“Completely not,” I informed my husband from the mattress as he tried to search out the precise place on his dresser for Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. “I don’t want him looking at me all night time.”
The bust was the scale of a kid’s head and manufactured from white alabaster. Marcus was frozen in an expression heavy with intent to acquire eudaemonia — good will and happiness — irrespective of how a lot crap was thrown at him.
My husband didn’t inform me that he had ordered the bust of this Roman Emperor, who was also referred to as a Stoic thinker. So I used to be shocked on the afternoon when I discovered him within the eating room, bent over a cardboard field, throwing tissue paper onto the mahogany desk. Noticing his smile, one thing I hardly ever noticed in these days, I attempted to peek round him.
“What’s in there?” I requested.
“Marcus Aurelius,” he mentioned.
He pulled Marcus out of the field not a lot in another way from how a health care provider pulls a new child from its mom. After months of tension and stress over his job, he appeared as if he had discovered peace. That night, the bust made its technique to our bed room.
My husband is the proprietor of eight espresso retailers in and round Boston that hardly survived the pandemic. In 2021, when his firm was nonetheless providing takeout service solely, his staff introduced that they had been forming a union. He was caught off-guard however voluntarily acknowledged the union, with no vote. He additionally printed an opinion article in an area media outlet expressing his help for his staff’ efforts.
Then got here negotiations. He walked into the periods with the hope that frequent floor can be discovered. Over the next months, it turned clear to him that the contract calls for would consequence within the close to doubling of his labor prices, threatening to shutter the corporate he had began 25 years earlier. His stress ranges soared.
Telephone calls together with his lawyer changed lunch, and he had little curiosity in dinner. “You need to eat,” I informed him. He was naturally tall and lean, and couldn’t afford to go on a stress food plan.
At night time the mattress lurched together with his restlessness. When he did go to sleep, he typically awoke at 3 a.m., calculating his labor prices in his head. Typically the concerns saved him up till the solar minimize by way of the home windows of our pink colonial, the house he was apprehensive we’d lose.
A local New Yorker, raised with a built-in sense of unease, and a part of an extended line of anxious Jews, I used to be well-versed in dwelling with the fixed thrum of my very own small worries. However I understood that shutting down the enterprise he had constructed meant one thing bigger to him. I begged him to talk to a therapist.
A number of Zoom periods in, the therapist leaned in towards his digicam and mentioned, “Let’s discuss philosophy.” Philosophy, he informed my husband, helps us metabolize our struggling and keep a way of well-being.
It wasn’t lengthy till my husband was quoting Marcus Aurelius to me.
“What if the snowstorm is dangerous and faculty is canceled?” I mentioned one winter morning, apprehensive that I wouldn’t have the ability to work on freelance assignments with the youngsters at residence.
“You will have energy over your thoughts, not outdoors occasions,” he mentioned. “Notice this, and you will see that energy.”
I rolled my eyes and headed to my laptop computer.
I couldn’t deny that my behavior of overthinking was generally exhausting. And the concept of approaching life’s obstacles with a seeming indifference sounded tempting. I admittedly was attempting to realize the equanimity of a stoic thinker, at the least partially, by way of my day by day Prozac.
Alternatively, my writing rises from the ashes of my on a regular basis considerations about motherhood, well being points and what others thought of me. I mull over my anxieties whereas showering, and sometimes sufficient these showers ended with an concept for an article. I couldn’t think about shedding all sense of fear. Nervousness is my muse.
Irrespective of what number of instances my husband provided me Stoic knowledge, which appeared to me like turning off my mind, I shook my head. What sort of author would I be if I didn’t let my feelings get the higher of me? As Epictetus mentioned, in a line quoted by my husband, “You grow to be what you give your consideration to.” My husband was studying to not grow to be his stress, whereas I attempt to give mine my full consideration.
Whereas I didn’t really feel the necessity to reside my life in line with Stoic precepts, I let him hold the bust on the dresser. If Marcus Aurelius watching him sleep provided him some consolation, then I needed to let it go.
Each morning he awoke and reminded himself that “man is just not apprehensive by actual issues a lot as by his imagined anxieties about actual issues.” I quickly forgot that Marcus was perched up there, watching me. Perhaps judging me. However that’s most likely simply my nervousness speaking.
Megan Margulies is a journalist and memoirist whose work has appeared in The New York Occasions, The Atlantic, The Washington Submit, New York and Vogue.