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Severine Follows Health Advice from Ancient Literature


Severine

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So yeah, I am not actually kidding about the challenge title. Sure, I'm ridiculous. Let's get that out of the way up front. I've spent so much of my life hiding or downplaying my true interests/ideas because I was embarrassed about them (I have anxiety issues and I worry a lot about stuff like that) but I'm currently trying to get over that fear, and just be myself and face the consequences of being myself, whatever they may be. Sooooo here goes! ahaha please don't hate me

 

Background: I have a degree in Latin and Ancient Greek language and literature. Obviously I've read a lot of it. For better or for worse, it has had a huge impact on me, including shaping my ideas about what is admirable and virtuous in human beings. For example, I have an incredibly vivid memory of translating a line from Book 21 of Livy's monumental history of Rome, in which he describes Hannibal: 

 

cibi potionisque desiderio naturali, non voluptate modus finitus

 

It translates as, "his food and drink were determined by the requirements of nature, not by pleasure." Suffice it to say that the same thing could not be said about me. And I remember how deeply it affected me; it was exactly what I wanted to be, expressed so simply and elegantly. And the timelessness of it--the fact that it had been good advice for thousands of years--made it all the more compelling. Many times since then, that phrase has resurfaced in my mind along with a deep awareness of my own failure in comparison.

 

I could give dozens of examples of passages that had similar impacts. The Epicureans, the Skeptics, and the Stoics (and even the guys writing fun scandalous poetry and coming up with bons mots along the way) all had ideas that appealed to me, or that I disagreed with in thought-provoking ways, and I was heavily influenced by what I read. I do not idealize Romans: both the Republic and the Empire were deeply flawed and responsible for great suffering. But it was a complex and fascinating society and there were a lot of good ideas scattered among the violence and imperialism and oppression.

 

So, in designing my actual challenge I considered a couple things:

  • I need to stop being so sheepish about the fact that I find this stuff compelling. I need to stop over-analyzing all my interests, trying to figure out what's wrong with me for being interested in them. If I'm interested in it, it makes more sense to harness that interest to improve myself.
  • I need to accept that strict regimentation (the approach the Romans loved so much!) is currently the only approach to self improvement that works for me. Every time I try a more flexible approach based on intuition or listening to my body, I get off track. So if I want to progress I need to stop trying to deny that it's what works for me, and just go with it.

 

1. MORNING ROUTINE: GET UP EVERY MORNING ON TIME. DO THE ROUTINE EVERY DAY.
Marcus Aurelius on getting out of bed in the morning (translation mine):

 

In the morning when you dread to rise, lean on this thought: I rise to do a human being's work. Why resent going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was born into the world? Or was I meant for this: to lie comfortable in blankets and keep myself warm? "But this is more pleasant!" Indeed, do you exist just to feel pleasure? Not for action and experience? Do you not see the plants, the birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees, all playing their respective parts, working to put the universe in order? Are you unwilling to do the part of a human being? Why aren't you racing to be what you were born to be?

 

Here's the original Greek for those who care:

Spoiler

Ὄρθρου, ὅταν δυσόκνως ἐξεγείρῃ, πρόχειρον ἔστω ὅτι ἐπὶ ἀνθρώπουἔργον ἐγείρομαι: τί οὖν δυσκολαίνω, εἰ πορεύομαι ἐπὶ τὸ ποιεῖν ὧνἕνεκεν γέγονα καὶ ὧν χάριν προῆγμαι εἰς τὸν κόσμον; ἢ ἐπὶ τοῦτοκατεσκεύασμαι, ἵνα κατακείμενος ἐν στρωματίοις ἐμαυτὸν θάλπω; ἀλλὰ τοῦτο ἥδιον. πρὸς τὸ ἥδεσθαι οὖν γέγονας, ὅλως δὲ σὺ πρὸς πεῖσινἢ πρὸς ἐνέργειαν; οὐ βλέπεις τὰ φυτάρια, τὰ στρουθάρια, τοὺςμύρμηκας, τοὺς ἀράχνας, τὰς μελίσσας τὸ ἴδιον ποιούσας, τὸ καθ̓ αὑτὰςσυγκροτούσας κόσμον; ἔπειτα σὺ οὐ θέλεις τὰ ἀνθρωπικὰ ποιεῖν; οὐτρέχεις ἐπὶ τὸ κατὰ τὴν σὴν φύσιν


By the way, @NeverThatBored, when you did your 'catheters and bedpans' challenge, it totally reminded me of this passage but I didn't mention it because of the sheepishness I mentioned above. I'm going for a similar idea here to what you did. Marcus Aurelius says: suck it up, Severine. Your life is, in the context of the whole of human experience, a paradise. Don't coddle yourself, because that robs you of the chance to be what you can be. Strive to deserve your good fortune. Get up, be present, and face the day head on with your full attention. 

