I am reading Seneca, an ancient Stoic philosopher, on a snow-filled spring morning. As I read, I listen to the whipping of the wind and the buzz of the text messages canceling school and practices, and I think: how lucky we all are to be given this opportunity of an April snowstorm.
From Seneca’s dialogue “On Providence:”
“Why do you wonder that good men are shaken to make them strong? No tree stands firm and sturdy if it is not buffeted by constant wind; the very stresses cause it to stiffen and fix its roots firmly. Trees that have grown in a sunny vale are fragile. It is therefore to the advantage of good men, and it enables them to live without fear, to be on terms of intimacy with danger and to bear with serenity a fortune that is ill only to him to bears it ill.”
Seneca is writing hundreds of years ago, but the truth of his insight meets me on this snowy April day in the twenty-first century. We can look at disruptions as opportunities to build our strength, our inner reserve, and our emotional resistance. Indeed, as Seneca’s imagery makes clear, our strength is directly related to the weathering we’ve endured. This weathering means we become more objective to changing external hardships and see them for what they truly are–which is more often than not a fleeting moment of inconvenience.
If I might add to Seneca’s insights, I’d go even further. Times of “good fortune”–those decidedly sunny April days, for instance–are only ours to recognize because of these stormy days. Because during those stormy days, we made a commitment to be our best self. On those days of good fortune I try to remember to take advantage, enjoy it, and remain steadfast in my recognition that past obstacles prepared me for this current success.
Then, when the next involuntary disruption inevitably strikes, I can look at it and say: “Hello Adversity… I’ve been expecting you.”