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Saturday, January 20, 2007


I figure I'm about half way through now, if I calculate my life expectancy based on the example of my mom's sisters. Tante Leine's life will be remembered tomorrow at the little church across the street from my house, and I wonder how she measured success? Or did she? Did she ever stop to ask questions of herself?

My questions dance to the tunes of Ken's music, gifted to me by his friend the night we celebrated his life. His life lived too short, too bright.

What's to become of us? I sometimes whisper in my husband's arms. I'm joking; kind of. But how WILL we measure success? Or do I only ask that question of myself?

It's not as if I don't have any skills. Do they make me enough money to join the better half of every-frikkin-one who seems to go on winter holidays these days? Nope. Does it matter if they make money? I guess so- it sucks to have a big shortfall every month; and I like throwing the occasional "Joe- fresh" sweater into my cart at Superstore without having decide between that and cheddar cheese for the family. Making a bit of money is just part of getting on with life.

Its just that I know I don't want to define success that way. Oh, it would be great if I could indiscretionately throw money at the #@! van and not have to crawl through the back hatch, when the unlock button laughs insolently in my face. (see "Why I should NEVER leave... ) I know that money doesn't make people happy, but I don't see those rich people in their fancy SUV's crawling over bags of reduced meat and bread in the grocery parking lot either...
But I digress. I know people with money who live in fear, and I know people without money who live life big and unafraid.

If I was assertive and I had a memory that spanned further than the tendons in a gnat, I could go back to school and make something of myself. Or maybe someday, I could get discovered and become Blunder-ville's very own Miriam Toews. Or, I could get good at marketing and revisit my sewing machine. I used to do a brisk business making stuff and selling it, till I figured out how to do math, and realized that I was keeping most of the fabric world employed, while slowly starving my family to death. (It was awfully nice to be emaciated though.... )

I used to measure success by the numbers on the scale, but that's not working for me anymore. It got really dull, and sort of addictive. Besides, we have dinner parties nearly every Friday night and the food is to die for. There is NO WAY I'm going to measure my achievement by saying "no" to all that culinary prowess and taste bud tantilizing pleasure.

I could look to my kids as a measure of my success, but that seems awfully risky. I mean, have you ever noticed that kids are actually separate entities? There's only so much credit that you can lawfully take, and after that you've got to calculate in the grace of God, a million or two environmental influences, and the whole bunch of other factors. Besides, what are you gonna do when one or two of them decide to get strung out on drugs for a while? Blame yourself? Seems kind of useless to me. There's just way too many variables for a control freak such as myself to use the parenting experiment as my indicator for success.

There is of course, the big eternal aspect. And for me, that goes without saying. I want to get to know God more all the time. I want peace to grow. I want to live a life challenged and fertilized by love. I want to believe in His goodness regardless of popular opinion. Those things are central to success playing itself out, but I still ask these other questions. How will I know?

And so the question remains unanswered.
I don't know what Tante Leine would have said.
I suspect Ken's defining achievements would also have to do with loving others.
How do you think you measure success?
And how should I?


Anonymous said...

Oh Joyce.

What a timely subject. I'm sick of winter-I don't even pretend to socialize during it. And yet I'm usually lonely during the week...

And lately all that I can think about is how badly I need a vacation. And I feel like everyone else is able to just book a flight to Balmyville without questioning their finances.

And I have asked myself many times this year what makes me think that I can give up any of my time to paint?

I mean really,I'm supposed to be a stay at home mom- so I should be doing things with and for my children all of the time. Right?

But I try to remind myself that my expectations of myself have always been less forgiving that they have been of other people.

I suspect that you've been told the same.

I can't clearly define my idea of success except that in it there will be sunny days, happy and well-adjusted children, me working on art (public recognition would be great as well as a reasonable income),time for Jonathan and I to relax together and enough money to go on a holiday once every year.

Joyce said...

Daphne- good to hear from you, its funny because you crossed my mind just today. I think part of our question at this phase in life also has to do with balance. So difficult to define when young children and bills are in the equasion...

Anonymous said...

Yes I think its to do with loving others too. But also to do with how many people love you. The most "successful" people I know are the ones most loved by the most people.

I've had such changes and upheavals in my life recently and re-evaluated so many things... I'm sure its all to do with relationships. (including one's relationship with oneself)

Anonymous said...

If you ever figure this one out, let me know.

I think some of it has to do with being able to do what's been given to you to do.

Successful = Mother Theresa
Unsuccessful = Donald Trump

Successful people lift other people up and don't cry (at least not in public) about their lack of recognition.

Unsuccessful people trample other people to get what they want and then hoard what they have and won't share. They DEMAND recognition.

Joyce = Successful

But, the "God-thing" about it all is that it is impossible for truly successful people to KNOW they are successful. They don't. They think they don't 'get it'. But those of us watching KNOW they do.

And, the unsuccessful people think they are successful - but they are the ones with no clothes on. And we know it, but let them go on in their pretensions. Mostly because it is funny in a sad sort of way.

Judy -

Anonymous said...

I feel so confused by success.

On good days, I'm happy to just be in my own skin and love God and offer kindness to others. On less good days, I think that no amount of the other kind of success would do me...

Some days I feel like I do something to measure up to "Success #2," but the next day I feel like I'm back at square one, complaining and struggling and wondering.

And then I come back to success number 1 and then I'm okay again.

Becky said...

I think success has to do with being content. I find when I am feeling at peace and content about my relationships: with God, my husband, my family and friends: I feel successful. If I am feeling content about my situation in life, I don't feel as if I "need" all of the extra things that I sometimes desire to make myself feel better, such as nice clothes, and a perfectly decorated home.

lettuce said...

oops! one of those comments was me, but someone else was signed into my computer..... (you've made a return visit, you probably know who!.....)

Anonymous said...

For me success is about finding a balance. I'm looking for an inner peace that will allow me to give that back to the world. I think the hardest part about being a woman is finding the time each day to be by ourselves, quiet time, time spent in contemplation or meditation that would allow us to find that fine balance. Women, especially women with children are kind of up to their asses in alligators all day, makes it difficult to find that elusive peace. January doesn't help either, it sucks.

Anonymous said...

I try not to think about it because then I am happiest. The problem is then I fall into some weird reverse snobbery and pity the ones whose identity as the-world's-successful I am trying to pretend doesn't matter to me because (of course) they must be lonely and empty. And that strange pity is no better than bemoaning my lack of success.

At the best times I know that I am happy where I am at and the money will invariably work itself out and God's grace worked on me so let us pray really hard that he has similar success with my two hooligans and that my talents do not need fame to make a difference.

But I would still love to publish a coffee table book some day..........



Homo Escapeons said...

Tony Robbins called and asked me to pass along a message...for only $299 he can answer all of your questions in a beautifully packaged 486 cassette package..
or you can join Scientology and pay $30,000 to have an e-meter reading.

You are a Boratian 'Great Success' my friend and don't you forget it!

PS. Enjoy your time at the top Sister because there is only one direction that you can go to from there...

see you on the way down.

Cherrypie said...

I tell myself that I must be doing something right to have so many true great friends, some who I've known over 25 years. I suppose that means I measure success by my friends. You are one of the loveliest x