 

Practical note: this is the same morning routine I did with such success a few challenges ago (and then stopped doing). Wake up at 7, drink a glass of water, stretch, review the day's plan in my hobonichi, exercise, shower, and eat breakfast.

 

2. FOOD: TRACK EVERYTHING. DON'T EAT FOOD I DON'T NEED. INDULGENCES AT SOCIAL OCCASIONS ONLY.

 

I'm not planning on making Hannibal my role model in general (it was said that he would sleep on the bare ground, wrapped only in his cloak, and that sounds a bit extreme) but there's a reason that line about eating according to the needs of the body spoke so profoundly to me. Right now, I eat for the wrong reasons and it hurts me in a variety of ways. My emotional/binge eating is really disordered, and I'm working on it with my therapist, but I need to do work outside of therapy as well.

 

Disciplined food tracking is the only thing that has ever succeeded at controlling my eating issues. I'm really embarrassed to have this problem and I keep trying to 'graduate' to a less structured approach, under the theory that I'd be a better person if the right behaviour came naturally to me. But every time I've tried, I've regressed. I need to stop obsessing over the idea that the approach that works for me is a sign of moral failing, and just accept that it works and that's all I currently have the luxury of considering. 

 

Seneca said copia ciborum subtilitas impeditur (an abundance of food hampers the intellect) and I think that's true for me. I feel better, physically and mentally, when I'm eating in moderation. Discipline and adherence to my goals makes me proud of myself and helps propel me to other victories. I need to remind myself of this, a lot, especially when I have cravings or feel down.

 

3. EXERCISE: EVERY MORNING! 

 

Everyone has heard Juvenal's famous summary of the human ideal: mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) and Hippocrates (of Hippocratic Oath fame) said, according to legend, that walking is the best medicine. As I mentioned above, exercise is part of my morning routine. It helps me feel better mentally and physically.

 

I'm not a huge fan of Horace, but he was right when he said vitanda est improba siren desidia - the wicked temptress, laziness, must be avoided! I can't let inertia or sloth cheat me out of something that I generally really do enjoy once I start doing it, and which has many lasting benefits besides.

 

4. THE MENTAL ASPECT: JOURNAL, READ, REFLECT. DISMANTLE UNHELPFUL IDEAS, REWRITE MENTAL HABITS.

 

Cicero said that morbi perniciosiores pluresque sunt animi quam corporis (maladies of the mind are more numerous and pernicious than those of the body) and for me it's certainly the case. I'm in pretty good health, physically, despite my less than virtuous lifestyle recently. The mental and emotional blocks are what have always held me back.

 

I'm working on this. I go to therapy, I'm here on the forums trying to sort out my brain, and I (intermittently) do reflection journaling and other introspection. But my dedication and consistency waxes and wanes. Ovid, in one of his wonderfully whiny letters from exile in Pontus, said that gutta cavat lapidem, non vi, sed saepe cadendo (a droplet carves out stone, not by force, but by constant dripping) and indeed, it's consistency I need to work on when it comes to the mindset stuff. Journaling only on days I feel great and full of energy sort of misses the point. So although I don't use an evening routine in general, the one thing I want to do every night is a bit of reflective writing.

 

And since I genuinely seem to find some value in combing through moralizing platitudes of long-dead men, I'm going to dedicate some time to translating and exploring ancient writing that I haven't read yet, or things I haven't looked at for a really long time. If I can find inspiration there, I should do it, no matter how silly it sometimes makes me feel. 

 

Anyway so I feel entirely ridiculous about this challenge, but I enjoyed writing it and that's not normally how I feel about writing challenges so maybe I'm onto something?

 

Anyway since there has to be a cat picture for @fleaball I will leave you with a proverb I like: 

 

fames.jpeg

 

(Hunger is the best cook)

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A) that is the best cat

 

B.) wtf I'm so mad that you feel embarrassed about this?! It's so awesome! Also I'm jealous that you know these languages. I know the Greek alphabet in upper case only, and that's as far as I can go. >_>

 

Seriously though, the only bad system is one that doesn't work for you. If this is what gets you going then fuck everyone else. I think it's awesome. And I'm also kinda jealous because the phrases you chose are also awesome. I don't know anything about any of these dead guys but it sounds like they were right about some things. 

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καλή ημέρα! δύναμαι λέγειν ελληνικκα κοινή!

