  • Finally dude asks me out via text on the LITERAL day from hell and since my emotional state was not the best to deal with romo-shit I basically said I would get back to him.
  • He sees me at work and I tell him the answer is “no” so I thought the matter was closed. It was not.
  • Dude sees my ace ring at a game night with other people and freaks out thinking it’s a wedding ring. WTF.
  • Two weeks later he texts me again asking to hang out/hash out our whatever saying he wanted to make sure that if I had any feelings for him he didn’t want it to ruin our friendship. Which to this day triggers my gag reflex because my aromantic ass never gave off anything other than “this is awkward, please go away” vibes after I realized he was making gooey eyes at me.

After shutting him down very aggressively we hadn’t talked for a while more than the mandatory “Howdy partner” that work etiquette requires. Oh, and all of my coworkers started being dicks to him after I told them I aggressively turned him down. Coincidence? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anywho, at the start of the new semester he started asking me to “hang out” again and my dumb-ass thought he meant “as a friend”, but I explained I was busy with school stuff (because I am). Last week (or the week before I don’t remember when exactly) he mentioned that my supervisor said I was asexual.

So, yeah, I’ve been coming out to different people in my department including one of my supervisors who likely told the other supervisors because gossip is the only thing holding up the walls in that store because everything else breaks down every other week. This week is the soda fountain machine. Anywho, so he was obviously talking to my supervisor and the topic came up and he asked me about it.

Like I’ve said before, my asexuality is not a secret per se, I just don’t like doing asexuality 101 all the time. Anywho, I was really happy to say “Yes, I’m asexual” because yay! normalization. I thought that would finally, finally be the end of it because he said, “Oh, okay. I’m sorry?” after I explained my take on asexuality and I replied, “That’s like saying ‘sorry, you’re gay’, dude.” I thought that was it.

YESTERDAY he asks me:
Dude: So, ‘no’ to hanging out ever?
[And I have to run “hanging out” though my dude-translator (finally updated the software) before I reply]
Me: You mean like a ‘date’? No.
Dude: Because of the asexual thing?
Me: (still can’t believe this conversation is happening) ffs. That’s like asking a lesbian out on a date. Would you do that?
Dude: (After a Long uncomfortable pause)…a little?
Me: AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ANSWER WOULD BE?!

I am just so done with this dude. I gave it a shot at being friends because I thought he might genuinely be a nice person. Which, clearly, he’s not. My sister said I was too harsh, but obviously I didn’t my point across that I’m not interested. Definitely not interested in being even friends any more.

The whole “not dating” thing is not about asexuality, it’s about being aromantic, but I’m not going to give an aromantic 101 lecture to my coworkers much less this dude who can’t take a hint that’s I’m just not interested.

And all my coworkers are still assholes to him. Seriously, take a hint dude.

 

 

I Read the Texas GOP Political Platform (and I am Terrified)

Fun Fact! The individual parts of the GOP political platform are called “planks”. Haha! Cute, right? And, yup, that is all the fun we’re going to be having this evening. Because oh, my fucking God, I’m probably going to need to breath into a paper bag just to get through this. Fuck, um, read at your own discretion. And, no, I’m not just being dramatic.

Continue reading “I Read the Texas GOP Political Platform (and I am Terrified)”

Stoic Week: Day 5

I felt really confident about today’s theme because it’s about Emotions and I’m actually a very calm person. I was very happy to share my “insert dragon” technique with someone. The conversation went like this:

