defining failure and success

Ok, soul-searching time. Writing helps me to think.

Failure: not living up to my potential

two questions: why am I so terrified of this? -and- what exactly does this mean?

I’ve been exploring a career-fulfillment website lately that talks a lot about failure and encourages thinking about it in a whole new way.  One of the suggested activities is defining failure for yourself.  That’s just as important as defining success.  And visualizing them both, but that’s another deal. I asked myself, with just myself, what’s the REAL definition of failure for me, what i’ve been afraid of my whole life, what i’ve been terrified of, ironically, because the fear of NOT doing this (living up to my potential) is hindering me from livng up to my potential!  So — why is that so scary?  Is it because you’ve been blessed, and feel obligated to give back?  That’s part of it, but in a horribly contorted way – it’s not like volunteering will make me feel i’m “living up to my potential -” I feel i OWE the world, and it’s a burden.  My parents sacrificed for me, I was born in a country where everything’s possible, I have plenty of great education – but what will I do with all that?  There are several factors going on here – guilt, yes, but also pride!  I’m smart!  I’m way smarter than most people.  There, I said it.  How do I know?  because of GPA’s and class rank and results of standardized tests and because when I read other people’s work, besides the classics, I find TYPOS!!!  Most people don’t even have a good grasp on grammar.  Most people can’t learn languages as thoroughly and as well as I do… the list goes on.  …    Actually, no, that’s it, really.  But those are some good proofs that I’m smarter than most, or at least smart!  So why can’t I make my way in the world?  It’s because I suck at working the system, and I’m humble.  That might seem a bit of a non-sequester, after all that about being smart, but what I mean here is, I’m humble enough to be happy doing jobs that DONT actually require education, like cake decorating and esl teaching… well, now that I say that, cake decorating is something I do because it’s fun, I like it.  It’s artistic.  I wouldn’t call it a PASSION, but I do enjoy it very much.  I’ve had two cake decorating jobs, in supermarkets, minimum wage.  Here’s a girl who has a master’s degree and knows several languages, working at the grocery store for minimum wage.  But I’m o.k. with that!  But I’m not o.k. with being o.k. with that.  I should be doing something STUPENDOUS… shouldn’t I?  And teaching esl – no, that doesn’t technically use my education, but it does indirectly.  In order to teach esl part time for full-time money the way I do, you have to live in-country, where it’s really in demand, and I probably couldn’t do that so successfully for so long if I didn’t know the language.  Hmmm.  So it turns out that I haven’t yet “settled” – or settled without reason – but the fear remains that I might someday in future.

P.S. – about sucking at working the system – I do. I have no “career” because I don’t know how to go about doing that.  It has something to do with my unique personality, although I can’t put my finger on it.  For example, people say they often find contradictions in me.  I’m not glued to social media because I find it boring.  I’ve realized that most people are crazy about it, but I can’t possibly care about people’s pictures of their dogs or kids, complaints or boasts.  BORING!  Why the hell do people find twitter and face book so fascinating?????  I’ve also realized that most people have successful careers by specializing in something and pursuing it for decades.  They often have a job or series of jobs in the same vein that require doing the same thing every day, all day, for years!!!  I can’t fathom that!  I need enjoyment, enthusiasm, change, new challenges!  My husband works at a bank, been doing that for 3 years.  How???  My dad worked in sales at the same job at the same company for 30 years.  WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT??????  I would die.  Or go insane.

Anyway, back to defining failure.  So, there’s the burden of guilt, the sin of pride, … what else?  Why is the idea of not living up to my potential so horrible?  Ah, yes.  Greed.  I figure any respectable person of my intelligence, experience and skill should be making at least $60 grand, but I usually do jobs for half that.  I want to start a family!  I’m gunna need some sustenance.  Actually, now that I say that, wanting to make 60,000 dollars a year is not greedy.  It’s pretty standard!