I took every Koinh Greek class my college offered, and a few in Seminary. I don't know classical very well, and I've forgotten a lot, but I loved my Greek Classes. We had a professor who taught us contemporary pronunciation, rather than Erasmian, so I get funny looks when I pronounce it here in the states.

Following along for the challenge as well.

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48 minutes ago, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

καλή ημέρα! δύναμαι λέγειν ελληνικκα κοινή!

I took every Koinh Greek class my college offered, and a few in Seminary. I don't know classical very well, and I've forgotten a lot, but I loved my Greek Classes. We had a professor who taught us contemporary pronunciation, rather than Erasmian, so I get funny looks when I pronounce it here in the states.

Following along for the challenge as well.

 

Yay another person who took Greek! :D 

 

Funny story about pronunciation: my partner (who also took Greek in school and was taught classical pronunciation like me) kept getting really weird looks when they were in Greece. They were speaking modern Greek but I guess their pronunciation was really heavily influenced by their experience with classical. They figured no big deal as long as people understood. Eventually someone explained to them that they kind of sounded like a fascist - the fascist party, when it was in power during WW2, had apparently tried some linguistic reforms to make people speak more like the classical Greek of the country's glory days. 

 

So yeah if I go to Greece I will be sure to follow the pronunciation guide in the phrasebook :D

 

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5 minutes ago, Severine said:

 

Yay another person who took Greek! :D 

 

Funny story about pronunciation: my partner (who also took Greek in school and was taught classical pronunciation like me) kept getting really weird looks when they were in Greece. They were speaking modern Greek but I guess their pronunciation was really heavily influenced by their experience with classical. They figured no big deal as long as people understood. Eventually someone explained to them that they kind of sounded like a fascist - the fascist party, when it was in power during WW2, had apparently tried some linguistic reforms to make people speak more like the classical Greek of the country's glory days. 

 

So yeah if I go to Greece I will be sure to follow the pronunciation guide in the phrasebook :D

 

Awkward.

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18 minutes ago, Countess D'If said:

Semper ubi sub ubi

 

Words to live by!

 

If you want to be period appropriate, here's how to tie your subligaculum…

 

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I love this challenge~! <3 No need to be embarrassed! I don't think anyone here on this website full of nerds could possibly look down on you for being interested in ancient greek literature?

 

The quote about getting up in the morning is great! I might even try saying some of it to myself next time I'm grumpy about getting out of bed. 

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That is so cool. That you know this stuff and remembers and wow. I am in awe. I think it would be super cool to know and be able to read and translate myself, but there are only so many hours in my day and first I'll learn modern Japanese to speak, read and write. And probably a few other languages after that. But if I had time, I'd learn it in a heartbeat!!!!

 

Also, whatever system works for you is the system to use. Whatever other people think or say is a more "natural" way and what is "starter" techniques or not. And blah, blah, blah. Who cares? If it works for you use it; when it doesn't work for you, change it. And if it never stops working, keep using it.

 

One thing Kate has had me work on (not by direction, but by reminding me of it regularly) is that society's view, my family's view, other culture's view, person XYZ's view on stuff doesn't have to be mine. Just because someone says X doesn't mean X is true for anyone but them. So if you need to track your food then track it; if someone else can go by listen to their bodies, let them. Try to let go off what other people says are the progressions or what step is the first vs the last vs whatever.

 

If their views hinder you, let them go. If they help you, you might still want to let them go so you can form your own from whatever comes up as you do.

 

Also once again, being able to read ancient literature in original languages? SUPER COOL. 

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Fab challenge, @Severine! :D 

 

19 hours ago, fleaball said:

wtf I'm so mad that you feel embarrassed about this?! It's so awesome!

This!  I've been prattling on about the classics, no shame, and here you are with much better linguistic skills than me - it is super awesome!  But honestly, why would you be embarrassed to have a wide range of interests???  I really cannot understand that. 

 

Persevera! :D 

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On 5/29/2017 at 1:44 PM, fleaball said:

B.) wtf I'm so mad that you feel embarrassed about this?! It's so awesome! Also I'm jealous that you know these languages. I know the Greek alphabet in upper case only, and that's as far as I can go. >_>

On 5/29/2017 at 7:16 PM, NeverThatBored said:

I love this challenge~! <3 No need to be embarrassed! I don't think anyone here on this website full of nerds could possibly look down on you for being interested in ancient greek literature?

14 hours ago, Vibrantella said:

But honestly, why would you be embarrassed to have a wide range of interests???  I really cannot understand that. 

