Disclaimer: This post is rated PG-13 due to mild cursing (with ridiculous $ymbols
to "censor" it) and mild themes of violence.
If there’s one “bizarre” Stoic principle that has crept into my belief system (and by “bizarre,” I mean that it really doesn’t have a strong presence in modern society), it’s the concept that “Fortune” is nothing but cycles, ebb and flow, high tide and low tide, periods of bad luck and good luck.
I like that the ancients personified Fortune. Her name became a proper noun. It just made it more simple to conceive of a lady that either took you out with the whack of a club or showered you with gold coins than to try to figure out what was really at work behind the scenes of life. So it’s not that I refer to proper-noun Fortune because I think she’s a real deity. (I don’t think bipolar sociopathic deities should be allowed to exist anyway). But I do it because it’s just easier for me to conceive of this way.
“Think you can get some peace in life from this angle? HA! F*** you!” WHACK.
So for the last year, it seems like Fortune’s been playing Whack-a-Mole with my life. Career, romance, family, money, you name it. WHACK WHACK WHACK. And I was tired of it. What good is life if you can’t actually achieve anything and all you seem to be accomplishing is serving as a punch bag for Fortune? It’s like the puny little kid who thinks he’s going to try to wrestle the big middle-schooler and ends up getting the lights punched out of him. “This isn’t fun anymore! Let me go!” But Fortune doesn’t give a crap whether you think you can handle more or not. She’s taken some sort of steroid/drug combination. She’s immune. She just does her thing.
I know, this is sounding real depressing. But let me share a secret with you:
No matter how badly Fortune tries to beat you up, you always have enough strength in you to withstand another punch.
She might get you good, but she can never defeat you. Not unless you allow her to. Believe it or not, you have the potential within you to be stronger than all the $h!t she’s been throwing at you. And the proof of this is that you and I are here today, reading these words. The fact that you’re even on this blog suggests that you’re already interested in learning how to build your inner strength, and for that, I commend you. That’s truly the best thing you can do for yourself. You’re already leaps and bounds beyond much of the world.
So after Fortune had been battering me for a six months, I started reading about Stoicism. Great help. (Was it good fortune that I stumbled across the topic of Stoicism during this time? Huh!) After Fortune had been battering me for a year, I started this blog. Heck, Fortune even slapped me in the face as recently as last week with a lame-ass “fender bender” and driving ticket. But remember that Fortune has an ebb and a flow, a high tide and a low tide. And while the last month she seems to have been giving me glimpses of the light here and there, she seems to have given me an official water-break in the last 24 hours.
A Water Break
This blog, which I started for my own sake and decided that if anyone else were ever to benefit from it—fantastic, not only has a handful of followers and is steadily increasing in viewers, but yesterday the PaintedPorch podcast gave a simple “shout out” to this blog. I know as an attempting-to-be-Stoic, I really should be indifferent to these types of “recognition.” But let me be honest with myself: to be able to write a blog that not only benefits yourself, but you’re also receiving a bit of recognition AND benefiting others through something that you feel really passionate about: writing and philosophy. Is that not fulfilling?! And whether it’s Stoically-approved or not, I’m grateful. +1 for Kirsten.
Shortly after that, the agency at which I interviewed last week called two of my three references (that I know of), and they gave me fantastic references. “Yes, I know Kirsten. She was working here for the last three years. She was always the first one in the office in the morning, and the last one to leave at the end of the day. She doesn’t mind staying if there’s work that needs to be done. She was doing a case manager’s job here all by herself, and ever since she left, they’ve hired five different people to take over the responsibilities she was taking care of.” My god, it feels really vain of me to feel or admit this, but do you know how relieving it is to finally receive some recognition for all your hard labor? I was giving my heart and soul to that job, to the clients, to the agency, and my boss was doing everything in her power to make sure people thought I was a terrible person at heart. That’s what made it so painful for me to deal with: I’m super deliberate. I don’t say anything that I don’t actually mean. Heck, when she would ask me to lie, I refused. …Which is how I became a whistleblower. The irony of it! A person who exposes corruption is accused of corruption herself! Actually, these last couple of Stoic Serenity posts about dealing with difficult people, and how their goals aren’t really any “good” at all, that’s the only way I’ve been able to make sense of my previous boss and come to some sort of peace with it. She’s just a terribly confused and misguided person, and I pity her. Anyway. Old news. Like I said, it just felt like a breath of fresh air to finally be recognized for something that I worked so hard for and cared so much about. +2 for Kirsten.
Then this morning, the apartment property manager called me and informed me that since I currently have a “highly-rentable two-bedroom apartment,” I get to skip the huge line of people waiting for a one-bedroom apartment, and if I’m interested, there will be one available in the other half of the same building in less than a month. “Yes, let’s definitely plan on it.” +3 for Kirsten.
So fingers crossed that Fortune will give me more than a 5-second breather: I have the potential to get a stable job again in my career, and get a much more affordable apartment in the same complex where I really enjoy living.
But of course, this is a Stoicism blog, and despite my imperfections, I do aim to practice Stoicism. So I can’t end this post without reminding both you and myself that
Fortune is ebb and flow.
Sometimes she beats the hell out of us, and sometimes she gets a kick out of making it rain 😉 The key is to remember that she does both. She can change her mind at any time. Stoicism warns that I shouldn’t even delight in good fortune because in the end, it’s just fortune, and it can be snatched away from me as easily as it was placed in my hands. I can’t count on Fortune. It’s entirely possible that tomorrow someone will release a hate-article about my blog, I’ll get rejected for the job, and the “affordable one-bedroom apartment” will jump in price by $100/month.
“The good that can be given can also be removed.”
(From Seneca, Letters from a Stoic Letter 8)
At no time should Fortune be less trusted than when it is best.
(From Seneca, On the Shortness of Life)
But I won’t get discouraged at the possibilities. It’s just the nature of life. Fortune is ebb and flow. That’s simply the nature of Fortune. Should I cancel my life because of the nature of the world that I’m in? Nah. All I can do is use the “extras” while Fortune gives them to me and make do without what I thought were the “vitals” that she takes from me. In the end, it’s only that which is truly Good that really matters. All I can do is stand strong, hold on to the Good, and keep on being Kirsten.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.
By the way, if anyone has read “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” and you feel compelled to comment on it, please do so. This book is on my list to read, and I’d really appreciate anyone’s input on it.