I’ve been listening to and reading Meditations by the Great Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. My mother gave me the small book many years ago as I was, for a time, into philosophy and all things Rome after reading Julius Caesar. I go back to the book occasionally, especially if I’m struggling as we do in this life, some more than others. The inner battles we all face daily while putting on a smile for the outside world sometimes become too much, and it’s nice to get in someone else’s head for a bit, especially a mind as great as this brilliant ancient leader and visionary.

Recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy, Marcus Aurelius wrote the 12 books of the Meditations in Koine Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement at the end of his life. These writings weren’t for the masses, and I’m sure he’d be shocked at how famous his thoughts have become. Every time I read his teachings, I learn so much, but the biggest takeaway I get is the reminder of how important it is to be still. There are so many distractions and an obscene amount of noise during our lifetime that it’s almost impossible not to lose a connection to what we think and feel. I remember as a kid walking, sometimes for miles, to a friend’s house or the park and just thinking about where I was going in life, what I wanted to be, news I’d heard that day, or a boy I liked and what to do about it. I’d work out simple and complicated things on my own and form my own opinions. Of course, we were still influenced by others, television etc., But now it seems we barely have to think at all, and this can cause us to lose touch with who we really are and what we need. I know that’s how it’s been for me. I’ve been swept up in a move, a family illness, a whirlwind book launch, and the finishing up of a new book—so many life changes, good and bad, I haven’t taken a moment to process it. We need moments for ourselves—we need to sometimes just be.

So, in the great words of Marcus Aurelius…

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”… “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” ― …

Another excerpt from The Summer Before, my next book, is below. Let me know your thoughts! And I am honored to speak at the Bridgton Women’s Recovery Center opening in Maine on April 21st, and I’ll be back at the Wenham Tea House signing at their luncheon on May 25th. Many more events are coming soon!

“Mom!” I yelled and reached for her hands, grabbing onto the beads.

“Stop praying. Stop!” I yanked, feeling a release. The string let go, and my arm slung backward as I stumbled from my stance onto the floor. Beads shot into the living room and rolled along the floor. She crawled over me, hitting my leg, and scurried on all fours to the living room, wailing at the top of her lungs.

“I’m sorry!” I called after her, watching her chase the beads in a frenzy, stuffing them in her pocket.

I came up behind her and reached my arms around her, pulling her in between my legs on the floor. She leaned back, not fighting, and let her head fall into my shoulder while crying. I’d never seen her cry. Not even at Nonie’s funeral.

“I shouldn’t have come. I guess I just shouldn’t have come,” I said, holding her tightly and feeling the tears spill down my cheeks.

“He couldn’t have done this, Madeline,” she whispered, pulling her head away from me and moving my arm. She slid across the floor and leaned against the coffee table to face me. Her head fell forward, and she brushed the hairs from her cheek.

“How, Mom? How could he not have? Why?” I breathed, exhausted, feeling that we’d only divided ourselves more and ripped anything we still had to shreds.

She noticed the picture of her next to her and pulled it out from under what was left of the shattered frame. She stared at it, then shook her head, touching her finger to her cheek.

“Because he saved me, Madeline.” She smiled. “He, your father, saved me from—” She stopped and pointed at nothing, screwing up her face.

“What, Mom? I’m not following.” I pulled myself closer to her, my leg touching hers.

“From that—that filth, you know?”

I was confused. She struggled with saying it, but I didn’t get it. “Filth, Mom? What? What happened? What filth?” My head spun, thinking of what happened, not wanting her to retreat.