Tag Archives: stoicism

The Sphere of Choice

I told him to get his heart checked multiple times. He never did. He died a few months later.

He had a high salary but he’s often in debt. I told him to save and to keep a budget. He didn’t. I lent him money, and tried my best to help him financially, but there was nothing I could do except helplessly watch as his cycle of spending and borrowing escalated.

I asked him not to quit his job. With his age, lack of experience, and job-hopping history, I knew finding another job for him would be hard. It’s more than a year now since his last employment.

The doctor told me the surgery wound would be closed in one week. But I could still go surfing that Saturday–3 days before the wound is estimated to close. Friday came and the wound is nowhere near healed and I could still barely walk, let alone surf. I had no choice but to cancel my long-awaited surf trip and find something else to do that week.

Expectations: Surf trip expectations (me last year)


Reality: Picture taken with comedian Gabe Mercado (Ok ka ba tyan??) after an improv class the next Wednesday (First time I was able to go out properly after surgery)

Why I know about control — or the lack of it

AT first, this entry reads like a rant. It’s not that simple though.

All these recollections are from different events in my past.

I have no control over my body. I can’t control people around me. I never did and never tried. These failures are my reminder that despite the best intention and logical explanations, people will act as they see fit. As for the body? It heals on its own time.

“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will.”


I’ve internalized this stoic lesson long ago because I know that each person has to walk their own path and to make their own mistakes. The only thing I control are my thoughts and actions.

But I won’t pretend that I don’t get affected when things go wrong. Yes, stoicism teaches that the path to happiness lies in giving up all outside your sphere of choice.

Logically speaking, I understand this. Yes, it’s useless to be upset because of things outside my sphere of choice.

It’s easier said than done, however. It’s hard not to get affected when the person suffering is someone precious to you. The cancelled surfing trip, for instance, is easier to accept compared to the knowledge that someone I know still can’t find another job.

So I’m still learning this lesson. The best  I can do for the people that matter to me is to comfort and support them. I can help, but I shouldn’t get attached to the outcome of that assistance. Whether they follow through or not is up to them, not me. I’m not sure how that will affect the part of me that feels concerned when things go wrong, but at least this is a step forward towards detachment.


Ask the Wrong Question, Get the Wrong Answer (A Lesson)

From an old journal entry: A lesson I need to remember.

Sometime ago, I was asked if I felt something for someone.

I’ve never felt attracted (physically, mentally, emotionally or any matter of lly’s) to anyone before, at least not in the butterflies in your stomach way. I had no information or protocol for answering this question except for my slightly weird grading system. And since that system may not be as flawless as I once thought, I did’t know what to say.

I was also asked what would happen if things got complicated. At least to this, I had one confident answer: we’d still be friends. I was confident things won’t get complicated–on my side anyway.

A Slippery Slope

It got complicated for him. Something I didn’t expect, because I thought he was “safe” as he also viewed love and attraction as nothing more but science (i.e. chemistry and biology) at work. I thought he just wanted to help or was just as curious as I was on why I’m incapable of attraction.

Now I’m thinking that’s not the whole story.

“Well it got complicated”

“I root for the couple to work it out”

“I will find a girl who will be real and vulnerable with me and I will treat her right”

I didn’t realize the full implications of these words when we were talking. I got so caught up in my desperation to make him understand I meant no harm (and that I wasn’t trying to control him), that I missed the signs. All I wanted was for him to find happiness– not with me of course. But I feel like that part of my message got lost in translation in my effort to explain the virtues of forgiveness and pain (both in friendship and in love).

My brain is still having trouble comprehending this, but I can’t find another explanation for those words, other than what my other guy friend said: secretly or subconsciously, he was checking if I could be the girl he could be vulnerable with.

Vulnerable friends? Sure. Someone to date? Not so much. That thought never crossed my mind, even after his snap judgement hurt me and I got curious about him.

Whatever the case, it was the wrong question. 

The question asked should’ve been: Will I date him? or Will I consider a relationship with him? (instead of the question about attraction).

I wouldn’t have agreed to his invitation if I knew he had these ideas early on. If my friend’s interpretation was correct, that meant he was compromised.

But it’s my fault. I should’ve seen it coming the moment he asked about things getting complicated.

If he asked the — No, scratch that. If I rephrased the question to “Will I date him” or “Will I consider a relationship with him” instead of answering the “tension” or “attraction” question head on, I would have been able to give a straight answer.

I already had data to formulate a logical response, it’s just that I failed to connect the dots because a different trigger/question was used.

Given the right trigger, I would’ve realized that

  • The person is younger than the guys I usually date.
  • I wouldn’t have liked the fact that he had no long-term relationship experience because that meant he’s not yet mature as a partner. I saw evidence of this, too. But my confirmation bias– the desire to believe I found someone with roughly the same mindset as me– was so powerful I missed the glaring signs about his trust issues and easy dismissal of people.

And this is one of my biggest lessons in asking the right questions, outside the sphere of work. Previously, I’ve only seen the applications of using the right questions in talking to new clients or negotiating new projects. Now, I also see its importance in social dealings.

Stoicism and Controlling Myself

Since I’ve been practicing stoicism for almost a year now, I know that the I can only control my thoughts and actions.

I can explain my point of view well enough, but I can’t and will not force it on others. This encounter has made me realize that sometimes, however well-meaning and purely explanatory my ideas are, it may come off as an effort to control someone else. Right now, all I can say is I’m just trying to explain myself– to make my ideas heard and understood– not necessarily followed. But I need to find a way to make that clear.

Perhaps, I can avoid this compulsion to explain my ideas by asking questions, and then letting people come to their own conclusion. If they truly understood my explanation, they will arrive at pretty much the same conclusion (or another variation of it). If they’re seeing things from a different point of view or are not open to my ideas, then they’ll arrive at a different answer. All consequences are okay. What matters is I communicated. The outcome is up to the other person.