 

Since a couple people mentioned this I figured I should respond. I know it's totally illogical - it's just an anxiety/self-confidence thing. As in whatever I'm interested is inherently suspect as a topic for discussion because why would something I'm interested in every be interesting to anyone else? Just my brain anticipating criticism and devaluing my own perspective, really. And I think when I talk about stuff I am really into, part of me feels like I become a lot more vulnerable, because I am much more likely to be hurt if people think it's stupid? It sounds so obviously ridiculous when I write it out. But it's definitely something that affects me and it leads me to not always be super forthcoming about my true interests unless I know someone well. In a way it's a really good sign I felt able to do this at all, even if I'm being oddly sheepish about it.

 

Needless to say, thanks everyone for being awesome and nice about everything :)

 

This weekend was my ten year anniversary with D! It's amazing and unbelievable how quickly time has passed, but at the same time I feel like I can barely remember what my life was like before I met him. Best ten years of my life, without question. We had a great weekend including going canoeing and kayaking on the Charles, and driving up to Portland Maine for a mini getaway (and delicious food) and hanging out and watching movies and baking and enjoying the long weekend and it was great.

 

Should find out about the job this week, so fingers crossed. I'm kind of nervous but there's obviously nothing I can do so trying not to think about it too much. L had a job interview today too, for a position that'd be a huge raise and looks interesting. So toes crossed too I guess?

 

Tonight we (me and D and L and my friend who I've talked about in previous challenges who I am just going to start referring to as J, because god knows if he ever finds my posts, he'll recognize that I'm talking about him with or without an initial) went to a pub quiz and we won second place! We alllllmost got first but we don't know anything about movies, and a question about Clint Eastwood lost us points. Damn you, Clint Eastwood! Anyway we got a $15 gift certificate and that was fun. 

 

Today was the first day of the challenge for me, since I started late. Morning routine and exercise were a go! And I did some brief journaling in my hobonichi. I tracked my food, and ate decently except for having half a beer and half a wrap and a couple fries at the pub. But since I said indulgences were okay at social occasions I think it's actually kind of okay? It certainly wasn't a binge, anyway.

 

Also got my hair cut and coloured and I really love it. Black with some sneaky bright blue parts semi-hidden. Will post a picture when I get a chance.

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6 minutes ago, Severine said:

Since a couple people mentioned this I figured I should respond. I know it's totally illogical - it's just an anxiety/self-confidence thing. As in whatever I'm interested is inherently suspect as a topic for discussion because why would something I'm interested in every be interesting to anyone else? Just my brain anticipating criticism and devaluing my own perspective, really. And I think when I talk about stuff I am really into, part of me feels like I become a lot more vulnerable, because I am much more likely to be hurt if people think it's stupid? It sounds so obviously ridiculous when I write it out. But it's definitely something that affects me and it leads me to not always be super forthcoming about my true interests unless I know someone well. In a way it's a really good sign I felt able to do this at all, even if I'm being oddly sheepish about it.

I get this. Not to the extent that you do, but you're not alone. 

 

Happy anniversary! Glad it was a good time. Various appendages crossed for both you and L!

 

eta because I hit submit too soon: I'm super jealous of your hair. And your progress. 

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Oh, sounded like a great weekend! Plus last night (two nights ago?) sounded fun too.

 

Talking about our closest interests can be really hard, because we are exposing our hearts, what we most care about. So really, in that light, it isn't strange at all that you feel hesitant. And definitely normal to feel vulnerable because that is like the definition of it: being completely true and open or whatever. (Not looking it up.)

 

And crossing fingers and toes for the job applications!

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Adding to what is said, why should you be embarrassed about any of this? Ancient literature is awesome! I went through 3 years of latin and 2 of greek at highschool, and was in love with them! (maybe also a little bit in love with the latin teacher, but you know, teenagers...) We read and translated a lot of ancient literature, Marcial, Caesar, Aesopus...

Your quote on Marcus Aurelius is one of my faves!

 

By the way, she's been offline for a long time, but @Varelse was doing her thesis on stoic philosophy, if I remember it right.

 

Summing up, don't be embarrassed and show your knowledge, it is incredibly interesting. I'm sure I will love your challenge, with all these references.

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On 5/30/2017 at 1:28 AM, Severine said:

vitanda est improba siren desidia - the wicked temptress, laziness, must be avoided! 

I am totally going to borrow this and put it where I can see it every day.

 

Oh, and I love your awesomely impressive interest!

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6 hours ago, Severine said:

Will post a picture when I get a chance.

