“Is this in my control?”

This is question # 3 on my list related to stoicism.

A good amount of my study in stoicism recently has revolved around this very question- mainly because i believe absorbing it as a precursor to any stressful reaction i might have will be very helpful.

The stoics really emphasize the idea that much of life, probably 90%, is beyond our control. But that other 10% is. We can control our own thoughts, behaviors, words and actions. Rather than give a lengthy “lecture” post, i will give some personal examples from my own life. Often i find reading particular examples more helpful than parroting rhetoric, so here goes:

  1. about 2 years ago, i went through a very traumatic event in which someone i thought was a good friend, someone i had helped out on many occasions and even worried about betrayed the friendship. In fact, that person went so far as to publicly accuse and humiliate me which led to ruining my reputation and a venue that my roommate and i had worked so hard to establish for 3 years. I was devastated. Additionally an ex boyfriend of mine became involved in the situation. We had recently broken up and i can only assume it was his personal pain that contributed to his words and actions.To be honest i still suffer from this incident and have withdrawn from a community i loved and cherished out of fear and anxiety.
  2. Recently i went through a break up as well. This initially stemmed from my anger and fear of abandonment. I felt and perceived the persons sudden distancing as a direct assault and reacted with haste and unkind words. While i realize i am allowed to “feel” emotions and embrace those feelings- i did not initially understand the reasons behind his actions and behaviors. I am beginning to process those things. Again, i am still being affected by the ending of our relationship, and probably will be for awhile.
  3. For much of my life, i have been affected by a certain family member’s passive-aggressive behaviors. At several points in time it became so bad i had to block and ignore them completely for long periods.They are still this way and it takes everything in my power to keep enough distance while still maintaining the love and care i want to have for this person.

In all of these cases, i reacted in a certain pattern. Anger, lashing out, blocking them out and feeling resentful. While i felt i was “processing” the feelings, in reality, i was , in fact holding onto my own perception of the events, and inwardly and/or outwardly defending my own beliefs. It’s a very tough thing to realize, admit to oneself and work on the humility and self awareness of the truth. Even tougher is doing the work on ones self to fix it.

In all of these cases, too, the underlying issue was allowing myself to believe i could somehow control the other persons thoughts, behaviors and actions in some way.If i just nagged enough, defended my position enough, or showed enough proof that they were “wrong”- eventually they would see things my way ( read “the right way”) . I would be justified and validated and life would go on- me, being comforted in the knowledge that i was correct. It is a trap many many of us fall into- in relationships, online, at our jobs, – even with our own children or parents. Realizing that my perceptions are likely one sided and flawed in many ways, as well as acknowledging another persons right to have those feelings has been eye opening.

But- again- what is and isn’t in our control?

Thats right- our own thoughts, behaviors , words and actions. What IS NOT in our control are other peoples thoughts, behaviors, words and actions. This sounds very logical on paper..or in memes..or in casual conversation, etc. Applying it to situations that are much closer to our hearts and minds, or ones that create intense feelings in ourselves, is much harder.

As i move through the process of healing and re learning self love, this is a key component of my meditations and daily thoughts. I am finding much inspiration from the stoics , as well as buddhism and other philosophies. One person i have recently been listening to is Alan Watts. Many of his lectures are free on youtube. Years ago, i would have blown him off as too complicated and boring. But now i find myself more easily able to absorb his perspectives, as well as being able to apply them to my own experiences, even as a Christian. In this regard, i have also been taking in many other perspectives- including various spiritual speakers/practitioners, secular speakers , and actually listening to the words of people around me instead of tuning them out when they don’t agree with my own experiences. It is definitely humbling and a process that will take a very long time.But i am encouraged by the moments of peace and inspiration i have been experiencing, as well as becoming more aware of patterns i have engaged in that no longer serve me ( if they ever did!).

Commentary and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading and Namaste!

“Is this who i want to be?”

As i ran through my question list tonight i had intended t go straight to # 3 just to stay in order. But i realized that the above question is the one i should be working on for awhile. And that little quote after the question really stopped me in my tracks .

