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September 29, 2020

Marcus Aurelius for Healing a Broken Heart.

 

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>> Another favorite for your healing heart: You Deserve a Giver. You Deserve to Heal.
>> And something to send to your next lover (I promise there will be one): How to Love a Woman who is Expecting you to Leave.
>> Maybe this: Dear Past Lover: I’m Sorry.

~

Moving on feels like hiking up a mountain after a five-year-old has sneakily tied my shoelaces together.

I stumble and trip at first. Then I almost face plant into the baby cactus sitting beside the path because, woah, my shoes feel kinda different.

After a couple close calls, I get into a rhythm. Look at me go. I gauge the length of my shoelaces. I’m walking almost normally despite the obvious restriction. There’s sweat on my back. A couple hikers glance over with timid, confused smiles, wondering why I’m hiking with tied shoelaces. Then I get brave and look out to the horizon while strutting, maybe I even smile, and then boom. I fall again. Face in the mud.

Climbing the “moving on” mountain is walking around town, seeing where we spent time, and feeling the discomfort. It is not being able to sit on the porch without thinking about the conversations we had there. It is sitting on the damn porch anyways, or maybe not. It’s wanting to see your face but also never wanting to see it again. It’s wanting to know you’re okay and that I’m sorry.

It’s sitting in the office, laughing at a joke, and wanting to share it with you. It’s seeing the tree we sat under and remembering that summer day. It’s pizza and sitting on the couch watching sh*tty TV with my roommate. It’s trying to remember why we weren’t a good match. It’s failing to remember why. Then it is remembering again. It is lying on the floor sobbing. It’s day after day feeling a little better, a little less weighted. It’s finding space in my thoughts again.

Loss has been a common theme throughout this year—lives, friends, jobs, loss of “normal.” Sometimes I joke that I also lost my sanity (shrugging emoji). After loss comes figuring out what to do with the empty spaces that used to be occupied by people or places or jobs. We are left alone, grieving what is no longer there. Fully experiencing the impact of what we lost through its absence. Maybe we fumble at first, unsure what used to go in the emptiness before this person or place or thing occupied it.

Cue the “moving on” mountain. Moving on during COVID-19 is a different kind of animal, like a naked mole rat—naked, a little ugly, and burrowed away without anywhere else to go. The people or gatherings I would normally turn to aren’t there or accessible in the same capacity. One person who I did have access to was Marcus Aurelius, a dead Roman emperor.

Yeah, not literally. We didn’t talk in person, but I had him in the form of his book, Meditations. At first, I didn’t think I would have much in common with the dead Roman emperor. I mean, he’s a Roman emperor and spoiler alert: I’m sensitive. But as I moved through the book, I found the red armor skirted Roman held me in his rigid arms and rocked me to sleep.

Here are 15 meditations by Marcus Aurelius to help us move on when the thought of moving on feels impossible:

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

2. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood—and nothing else is under your control.

3. Yes, keep on degrading yourself, soul. But soon your chance at dignity will be gone. Everyone gets one life. Yours is almost used up, and instead of treating yourself with respect, you have entrusted your own happiness to the souls of others.

4. Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people—unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind. 

5. That sort of person is bound to do that. You might as well resent a fig tree for secreting juice. (Anyway, before very long you’ll both be dead—dead and soon forgotten.)

6. To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it, if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, that they haven’t really hurt you. They haven’t diminished your ability to choose.

7. Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.

8. It was for the best. So nature had no choice but to do it.

9. Beautiful things of any kind are beautiful in themselves and sufficient to themselves. Praise is extraneous. The object of praise remains what it was—no better and no worse.

10. Someone has done wrong…to himself. Something happens to you. Good. It was meant for you by nature, woven into the pattern from the beginning. Life is short. That’s all there is to say. Get what you can from the present—thoughtfully, justly.

11. Constant awareness that everything is born from change.

12. Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you.—Then where is harm to be found? In your capacity to see it.

13. Remember:
Matter. How tiny your share of it.
Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate. How small a role you play in it.

14. When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help.

15. Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?

Moving on isn’t easy. Allow yourself to stumble, fall, get up, and when you finally look down and see that your shoelaces are tied together, be brave enough to laugh, untie them, and keep on going.

 

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