What else?  I also really, REALLY don’t like that idea because, it means not measuring up.  Yup, competition, comparing myself to others, caring what you look like in others’ eyes.  Wow, so not me.  Why do I care?  Truthfully, there are very few people in the world whose opinions I give any concern about whatsoever, on any level.  I don’t mind asking questions in class.  I don’t care if I let on to the whole auditorium that I don’t get something.  That’s what class is for.  I’ve also noticed that most people sit in the back at places like school and church.  Why??  I can’t imagine being there and then not participating actively.  You may as well stay home.  Huh.  I’ll never get most people.  Guess I’m very different.  But everyone likes to believe that, doesn’t he?  Part of the reason it MIGHT actually matter to me if I fail to live up to my potential (still speaking in the future tense, so I guess I haven’t yet, as if the jury’s still out, present and past activities will be taken into consideration only at the final judgement, at which time a pass/fail verdict will be issued) is because my family on my father’s side is a bunch of big-shots.  Lawyers, doctors, rich people… ouch.  Kind of makes the “I’m not playing” option… not an option.  I guess I’m just not strong enough to ignore what THEY think of me, my aunts and uncles, and one great uncle.  Oh, well.

So, we’ve endured a thorough psychological investigation, and come up with some painfully truthful facts about my fears and motivations.  What have we learned here, what conclusions can we draw?  What is to be done?  (A very Russian question, by the way : ) Stop feeling obligated to pay the universe back for my “privileged” life circumstances; stop caring what relatives and strangers think (friends and family are already on my side); it’s o.k., you’re not greedy; pride to some degree is a good thing – be proud of your accomplishments and believe you can achieve what you want to; Stop being afraid of not.  Get over it.  Don’t let it rule you.  Think of “living up to my potential” in new ways, open your mind, brainstorm.  Create your happiness.

More concretely, living up to my potential at this point means not settling for a minimum-wage job, or even a $35 grand one, and using my education in some way in the workplace, not letting it go to “waste.”  But there’s another thing.  (It’s a good thing I wrote this blog.)  Can education every really be a “waste?”  Doesn’t it carry intrinsic value?  Plus my education was very theoretical, at every step.  And I loved it!  So I’ll stop sweating that, too.  So far, God’s given me manageable loans and the means to make my payments every month.  Thanks for that.

So, what does happiness look like?  What does success look like?  TBC!

 

not all people are men

Every time I am at Mass, I try to listen, pay attention and pray the prayers with all my heart.  But I get extremely distracted every time I hear sexist language at Church.  The Church should be inclusive, not oppressive and exclusive.  Some of the language in our Mass and in our prayers is blatantly sexist, and this needs to change.

I know with all my heart, mind and soul that my God would never want me to be treated like a second-class citizen.  Why, then, is the Church speaking of me as if I don’t count?  When we use the word “man” to mean “people,” we exclude females from the human race.  Can you imagine if the term “white men” were used to indicate all people?  How racist would that be?  Or, guys, can you imagine the reverse – because of a history of oppression all over the globe, the word “woman” being often used to designate all people?  Would that be right?

“For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven…”  

Really?  For you men?  I’m pretty sure he did it for us girls too, for our salvation, for me.  I know that’s not what you mean, but you’ve got to admit, that is what you’re saying.  And it’s offensive.

There are alternatives.  Our language includes perfectly acceptable words that both mean and say what they ought to, so why not use them?  Why not say “for us humans and for our salvation”?  Or “for us people and for our salvation?”  Or “for humanity,” “for the human race,” or quite simply, “for us”?

“… he was born of the Holy Spirit, and became man.”  A simple addition of the word “a” would do the trick here.

Some of you may be thinking, “we have much more important things to do than worry about our choice of words!  Saving unborn babies from abortion – alleviating poverty – spreading the Gospel – saving souls!”  And indeed you are right.  Compared to those monumental tasks, changing Church language may seem unimportant.  But keep in mind that during a Mass, during prayers, what we SAY is what we DO.  We say prayers, we say the Mass, and these actions that consist of language have a deep impact on all who hear them, for better or for worse.  Also keep in mind that sometimes, winning is just cutting your losses.  Perhaps fewer people would be turned off by the idea of the Catholic Church if it didn’t use sexist language in its ceremonies.  So please revise your language, take out the hurtful and incorrect parts, be an establishment in which everyone feels at home.  Prayers and the language of the Mass, a most holy sacrament, should be … well, true.  Fix it, please. Jesus will thank you.

sick-minded double meanings

I just realized that the phrase “process of elimination” has a double meaning.  *snicker, snicker*  Also, “grand opening” is a catchy name for a sex shop.  I love those “that’s what she said” jokes when they come up in ordinary conversation, truly spontaneously.  My aunt was just saying “it’s time to stuff it in there.”  My cousin quickly quipped in with the aforementioned joke.  The given context had nothing to do with “that kind” of subject matter, and my aunt had been speaking completely seriously.

