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Stoicism in Troubled Times

So it’s mid April, 2020, and life has suddenly become completely weird. The coronavirus has taken over our lives, and none of are living our lives completely as before, even if you are trying to. Being ‘locked in’ is far from a normal life.

Having a job may no longer be possible, and you may have lost your fob. or you may have a job, but have to work from home. Or you may, like me, be on a disability support pension and weren’t working, but services have been cut, and shopping has become far more difficult.

If you are a Stoic, or exploring the idea of becoming one, what might that mean, now that we are fighting against an unseen enemy? I am not an expert in Stoicism, and I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about it. But I know my own life, better than anyone else does, and I know how I try to ‘do’ Stoicism, in this new world we have right now.

For me, Stoicism feels like it was helping me to be at peace with this strange world. There is little I can do to cure this disease, nothing in fact. But it is well within my power to stay relatively safe from ‘getting it’. I am helped in this by my husband, who is also my carer, to assist me in various daily things, shopping, housework, etc. I stay safely home, while he goes out to keep ensure we have all we need to eat, remain clean etc.

If ever there was a time to grow your own food, surely now is that time. If one is able to provide for themselves, that is so much safer, as long as you aren’t affected by the Covid 19 virus. And if you are, but are not badly affected, staying home is the only thing to do, apart from seeking medical help as needed. And if your are worse affected, it’s to hospital for you, no doubt about it.

growing our own strawberries

There is little an ordinary person can do about this virus, and so trying to go beyond your abilities, is a senseless thing to try. And ignoring the word of experts, who know far more than others, well, that’s a path to stupidity, surely? The Stoic works at going what they are capable of doing, and affecting, and leaves alone the things they are not capable of doing.

That doesn’t mean not helping out, if something comes up, that you are in fact able to do, perhaps. Not being expert doesn’t mean you can do nothing. It just means you are wise to keep within your bounds of ability, not venturing too far beyond. Growing our own food? Yes we can do that, as proved by successes in previous seasons. Intubation of a patient suffering breathing problems? No, not within my abilities, so I wouldn’t go there, unless there was no other help, and I felt I could do it.

Knowing my own abilities, and understanding the extents of how far I may be capable of reaching, these are important. There are people who know about caring medically for others, and I am happy to leave such things in their hands. If I were to be in the position of being the only available person? Well, I’d give it a go, but understand (I hope) and forgive myself if what I managed wasn’t enough.

I haven’t thought a whole lot about such things previously, because they haven’t seemed important or necessary things. But in this new world, we can’t know everything that might happen, there are not lessons written down in stone, on how to deal with what is here. So I am staying at home, most of the time. I’m eating a nutritionally sound diet, as always, and I am now doing more exercise, to assist my body to do what it needs to do.

I’m exposed to lots of ‘news’ – some true, some perhaps not true. But I am keeping my mind open, and staying with what seems the most likely, and what is sensible and understandable. I’m not a medical person, but I have a doctor who I trust, I will do as he thinks best, when it melds with what I believe to be true. (Which is almost all of the time)

I step back, or try to, from things that seem wrong, or fake, or just plain silly, and I stick with likely, and true things, things that make sense to me. Sure there are moments when I am less than serious, and there may be things I could do for my good, or the good of others, but do nothing. I am human, and like most humans, I go wrong sometimes. Such is the nature of being ‘only human’.  Sometimes a little bit of humour makes things go better.

So these are a few of my thoughts about living with a ‘killer disease’, and trying to look at them Stoically. If you have some thoughts or ideas about any of what I have written, I’d love to know about it, please leave a message here. Thank you. Or if you have any more ideas about Stoicism, I’m always keen to expand my knowledge, and welcome those thoughts and words too. Thank you.