Cato learned to eat a poor man’s rations and went barefoot in the heat or rain. Seneca celebrated the beginning of the year by taking icy cold plunges in the roman aqueduct. Marcus Aurelius would remind himself that the people he meets today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly.
The ancient Stoic philosophers had a way of meeting problems head-on that others might shy away from.
“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’”― Seneca
One of my fears was depending on others. Needing help. Or mooching. As a teenager, I bought all my clothes (thrift store) and most of my food (Taco Bell). My mom paid for half of my school. My dad provided a roof over my head while I was in school, but I paid for my car, insurance, and the bill for my pager. Once I left, I never asked for or needed help from them. I always assumed it wouldn’t be there.
Returning from Hawai’i late last year, we did not have a plan for what we would do next. There was a room at my mother in laws house, and we figured we would kick it with her for a bit until we knew our next move. Before we arrived, I had envisioned my every minute there with dread, so soon after landing, I jetted off to tour Europe.
When I returned, I still didn’t have a plan, so I borrowed my brother-in-law’s ex-wife’s stepson’s car and started working at my old job.
You might have read those last two paragraphs without thinking much, but for me, the idea of needing people and not feeling fully independent is torture to me.
However, I didn’t need them. I still had a good portion of the money from selling our house and returning to my old job; I wasn’t dipping into those funds. Living with the inlaws and borrowing transportation was a choice.
Having gone through what I had worse feared, accepting handouts from others, I learned that it wasn’t as bad as I had thought.
‘To reduce your worry, you must assume that what you fear may happen is certainly going to happen.’― Seneca
It has been said the unexpected blow hits the hardest. Accepting early on that misfortune can and probably will strike saves you from some of the anger and anxiety you feel when it happens. The more you put yourself out there and face your fears, the easier life becomes. It worked for the ancient Stoics and can work for us.
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, but because we do not dare, things are difficult.― Seneca
And I couldn’t forget to mention this old chestnut!
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”― Frank Herbert, Dune