Although cliche, this one never gets old.  The contrast between previous and newly introduced meanings, as well as the unexpected nature of the joke, get me every time.  Care to share any stories, contexts in which people have said this?  Or other sick double meanings?

real-life tragedy, real-life heros?

Do we have any control at all?  When we get to heaven, will all wrongs be righted?  And I’m not just talking “all that petty stuff doesn’t matter anymore; let’s just praise the Lord.”  I’m talking “you did _________ on May 8th, 2005, or failed to do __________ on December 25ht, 2008… What shall we do about that?”  Will we suddenly remember everything we ever wondered about, but this time, know the answer?  Do the good guys ever win in real life?  On t.v. they do, but, as much as I love zoning out from reality for a little while, even as I watch detective shows, I find myself slightly repulsed by the contrast between justice dealt so swiftly, so thoroughly on the screen and the horrible injustices that eat away at my heart every day.  What can a person do when he feels powerless?  Grow bitter?  Forget about it?  Work tirelessly for the rest of his life to right a wrong, although it’s a losing battle?  Hope against hope?  Pray?  Or just die, in hope that divine justice does exist?

On t.v. all the interesting, multi-dementional hero characters are first victims of a tragedy.  Monk, the Mentalist, Beckett on Castle, Bones, … even Batman, for fuck’s sake!!  And that makes those of us who have never experienced horror and tragedy admire and pity them, puts us on their side.  But for those of use who have — (and these are two different worlds; I’ve crossed that line) — we just see how fake it is, and hate ourselves even more for not becoming some sort of super hero for the sake of our lost loved one.  Can anybody feel me?????????????????????????????????????????????????

a day in DC

Yesterday I decided to go to Mass, because it was Sunday, but especially because it was the first Sunday of Advent.   Saturday night I had cried myself to sleep over grief about my brother’s death and the chaos of my life right now,  feeling extremely raw, and I needed a good dose of God.  God started blessing me right away.  I’m at relatives’ for Thanksgiving, and I was not sure if I could get a ride to the metro or not, but it turned out people were there in the morning to drive me and I was grateful.  There was an 11:00 and a 5:00pm Mass; also not sure whether I would make the 11 on time with buses running rarely on Sunday, etc.  No big deal, if not I’d go to the 5:00, but in that case I would not have time to go to the zoo.  I love Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian institution and zoos in general!  I love culture and education and the fact that this is all free in this city.  I was also meeting an old friend at 12:00, so there were 2 possible plans:

11-12 Mass, 12 meet with friend, go to the zoo, go home.

-or-

12 meet with friend, 5 Mass, go home

In the metro on the way into the city (I’m coming from a suburb in Maryland), I remembered why I like it here so much and why I ultimately want to live here.  Compared to the depressing aura of the Moscow metro, DC has something special, something that beckons me.  Riding that metro, I experience a sense of the city’s personality, buzzing with life and potential, not doing anyone any favors, but not keeping anyone down either.  I could sense the life-breath of the city, and longed to feed off it once more.

I saw a man with an elderly woman, presumably his mother, and a child, presumably his daughter.  They got off at their stop, but as the doors closed, man and child made it out, and the grandmother was still inside the car.  They banged on the door, but the indifferent train pulled out of the station anyway.  I approached her and timidly offered my services in case she needed help.  She didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak whatever Asian language she was speaking.  Later I realized it was Chinese because the one word she said that I understood was “sheeshee” – thank you.  I helped her off the train at the next stop, waited for the next train with her, but when her relatives didn’t get off, I took her to the metro police, who said they had just received the call in search of her.  They would connect her to her loved ones again.  It felt so, so good to be of service to someone, and God let me be a “do-gooder” in order to counteract how useless I’ve been feeling lately because I don’t have a job.  Thanks, God!