Other Participant: I’m an extremely emotional and empathic person (I cry for everything! even sad TV ads) and I tend to let my emotions control me although I am trying to change this…When something triggers my anxiety, my emotions take a hold, and I start to spiral in this negative mindset thinking to myself “why do I feel this way? Why me? This is all my fault I should have stopped stressing in the first place that was the cause of all this anxiety to begin with!”…I was wondering if anyone has advice on this? How to train yourself to not react so negatively towards situations. How to take control of your emotions? Thank you so much, I really love this course and love reading everyone’s comments and wisdom. It is very inspiring to me.
Me: I have a weird technique I use for snapping myself out of negative thoughts. I don’t know if it’ll work for anxiety, but I use it for minor negative thoughts like replaying past conversations in my head or imagining future scenarios that stress me out. I call it the “insert dragon technique”.
Basically I realized that since replaying conversations and thinking about the future are just made up of thoughts and I can control my thoughts (I have an active imagination so I have lots of practice), I can just “insert” a dragon and it’ll snap me out of it.
Example: Say my boss calls me into his office and the whole way there I’m thinking “Crap, what did I do? Did I mess up? Did a customer complain about me?” So I’ll immediately start imagining about how I think the conversation is going to go and with each step I’m getting more and more freaked out. But the thing is it’s just my imagined scenario that’s making me nervous because the actually event of talking to my boss in his office hasn’t even happened yet. So once I realize I’m imagining the scenario, which means it’s only in my head at this point, I can take the reins back and I just imagine a dragon crash landing in the office, because what’s to say after that? (And I picked a dragon because I like dragons). The mental image that creates is so *bizarre and outlandish* that it’ll snap me back to the present.
It feels a lot like waking up from a weird dream when I do it. I’ll use the same technique if I catch myself replaying a past conversation I feel really stressed about or embarrassed about. The point of the exercise is to get back to the present where I have the most power. I can’t do anything about the past and I can’t predict the future.
Once I’m back in the present I can do a more accurate check in of what I’m actually feeling instead of what I imagined I was feeling. I also think it’s important to let myself feel my feelings. If I try to suppress what I’m feeling then I can’t get an accurate picture, or rather an accurate bio-feedback, of what I’m feeling. If I don’t know what I’m actually feeling then I won’t be able to figure out the cause and if I can’t figure out the cause then I can’t do anything about it in the present where it counts. I’m not sure how feasible it is to completely control some emotions.
Maybe the first step isn’t to try and stop feeling emotions or trying to control your emotions. Maybe the first step is not letting the emotions control you. Once that happens it at the very least levels the playing field.
Morning Meditation

It isn’t the things themselves that disturb people, but the judgements that they form about them. Death, for instance, is nothing terrible, or else it would have seemed so to Socrates too; no, it is in the judgement that death is terrible that the terror lies. Accordingly, whenever we are impeded, disturbed or distressed, we should never blame anyone else but only ourselves, that is, our judgements. It is an act of a poorly educated person to blame others when things are going badly for him; one who has taken the first step towards being properly educated blames himself, while one who is fully educated blames neither anyone else nor himself. – Epictetus, Handbook, 5

I really like this quote actually. Epictetus was referring to how people become trapped by their thoughts and anxieties not realizing that we can control our thoughts. There’s a difference between a reflex emotion (like fear) and a “judgement” emotion like dread. In the example I used earlier, if I got called into my boss’s office on my way there I would probably be feeling worried or anxious, but that’s because of my own thoughts not because of any real threat. However, if I see a spider crawling one me all bets are off and I’m going to scream and brush myself off. That fear reaction is a biological reflex and I would need several months of exposure therapy to even try to gain some control over that (and it’s not going to happen).

Midday Reflection

The task for the midday meditation/reflection was to recall a time when I acted badly based on my emotional judgments and try to recall a time I acted correctly based on Stoic values. The first one is easy because I tend to get really annoyed when people ask for extra food like they’re entitled to it. Oh, the joys of food service. Some crazy lady wanted “extra jalapenos” and wanted to make sure I gave her “lots of onions” because she “always” gets extra jalapenos. Fuck that. I have a bar-code on my register that says “add jalapenos and onions”. It’s 75 cents. Her attitude about it really, really rubbed me the wrong way. And this other crazy lady who was not happy with the chicken we had on display so she point blank asks me “if it were your mother, what would you do?” the implication, of course, being that I would give my mom the best piece of chicken possible and I point blank responded “mom is vegan”. It wasn’t my most Stoic moment.

