“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” — Seneca
In Stoicism, we’re taught that we should prepare for the absolute worst thing that can happen to us, so that we are not caught off guard, so that we are prepared to lose everything in case it happens. Memento Mori — remember you will die and Amor Fati — Love of fate or love of one’s fate, are two common phrases you’ll see in Stoic teachings. Not meant to be morbid, quite the contrary, they are meant as reminders that at any time, our lives, and everything in them, can be taken from us, so we should prepare, and enjoy our good fortunes while they last.
In this same vein it also teaches that while we should be looking for the joy in life, that doesn’t necessarily mean material things, hence, why we should imagine our lives without “things”. But it also means the people we love.
At the times in my life when I’ve lost the people I’ve cared the most about, my Dad and my grandparents, I had no idea what Stoicism was. I was completely unprepared to lose them. I most assuredly had not sat around contemplating life without them. Especially my Dad. I was 13 years old and he was my only ally at home, even though he was not there all the time. I was an adult when both my grandparents passed away, but I was not any better equipped to lose them, mentally.
Growing up in an abusive environment, then moving right along into an abusive marriage, having any person as an ally, anyone who treated you like a human being is a blessing, a gift. So to lose that person/people, is a tragedy of epic proportions. Especially when you’re still enduring the abuse. Even more so when their loss ramps up the abuse.
When my Dad committed suicide, my mother, who was one of the abusers I dealt with throughout childhood, just got worse. She realized that I no longer had anyone I could turn to, no one to save me so to speak. She needed a whipping girl for her anger and her grief, so she turned to me more than ever. I spent the next three years fighting to stay away from her instead of processing my own grief.
With my grandparents, I was in an abusive and controlling marriage. Their home was a refuge I could escape to here and there. With them gone, it just gave my then husband even more control over me. Thankfully, I did finally get away from him shortly after their deaths. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I did begin to process the grief I had been holding in for so long from all of their deaths.
Death is the only thing I’ve suffered in my life. I’ve written here about dealing with abuse, rape, autoimmune disease, chronic pain, mental illness, and other traumas. There are times I still feel like suffering is just an every day part of life. And for a lot of people, it most likely is. But I refuse to allow any of that to deny me the joy there is to be found in life. To do so, would allow every single person who has ever laid a wrong hand on me to win. To do so would be an insult to the memories of my Dad and my grandparents.
Yes, you can live a joyful life, even after suffering. You can life a joyful life even WHILE suffering. You just have to chose joy. Not everything will make you happy, just as not everything should make you sad.
But contrary to what my mother always tried to tell me as a child…
Yes, I can have my cake and eat it too.