Despite this ordeal, I STILL made it to Mass on time, found the church with no trouble, and even had time to pee before Mass.  As I entered the church, I ran into someone I knew!  What an amazing, unexpected blessing!  I haven’t been to DC in years, not since I lived here.  We sat together at Mass and it was nice to have company and a familiar face.

Then, I met up with my old friend, by the same name as myself, and I remembered why I was friends with her.  She is so sincere.  Although we haven’t seen each other in years, we chatted away as if no time had passed.  Very, very pleasant time.  I am so grateful.

When she had to go, I went to the zoo by myself and it was, of course, sweet.  I made it by 4:00 to see the lions and tigers, and then visited amazonia with the giant fish.  If you haven’t been, the DC zoo is a long, sloping path.  The big cats are at the end of it, so I made a b-line for them and then worked by way back slowly uphill, taking in several sights along the way.  I missed my fiance so much!  I wish he could have seen the animals and enjoyed the day with me.  The weather was fine, not even cold on the first day of December!  He was in my heart the whole time.

I returned home by metro then took the bus and walked back to my aunt’s house. Great day!

2013 – Best summer ever

This past summer was such an awesome summer for so many reasons.  I’d like to describe them, all the great things that happened.  But it was sad, unfortunate, really, that Pasha couldn’t be here for them.  I know he would have loved them and had fun, and it would have been good for him to get to know America and get to learn our local history, to spend time with me and my family and strengthen his English.  But, as much as I missed him this summer, I managed to transcend my grief, to realize that every moment counts, to accept each moment for what it is, joy and sorrow simultaneous, and to live life to the fullest, because these little moments, they’re all we’ve got.  Each little choice, each day . . . they’re only one small part of us, but they do add up to who we are and how we spend our life.  Plus, it was easy to transcend grief and missing someone when you know you’ll see him again soon.

Here are some of the reasons summer 2013 was the best summer ever:

I got home on July 3rd.  I was back in the USA for independence day!  I spent it seeing fireworks with my Aunt Polly and cousins and friends.  It was so good to be back!

I got my wedding dress – 3rd time’s a charm.  Pasha had proposed June 1st and I was dying to go dress and ring shopping, but knew for the dress at least I really had to wait till I got back to the US.  I went shopping with my Mom first, and we planned to go to David’s Bridal, and we had called but not managed to set up an appointment.  When we got there, it was touch-and-go.  Turns out they couldn’t get us in.  No worries.  We called my brother Paul and he looked up the nearest wedding dress shop, and it turned out to be right around the corner!  It was called “Frank’s Bridal.”  No joke.  We couldn’t get into David’s, so we got Franks.  I tried on dresses for the first time with just her!  It was awesome.  But di din’t find “the dress.”  The second time was later on when my sister and her family made a trip up here to visit us.  By the way, MY SISTER AND HER FAMILY MADE A TRIP UP HERE TO VISIT US! That’s a whole separate reason for this summer’s awesomeness.

The next wedding dress try-on was at another privately owned boutique, this time in Canesteo.  It was Me, Mom, Polly, Ruth, Dylan, Chloe, Phyllis, Michelle and her little one Cora.  It was fun again!  But again, I didn’t find “the dress.”  By now I was feeling that I was starting to bother people with all this shopping, and I preferred to do some shopping on my own.  No pressure.  On me or anyone else!  So I went to explore a little place I knew about, literally a trailer off the side of the road, and there I found a dress that really stuck in my mind.  It was at the very top of my price range, but as it sunk in I realized that was the one I wanted.  I could really see myself getting married in it!  So mom bought it for me.

Shortly after I got home, it was time to go to the Thousand Islands on vacation with my brother, sister and dad to see my relatives on that side of the family.  It was beautiful!  We stayed on the American side this year, in new houses we’ve never rented before.  They were houses, not cabins.  I roomed with Paul and I was so happy to see him.  I adore him!  We played cards one night with everyone and I kept having to stay up later and later because, although I won one of the games, they kept wanting a re-match!  I kept teasing my brother as hard as I could in front of my aunts and uncles.  We ended up staying up till 4:00.  I also went swimming a lot, as one is wont to do in the Thousand Islands, and it was so refreshing and cool!  How fun to see all my cousins again.  They’re all so big and getting so grown up and mature.  Of course I love spending time with my sister too and I got to see and play with and take care of Dylan and Eddie while I was up there.  One time Dylan and I went to the beach, just she and I.  It was so nice!  I helped her swim, and we played in the sand.  They have a little cove where they dump truckfulls of sand.  How special for me to spend time just with her.  And of course it was great to see my dad, who hadn’t seen me much in years as well, because I’ve been in Russia.  I also showed off my new engagement ring to all the family :)

At some point in the trip my mom showed up, and we went across the border to boat out to Idle Wylde to visit Tom.  It was sad.  But good.