Recently i have been going through a relationship break up.I mentioned it before on here and have truly been trying my best with the processing and trying to refrain from constantly posting about emotional turmoil and making decisions that i am not really ready to make. It’s been a rollercoaster and i can’t trust my feelings on it even from day to day. I go from angry to sad to indifferent and i never know which one today will be….Sigh.

Looking back on my patterns in life is a real eye opener sometimes. I absolutely loathe many of the ways i have gone about things , even though most of the time i achieved the end result i was seeking. I am usually too reactive, and reckless when i am in the heat of an emotional situation.I will react in various ways, regret it, then try something else. I do this over and over until i either accomplish what i wanted , am exhausted or am impeded for whatever reason- forcing me to deal with the mess i’ve made. I am not sure what that says about me but it surely makes me feel like a basket case until i resolve the issue.. I re read the quote , thought about all of this and know i need to put some time into using that challenge to become the person i want to be. Old patterns need to be addressed and dealt with.

How we do anything, is how we do everything. So, so true!

Many times i have looked around and watched in envy as i see people seemingly glide though life with a swan-like grace, as if they were just born with the ability to immediately know how to handle every given situation. These people exude zen like the Buddha himself and are so damned charming i can just imagine a King Cobra falling in love and giving up his fangs for him/her. I have always dreamed of achieving this state of nirvana, wisdom and serenity. Alas, i have never achieved it, no matter how many mantras i repeat, how much time i spend in meditation, or how many books i’ve read on the topic. It seems out of reach. Time and time again i get frustrated and wind up telling myself “Lovie, it’s just not in the cards for you”.

So, in this regard, i believe i have to start with much smaller questions:

-why do i believe i react this way?

-what are the usual steps in my process?

-how can i change those usual steps to create a more positive outcome?

-how can i avoid some of the steps that just make things worse?

-what can i do daily to make progress towards all of this?

I still don’t have the answers, but as with much of the hard work i have done on myself over the past few years i know that i have to keep at it.It will be difficult and time consuming.

I may never be Ghandi, or Mother Theresa, but surely there is a chance i can achieve more peace and sensibility.And with that i am setting upon my journey.

Any suggestions for enlightenment are welcome.


“Who are You Spending Time With?”

And now on to the second (set of) questions on my list:( warning- long read)

“Who am i spending my time with?Are they pushing me towards where i want to go or away from it? or Are they keeping me the same?

You know, when i first came across this question and started considering it, i realized that 99.9% of the time, we do not think about this when we are meeting someone for the first time. And, rightly so. We aren’t sure yet what role they will play in our lives. It’s a question, though, that should be answered if we start to spend a decent amount of time with that person. What happens most often is that we wind up spending a lot of time with people who do not add to our life in any positive way.

Now, i know there is no “formula” or crystal ball that can tell us how to assess potential relationships from the onset. But, it seems to me , at some point in life one has to realize the limited amount of time we have on this planet and put more thought into how we want to spend it. More importantly- WHO we spend it with.

When i look back at various relationships( of all types) that i have had, i understand that no matter how small, each person did serve a purpose and if i look hard enough i will find it. Not every relationship was nice, kind or helpful. But not every one was bad, toxic, or meaningless. I say all of this first as a disclaimer to this next bit. I submit to you what i have learned in my own experiences regarding the presented questions above.And these are simply my own ramblings– I am not a counselor, psychiatrist or sage, so take them as you will. I believe:

