The Art of Acquiescence

The year is 2018, and it’s been a rough one. The last 300-some-odd days have been filled with debilitating illness, medications that exacerbate the existing symptoms, false allegations that could have landed me in federal prison, no action being taken against the true criminal in my workplace, the lost of my best friend over behaviors associated with hosting an infectious disease in my body for over four years, $13,000 in medical and holistic healthcare bills,  and the realization of how naive I am to the true nature of individuals and of life.

Quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I get up, go to work, drive home, try to go right to bed, begrudgingly eat whatever my boyfriend has prepared, and then go to sleep.

A few days ago, this quote from Marcus Aurelius fell into my lap. It was exactly the reminder I needed.

Just as we commonly hear people say the doctor prescribed someone particular riding exercises, or ice baths, or walking without shoes, we should in the same way say that nature prescribed someone to be diseased, or disabled, or to suffer any kind of impairment. In the case of the doctor, prescribed means something ordered to help aid someone’s healing. But in the case of nature, it means that what happens to each of us is ordered to help aid our destiny.

What this ancient stoic was saying is that people are very trusting of their doctors and very tolerant of whatever unpleasantness he may prescribed. So, we swallow down the nasty medicine, say goodbye to our favorite candy bar, and start taking cold showers. The doctor knows best, right?

On the other hand, people are far less accepting of external events. We hate catching a cold, missing the bus, and facing that terrible boss. We fight like hell if anything goes contrary to our plans. Even after a lifetime of paddling through the ebbs and flows of life, we still demand stillness from the water. It’s a request that will never be granted–at least not for long.

Lately, I’ve been wondering how attitudes might change if a qualified doctor had prescribed this exact hardship as part of our treatment? What if adversity–as trying as it is–was as good for us as the most cutting-edge medicine?

Maybe my illness is a warning: your job is too stressful, there is something gravely disruptive in your environment, maybe you’re deficient on a key nutrient, or perhaps you need to learn to listen to what your body tries to tell you.

Maybe the false accusation was a lesson: stop blindly trusting everyone, red flags extent beyond dating–don’t dismiss them, being trustworthy is more valuable than being clever, or don’t be afraid to pursue justice against someone who stomped you don’t so that they could rise up.

Maybe the loss of a friend was a wake-up call: talk to a doctor about the symptoms she’s mentioning, learn to say “no” when you’re too tired to function normally, or check in with future friends periodically to make sure they’re happy with the friendship.

Maybe the savings-draining medical bills were a blessing: medical insurance is important even for those in perfect health, pay extra for a lower max out-of-pocket–if you use it once in your life, it’s worth it, and always keep at least $10k in emergency savings just in case.

Maybe the lack of legal action by my company is an invitation: walk out and move on to a company that would be appalled by what happened, personally take legal action against the individual and the company, and assert my standards and expectations shamelessly.

Though the situation is still somewhat dire, I am coming to accept that this is all part of my journey. The best thing I can do is to not only accept what happens, but to be grateful for the events of my life. There are lessons buried beneath every inconveniently-placed mound of adversity, and wisdom sits upon the peaks of the highest mountains. They are patiently waiting for us, but we must put in the work to discover how our trials and challenges can transform to become our greatest strengths.

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