Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trite. Yet She Cannot Move Beyond This

Success has been dogging the Matron.

Not 'success' in and of itself - the actual Achievement, Arrival, The Big Deal Done. Indeed, she only WISHES some kind of success (as she might define this) would land on her doorstep and ring the damn bell. And she wishes she would be wise enough to recognize Success when it does arrive.

"Hello, Big Lifetime Achievement Award! You would definitely look better with a glass of something red and grape-ish in your hand!"

No, the Matron has been mulling over the definition of success -- in part, what kinds of successes does she need in order to lay claim to a successful life? Now, being the academic sort, she understands you can fault her immediately for all kinds of assumptions and fallacies, the first being that life SHOULD be 'successful.'

She gets it.

This is the appeal of Buddhism, the profound acceptance that all we have in life is the present moment. Last hour's contentment at the table has vanished; memory eventually erases most of what were peak emotional moments in our lives. Here, success is simply the ability to be in the moment - fully, consistently, richly, authentically.

Sometimes, the Matron visits that zone. It is a pleasant place but it does not yet sustain or keep her-- maybe she's just not ready for(read enlightened or mature enough for) a permanent residency with that kind of peace.

Instead, she is frequently driven by something else. Is it ego, the pull of personality? The weight of mortality or an old fashioned American narrative? Whatever is calling her, the battle cry is (OMIGOD here's where she's SO sorry) is sort of like a Wheatie's commercial -- or was this for the Army?: "Be the Best that you can Be!"

Or she's producing her own quiet version of American Beauty?

Because she longs for the extraordinary -- or at least to be as extraordinary as she's capable of being (and sometimes that bar appears to be sitting on the kitchen floor next to Satan's Familiar).

She often wonders what qualities superior people possess. Why can one person trek across Antarctica while another cannot say no to a piece of pie? Why will this person jet across the globe reporting on wars while that person is afraid to leave a hated tedious job of too many years?

Tonight, she really has no answers. She's had her turns both eating the pie and staking out the dream, not always in equal measures. She just started reading Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" and the first few pages ( success is all connection, context and synergy) has not been all that encouraging, at least as it relates to Instant Change for the Matron. Not that she's impatient.

She's just not currently residing in the the moment. ( Please, Lord, if she stands up and slings another commercial slogan---tomorrow is the first day of the rest of her life?-- it is all right to strike her down and leave the children mother-less. They'd be better off. )

Sometimes things would be SO much easier if she could just live through her children like the rest of the Little League parents. . . .


MJ said...

Hmmm... Felt this before too. Far too frequently, I dare say. There is solace in knowing that I'm not trying to live through my children and that I feel like I'm still capable of achieving success, however elusive it might be.

Anonymous said...

I kinda think that while one's children are still at home, especially if one or more of them are still in grade school, it is not possible to think about any success farther than food on the table on a regular basis, clean clothes to wear, no looming visits from the health inspector or child welfare, and feeling pretty sure the next few mortgage payments are covered. Strive for more than that and something or somebody gets neglected.

I think that means you are already successful, and that any further reaching for the stars may need to be postponed for a few years.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I like what kmkat said.

I did some interesting reading on Mt. Everest climbers--one author interviewed the girlfriends, wives and children of the climbers (most are men). The climbers were successful at conquering Everest, but most were not successful parents or mates.

Tammy said...

I have the same question Matron...how do we recognize when we've achieved "success"? And if we do recognize it, is that self-serving?

I'm not sure that I agree with kmkat...I think you can experience success and strive to be successful while your children are young without, as she says, neglecting something or someone. Is it easier once all the children are in grade school? Of course. But, it all depends on what your personal definition of success is.

Matron, when you hold a class on that (defining personal success), let me know--I'll be there.

Joy said...

Maybe you're too young. In my 60s-now-retired-stage, age has brought an acceptance of the ups and downs of life personally and professionally, and each moment is far more a treasure than ever before. I feel young. My adult children are independent - they have their struggles - but, I am thoroughly happy just to be in their midst.

You are in the middle of your career and raising children - a busy, stressful time. Don't be afraid of the next stage - it makes "being" a success.

Suburban Correspondent said...

I think this derives from the fact that, as Americans growing up in the latter half of the 19th century, we were trained to think of success as an individual achievement sort of thing. Yet, as we have grown up and become parents, we've realized that the success can be more complicated than that. There is the success of serving others, the success of nurturing one's children, etc. Yet the dreams instilled in us as children come back to haunt us, taunt us, even, with implications of inadequacy and lack of fulfillment.

In other words, we're brought up to define success as individual achievement, yet life is way more complex than that.

Daisy said...

Success is - oh, heck, I can't define it, either. We still struggle to pay tuition for one, convince the school district that the other one still has Asperger's and hasn't miraculously been cured, no matter what his IEP says...but I digress.

bearberry said...

So, get that book published. I love reading your words, would pay to read them, in fact. Would a book feel like success? Who knows, but why not try it on and see? I'll be waiting.


~annie said...

My daughter will be 18 in 53 days. I've been a single parent almost all of her life. She has always had a roof over her head, clothing to wear and food to eat. I have never misplaced or broken her. Neither has she gotten involved with sex, drugs or alcohol. For now, I count that as my success.

Swistle said...

I found Outliers comforting. It seemed to say I might as well stick with the pie.