  1. You get to CHOOSE- that’s right- choose, who you devote your time to. It doesn’t matter if you have kids or not, are married or not, are an orphan or not. It doesn’t matter if you are extroverted and popular or introverted and shy. We choose ( whether consciously or subconsciously) who we spend our hours with. Keep in mind here that some parents are not hands-on, “my-kids-are-everything-to-me” types. And not all marriages contain an element of companionship. We seek out and gravitate to what serves us best internally and externally. And if something clashes with that, eventually there will be trouble. My examples here are a stay-at-home mom vs. a career mom or a marriage based on mutual interests ( perhaps business) vs. a match made based on love.
  2. Those whom you spend time with, whether you want to admit it or not, DO affect you and your choices as an individual. They affect what you say out loud, or internalize. They affect what you show to the world at large and what image you feel comfortable presenting. They affect how much time, energy and effort you put into your goals and passions. They can make you feel uplifted or depressed, valued or disposable, worthy or unworthy. They can affect you from your childhood unto your deathbed.
  3. Deciding which category they fit into( see above questions again) is usually not considered until after the fact- such as when a relative passes away, when an intimate relationship ends, or perhaps a friendship goes awry. There are many more scenarios. Even something like marriage, divorce, moving or a career change can prompt a person to consider the relationships qualities in hindsight.It may be more prudent to proceed with caution from the onset.
  4. You will not- and i repeat NOT- always get out of it what you put into it, no matter how many memes suggest otherwise. Life is unfair, cruel even, at times. You will be hurt, betrayed, treated badly, and sometimes- dismissed by people you thought valued you. But you will also be loved, cared for, listened to, and appreciated even when you don’t think you deserve it. Humans are complex, and almost unpredictable for the most part. We think with our hearts as well as our minds- and this creates a dichotomy found in no other species.
  5. Knowing these things is all well and good. But when your heart is breaking, or you feel overwhelmed/angry/ stressed/ betrayed- it is easy to forget what part YOU played in it all. The basics of stoicism ( specifically Epictetus) speak to this conundrum. While we feel deeply we are either at fault or not at fault- we need to learn the art of blaming ourselves alone for “failures”. Sounds terrible, right? I assure though that it is correct and once fully understood, will do much to heal wounds and tragedies that beset us. I will be speaking to that in a future post.So, please refrain from getting upset about that just yet.

Ok, back to the question at hand- How can i do better at not mis-using the time, love, and energy (on less desirable entities) that i have left while i am still able? I have a few take aways. They are not fool proof or without problems, but worth considering at least.

Red Flags- Find yours. Write them down.Say them like a mantra. Use your head, not your heart when entering new relationships. The heart can come later if it feels right, or worthy of your valuable assets. If you do not desire to be around a certain thing ( alcohol, drugs, young children, mental health issues, etc etc etc) STOP telling yourself you can be. This is almost certain to lead to disappointment at best or a crushing emotional break up at worst.

Take your time– they say only fools rush in. Let that sink in and become part of who you are. Sure, take risks- but take more calculated risks.Don’t be afraid to lose or miss out if you don’t “act now“. Life isn’t a TV ad. Finding your soul mate is not based on infatuation. Finding your mentors isn’t like finding a quarter on the beach. Both require a process of give and take.

Always pay attention– ignoring the train wreck that someone has created with their lives , or overlooking their lack of motivation to improve speaks volumes. Listen to their words, but don’t forget to check them against their reality. For instance, a potential love interest shares their life long dream of..idk..becoming the next Steve Jobs- but if 99% of their free time consists of spending watching youtube videos, drinking alcohol and munching on Dorito’s, their living space lacks any discernible evidence of efforts towards the goal, they’ve lost their drivers license and they have been unable to hold a job longer than a few weeks or months- those words are more likely a pipe dream.

Make sure you have the major stuff in common– life aspirations, goals, common interests and ethics. Puppy love and starry nights wont last forever. If your potential life partner wants to join the Peace Corps and eventually live off the grid in a hippy commune, and you want to succeed as a corporate CEO , get married, have a 401 k and buy a 400,000 home ( areas where this buys nothing not withstanding) then- you are not a good match ! If potential mentor/friend is political and polarizing and you tend to avoid those types of discussions- chances are the relationship will fail, become strained or toxic. Yes, it is good to have a strong sparring partner- but that partners interests should align with your own on a most basic level. You don’t have to agree on everything but mutual respect and ability to gain in a positive way from the connection is a must!

Spend some time alone with yourself on a regular basis- How will you know what you really want from a connection out there if you don’t even truly know who you are or what you want? Again, it’s not foolproof and we do change over time. But as per my previous post in this series- if you have worked hard to understand your deepest core values- don’t waste too much time with those who push back in a negative way. Example: i believe that all human beings have the right to experience love, safety and pursue their own happiness as long as it does’n t hurt anyone else. I could never be around a person ( friend or partner) who has acceptance issues with race, gender, religious/spiritual practices, or political freedom of choice. And trust me- there are more of them out there than we want to acknowledge. Take time to examine your own beliefs, why you have them, and where you need to place boundaries in your life.

