Tests of Strength

Today I found myself in conflict with family regarding the vaccine programme not 24-hours after finding myself at peace with the resolutions of the last conversation. I lost my shit, in simple terms before having to face the consequences of my anger like we all have to, with a level of humility and understanding. Yet the outcome of the situation was not what sticks with me for it was and is the journey that was far more important. I realized on this journey that the truest test of any stoic learning or teaching will come at the death of my grandmother.

The subject of death was something heavily involved in the conflict regarding the unknown affects of the vaccine programme, following the money back to government contractors and allusions to authoritarianism. Throughout, I realized how much I relied, rather quietly, on the counsel of my grandmother and rely on her as the voice of calm reason in the chaos whatever that may be. While I backed down in the conflict, being the empathy sponge I am, unable to cope with the overwhelming fear and sadness and disappointment, I still found comfort with her without judgement.

So then, it means a test will be coming at anytime destiny chooses to remove that support in some way or another. The cause will be irrelevant, the impact will be the true trial. Not just for my grandmother in whatever situation that may be – in fact, worrying about her seems quite futile as whether she realizes it or not, stoic is her middle name -, but for everyone around her, myself included. So then, how do I reconcile this? I know for a fact that the likely situation is that in the next two decades or, Universe willing, more, that I will face this challenge as I will have to face any loss. It’s part of nature and the ouroboros of existence. Yet despite all of my aspirational stoic goals, I know that it will hurt. I’m not sure that I fear the hurt, yet I can imagine it all the same and know it is an inevitability.

It’s the final test of strength: not some weight lifting or personal battle of ambition. It’s the loss of those around us that tests us because then finally, we are alone. I have a friend who knows of this better than me and is a reality of their life from a young age. They tell me about vemod and the feeling of true loneliness as something I cannot yet comprehend. They are most likely right.

I won’t be posting any quotes up or reflections from others as I believe this test, as recurrent and natural as it is, is something personal to us all. And, in doing so, I will keep this brief and up to you, reader, on where to take your thoughts past these words.

Yet, despite all preparations and wonderings, only fate knows and only time will tell how any of us face reality.

Z3N0

The Cactus

Today I won’t be quoting or taking lines from the philosophers because this topic is something I need to face alone. It’s something that I need to speak about and release from my energetic field, from my higher mind, from my subconscious and rational thinking mind, This thing: a cactus.

A few years ago now, an ex of mine bought me a potted cactus out of the blue as a nice little present. I was low maintenance, had a soothing presence, a beautiful thing and made my home feel warm. I neglected it. I let it die on my windowsill, hidden for months behind eternally closed shutters collecting dust. I forgot about it and disregarded it and in the end, I threw it away. It was not just a cactus, it was my ex’s heart personified. It was them presented as a metaphor: low maintenance, beautiful, a little prickly yet endearing, a warming presence with unique colours of thought and presentation.

I threw it away and neglected it. I threw away and neglected them. I treated them like the cactus and left them on the shelf to collect dust and wither away as a background element in my life. I disregarded my duty of care and self-absorbed lifestyle.

It’s such a silly thing, a potted cactus yet when I think about it I feel a deep swell of self-loathing, pain, regret, sorrow, vemod. I say often that there are no mistakes yet, this one is harder to mull over casually. Perhaps because it was such a profound moment when I realized that this cactus, this silly thing, was the singular focal point of my vices. I think of all the people I’ve hurt along my journey to get to this point where I can look back and accept my wrong. I think of every word, every act, every flash of needless rage. Life is not like Sims where you can just say “well fuck it” after each failed relationship and start again or go back to a previous save to before when things were fine. There is no right or wrong just consequence and my consequence was inflicting pain on others and myself through that.

I actually cheated on this person, can you believe that? Every time I went to work and got drunk bartending it happened and eventually it happened more times than it didn’t. It was an arrogant disregarding of my ex’s feelings and total disrespect of their emotional sovereignty. They were perfect, you know? A perfect being, so mature and wise and beautiful in mind and body and spirit. My only comfort is that they are now so learned from the car crash that we were (thanks to me), that they will never stoop to share their life like they did with me with someone like me again. A strength born from a test of faith in self-worth.

The truth is that I fucked up and killed something that will never exist again within my material experience. So many things I can say that to, so many mistakes and so much pain inflicted with each harsh word or unvirtuous act. This cactus, now a shadow in a sea of landfill, was me and is me if I allow myself to be. This cactus represents my arrogance and reckless pride.

I fucking love that cactus.

