“The only true serenity is the one which represents the free development of a sound mind….There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within.” -Seneca
In letters Seneca wrote whilst living above a noisy Roman bathhouse he equates soundness of mind to a mind free from noise. He then infers that the noise of the bathhouse does not impact his work because he is of sound mind.
As a mother of two children under the age of five, a husband that works from home, two large dogs, and a 25-year-old blind cat that appears to be able to navigate through the house using echolocation with meows that sound like a crying baby, and the constant gurgle of our 20 gallon fish tank located very conveniently in the middle of the kitchen counter, I think bedlam is a good description of our home.
Every morning there is mad rush to get the dogs fed, the kids dressed, the fish fed, myself dressed, the cat fed, lunches made, kids fed, teeth brushed, shoes on, and somehow, we stumble out the door and within a few minutes we’re giving our goodbye kisses and pullout of the school parking lot in silence.
Generally, it is before we get home from dropping the kids off at school that one or both of us realize something that needs to happen right away, like forgetting that signed permission slip or that the cat is out of food, and our minds shift from relief to adulting. There is almost a constant feeling of needing to just “get through” whatever random task is laid out before us. This is madness.
How can I be more like Seneca? I do not have a desire to shut out the physical noise around me because as any parent already knows, it is the silence that you need to worry about with young children. But I do have a desire to quiet my mind when my 4-year-old proudly proclaims that he no longer must wash his hands because he can pee standing up with no hands and the restraint to not react when my daughter tries to do the same.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that if I continue to create time and space to find out, the answers will come.