So, this is interesting. I’ve been an on-again / off-again stoic, since I was a little kid, trying to find ways to manage my sensory / anxiety / info overwhelm issues and still stay functional in the world. I was raised in a very religious (and Aspie-fied) household, and self-control always figured prominently in our family ethos.
Hold your sh*t. Keep it together. Self-possession and grace under pressure were held in the highest esteem. And of course, since I wanted to be held in high esteem, I did my best to keep it together.
I learned, early on, to not be too demonstrative about my emotional upheavals. Nobody wanted to hear about them, anyway, so what was the point of expressing them? Plus, if I “got out of hand”, I was literally pulled back into line, and the touch on my arms, hands, back, shoulders… it was excruciating. So, I learned pretty early on to not let my inner drama “soak through” to my external expression.
All this sound violent and coercive to me now, and I suppose it was, to some extent. It was no different than how my own parents were raised, though. It was “how things were done”, and when you disregard the discomfort and anguish, I suppose it actually helped me in significant ways.
I know it’s common to find fault with tough circumstances while growing up as a sign of abuse that should be eradicated, but whether my parents were managing me, or the neurotypical world was imposing on me, it was still formative in ways that have stood me in good stead as an adult. I learned from a young age, how to mask. I learned how to blend and camouflage my issues. And while that’s been a source of some pretty intense suffering, it’s nevertheless enabled me to develop a pretty impressive stoic ability to carry on, despite all the worst external conditions.
Stoicism suits me. It truly does. It’s not a practice of cramming down all your emotions, shoving them out of sight and never dealing with any of them. Au contraire. It’s the practice of living your life regardless of what happens to you. It’s a philosophy of personal autonomy in the face of uncontrollable adversity and conditions you’d never willingly choose for yourself. Rather than disconnecting you from your feelings, it connects you with them on a deep, autonomous level, where you choose what you will feel, and how you will experience your life, rather than having it dictated to you by outside conditions.
I know crappy stuff is going to happen to me. It always does. Life itself can be a losing proposition with me. Everyday I get up, I have no idea — and I mean no idea — how I’m going to do that day. I have no idea how much pain I’ll have, I have no idea how much adversity I’ll encounter. I have no control over others’ behaviors. I have no idea if my partner is going to be in a sweet mood, or foul — and likewise, all the people I work with. I don’t even know, from one day to the next, if I’ll have a job. Or if something awful will happen that takes me totally by surprise.
I can’t let that stop me from living my life. I also can’t let it stop me from being happy. I have so much I want to do with my life, so many goals and hopes and intentions — not so much for myself, rather making good use of the skills and abilities I’ve been given and developed. I’ve got a lot to do. I’m on a mission. And I can’t allow the shenanigans of the world to distract me from my purpose and detract from my quality of life.
I say that now, of course. A week ago, I was in a very different place. I’d gotten sidetracked, overwhelmed, fried by external circumstances… caught up in a perpetual, ever loudening (is that word?) feedback loop of stressors and stress. I was making myself sick — literally. And as far as I was concerned, it was everybody else’s fault.
Oh, poor me.
For some reason — divine providence? — I got distracted back into stoicism. I have no idea what I was googling or surfing in search of, but I happened upon some stoicism-related material… read it… read some more… thought about it… realized, Hey, this is what I myself think and believe, and actually, it’s much truer to my own guiding philosophy than all this stinkin’ thinkin’ that’s dragging me down.
So, it’s time for a stoic “reboot”.
I’ve been scouting around online, and fortunately the stoics are both classic and haven’t been hugely popular (read, economically viable for the publishing industry), so there’s a ton of material online I can download for free. Lately, stoicism has enjoyed a resurgence, and more people are writing and talking about it, but I prefer to read the original texts (translated into English, of course, though I think German translations could shed additional light), and give it all thought, myself. I find a lot of interpreters of original texts have their own perspectives (even agendas) which cloud the meaning for me. Plus, I find them less rigorous than is comfortable for me.
So, I’ve downloaded some texts by Seneca and Epicetus. I may dip into others, while I’m at it, but these are the two I’m focusing on, right now. And I’m spending time with them, reading, digesting, reading… interpreting… and doing some blogging about what I get from it, especially as it relates to how I manage my autistic issues and Aspergers life.
The blog will be an intermittent activity, since I’ve already got a lot going on. But I have a feeling it could grow into something over time. Time… that’s the first topic I wrote about. Speaking of which, it’s time to get to work. I’m at home today, since we’re having a snow storm(!) all day, and there’s not much point in braving the commute to the office.
I’d planned to go in today, thinking I’d get in a nice swim, this afternoon. But — as with so many of my other plans — it’s not going to happen.
‘Cause the rest of life happened, instead.
So it goes. Just have to make the best of it… which is a whole lot easier to do, within the comfort and quiet of my own home.