Blog

October 28, 2020

This pandemic is a lesson in Stoicism for all of us

One of the most difficult parts of this pandemic is the feeling that someone needs to be blamed. I get this so much from my teenagers. They are angry, they aren’t sure who they should be angry at, and since we spend all day together in the same house they end up directing anger my way. Man, I wish it were all that simple. I wish just we could simply find who’s to blame and then this whole thing would go away.

But of course it’s not that simple. Covid-19 isn’t going to disappear or suddenly stop killing people. Logically we realize that microbes don’t care for our feelings. Our anger or sadness don’t affect them or their ability to spread. Nothing personal is going on between you and the virus. (Though sometimes I think Pres. Trump is acting as if the virus has personally offended him.) We get it! This isn’t a situation where blame helps.

The problem is that humans aren’t wired for logical, abstract thinking all the time. Each day is a struggle lately to remember that I’m an adult who understands things the way they actually are and I need to act like it. How can I expect my kids and their not-fully-developed brains to be able to make the leap that I struggle with most days? The answer, as unsatisfying as it is, is that I can’t expect them to. (Sigh.)

So what are we left with? This sucks. I don’t like it one bit. Looking on the sunny side got really old way back in May. I wish there was someone to blame for the whole mess.

The only solace I find is in taking actions within the frame of my control:

  • Go for a walk
  • Contact a friend and check in
  • Play with my (angsty) kids
  • Wear fuzzy slippers and warm vests
  • Show love to the people I love
  • Write long, meandering posts on the internet

Those things make me feel good. The nature of the unfair pandemic hasn’t changed, but rather than having it thrust on me I’m taking action within my sphere of influence. This is straight out of the Marcus Aurelius playbook:

You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.