What Works

“Whatever is good for us should be discussed often and frequently brought to mind, so that it may be not just familiar to us, but also ready to use. Remember also that in this way what is clear often becomes clearer.” -Seneca

Our four-year son is stir-crazy and spent the better part of the morning literally chasing our dog in circles in the backyard. He oscillates from bursting at the seams with extreme energy to zoned out zombie mode in front of the tv. He’s on day eight of isolation and continues to test positive for Covid. He was a little bit sick a week ago but otherwise is no longer showing any symptoms.

My husband and I are worn out. We’ve had someone sick in our house for over a month. It is easy to let things go when you don’t feel well or when you have a sick child. But life goes on with or without us.  

In Seneca’s quote he’s advocating for repetition of our ethics and principles by keeping them in the forefront of our thoughts and sharing them with others. How often have we struggled to resolve a problem only to remember a much easier way to accomplish the same after the fact? The knowledge was there, we just couldn’t access it.

When I worked in IT, I worked with SQL and had a handful of queries I used frequently. I worked alone and seldom had anyone looking over my shoulder, especially when I was coding. I never thought much about what I was doing, only that it accomplished what I needed it to. It wasn’t until I had to teach a newer employee that I realized that some of my queries were redundant, so I quietly refined them.

My SQL queries were nothing special nor complicated. But it wasn’t until years later when I joined a community that regularly reviewed and discussed codes of all kinds, that I learned how to drastically improve my skills so I no longer needed to rely on my handful of queries, and I could write my own code rather effortlessly.  

The same is true in my personal life. I know how to do all sorts of things with minimal thought but to do them well and to improve on them takes effort. It is through discussing, learning, and teaching what works for me do I refine these skills.

What works for me when I am worn out? I’m still learning the answer to that. But I can tell you what doesn’t work is sitting around feeling self-pity or focusing on what I am too tired to do. If I take Seneca’s message to heart, I need to be open to have discussions with others and heed their advice. Then once I have found what works for me, I will retain this knowledge by helping other parents of young children navigate through the same waters I’m currently drowning in.

The aim of stoics is to refrain from judgement and assume that people generally try to do their best. With this attitude in mind, I can see humanity a little clearer. I don’t have to have a personal judgment about what size someone’s hands should be to know that my hands are too large to reach into my son’s toy dinosaur’s mouth to pull out my daughter’s Duplo cat. Nor does my son think anything of my request to have him retrieve it because his hands are small enough.

Nature is in harmony both for people and animals. It is neither good nor bad. To relay on the height of my husband to reach a dish on the top shelf or the nose of my dog to find that pea I dropped last night are both examples of how graceful something can be for one that is a struggle for another and how effortlessly help can be found if we look for it in the right places.

Sometimes the overwhelming speed of life can warp our minds into looking for help in all the wrong places. If I asked my son to reach the top shelf and my husband to rescue my daughter’s toy the results would be frustrating all around.

These tough times will pass like all things do. It is what I take from this experience that will make the difference in my future peace of mind. What worked for me today? What didn’t work for me? What can I do better in the future? These are the answers I wish to seek so that I shall meet the problems of tomorrow with the tools I acquire today.

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