Last issue’s column (June 4), in which I shared the Italian phrase “dolce far niente,” meaning “the sweetness of doing nothing,” brought a fair amount of response. Thank you to those readers who responded.
Thanks in particular to my friend and fellow writer Pam Gallagher, who shared another phrase she learned some time ago, this one from the Latin: “amor fati,” which she said is loosely translated to “love your fate or want what you have.”
It reminded me of something my daddy used to say: “Be thankful for what you have. Some people have nothing.”
I checked with my new “best friend” dictionary, the Merriam-Webster app, to discover an additional explanation: “the welcoming of all life’s experiences as good.”
Digging a little deeper, I found some version of the phrase in the writings of early philosophers, particularly the Stoics, including the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius; Epictetus, who was born a slave; and Seneca.
They parse the meaning in different and very eloquent ways, but generally the meaning remains the same: Accept whatever happens to you; treat each moment – even the challenging ones – as something to be embraced.
It has been interesting that this particular new word-phrase popped into my life when it did, for a new life experience is occurring in our family: my husband and I have become empty-nesters.
Our two sons have moved into their own apartment together.
And I’m embracing this new chapter – with amor fati – and with much happiness for them. Life will change for them, and for us.
It seems to be that time of year for grown children to move on. Many of our friends’ children (and our children’s friends) have just graduated high school and will be heading off to college soon; some have graduated college and are starting new careers.
(A former classmate of one son is a newly minted doctor at age 27 and just bought a house in another state. To us, she will always cute-little-Ali-the-gymnast-with-a-great-smile.)
Nevertheless, this move was a bit unexpected for us. The younger son has been (mostly) happily ensconced in the only bedroom he has ever known, as we have lived in the same house since before he was born.
I think we had come to expect and accept that he would stay there forever, helping us with chores, buying his own food (sometimes), joining me in adding to our landscaping, goading us into new adventures occasionally.
We thought he might stay until our old age, when he would then become our caregiver if necessary.
Our elder son has been on his own for a while, mostly close by, but including a time in the big city of Atlanta – we didn’t see him often during that period. I missed him terribly.
Most recently, he has been living in Savannah, close enough for visits back and forth every few weeks. We came to enjoy jaunts down Broughton Street, or finding new lunch spots, discovering cool antique or junk shops. We ventured out with him and his dogs on walks in the park or down by the river.
Now both boys are in Bluffton – not far from my office. It will be fun to meet them for coffee or lunch occasionally. They will continue to make it home for dinner, or hang out on a lazy Saturday.
This new situation is how fate has happened. We can’t change it, so we might as well embrace it.
Amor fati. I shall welcome this experience as a very good thing.