Do you ever wake up and think, Man from now on I will live off of cashews and watermelon. Just send me outside, that’s all I need.
Summer is taking hold here now, and I have these moments often. My heart opens generously, my mind is pliable and calm and trembling with ideas, all at once, and my body’s needs simplify.
Cashews, watermelon, and limitless hours of sunshine. Okay, maybe also some lake running and trail hiking, a few excellent mugs of dark coffee, a big clean swimming pool, and thin cotton pajamas for wearing after a very good, scrubby shower, which you take only after a long day of gardening and running. Maybe a stack of books and journals. Oh! Also friends and family for bonfire conversation and the new Top Gun movie with greasy popcorn and sticky red Twizzlers.
And suddenly I am Steve Martin’s character Navin Johnson from The Jerk who leaves with just this ashtray, that’s all he needs! I feel so sad every time I think of him lugging around his miscellaneous treasures, dog nipping and barking, but really wasn’t it wasteful to have a disco room in his mansion? And I am very thankful for our modern consumer protections which will hopefully keep us all from going cross eyed from wearing new inventions like his.
Wait, also, in addition to Top Gun, what other movies were you excited to see this summer, that are being released late thanks to the pandemic?
There is something else I want to talk to you about. I came across it while soaking up some ancient stoics’ teachings, and I think it is so useful anytime, but especially now: “Amor Fati,” translated from Latin as “a love of fate.” This is, “the state in which one is in friendly acceptance of fate… the consummate achievement of human life, and the only path to happiness.”
How does this strike you? Let me expound just a tad, then answer again, in case at first blush it feels too much like, “bloom where you are planted,” which I know has some negative vibes surrounding it, as if we are resigning to something we don’t choose for ourselves. Okay:
Marcus Aurelius is one of the stoics credited for loving the concept of Amor Fati. He had a perspective that demanded we use all of our circumstances, the good and the bad, the ugly and unexpected, as kindling for our inner fire. A podcast on this topic offered that analogy. On Daily Stoic, I heard the host say, “Everything you throw in front of a fire becomes fuel for the fire. A person who is hungry, who can make use of everything that happens to them, that’s the person who gets better and better.”
Another echo I am hearing for Amor Fait is the ever so soothing encouragement, “Smile at the thought.” I first heard this through a running blogger’s mom, who told her daughter to deal with anxieties by literally, physically with her face, smiling every time a negative situation presented itself in her mind. Over time it rewires your thoughts and emotions to connect with that problem in a more positive way. This is a great tactic, and I use it often, though I will admit that at first it feels a bit maniacal, ha. Stick with it.
None of these are exercises in resignation or abandonment of our own drives and ambitions. I am so not into promoting self-flagellation. To me, it’s feels like the exact opposite. Amor Fati feels like taking control of our attitude, intentions, and energies and using every circumstance in life to our advantage, accepting as gifts all that what we are given and putting those gifts to work. It feels like an invitation to make something beautiful out of what might be seen as scraps and obstacles, throwaways and even dead stops.
The obstacle is the way.
Friendly acceptance, not begrudging compliance. This tweak provides such a lift!
Starting over, employing our ingenuity and tenacity, building and rebuilding as often as necessary to design ever more beautiful mosaics from shattered pieces rather than forever mourning the broken plates. This is a transformative approach to the inevitable problems and disappointments in life. Nothing is wasted. We redeem everything, especially time. Waiting for something becomes an invitation to learn or practice something else.
With this approach, the possibilities for growth and improvement are limitless. We are limitless.
I hope that when we are met with roadblocks and disappointments, we cope with them more gracefully than Navin Johnson did. I also hope that we have plenty of cashews and watermelon, if it happens in summertime. It’s the small comforts, after all.
“The obstacle is the way.”