It makes me feel so hollow and so exposed and so dirty. It keeps me grounded and keeps me from ever being the one to be so callous again. It pains me, this silly memory and this silly thing yet I hold onto it and its spines as they cut my hands to shreds. Right now, as I feel the weight of cold sadness above my brow and heaving onto my shoulders, I am grateful for it. It’s like a scar on my soul in technicolour. A self inflicted scar that I can only hope has strengthened another in its presence on them.

I lost contact with a friend recently. It was my own neglect again and it reminded me of the cactus and it stuck me with its spikes in the heart chakra. I just opened up a message one day and was so wrapped up in my own bollocks that I just didn’t reply. Here we are nearly three weeks down the line and there’s nothing but a pervasive hollowness. I reached out, I made my case to repair, to never leave a thing unattended again.

We all have a cactus.

They mean so little and so much. They are defining moments, metaphors, ghosts that haunt us. Ghosts that we wouldn’t be the same without. It’s not particularly stoic to carry ghosts yet what are we but the sum of our parts, and what we chose to do with those parts?

Z3N0

On Love and Vemod

I’ve realized that in my past few writings and beyond that I’ve been rather critical of love and the feelings associated with the comfort in another. Like Marcus Aurelius focused on death, Seneca on civilisation, it seems my repeating topic seems to be love. Not that I’m comparing myself to those two, it just seems rather funny to me. A voice in my head says it’s pathetic but a louder chorus tells that voice to shut the fuck up and embrace the flow of my own journey and its inspiration.

Today, that happens to be a friend, a friend who I love and a friend who Seneca would describe as a friend, being a person who I can share everything with. I’m also finding myself attracted romantically to this friend but that’s neither here nor there and not relevant to our friendship, in my mind at least because it’s a minor detail; a fraction of a Whole, and I like clear sign posting for these kinds of things. This friend, explained to me the concept of vemod. It’s a Swedish term for a very specific feeling of nostalgic sadness, a feeling of loss of a thing that can never be replaced. My friend explains that they have this feeling, like a passive passenger. In a sense, so do I – ever since I confessed my feelings thanks to the stoic in me saying that an omission of truth is just a lie with a different flavour. For them, it’s more tangible of a partner in life rather than my own bashfulness and self-conciousness.

Perhaps we all feel a sense of vemod constantly throughout our lives without realizing the word for it. It’s similar perhaps to how so many people discover a diagnosis later on in life that explains away a million different circumstances with a single phrase. Reflecting on my past, the phrase in my life to explain away all the nostalgic sadness is my own name, my own mistakes, my own responsibility. If I pause, I think of all the hurt and heartbreak and destruction I caused in my own arrogance and feel a deep sadness for times before, not when I was doing these things but before I did them. A lost time of a cleaner soul, gone forever and irreplaceable within this existence.

I can’t reflect on my friend’s feeling, yet I can understand the circumstance. This friend who sees death regularly in a professional capacity and has seen it in the past in a personal way, perhaps may feel the erosion of the soul for this tender sadness. Would my own philosophy stand up in the face of that? Could I truly say amor fati in the presence of that overwhelming vemod?

In all truth, I don’t know and I don’t know what to say to my friend. I have nothing but admiration and love for them, a deep respect for the strength of character they possess. Even without claiming the stoic path, they remain stoic. I can’t say anything that won’t sound patronising in some way or reductive of their experience. To say a Jedi epithet that nothing is ever really gone, no one is ever really dead, is that a cure for vemod or an agitator? Well, you say, clearly something is gone as it’s not present. Was it not me who only days ago spoke about a void of the self? An undefined vemod?

I’m prone to cynicism but tonight I’m not feeling cynical I’m feeling hopeful.

I’m feeling that love can conquer vemod. A love of self, life, death, others, and fate itself. Loving death is not so bleak as you might think. Loving death is a beautiful thing, a thing of acceptance and kindness. A person fights for life, but if they lose, there is no shame. The body is a vehicle and the soul is the driver and one day for all of us, the car will break down and we have to get out.

Journey’s end, new ones begin, the highway never sleeps.

I love my friend. I embrace all of them and accept all of them, all of their being.

I love myself. I embrace all of me and accept all of me, all of my being.

I love Nature. I embrace nature and accept all of nature, all apart of the Whole.

How will you know? You will feel a fullness in your heart, both atriums filled and pumping warmth. Feel your chest now, place your hand there and breath in the air. Love it and yourself.

I love it, I love you – why wouldn’t I?

Fuck vemod, it’s an anchor to slow your voyage across the ocean of time and space.

“Joy varies from person to person. My joy is if I keep my directing mind pure, denying no human being or human circumstance, but looking on all things with kindly eyes, giving welcome or use to each as it deserves.” – Meditations 8.43

Z3N0