On goes my continuing experiment of applying ancient wisdom to the present day experience of people facing divorce in Minnesota.
The wisdom comes from Seneca (an old Roman dude) who wrote a series of letters to his friend, Lucilius. The letters were about the meaning of life. Whether Seneca actually sent the letters, or just compiled them as a book, doesn't matter to me because I've found his advice as sound today as it was in 65 A.D.
All the letters can be downloaded (for free) courtesy of Tim Ferriss. Click (here) for his website. Lots of other amazing stuff is there too. I highly recommend his book, Tools of Titans, which is worth the cost.
Today's letter is No. 4. It's titled On the Terrors of Death.
At first blush, the title seems light years away from sensible divorce advice. Everyone agrees that divorce is bad. But it's not like death, right?
Or is it? Do people worry about divorce in the same way they worry about death?
Seneca explains that we shouldn't fear death because:
"No evil is great which is the last evil of all. Death arrives; it would be a thing to dread, if it could remain with you. But death must either not come at all, or else must come and pass away."
He reminds us that from the instant our life begins, we start the march towards its end. Resistance is futile. Rich or poor. Old or young. Happy or sad. We all go the same.
And yet, instead of living boldly, we spend our time alternating between complaining about life's inequities and fearing its end. "Unwilling to live." Not prepared to die.
What is a person to do?
The solution Seneca offers is to "make life as a whole agreeable to yourself by banishing all worry about it." He tells Lucilius that most anguish is caused by "superfluous things." Those things we don't really need, which consume our time and desire.
He says, "That which is enough is ready to our hands."
How does this apply to a divorce in 2018?
For many people, the self-talk during a divorce mirrors what happens with death. They are not content or happy or living boldly in their marriage. Instead, they alternate between complaining about their spouse and fearing the marriage's end.
Like death, divorce is inevitable if one spouse demands it.
Why not instead make life "agreeable" to you? "Banish all worry" about the divorce. It "must either not come at all, or else must come and pass away."
In any case, you are strong enough to survive it. You have all you need already in your hands.
Our world is one of abundance, if you choose to see it that way.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that living Seneca's advice isn't easy. I get depressed too. Worried. Sometimes, I even believe I'm destined for the opposite of greatness.
But I've found a way out of that tunnel. A way to stop worrying so much about what is going to happen to me and focus instead on the present moment.
How do I do it?
I'll tell you, but you're going to laugh. You'll say, "It's stupid." Tease me about being an idiot.
But it isn't stupid. And it does work.
First, I decide not to feel that way anymore, then I fake it until I make it. I repeat an affirmation 15 times in front of the mirror.
What do I say?
The old Stuart Smalley routine works best: "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!"
When I'm done, I feel better. You won't be cured after the first day. But after 60 days, you will notice a difference.
Or at least not be afraid of looking like an idiot anymore.