It’s been a year, and then a year again, as unbelievable as that is to write. Time has alternately dragged, and flown by. So much has happened, fortunate and unfortunate. On March 14, 2020, exactly two years ago, we sent out an email about the rising threat of COVID-19 and its connection to that timeless Stoic dictum: We can’t control what has happened, but we can control how we respond.
We asked one year later, and now we are asking again: How did you do?
Twenty-four months. Countless obstacles. Countless difficulties. Countless dilemmas and stresses. But also: a nearly infinite set of opportunities to practice this philosophy, to focus on what you can control, to try to make the most of the situation we all found ourselves in. Maybe you picked up running…or maybe you just doomscrolled. Maybe you learned how to cook or maybe you put on thirty pounds from all those delivery meals. Maybe you moved to a different city or maybe you barely got off the couch.
A core practice of Stoicism is journaling. And what is journaling but the process of contemplation and self-reflection? It’s putting you and your actions up for review. Take a minute to do that today. Or more than a minute. And don’t lie to yourself.
Look at your successes and be proud of them—that you’re still standing is no small feat. Be grateful for that. Sadly, far too many of our fellow humans did not make it. (On March 14, 2020, just 65 Americans had died of COVID-19. By March 2021, over 500,000 people had perished. Here in March of 2022, more than 900,000 are dead and gone. Some 5.6 million around the world have lost their lives) Others lost jobs or opportunities or experiences they can never get back. We were all affected, but take a second to look at where you were lucky, what you have to be grateful for, what skillful maneuvering and resiliency and random luck allowed you to endure and adapt.
Don’t shy away from looking at your failures, though. Where did you waste time and energy? Where did you fall short? What mistakes did you make? What bad habits did you pick up or continue? Were you part of the problem more often than you were part of the solution?
Now, let us learn from these successes and failures, vices and virtues, so that next time—and there is always a next time—we can be better. Better citizens, better people, better Stoics. It’s been a hell of a couple of years. If we don’t find meaning from this suffering, if we don’t improve because of it—individually and collectively—then we have added harm on top of the misfortunate. And that is inexcusable.
In March of 2020, we talked about the idea of alive time vs. dead time and how we can choose to use this time. That’s the philosophy we and thousands of other Stoics around the world have tried to apply the last couple of years. And even as we enter what mercifully appears to be a new phase of the pandemic, we still have to focus on choosing alive time because so much of life is out of our control. If you want to get in the habit of making something of every moment, the Daily Stoic Alive Time Challenge is still running, still relevant, and still donating money to provide meals for people in need. We’d love to have you join us (and of course, you can join Daily Stoic Life and get this and all of our courses and challenges for free). Be safe and strong everyone!