Thursday, January 24, 2013

Janathon 2013 Day 24 - An unsettled mind

Walk - 3 miles, 50m, Weather - grey and gloomy

Some days that are just off, everything is slightly out of focus and nothing quite works. Things are not terrible: there are no disasters and all calamities are minor. It is mainly an accumulation of inconveniences and a feeling of not being quite right. You know that if you wanted to hammer in a nail it would not go in straight and true but would bend and crumple.

The question is what to do on days of meh? Usually my answer is to take a break and do a little exercise and hope that the internal systems right themselves. But what exercise? I know that if I go running I have about a 50% chance of it working: sometimes the cobwebs are blown away but it is just as likely my head will continue grumble along, telling my body that it is not enjoying itself. Weights or stretching is a waste of time: my mind will definitely say how  deeply it cannot be bothered. No, the most reliable remedy is a walk, which is what I did today

There is something about the rhythm and of not having to think about what you are doing that frees up your thinking and allows your mind to wander. Gently and gradually things fall back into place. I started out grumpily noticing the bad things about days like this, when the beauty of the snow covering is disappearing and what is left is mostly mush and inconvenience. In the park and the snow is going but the floods remain. After a time though I stopped noticing negatives and began to feel less irritated. It was time to get back and start again.

Such days are not the days of a Stoic but the Stoics are a place to look for advice.
“... you have inner strengths that enable you to bear up to difficulties of every kind. You have been given fortitude, courage and patience. Why should I worry what happens when I am armed with the virtue of fortitude? Nothing can trouble or upset me, or even seem annoying. Instead of meeting misfortune with groans and tears, I will call upon the faculty to deal with it. 
‘But my nose is running!’ What do you have a hand for, you idiot, if not to wipe it? ‘But how is it right that there is a running nose i the first place?’ Instead of thinking up protests, wouldn’t it be easier just to wipe your nose? ...  
But no. There you sit, worrying that certain events might happen, already upset and in a state about your present circumstances. So you reproach the gods. What else can come of such weakness except impiety?” (Epictetus, Book 1, 28-32, 38-39)
In other words the well known that well understood Stoic admonition: “Just get on with it!” Or if I were a sports good firm I would perhaps say: “Just do it!” But the Stoics go further an make an interesting offer:
“I am prepared to show you that you have resources and character naturally strong and resilient; show me in return what grounds you have for being peevish and malcontent.” (43)

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