This week I’ve actually been really good about not getting irritated at my coworkers and just focused on enjoying their company and the sense of camaraderie.

Evening Meditation

So reflect on this: the result of wisdom is stability of joy. The wise person’s mind is like the superlunary heaven: always peaceful. So you have this reason to want to be wise, if wisdom is always accompanied by joy. This joy has only one source: an awareness of the virtues. A person is not capable of joy unless he is brave, unless he is just, unless he has self-control. – Seneca, Letters, 59.16

I am very, very tired right now. Friday nights in food service are sucky, suck suck. Like it was an hour wait for some folks before they got their food. They could have gone home and just cooked dinner in the same amount of time.

I’m going to trust Seneca on this one, but I need to work on my self control (the proof being the ice cream in my freezer right now). On a side note, my emotions are a little off balance (and I was doing so well) because a dude asked me out. Again. I said no before. My coworkers told him I was asexual (I’m so happy they accept it) and that I would say no. I understand he’s coming from a place of ignorance and he can’t put himself in my shoes. I did the whole “you know when you’re not attracted to someone?” and I pointed so somebody random I knew he wasn’t attracted to. “Apply that to the whole human race”. I could tell he was disappointed, but it’s not my fault that I don’t feel love that way.

The sad thing for me is I when I was filling out the “self-monitoring” sheet this week I would get flashes of loneliness and I realized I was actually feeling jealous. It was weird to realize that jealousy had a colder form and not just the passionate green that always gets portrayed in media. It literally feels like a ball of ice is sitting in my chest. I feel like I’m “missing out” even though I can logically reason that I’m not actually missing out on anything by not having romantic attachments. I don’t actually want a romantic relationship. It’s against my very nature to be romantic, but the jealousy is still there. It’s irrational and it hurts and it’s probably going to take more than a week to deal with it.

Stoic Week: Day 3 & Day 4

I didn’t have time to write up a post yesterday so I’m going to combined it with today’s post. As I mentioned I’m doing Stoic Week; a seven day course created by the group Modern Stoicism, a team of multidisciplinary academics whose goal is to make Stoic Philosophy available and accurate to the general public. Participants fill out a survey before and after to see if adopting Stoic values for a week help improve happiness and “flourishing” scores.

Day 3 Morning Meditation

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: I shall meet with people who are meddling, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, and unsociable. They are subject to these faults because of their ignorance of what is good and bad. But I have recognised the nature of the good and seen that it is the right, and the nature of the bad and seen that it is the wrong, and the nature of the wrongdoer himself, and seen that he is related to me, not because he has the same blood or seed, but because he shares in the same mind and portion of divinity. So I cannot be harmed by any of them, as no one will involve me in what is wrong. Nor can I be angry with my relative or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work against each other is contrary to nature; and resentment and rejection count as working against someone. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.1

I’m actually very familiar with this quote since it gets a lot of air time in Stoic circles. In the morning as part of Stoic practices I’m supposed to mentally prepare for adversity and it (supposedly) helps to mentally prepare by planning out the day and imagining all the things that could go wrong.

See, my problem is with step one, having a plan for the day. My schedule constantly changes because I share a car with two other people, my work schedule differs week-to-week, and my homework gets done whenever I squeeze in time. So, I’m not going to waste time going over a plan that I know 100% is going to change anyway and it would be too exhausting  to give the worst-case scenario treatment to every new plan. What I do instead is right before I have to do a task I’ll do a quick, what’s the worst thing that could (likely) happen and what would be my next step.

I mean, obviously the worst case scenario is an atomic bomb falls from the sky and we all die, but then I wouldn’t have to actually deal with the aftermath of all that (being dead an all in said scenario), so it’s not really worst-case. My plan B for whenever something actually would go horribly wrong usually involves first getting coffee (or tea) and then go from there.

Day 3 Midday meditation

Take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and reflect on your relationships and how you could potentially view things differently. What would be the consequences of doing so?

Pass! I call pass!