After the trip to the Thousand Islands, the next big trip I made was to Florida to see the children (my niece and nephew).  Mom and I drove there and back in the end of July to the beginning of August.  Again, what an unforgettable trip.  When I got to the door of my sister’s house, I could hear Dylan on the other side.  She was all excited.  Damien was saying “open it and see who’s there.”  She opened it and saw me, looked past me to mom at the car by the curb, and screamed, “May May!”  She ran to her.  It was bittersweet.  I understand, though.  During our time there we played a lot with both the kids.  We brought them presents.  Eddie was walking and running around.  Earlier, I think it was last Christmas when I was home from Russia, I had seen him take his very first moment ever of standing up without holding on to anything.  He was standing by a table holding onto it; he had a toy in one hand and wanted another toy on the table, so he let go and grabbed what he wanted.  It was so cool.  I turned to my sister and said, “did you see that?”

Later, when mom and I had driven back trip to New York,  there were so many great moments as I spent time with Mom and Grandpa.  I remember all our trips to Hornell to Lowe’s (and Friendly’s (yum!)) to buy flowers and gardening stuff, working on building the pond in his backyard and getting the fish for it!  Mom was so excited.  She was like a child with enthusiasm for those fish!!  We got five, but one ended up disappearing.  A bird?  Cat?  We’ll never know.  I got to name one of the fish: Brunhild!  And choose a couple of the fish themselves, too!  Pick them out, that is.  Now those fish are in a tank inside for the winter.

And speaking of swimming, I got to do that several times this past summer in Polly’s pool, an outdoor pool on the top of that hill with a great view, under a sunny blue sky.  Often then I, and whoever was with me, mom, Polly, Kay, etc., would get into the hot tub to warm up afterwards.

Another great adventure we had this summer which was very important to me was riding the Lockport Locks http://www.llecc.com/ – a boat trip on the Eerie Canal.  It was really fun.  You go through two locks, these big “rooms” along the canal made of gigantic iron doors.  They come in sets of twos.  When the boat gets in one, you wait 10 minutes or so until the water dramatically rises or lowers, 25 feet.  Then you sail on!  Pretty neat.  It was especially important for our family because my Grandpa used to man cargo ships on the great lakes, and sometimes rode on the canal!  We got to hear “the song,” (She’s a good old worker and a good old pal…,) and learned a lot of interesting things.  I especially wish Pasha could have been there for that, because it is local history and I know he would have valued and enjoyed the experience.

Well, believe it or not, on a shoestring budget, I actually got to Florida twice this summer!  The second time was with my Dad to celebrate his 60th.  That was sometime at the beginning of September.   It was me, Ruth, Damien, the kids, Paul, and Dad.  We watched the Notre Dame game, all wore the shirts he gives us every year, and we kids paid for his ticket.  As it turns out, we were able to go venue hunting!  Dad was more excited about it than I or Ruth!  Of course, so sad, really touch-my-heart sad that Pasha could not be there for that.  It’s his wedding!  But as sad as I was about that, I didn’t let it spoil a great time with my family.  Ruth, my official wedding “coach,” Paul and dad went with me to St. Augustine to scout out venues for my wedding.  It was great fun!  We saw at least three viable options and I ended up choosing one of them later.  Ruth knew all the right questions to ask and how to calculate booze costs.  Actually, she did all the math, on the spot, without a calculator, to give me a good idea of the bottom line for each venue!  It was awesome.  Dad made a super surprise announcement that he’ll be paying for a big chunk of the wedding costs, as did my mom earlier, neither of which I expected, [neither of which they can afford,] and for which I am unspeakably grateful.

