Crossroads

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Summer weather has arrived in the south. Many people deal with seasonal depression during colder seasons but mine crop up with warmer weather and linger until October.

See, I hate heat. I hate humidity. I hate crowds and school children on vacation who scream constantly. Trying to enjoy a breeze from your open window is nearly impossible. I hate how fast everything starts to feel. I hate the increased energy of go, go, go, and do, do, do.

I don’t like shorts or tank tops. I despise shaving anything. Summer is when I feel pressured the most to conform to societal and gender expectations. I feel insecure due to all the shoulds.

I enjoy colder months. Wearing pants and sweatshirts and sweaters. I like taking brisk walks in brisk weather. I enjoy how most other people stay inside and I can go somewhere and it feels as if I have the place all to myself.

I like the feeling of calm. The hush. Having adequate time to reflect.

I chose a job at a state park. It was nice at first, surrounded by nature. Taking my hour long lunch break to go hike the trails. I don’t have to sit in bumper-to-bumper, rush hour traffic. There are some perks. The pay isn’t great but at the time I accepted the job, it wasn’t much of an issue.

But now, I’m not so sure what to do. The long and short of it is, I don’t want to be there. I don’t want this job and I certainly don’t want it full-time. I’ve been handed more and more responsibilities. Some of my duties were vague at first but I brushed it off. Administration for state government is ridiculously bureaucratic and convoluted. The procedures and systems the state uses turns simple admin tasks into a labyrinth of frustration.

I put out a lot of fires. I clean up messes of co-workers. I know I don’t have to but I’m the type that gets tired of asking and then does it myself.

The constant barrage of customers (in person and over the phone) depletes my energy. By 2 PM, I’m so zapped I don’t know whether to cry or fall asleep or run off screaming.

I have a natural clock. I get sleepy at 10:30 or 11 PM and wake without an alarm, usually at 7:30 AM. I have to take something to force myself to go to bed earlier and I often wake up throughout the night. Since I have to wake up at 7 AM (sometimes earlier) there is this tiredness in me that I can’t shake even after a cup of coffee or a good walk.

And I’m tired all the time. My body aches relentlessly. I already have scar tissue on my muscles from a lifetime of anxiety and stress. I wear down easily. I’m still working in the sector of customer service and after 15 years of it, I’m beyond being through. I go home exhausted.

My anxiety is crippling. It affects my sleep. It affects my emotions.

I practice Stoicism and it helps to a point. I am a few years into recovering from a traumatic childhood and adolescents. I still suffer from toxic stress.

Sure I have good benefits but the amount of money that gets hacked out of my paycheck each pay period leaves me enough to barely squeak by. At first, the pay wasn’t an important factor. But as I acquire more and more responsibilities, the pay doesn’t increase and therefore the monetary compensation isn’t enough for the stress endured.

How do I go on doing this? I have a lot of obligations which require money. I could get a part time job to pay for those but I will never be able to save money.

To look at my future and see myself here indefinitely, fills me with dread.

So, how much is this costing me? How much is my sanity worth? My physical well being? I’m in the midst of making difficult decisions; decisions which won’t just affect me.

My body has been rebelling from the sheer state of panic and distress it’s processing. It is tough to calm my body and mind when I’m at a crossroads where I don’t know which way to take yet.

For any readers, have you ever left a job for your emotional and mental health? Have you been at a crossroads and were unable to decide for weeks, months, or even years? How did you finally make that decision, if you did? How much value to you place on your overall wellbeing?

 

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My Path to Stoicism

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While embracing minimalism, I came across the term Stoic. I had heard the term before and had the perception that probably many others have. I saw a Stoic as a rigid, unfeeling person, indifferent to all matter of events and emotions.

So, I did some digging. The Internet led me to Daily Stoic. It’s the brainchild of Ryan Holiday.  It is a great beginners guide and through the site I went back to the foundation of the teachings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca.

There was an immediate connection with Stoicism and I soon learned what a practical and all encompassing philosophy it really is. Stoicism doesn’t teach one to become unfeeling and cold but to be in control of the only things you can control in this life: your emotions, your attitude, your execution, your reaction, your perception. Anything that has a you/your attached is something to examine, strengthen, reign in and practice.

The teachings and practices of Stoicism are things I  naturally gravitated to and striving for. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is like an offshoot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is rooted in Stoicism. I had already used DBT for years in therapy.

Stoicism exemplifies humility, modesty, acceptance, compassion, accountability, and rational thought. All of which is sorely lacking in today’s world. These are all virtues I have been striving for and now I had a nice, neat road map to lead the way.

Many of the great thinkers, innovators, and leaders studied and practiced Stoicism such as Thomas Jefferson, James Stockdale, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Frederick the Great, Montaigne, and many others. Coincidentally, these are people I have admired a majority of my life.

Life may deal you a shitty hand. But we mustn’t wallow and blame and do nothing about it. We mustn’t accept being a victim or a martyr or an asshole as our fate. But we must acknowledge it and heal from it. We learn and we go on. We change our perception. We take responsibility for what we do have control over. We cultivate an indifference to what we cannot control. We stay accountable. We take action. And we develop an inner citadel of peace, contentment, and strength.

Most of all, we accept our fate as mortal beings. We do not fear death but accept it and do the best we can with the time allotted to us. This is all we really can do. And isn’t that enough?

I say, it’s more than enough.