Tag Archives: relationships

Revisiting the Stoics

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Well, you know what they say, some things never change. Anxious, dissatisfied, relationship not going well? So what else is new?

I’ve recently come across the following, from Epictetus:

“There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power.” (…)

“Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.” (…)

“Remember, then, that if you attribute freedom to things by nature dependent, and take what belongs to others for your own, you will be hindered, you will lament, you will be disturbed, you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you take for your own only that which is your own, and view what belongs to others just as it really is, then no one will ever compel you, no one will restrict you, you will find fault with no one, you will accuse no one, you will do nothing against your will; no one will hurt you, you will not have an enemy, nor will you suffer any harm.” (…)

– from Enchiridion I

And also, this:

“When I see anyone anxious, I say, what does this man want? Unless he wanted something or other not in his power, how could he still be anxious?  A musician, for instance, feels no anxiety while he is singing by himself; but when he appears upon a stage he does, even if his voice be ever so good, or he plays ever so well. For what he wishes is not only to sing well, but likewise to gain applause. But this is not in his own power.”

– from Discourses, On Anxiety.


Source: W. Ferraiolo, Stoic Counsel for Interpersonal Relations

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It’s time

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There comes a time when you look at the person next to you – your spouse – and you don’t know them anymore. And the really sad thing is you look at them and you don’t know yourself anymore. You look at him and you ask yourself: “Who is this person?” But you look at yourself and say: “What am I? What have I become? Little more than furniture, to make the inside of his hollow life a little cozier? Why is my love not good enough for him anymore? No, why is my love not worth anything to him anymore? When have my tender caresses become so unimportant? When has our love, our marriage, our life together morphed into this gigantic tumor that spreads its arteries through my life like writhing snakes, like a million thirsty black ticks? Why is this person metastasizing all his inabilities, fears and weaknesses in me? How come he never misses an opportunity to scorch my pastures, my smiles, my sky? Where has that brook of explosive joy, telepathic warmth, and requited passion gone – trickled down into the earth and disappeared through the hidden cracks of the all-encompassing desert? When has this happened? Where and why?” For all you know, you’ve given your best, you were always present, aware, and struggling. And now? You touch yourself and you think you’re still alive, but you can’t feel life anymore. So you slap yourself to feel anything at all. And you slap yourself because you deserve to be punished for the failure of something so beautiful, for all the mistakes you have made along the way. Maybe, if you had been perfect, if you had been a saint, he would have loved you. He never takes chances on less than perfect. He never takes chances on human emotions.

There comes a time when his indifference is more painful than a cut. There comes a time when your “relationship” no longer is one. No togetherness, no communication, no shared dreams or paths. You don’t trust him anymore, and worst of all, you do not trust yourself to be lovable anymore. And still you squat there in your living room, and you hug your knees and you cry yourself to sleep, convincing yourself that if only you did something more, did something better, did something different, it might still work. You are so fundamentally alone in all of this, and yet you force yourself to love him. You want to see this story through, though every cell will scream out that it’s useless. You will never be happy again with him. Never. You don’t even love him for the sake of reciprocation. You love, because you know how precious that is. How hard to come by, how miraculous to even feel love. And you hope, because you love. Little by little, you come to perceive your love like a stillborn baby that you are desperately trying to resuscitate. You cry some more, you try some more. You think, (like Pink), perhaps all we need is a ” less sporadic pace”. You take over most of his chores, his responsibilities, you buy him time and you fool yourself that if he has it, he will choose to maybe spend some of it with you. That time will buy you life. A little.

And then there comes a time when you were just plain wrong. When love is so dead, it has begun to smell. That’s when you fake it. You fake it in front of your mother, you fake it in front of his mother. You fake it in front of your friends, and, oh, what a lovely couple you make, pretty as candy. You want to salvage the outer shell of it, at least. Being with each other has become a habit you still want to preserve. Pretty soon that facade will break down, too; the plastering will come off little by little, the colors will fade. Pretty soon all your scars will show in plain view, for everybody to gape at. By now, your soul is a rainbow of every shade of humiliation and your home is a walled-in prison full of screams.

There comes a time when all you want is a door. There comes a time to kick the sucker in the groin and run for your life. So long, sperm donor! Kiss my ass and eat my dust.

Love and let go

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Don’t get me wrong. I am all for love. I live for love. I used to consider it the single most splendid reason to be alive.  I have been known to plunge into it deeply, passionately, voluptuously. I have delved into its mystique. And I have given up an enormous amount of myself for love (not just the romantic type, either), barely stopping short of complete self-annihilation.

But there is a time for love, and there is a time for LIFE, people.

Love is a gigantic part of life, the most beautiful, enthralling part, because it creates life in its turn. It enhances and it multiplies life. When a love story goes sour, by all means try to fix it. Try to rekindle the flame – not only of passion, but first and foremost of trust, empathy, tenderness, friendship. But when love dies, DO NOT die with it. It takes two to tango. You can’t fix it all on your own, and once it gets past the point of no repair, don’t waste too much time mourning the faded beauty of what once was, or what once might have been. Don’t get caught up in its dead past. Don’t be trapped by its morbid fake future. Don’t become a victim of unbreakable habits and false pretenses. Why invite daily humiliation? It will destroy your spirit.

All that glitters is not gold, they say, and one butterfly in the stomach does not a soulmate make. Don’t let your love ensnare you, imprison you, incarcerate you.  There is plenty more out there that’s authentic and energizing. For instance, the promise of another love (…just to keep you and chubby little Eros going, you junkie 🙂 ).

So you loved and lost, where is the disaster? Quite often it can be a beneficial step forward, a long overdue measure of personal hygiene. You can sulk and become your worst enemy, or you can move on and be your own best friend. Dwell in your sorrow just long enough to heal and learn from your mistakes, but not a minute longer. Remember you were born free. You were born free, and meaningful, and worthy of beauty. You are a materialized state of grace, not a doormat, not an accessoire. Don’t allow unreciprocated love to suck you in like a quagmire that drags you back down everytime you come up for air until you drown – one big mummified corpse fatally entangled in slimy submarine roots, stinky algae, and venomous nettle fish.

There is LIFE after love. So live and let die. Love and let go.