When We Are Alone With Ourselves

What do we find at low moments, when we are, to quote Joan Didion, “driven back upon oneself?” We find out who we really are.

It’s easy to be good when things are good. It’s easy to be cheerful and generous with the wind at your back. It’s easy to stick with a philosophy when all is well.

This is why the Stoics talk so much about the tides of Fortune and preparing for them to go out. Seneca was exiled. So was Epictetus—he was also enslaved. Marcus saw horrible plagues. Cato watched his country get torn apart by Civil War.

Things will not always go well. You will be driven back upon yourself. You will find yourself looking around at the wreckage of your personal or professional life—perhaps at no fault of your own. It could be today. It could be tomorrow. It could be for a short time or it could be years in the so-called wilderness.

Are you ready for that? Are you sure you’re going to like what you find there? Because if you’re not, now is the time to do that work—that “hard winter training” that the Stoics talk about. Do it now before it’s too late.

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