When choosing those whom you will engage with regularly- start asking yourself before too much time has passed what they will add to your life. Be honest, be real, and don’t block out your gut feelings. Check your happiness, anxiety, and motivation levels when you are around them. And be careful of becoming something you don’t want to look at in the mirror everyday.

As always- feed back, insights, suggestions and opinions are welcome.


“What do I Value?”

When most people are asked this question their first answer is likely to be: “my family”, or “my health”, or “my freedom”. Of course, all 3 are “things” that are important and have great value. But I want to talk about the aesthetic meaning.

To start, it is always a good idea to define the topic of discussion. Values are “the beliefs and principles held by an individual, group, organization, or culture”. The link at the bottom of this post will direct you to the source of this definition, as well as list “80 types of values from A-Z”. Beliefs and principles are not tangible items that can be held, touched or experienced via the 5 senses specifically. They are held internally.

It is important that I start my journey here with this question and establish my values first- because values will drive, influence and justify every other aspect of self- examination that I will be covering.

I will begin by listing several things that came to mind as I wrote this. These are values that I have held for most, if not all, of my entire adult life.


2. Courtesy

3. Being (not just setting) an example that is true to my beliefs

4. Discipline in most areas of life

5. strength and fortitude (“moxie”)

6. Effective responses to adversity

These are things I expect of myself as well as others whom I choose to associate with. Granted, not everyone will embody these values or place the same weight on them. But those whom I choose to maintain regular relationships with (friends, family, partners) must exhibit most them.

As I pondered further, I considered values that I should aspire to. That’s a tough one because truly absorbing a new value takes persistence and tenacity.They also have to ring true to your deepest core. I wouldn’t want to say, for example, I want to value social status or good citizenship because both go against my moral and ethical values on some level. As in most areas of change and improvement choosing the correct, most realistic and viable options for you is essential. Doing otherwise is setting oneself up for failure or at best, repression, and resentment.

So, how do I choose?

Perhaps the litmus test for me is asking 3 questions “How would I want to respond to challenges as they show up in my life?” and “How have I responded to them so far?” and “How realistic is it that I can really change that about myself?”

My conclusions so far (i.e.-what I want to manifest through active, progressive actions and behavior):

  1. Courage (to pursue challenges)
  2. Reputation (continual/increasing quality in craftsmanship)
  3. Humility/accountability (understanding MY role)
  4. Discernment (over wisdom and intellect)
  5. Independence (freedom from patterns of dependence)

Of course, as I always emphasize, the next step must be action. It is not enough to figure out the “what” and “why”, to write them down, and walk away. But in these posts, I want to stick to the immediate task at hand, and I feel I’ve done that here.

Please feel free to share your insights.


reference: https://simplicable.com/new/values

A Stoic Life

Stoicism is a concept that pretty much describes me as a person. I relate well to most of the stoic philosophers, and i find their logic and wisdom often soothes my soul in times of crisis and in many ways enhances my own values. A few months ago i watched a video containing some very good questions that i felt i wanted to address. I went back through and wrote them all down so that i can spend some time working on each one this year, and probably for years to come.I do believe that even if you do not consider yourself a stoic individual, they are still worth considering. Here is that list:

What do i value?

Who am i spending my time with?are they pushing me towards where i want to go or away from it? or are they keeping me the same?

Is this in my control? (I can control my actions, thoughts and opinions.)Am i throwing good energy after bad?

What does my ideal day look like?how am i trying to design my life?

To be or to do? Do i want to be an “important” person, or do important things?

If i am not for me who is? If i am only for me , who am i?

*What am i missing by choosing to be worried or afraid?*

Am i doing my job?

What is the most important thing?

Who is this for?

Does this actually matter?is this essential?

Will this be alive time or dead time?

Is this who i want to be?How we do anything is how we do everything

What is the meaning of life? Am i living a meaningful life?

I will hopefully gain some insight into myself and the next phase of my life as i examine and consider each one. I will post as i get more clarity. Please feel free to follow along and/or join me 🙂