Another great adventure was going on “safari” with Polly, Kay, Sarah and the kids.  Polly called me up and before I knew it, I agreed to go on a day trip with her to Hidden Valley.  There were trolley rides through the park where you saw up-close and got to feed a lot of different animals.  We took pictures.  And had lunch.  http://www.hiddenvalleyadventure.com/home.html

And the last wonderful adventure we had this past summer - although that was more towards fall – was finding the Ledges with Grandpa.  The Ledges is a place he used to go to with his cousin Milton as a kid.  He was a year younger than Grandpa, who was maybe 14 or 15 at the time.  It’s about a 25-minute drive from our house.  It’s in the woods, along a stream.  It goes back and back, and the further you go, the higher the edges get, until they are very high and rocky on both sides.  At one point we saw a great blue heron fly straight down the ledge, along the stream.  Here are some pictures.

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Catholicism and marriage . . . and me?

Hmm, I’m thinking of marrying Pasha … oh, how much that means!  I’ve always been Catholic, and now I have to apply theory as never before.  I’m face to face with my principles; it’s time to either put them into action or redefine them.  I do have time to think about the wedding, and the vows, and the pre-Cana or preparation, and the marriage itself (!) and I’ve had time.  I kind of knew at some point where this was going.  And at some point, I reconciled myself to the idea of marrying a non-Christian.  But I have my doubts about whether it will work.  It’s time to take a good hard look at the state of our relationship and our prospects for a happy, life-long, faithful, fulfilling marriage.  I believe that is attainable, but not by neglect.  I must act.  I am doing my research and seeking the counsel of priests.  They’re very good for counsel, you know!  

As Catholic as I believe myself to be, as strongly Catholic as I feel, and as comfortable as I’ve always felt in that role, there are a few instances where I disagree with Church teaching, or where I’ve never quite fully understood Church teaching.  These are confession, contraception, and masturbation.  I must say, going to confession with Father Tom on October 11th was a very memorable experience.  I never really understood the point of confession, if it’s God who forgives your sins, not the priest, and you can get forgiveness any time by just praying to God directly.  One can confess one’s sins in prayer; there’s no need to confess them to a person.  I always looked at confession as “good,”  but not necessary.  Now, for the first time in my life, I think I might see what the point of it is.  I still have to read the Catechism more about this, but I think the point is just talking to the priest about your sins, not “getting forgiveness.”  For the first time ever, I’m not looking at confession as something to “get through,” a duty if you will, nor as an embarrassing, excruciatingly humiliating moment, as it was with Father Tom, (though no fault of his, of course.  He’s just the first priest who ever ASKED me specifically which sins I had, making it impossible for me to omit anything that he mentioned.  I couldn’t LIE to a PRIEST in CONFESSION … I was supposed to be getting rid of sins, not making more!!  But on the other hand, answering his questions truthfully meant ADMITTING to a complete stranger, a guy, things I don’t even talk about with my girlfriends or mother!  LIKE MASTURBATION!  I’ve read the Catechism and agree, technically.  Their logic is sound.  But my conscience doesn’t convict me; I’ve done it since I was, oh, in the womb, and my heart tells me it’s not wrong, despite Catholic teachings.  But I’ve always considered this my personal business, between me and God, nothing I had to bring up in confession.  You’re supposed to come out feeling all shiny and clean, but I was so humiliated and violated … I couldn’t get over it for days.  But when I finally did, the whole incident sparked a bit of a revelation.)  TALKING about your sins lets you realize what they are and how to deal with them!

So, that’s confession and the M word, but what about contraception?  Family planning?  These are questions I can no longer ignore.  I’m about to be married.  I just read that in your Catholic wedding vows, one of the questions you answer before giving consent, (the “I do’s”), is whether you agree to “accept children lovingly from God.”  If I say yes on that altar in front of all those witnesses… it will be a lie.  I plan on using contraceptives to plan when and how many children to have.  I do trust God, and surprises are great … some of the time.  Or they can be bad surprises.  On the other hand, once I mentioned to Pasha something about “and we don’t want to get pregnant too soon.  It would be terrible!”  His response blew me away.  (This was before we were engaged.)  He smiled abashedly.  “It wouldn’t be terrible.  It would be ‘oops,’ but it wouldn’t be terrible.”  This statement of confidence, of trust in our future together and, well, in me, just blew me away.  :)

more to follow!