Looking forward to this! :D

 

I'm sorry if I was too incredulous, but to me, intellectual pursuits have nothing to do with vulnerability.  OK, don't spell out your forthcoming doctoral thesis on a forum, but in general terms, enjoy sharing... This site is welcoming to all kinds of nerdiness, and/or geekiness! :D 

 

 

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5 hours ago, zenLara said:

Adding to what is said, why should you be embarrassed about any of this? Ancient literature is awesome! I went through 3 years of latin and 2 of greek at highschool, and was in love with them! (maybe also a little bit in love with the latin teacher, but you know, teenagers...) We read and translated a lot of ancient literature, Marcial, Caesar, Aesopus...

Your quote on Marcus Aurelius is one of my faves!

 

By the way, she's been offline for a long time, but @Varelse was doing her thesis on stoic philosophy, if I remember it right.

 

Summing up, don't be embarrassed and show your knowledge, it is incredibly interesting. I'm sure I will love your challenge, with all these references.

 

Not exactly; in fact I just give up my thesis (contemporary literature), but I'm very fond on ancient literature. This challenge is very interesting, as you said. I'm really glad that you quoted me :)

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7 hours ago, zenLara said:

Adding to what is said, why should you be embarrassed about any of this? Ancient literature is awesome! I went through 3 years of latin and 2 of greek at highschool, and was in love with them! (maybe also a little bit in love with the latin teacher, but you know, teenagers...)

 

This made me chuckle because I totally had a crush on my very dorky Latin professor in the first year of undergrad. That bowtie...be still, my heart! :D  There was a physics class before our Latin lecture, and once when the professor arrived and found the board covered with equations, he said, "It's all math to me!" with a big grin before he wiped it off. I was the only one in the class who laughed and then I turned beet red and wanted to hide under my chair.

 

1 hour ago, Varelse said:

Not exactly; in fact I just give up my thesis (contemporary literature), but I'm very fond on ancient literature. This challenge is very interesting, as you said. I'm really glad that you quoted me :)

 

Hello and welcome! :) I don't want to pry about your thesis; I hope it's not too presumptuous to say that I hope that whatever you do next makes you happy.

 

If you decide to make a challenge on the forums, let me know!

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2 minutes ago, Severine said:

Oh and I didn't really feel like exercising this morning, but I did it anyway. And I enjoyed it once I got started!

Teach me your ways. 

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2 hours ago, Severine said:

I was the only one in the class who laughed and then I turned beet red and wanted to hide under my chair.

Once our teacher asked us which was the best way to translate "tu est mihi cordi" (well, 25 years later I don't remember anymore if that was the expression we were discussing, but something similar) and I jumped off my chair and shouted "I love you!" And he just said "that is correct!", as if it were a tv show... and I cried on the inside.

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4 hours ago, fleaball said:

Teach me your ways. 

 

That's like asking this guy for tips on mowing your lawn:

319b4880aa343d1d1bff0fd125f26978.jpg

 

Just because the lawn ends up mowed doesn't mean his advice is worth listening to...

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I think I'd trust you a little more than I would him, but I see your point.

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Level 69 Battle Kitten

Profile photo is ancient but I'm too lazy to change it. 

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Je suis partie pour reconstruire ma vie

C'est dit, c'est ainsi

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9 hours ago, fleaball said:

Teach me your ways. 

 

The thing to recognize is that the hard part of making yourself work out is not the actual exercise. It's that few minutes where you're gearing up to exercise and your brain is resisting you and telling you how horrible and unpleasant it's going to be and how much better other things are. Imagine that part of your brain is a child that's dragging its feet and whining. Your job is to negotiate with that child just long enough that you can get it through those few minutes of resistance. That can take a lot of forms - negotiation, bribery, distraction, etc. Once you've started the exercise and gotten over that hump, you'll usually want to keep going to finish what you're doing. 

 

There are different ways to do this and it depends a lot on the workings of your own brain.

  • Sometimes it's leaving a little trail to gently guide that child into doing what you want it to do: "I'm just going to change into workout clothes so I'm ready when I do eventually start working out.""Well I've already changed so now I have to at least do the warmup part or play around a little." Then you're over the hump and you can say "well you've already done this much, you might as well do the rest!"
  • Other times it's straight up negotiation: "Just change and do the first 5 minutes. If you still don't like it after that, you can stop guilt free!" or "Do these things and just leave out that one unpleasant thing you're really dreading!"
  • Other times it's bribery: "You can listen to that super fun workout playlist if you do your workout!"
  • And other times it's momentum: "You already did one workout this week. How cool would you feel if you actually did TWO??"
  • Or social pressure: "I just posted that I was going to do my workout and I don't want to go back and tell everyone that I didn't do it!"

I'm sure you know most of this but I couldn't resist! :P 

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