How an Emperor Saved My Life

When I couldn’t take my life anymore – as it was, and as it was becoming obvious it could only become – like most people, I looked for answers.  And in the books I read, and the sources I sought, I found more help than I had ever gotten before.

accept whatever comesOne book was especially helpful, especially life-changing.  In it was a passage that I remember still today.  Something I’ll always remember, from the philosopher, and emperor, Marcus Aurelius…

Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

When the conditions of my life deteriorated…

…my trust in life itself collapsed.

When I found those I loved hurting and beyond my help, when the one I trusted and confided in above all others left, when all I hoped for and worked for seemed so utterly beyond what I was able and likely to achieve, my belief in the simple justice of life collapsed entirely.

Life wasn’t “fair”.  What had happened to me was the “worst thing”.  Life could be no more “horrible”, or more “unbearable”.  My fortune could be no more “cursed”, or any more “unreasonable”.  I didn’t “deserve” it.  I didn’t want it.

I resisted what was.  And because of it, I got everything I deserved.

Because I refused to believe that I was in any way worthy of, or participatory in, the sadness of my life.

I had convinced myself that I was simply the unluckiest in the world; that the worst things happen to the best people, that what I experienced was far beyond what someone as good or honest as myself deserved.

I refused to believe that it was happening at all; that it was real at all.

Like some nightmare from which I couldn’t wake.

Like some nightmare which had become all too real.

It wasn’t the way things were supposed to happen, I told myself.  It wasn’t the way things were planned.  It didn’t fit the story and narrative my mind had written and in which I had entrusted my faith and belief; of me being likable and lovable, of the world being an equitable and just place, of things always working out in the end.

Yet there I was with my sad ending.

No matter what I tried.  No matter how much I cared.  No matter how badly I wanted it to be different.

And that reality hurt far more than anything that had happened to me, or anything that I had done to myself.

It broke my heart.

It ruined me emotionally and mentally.  I became worse and worse, my depression stronger and stronger.  My broken home became my broken mind.

When I read…

…Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, the words he wrote hit me.

Truly hit me.

I realized then, and in the many days, months, and years since, that we have to accept all that does come to us.  Not because everything happens for a “reason”, but because all happens as it does, and could have happened no other way.  Not because any particular outcome was “destined”, but that each outcome is reality, and as such is the rightful result.

Whatever its cause, our life is inevitably the just and true effect.

I realized that everything occurs as it is meant to because it occurred as it did; that whatever we may experience or encounter in life – the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, by the hands of others or our own – is not only the right thing, but the best thing…to ourselves, our way of life, our very consciousness.

And that in everything that may happen lies an opportunity, a lesson not yet learned, a false belief to be shattered, a way to move forward.

But many choose to ignore it, as I did.  And their life soon becomes a minefield they dare not tread, where every new obstacle is a misfortune, and every new problem becomes the last they believe they can bear.

And that’s how sadness gets the best of you.

That’s how the bad parenting, and divorce, and abuse defeat the teen who only wants out of the broken home they cannot escape.

That’s how the firing, and lost promotion, and lost wife defeat the father who only wants to provide for his family.

That’s how the infidelity, and misbehaving children, and pressure at work defeat the mother who only wants to provide a better future for the kids who don’t yet appreciate her.

That’s how anybody finds themselves in pain, in the obvious teen depression of adolescence, or the quiet depression of adulthood; victims of broken homes and broken minds, of this problem or that misfortune.

They resist what is.  And it only ever hurts.

Aurelius’ words…

…changed me, though, because it was the wake up call I sorely needed.

Because I finally accepted what was.

Where before I whined about my fortune and cursed my life, now I saw only the chance to improve myself.  I no longer hated what had happened, but instead looked forward to what would happen – how I would be better, how I would be stronger, how I would take control of what I could control, and make things right for me regardless.

Gone was the negative thinking.  In its place was hope, and action.

It was no longer: “This happened?  Why, oh why?  Why me?”

It became: “This happened.  Oh well.  Now this must be done.”

In Aurelius’ wisdom I found the acceptance I would need to endure the many more trials I would and will face.

I found the words that calmed my nerves, and the faith that assuaged my fears.  I found trust that things would work out; that I would be okay, that all that happened was in fact the best that could happen.  I found belief in the fact that there is good in bad; that you are provided every opportunity to improve yourself; that the world will give you all you require to become the person you desire.

Whether you like it or not.  Whether it hurts or not.

Because it is what you need.  Because it is what is happening now.

For what could more aptly fit your needs?


Comment and share below.  It’s better than sex.


6 Responses to How an Emperor Saved My Life

  1. liz says:

    This blog entry is brilliant, particularly:

    “I realized then that we HAVE to accept ALL that comes to us. Not because everything happens for a “reason,” but because all happens as it does, and could have happened no other way. Not because any particular outcome was “destined,” but that each outcome is reality, and as such is the rightful result.”

    At first, I didn’t know how you were going to interpret that Aurelius quote, but I very much like the interpretation you offered, specifically, turning “everything happens for a reason” on its head….good job

  2. Imogen says:

    Thank you Adam. I really enjoy reading your posts. You seem to me, to be very wise – beyond your years.

    I am also a fan of Marcus Aurelius. I own and adore his “mediations” book, or rather, the modern day interpretation of some them. It is just amazing that a man who lived around two thousand years ago ponders and wonders on the same stuff as myself…and many others. It just blew me away.

  3. says:

    Hi Adam what version of the meditations did you read with the modern slant
    Thank you

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