Tag Archives: Stoicism

Kindness just happens

Last week I noticed something odd with the wood trim around our kitchen window. Our guest bedroom is above our kitchen, and on inspection I found some damp, warped hardwood floor and mould in the corner hidden behind a bedside table, sign of a radiator leak that had probably been going on for weeks, if not months.

All the gory details of how this is going to be fixed are not entirely clear or important. As the nice fellow from the disaster restoration company reminded me, there aren’t any problems with a house that can’t be fixed with time and money. We are all alive and healthy, and that is what is most important.

One of the tools I have gained from reading about Stoicism is the idea of practising how to deal with difficult people or situations. I try to remind myself each morning that I might encounter things through the day that will challenge and even upset me, and while I can’t control those things or people, I can control my reaction to them and attempt to remain calm and even-tempered, which is much better for me and those around me.

Sounds great, and sometimes I achieve that equilibrium during upsetting situations, but I got overwhelmed at one point this week and complained to Steven it was unfair and too much, that I try to be a good person and deserve better than having to deal with this complicated emergency renovation. He replied with something very helpful and profound: “This isn’t happening to you; it is just happening.”

That instantly put everything back into context, calmed me down, helped me step back and observe. These problems aren’t divine retribution, it’s just water being drawn earthward by gravity through our walls and flooring. Not ideal, but just the way water works on this planet!

While there is nothing much fun about having large chunks of walls and hardwood flooring ripped up, I am touched by how kind everyone has been, from the insurance company adjustor to the remediation company staff, building supply folks, our plumber arriving on a day off to repair the radiator, everyone helpful, gentle, good humoured, considerate. Not promising the world, not saying it is going to be easy, but saying it will all be fixed, and, most importantly, saying they will help. Kindness upon kindness.

Steven and I drove to Charlottetown yesterday to run a quick errand and escape the loud rattling dehumidifiers. We had so many pleasant interactions throughout the day, gifts literal and figurative, of time and talent and presence. It is when things aren’t going well that the kindness of others shines most brightly, and connects most deeply.

As we made our way home, we dropped into one of my favourite spots in Summerside, Samuel’s Coffee House. I was so happy to see A. behind the counter, a kind reader of this blog and an excellent writer herself. I ordered a cortado (now that I know I can!) and referencing my recent post on the matter, A. offered to make it in a glass. It was perfection, a gift just for me, made with kindness and caring. It tipped the world in my favour. Everything will be all right.

The best cortado.

Stoic Week

Stoic Week 2019 begins tomorrow, and it’s not too late to sign up. It’s a free program and I’ve taken part for the last few years.

I enjoy all the readings and self-reflection that are built into the program, and I think I am generally happier because of it. I know that I like myself much more as I age, and this is due in no small part to not trying to control every situation, which is sort of Stoicism 101:

“One of the main strategies that runs through both Stoicism and this handbook is that of distinguishing between things that are under your control and things that are not. The Stoics believed that this takes training to do well but that it’s the key to self-discipline and overcoming emotional disturbances. Maintaining this distinction between what is and isn’t under your control requires continual attention to your own thoughts and judgements. We can describe this as a kind of ‘mindfulness’ practice. You’ll build upon this foundation by exploring different Stoic concepts and techniques each day throughout the course of the week.”
Excerpt From: Modern Stoicism. “Stoic Week 2019 Handbook”. Apple Books.

My life as a carer means I need to also take care of myself, but that’s not something I or most other carers do well. Stoic Week is a short burst of study and practice that helps me build resilience and critical thinking. Tell Seneca I sent you.