I have just realised that I have actually had a somewhat stoic attitude to life, before I understood what that actually meant. The name of the book I wrote not that long after I was diagnosed with MS, and that gives this Blog its name, in full is – “Mick, Jane and Me, Living Well with MS”.
Those words, Living Well with MS, give clues as to how I was trying to not just manage my new and changed life now that I had this somewhat limiting chronic illness. I wanted to live well, in as many different ways of wellness as I could manage. My health was certainly one of the wellness concerns, but there were other ways of wellness, feeling useful still, for instance.
I feel that the book I wrote, which is both a memoir of my new life, and a bit of a handbook for other people who have MS, and those around them who want to know how it can be to manage living with it. This book is the one I wanted to read when I first got my diagnosis, but couldn’t find such a book, there were only medical books written by medical people, not people like me.
Writing helped me, it was one thing that I was still able to do, and do well, when some other things were nowhere near as easy to do. I went forward with my new life, thinking on things that would help me, setting up a peer support group in Gawler, and working as a volunteer, student, for a short time at the MS Society in South Australia, to finish my TAFE qualification (Certificate Four in Community Service Work).
Doing these things that were more focused on others, rather than myself, helped me to look for and find ways that would help both me and others in the same circumstances. I was not looking for praise, I was simply looking to do the best thing I could, the most ‘virtuous’ thing, in the Stoic way.
My previous understanding of what the word ‘stoic’ was, was something steadfast, and not anything ‘fancy’, but was instead plain, no frills, and uncomplaining. I didn’t know until quite recently where the word “Stoic” came from. I’ve been looking into philosophy a lot lately though, and have found out much more about the Stoics, who lived in Greece over two thousand years ago.
I like what I am learning, and am certainly thrilled with the book I received on my recent birthday – “How to be a Stoic Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living”, written by Massimo Pigliucci. This book is teaching me all I need to know about how to live a Stoic life, and I’m happy to see that my way of life seems to be heading in that direction naturally, so it is simple to continue following is this same good and stoic path!
Finding ways to live a virtuous life, a life where doing the good thing is my first choice, and only choice, if I can manage that, this is what it is all about. By ‘a good life’ I don’t mean chocolate and fine dining, I mean good as in kind, helpful, and so on – the greater good, not a personal good for me only.
Stoicism looks to virtues, and to living in keeping with those virtues. Having a mindful life is in keeping with Stoicism, and I am grateful to the MS Society, for the training they have had in Mindfulness, where I learned much about this. The two things, Stoicism and Mindfulness are very much in keeping with each other.
Making Mindful choices, so that options that won’t lead to good results, is very much a Stoic thing. Caring about and for others, feeling a commitment to self, family, friends, close community, greater community, and to the whole world, these are all things a Stoic believes in, and does their best to do, always, in every thing in their lives. This is certainly in keeping with how I try to live, and I will keep on fulfilling these aims for the rest of my life.
Having this framework feels like I am able to do good in the world, and am helping to make life better for others, as well as my own self ideals. Living Well with MS isn’t really that difficult for me, and I am glad of that for sure. I have help from medication, from family and friends, from the MS Society, from my own actions regarding what I eat and what I do.
If you have thoughts about my words here, please feel free to leave a comment, and begin a discussion perhaps!