Sickest day yet. I’ve progressed from tired and a little sniffy, to sneezing and running nose, to last night’s full on armageddon: assault by wave after wave of mucosal commandos. I apparently slept. I would toss and turn and resign myself to getting up and getting another drink of water, and then be surprised when the clock on the oven told me two hours had passed. Only felt like fifteen minutes. So I was either having gallifreyan moments, or sleeping. Regardless, today feels miserable. I’m tired, achy, and having a hard time breathing. Because of that, my mood is mercurial.
I’ve cancelled sessions with clients, I’m cancelling a family dinner and a number of other things I feel obligated to do. I’m writing this blog post because sitting upright feels good right now, but it’s taking me three times longer than normal. Whenever I feel flagged or distracted, I’m wandering off to do something else. I’m capable of pushing through all this nastiness, but I’m not going to. It’s important to understand and respect what your capacity for things is. Today I have low energy and I’m sick. If I push through that, I am creating an energy debt that will have to be paid back eventually.
I used to be part of a volunteer society that was a bit addictive for participants. It was common for people to give up most of their lives to participate in it. Huge chunks of cash, hours and hours of time, abandoning friends and family to spend more time participating. Cicero wrote something about charity and excess giving that used to confuse me, but this group made his point clear. He said that giving beyond your means led to theft.
That confused me. People with a charitable nature seem like the very last people to steal. Couldn’t wrap my head around that. But then I looked at the people around me, and saw what he was talking about. People would donate their time and energy to this group, far in excess of what they had available. They wound up stealing time and energy from the rest of their lives to make up for it.
With that in mind, I could understand why compassion was considered a sin to stoics. The feeling of compassion, as opposed to acts of compassion. If you have excess, it is natural to give it to those in need. If you have a deficit, you need to address that deficit before you can consider the needs of others. Otherwise you will be engaging in that theft thing again. Dwelling on the misfortunes of others, and feeling bad about not being able to do anything about it? If you’ve been reading along with my sick-notes, you know why that is a bad thing. You can figure it out…
Stoics are never perfect…wouldn’t need a philosophy if we were, would we…and the virtue of Temperance is our measuring cup of capacity. If you are hungry, eat. Tired? Sleep. Grumpy? Do something that makes you happy. Knowing where and when we are, knowing what we are capable of doing and what our needs are, having the courage to act out of that knowledge, and understanding our balance within our community and society. Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice. Now we understand why Virtue means more than “don’t have sex.”
And now I think I’m going to go and try to steam my face off in the shower.