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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Spanx, Stoicism, and Success

Today, Readers, I would like to discuss Spanx. Spanx, in case you don’t know it, are modern girdles. Sure, they call them something different, something a little more euphemistic than “girdles.” Girdles got a bad rap and “went out” with Women’s Lib. Feminists don’t wear girdles. They wear Spanx, a.k.a. body shapers and smoothers. Although, come to think of it, “girdle” originally was something Athena might have worn around her hips to hold her tools or her keys. Girdle didn’t imply constriction originally; eventually, however, by the mid Twentieth Century, the term meant gut holding thing made of elastic. Today’s girdles, called Spanx, lack the erotic allure of the girdle and stockings, but they do suggest sadomasochism. Which is a fitting implication. Whatever they imply, they sure are efficacious. If by efficacious you mean they work well. And if by work well you mean push your loose flesh up and into various positions of smoothness. And if by “you” I mean “I” or “me.” Which I do. 

Now Spanx have been around for a good decade or longer by now. I think perhaps they date back to Girl Power. Or is that Grrrrl Power? Ironic tone intended. In any case, I have purchased the Spanx brief or two over the years, mostly when I was at a time of life - or let’s be honest, of body shape - that didn’t really require them. They worked well. But, Readers, I recently purchased a new pair of Spanx pantyhose, and I think they have “improved” them even more. Now, there is a bewildering array available to encase every body part and even to enhance some. And they come in different strengths, too. 

Well, I was going to an event - a wedding - to which I was planning on wearing a clingy jersey dress. Artfully ruched, of course, since I am probably now “a woman of a certain age” - although I’m not certain, since no one has actually defined that age for me. Which would, of course, defeat the point of the phrase, no doubt. But still. So, when I asked at one of my favorite boutiques for advice about the best color of pantyhose I should wear and learned I didn’t possess it, I headed for the Spanx hose and bought myself a pair. 

People, have you recently tried to put on a pair of Spanx pantyhose? It seemed like a good idea. After all, if I bought pantyhose, I would still need a pair of Spanx briefs, so I figured I’d get all in one. Let me just say, I could barely get both feet in them at once they were so strong. I couldn’t easily separate my ankles once I did get both feet in. Then it was like rolling copper pipes up my body. By the time I got them unbunched and over my hips, I was dismayed to discover they kept going up my torso. I realized that I would never be able to get them off to pee. That’s when I discovered that they were made so I wouldn’t have to. Ahem. Unfortunately, I had unwisely worn a pair of underpants under them, so I had to take them off again (sweating profusely) and then go through the whole pipe thing again. Exhausting. 

Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. It has nothing to do with success. But then again, my life lately hasn’t. The editor passed on my book proposal. This got me down, way, way down. But I am up again, thanks to my scaffolding of success. And that does have to do with success. After the devastating news, I spoke to my loving mirrors and my agent. I’m back at the writing. I’m going to write the book now, instead of waiting until we sell the proposal. I’m going to stop waiting for instructions from others and write what I want to write. I still have an agent who believes in my book. I still have my like-minded others urging me on. So I will go on. I’m taking a page from Epictetus, thanks to the MIL, who pointed me to a short piece on the Stoic philosopher in The New Yorker*
Milo is definitely a Stoic
Epictetus said, “Of things some are in our power, and others are not.” You should only focus on the things you can control, namely your “opinions” and “acts”. This is sage advice for our times. Did I mention Epictetus lived during the first century C.E? He was a Greek speaking Turkish man who was for a time a Roman slave. Yes, I did pause to consider that this philosophy of self-knowledge and self-restraint was developed by a slave, who definitely, as a slave, had pretty much no control over anything except what was in his head and heart. Yet, Epictetus was eventually freed and still (or finally, after being freed, when he had the time) he developed this philosophy. It made sense in his time and no doubt his advice makes sense now. It’s really, for any time. Timeless advice. Indeed, it sounds like the advice my father, who has been studying Greek for thirty years, has been dispensing of late. It’s root advice. Kind of Buddhist. Kind of Christian. Kind of modern psychological, too. It put me in mind of a psychotherapist I know from NIA class who said, in relation to current events, “We have to start by looking inward and changing ourselves.”

It also put me in mind of Stephen Covey’s Habit # 1: Be Proactive and his discussion of the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. I've written about this here. The circle of concern is larger and contains the circle of influence. However, the only area an individual has any control over is the circle of influence. As you focus on that circle, the circle under your control, you affect the outer circle, too. But you have to return to what you yourself can control. This applies not only to the political situation, but also to so many situations. I can’t control an editor’s response to my book proposal, but I can control my book. 

So, in the New Year, I will try to be more Stoic. I started with Spanx. But I’m moving on to my writing. I will write the best book I can. And I am going back to my teaching and am planning to tutor disadvantaged kids in hands on mathematics to help them in school and to develop critical thinking skills. These things are within my control. They are in my circle of influence. The effects will, I trust, spread my circle of influence out towards the boundaries of my circle of concern. The only thing that will not be spreading out is my midsection, which will be girdled by self-knowledge, and (only when necessary) Spanx. 

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