My main relationships are with my immediate family (on the account of not having any friends). My youngest brother is suicidal and has depression, my dad’s an alcoholic, my mom’s a busybody, and I’m not technically responsible for any of that. They have their own agency and I am not responsible for their happiness.

Day 3 Evening Meditation

Whenever you want to cheer yourself up, think of the good qualities of those who live with you: such as the energy of one, the decency of another, the generosity of another, and some other quality in someone else. There is nothing so cheering as the images of the virtues displayed in the characters of those who live with you, and grouped together as far as possible. So you should keep them ready at hand. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.48

…….Marcus, no, just no. I have a cat. She’s a very nice lovely cat and she’s warm and fuzzy and she cheers me up. The people who live with me are going through a lot of crap right now and if I think about their good qualities it’s just going to make me feel really sad about all the other crap. It would not, in fact, cheer me up at all. Pass.

Day 4 Morning Meditation

It is important to understand that nature creates in parents affection for their children; and parental affection is the source from which we trace the shared community of the human race … As it is obvious that it is natural to us to shrink from pain, so it is clear that we derive from nature itself the motive to love those to whom we have given birth. From this motive is developed the mutual concern which unites human beings as such. The fact of their common humanity means that one person should feel another to be his relative. – Cicero, On Ends, 3.62-3.

Sigh, this section is going to take more than a week. I’m not a what you would call a “people person”. Like my youngest brother genuinely likes helping people. Customer service makes him feel good. Working customer service makes me want to eat a box of donuts by myself. I want to help people when I can (because Stoic virtue), but it does very little for me as an emotional payout like my brother.

Day 4 Midday

Take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and practise the Circle of Hierocles exercise given here. Think of yourself as gradually expanding the circle of those you are concerned with till you reach the circle of human beings in general.

No comment. (But I need more practice)

Day 4 Evening Meditation

Let us embrace in our minds the fact that there are two communities – the one which is great and truly common, including gods and human beings, in which we look neither to this corner or to that, but measure the boundaries of our state by the sun; the other, the one to which we have been assigned by the accident of our birth. – Seneca, On Leisure, 4.1

What benefits each of us is what is in line with our constitution and nature; my nature is rational and political. As Antoninus, my city and fatherland is Rome, as a human being it is the universe. It is only what benefits these cities which is good for me. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.44.5-6

My issue with these quotes is Seneca was a very, very wealthy senator and Marcus Aurelius was an emperor of Rome when Rome was the western world. I am neither of those things so when the course is asking “How far did you succeed in fulfilling your local roles and responsibilities today while also bearing in mind the broader values shared by humanity in general – or the needs of those human beings currently without a home or country of their own?”

The answer is null. Zip. Natta. Because I can’t. I don’t actually own anything. I rent a room in house with five other people, I share a car for work and school, I’m paying for college out of pocket (and by that I mean on my credit card in the hopes I’ll have it paid of in a year) so that I’ll (hopefully, maybe) get at least something out of all that effort in the end. I’m also super picky about who I donate to because some of the big name “charities” are actually really shady and barely anything gets to the intended receivers. Ugh, I hate this question because I feel guilty that I literally don’t have anything to give right now because I live from paycheck to…well, two thousand dollars in credit debt plus interest sooo… Well, I’m now I’m upset.

*deep breath* Okay, “roles and responsibilities” is the key words there, specifically civic ones. I’m a pretty, white “lady” (according to my driver’s licence) so nothing is preventing me from voting. My work place will give me time off to go vote and Texas has early voting. That is an important role/responsibility. I know who my candidates are and where they stand on issues. If I had extra money, yes I would donate to organizations I trust. Someday I hope to be in that position where I could commit to several small monthly donations (and have affordable dental insurance). That’s why I’m continuing my education, to better my self and position in life and then I can use that position to benefit others. I guess another one of my “roles” is being informed so I can inform others with the most accurate information I can provide or at least point them in the right direction towards accurate information.

Either way, it’s a work in progress.