What finally convinced me to read the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius was how frequently it was mentioned in the Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll. The other thing that struck me was that Carroll was diagnosed with ADD when he was younger and eventually this led to the development of this method.
While reviewing the book and taking notes on it into my diary this past winter and spring, I was undergoing an evaluation and was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and Aspergers. For twenty-four years of my life I knew I had a non-verbal learning disability, which is the school psychologist way of saying Aspergers or as it is now known as High Functioning Austism, but I came to realize that this former diagnosis was not the whole picture, and the realization for why the Bullet Journal worked so well for me in the last seven years of my life was because it was designed by someone like me.
So when Carroll quoted Aurelius, Seneca, and others in the book I knew I finally had to give the Stoics a chance. And both journaling and Stoicism has helped me come to grips with my diagnosis–twenty-four years after an accurate diagnosis may have helped save a lot of strife in my life. In the chapter on control, Carroll writes:
“We can’t control our feelings, people, or external events. But there is something we can control and it’s powerful. We can control how we respond to what happens to us.”
This quote has become the touchstone of my exterior life the last six months. I’ve always considered myself a Naturalist because this is what naturalism is about. The practice Carroll preaches to get this quote from intention to action, or responding vs reacting is to go through what you have to do that day and identify what is and what is not in your control. For example, on Sunday, I wrote that it would be great if I took a nap, but immediately after I did a little premeditation and looked at what I had to do on Sunday—it became clear that a nap wasn’t going to happen. Despite knowing I needed it. I had to look at the manufacturer of our house’s sun-room door, write three pages and do a blog update, write the newsletter, write the week schedule; and primarily, break down the boxes in the garage to be taken out by the recycling service Monday morning. So I resolved that the most important thing that I do is break down the boxes in the garage and get them out of there so we can at least park one car in there. If I did that then I would sit on the couch for a little while and read and put my kid in front of a movie, and I did that and dozed off for about a half hour.
Most importantly, goals provide direction, they focus on outcomes that are out of our control, so really the only way to achieve anything is to break them down into actions like: use the box cutter to strip the box for the television. Undo the tape on the book boxes and lay them flat so that you can cart them out easily in the morning with the big broom.
But most of all write down at the end of the day what you’re learning. I do a morning reflection where I talk about what I’m grateful for, what would make today great, and I practice the Stoic method of Premeditatio Malorum, or worst case scenario. Initially, in my evening reflection, I started out asking of “How Could I have Made Today Better?” Which, if you’re like me, lays blame on oneself for not being “neurotypical.” So instead I flipped that and ask myself: what am I learning? What lessons has [blank situation or relationship] taught me or inspired me to learn? What do I want to learn more about? And finally how will I go about learning it? Because that doesn’t make excuses, or blame others or complain that heads in the direction education and creative problem-solving. It’s staying on the Hike’s path.
It is one of the reasons why this book led to How to Talk So Little Kids Listen and how I learned how to be sensitive to my son’s needs and how to not just listen to him but others as well, because that’s something Aspie folks like me struggle with horribly.