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The ancient wisdom that’s fueling me in 2023

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Nenad Aksic | Shutterstock

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 01/16/23

I know I’ll look back on these years and feel proud that I gave it everything I had to give while I could.

Some days, I just don’t want to put in the effort. Do you ever feel that way too?

On a good day, I do all the things that need to get done. I teach my kids, cook healthy meals, pray, and exercise. Sometimes I even catch up on laundry

But on a hard day, I don’t want to do any of it. I’d rather scroll social media on my phone, even though I know it will just make me feel worse instead of helping matters at all. I don’t want to cook and I don’t want to teach and I definitely don’t want to fold the laundry.

Recently I stumbled across a quotation from Marcus Aurelius that’s bringing me motivation on those tough days. 

Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic philosopher who just happened to be the emperor of Rome in the 2nd century AD. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors, and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of peace and stability for the Roman Empire.

As a deep thinker and decisive leader of a vast empire, he knew a thing or two about doing the right thing even when it’s hard. And his wisdom has survived to the present day in his meditations.

He wrote,

“Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”

(Another translation renders his words as “Do not live as if you have ten thousand years left. Your fate hangs over you. While you are still living, while you still exist on the Earth, strive to become a genuinely great person.”)

As distant as my humble life as a homeschooling mom in the Chicago suburbs is from Marcus Aurelius’ imperial era, I find a lot of strength in these simple words. It’s a similar concept to the Memento Mori practice that’s having a Catholic resurgence in recent years. 

It’s tempting to think I can always put in more effort at some unspecified future date. But Marcus Aurelius reminds me that there is no guarantee that tomorrow will come. Today is all I have for sure. That’s the energy I want to bring into 2023.

I read his words and think, “Don’t hold back anything you have to give. Don’t leave any effort unspent. Give all you have, while you can. Pour out every drop for God and your family.”

Some days, when the kids are sick and dinner is burned and nothing goes right, it really does feel like I’ve poured out every last drop I have in me! But Marcus Aurelius reminds me that I’ll never regret putting in this effort. 

I know I’ll look back on these years and feel proud that I gave it everything I had to give in, as poet Mary Oliver called it, my “one wild and precious life.” 

Catholic LifestyleHistoryMotherhood
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