By trying to understand Stoicism better, I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. It was never meant for anyone else other than himself, and in it, he details what it takes to be a good man and an apt emperor. He muses on life, the nature of humanity, and existence itself.
It also reads like the freaking Bible.
In the very beginning, he writes out all the people he’s thankful for and what it is they taught him. Each sentence takes up an entire page, and by the time I get to the end of it, I forget who he’s talking about. Archaic sentence structure aside, I think it’s good to be so thankful for people and to be able to write so much about them.
Though I can’t, and won’t, write page-long sentences about those who helped and influenced me, I want to write a post of gratitude too.
After all, Cicero said that gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
Ugh. I’m going to be that person, aren’t I? Anyway, here we go.
To both my mother and father. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. They fed, clothed, housed, and educated me. Why? Because they wanted to.
To my mother who always got me books no matter how poor we were. She taught me that everyone has something to teach you, that you just need to listen. She gave me a flexible outlook on the nature of God and religion. Though indirectly, she instilled a tolerance for solitude in my early years that serves me now as I spend long hours writing.
To my father who worked an extremely dangerous job just to put food on the table. He provided a sanctuary when I needed it most. He shaped my sense of humor, though it startles other people to hear such gallows’ humor come from such an otherwise cheerful woman. He taught me the basics of strength training. He taught me how to read at an early age by setting me on his lap and reading the newspaper to me. And though he doesn’t care for the genre I write, he loved my first book and told me so. And anyone else who would listen.
To my brother, who, now that I think about it, was my first real friend. I’m glad we had so many adventures when we were little.
To my sister, who amazes me with her fearlessness every time I talk with her. Though we didn’t really know each other when we were younger, I’m thankful for the chance to know her now.
To Bob, my mother’s longtime boyfriend. He never tried to be a dad in the sense that he would tell me what to do. He was fine with leaving discipline up to my mom, but he was generous in giving me a place to stay and food to eat. He invested in my education and took care of my mom during her last years.
To my grandfather, veteran of World War II. He taught me about Jesus, but he also showed me how zeal can be dangerous and destructive. He taught me the basics of art and was the first to teach me about digital art. Most importantly, he taught me about generosity and serving others, especially the unfortunate.
To my grandmother, who taught me how to set a table, thread a needle, and how to listen. She would listen to my stories on long car rides, even if they were ‘kind of out there’.
To my aunt, who taught me what a good marriage should look like, how to be gentle, and how to take delight in helping. She also encouraged my love of reading and always had plenty of paper for me to write and draw on as a kid.
To another of my aunts, who invested in my early education, and who taught me that nuns can be rebels. That fighting for what is right is vital. As a child, she brought me to the Field Museum and showed me a mummy exhibit which stuck with me to this day.
To my fourth-grade math teacher, who I won’t name because I don’t want to hurt her feelings on the off-chance she reads this. I hated her class and dreaded it every day. She was not kind, but after a student died of a terrible heart condition, I saw her cry. She taught me that teachers were not perfect and even the meanest person has feelings.
To my sixth-grade English teacher Mrs. Leifield. She gave me a special notebook after class and told me to keep writing. She said she knew I would write a book one day.
To my friend Niel, who taught me to be unashamed at the things you love and to keep working forward, even if what you made in the past isn’t perfect. Don’t waste time perfecting the old stuff. Work on the new. That’s what people want to see.
To Doug Fouts, creative director over at Pearl Insurance. He was the first to buy my book, sure, but he is an overwhelmingly good guy beyond that. He is a good leader and I miss his inspirational Friday emails that he absolutely did not have to write, but did.
To my mother-in-law. She taught me how to cook some great meals, but was also a mother when I needed one the most. She’s unfailingly kind, gentle, and thoughtful. She did right by raising my husband. Speaking of...
My husband, Tim. He makes me a better person through his quiet determination and courage that is so unshakable, it doesn’t even seem like courage, that it’s just how he is. Every day that he sets out on his long commute is a gift to me that says ‘I believe in your writing, keep at it’. He taught me how to drive, how to write a check, how to make good coffee, and so many other things. If I get worked up, I only need to look at him and gauge whether or not he’s worked up and adjust my mood accordingly. I could go on and on, but this post is long enough.
In closing, where I am today and even who I am today isn’t so much the result of my hard work or some inner quality I have. It is the result of the people around me, past and present, and I would do well to remember that.