I have been trying to figure out how one measures success. I feel like a failure so often that when I step outside myself and look at my life, I have to wonder what I can say I succeed at. And by what measuring stick do I check?
As a working mom/wife, I climbed that corporate ladder. I was good at it. Probably going to sound vain here, but if I put my mind to it, I learned quickly and became very good at what I did. I made twice as much as my husband. And I hated it. Ok... I loved the travel when I worked for Marriott. AND the travel when I worked for the cable company. But aside from the travel, I really hated it. So is that a success? I'm not sure.
** As a mother:
Ok, this is a hard one for me. Honestly, I don't think my kids have turned out all that bad. By no means perfect, but not bad. Does that reflect on me as a mother? Or on their inherent personalities? I am not one of those mothers who goes to every game, every choir concert, or every play performance. It doesn't mean I'm not proud of my girls or their accomplishments, it means I cannot for the life of me figure out how other mothers do this with little kids. My little kids would never sit in one place long enough for me to enjoy myself before they had to pee, had wandered off, or started running up and down aisles because they were bored.
Also, I had severe post-partum depression after my son was born. For a couple of years, my two oldest girls were pretty much the mom when I shut down and couldn't do anything but stare at my computer all day. I know that failed them in many ways.
My kids are self-sufficient, inventive, creative, resourceful, and kind. They are feisty and snarky, funny, adorable, and fun to be around. They work hard, play hard, and, well, for the most part love each other. Success? And does that really reflect on me? Or again, their inherent personalities?
And, lets say a kid of mine turns into a teenage mom. Or one of them ends up addicted to drugs and is in/out of jail. Does that make me a success or failure as a parent? And really, should a child's ability to make their own choices, regardless of what they've been taught at home, reflect on the parental skills of the mother/father? Somehow I don't think so.
Honestly, I don't know how to judge this. I can say that I've always done the best I could, even during the times when I couldn't do anything. I just don't see how there's an earthly, quantifiable, scientific way to measure this, unless you can measure effort. Or love. Or sacrifice.
** As a wife:
Well. Again, this is a hard one. My marriage has never been easy. It'll be 23 years in a couple of weeks. Success? I suppose so. I mean, we are still married. We still like each other most of the time. And in spite of everything our marriage has been through, there's still love underlying everything else. Even when I'm pretty sure I just can't do it anymore, or honestly just don't want to. Marriage is hard. Or, at least it is with the two personalities that conflict as much as my husband and I.
I am incredibly hard to live with now because of the bi-polar depression and the anxiety - along with the accompanying mood swings. My husband is not easy to live with, either. He likes perfection, and no one in this house is or ever will be. It makes for some massive conflict.
So, I don't know. Would I consider my marriage a success or a failure? I guess it's not a failure, since we're still at it. But is it a success? I'm not sure. I will say that when my husband dies (he has a disease, it's complicated, statistically he'll go before me. I'm not being callus, I'm just stating a fact here in a removed way so I don't get all emotional.) ANYWAY, when my husband dies, I have no desire or wish to ever, ever, ever, EVER get married again. I don't wish to repeat this experience, ever. I don't think that means I'm successful at this.
Is there some kind of middle ground between the measuring bar of success and failure? Some level that says, "Not perfect, but still trying." Because no one is perfect, but... I'm not really up there on the 'almost' end of the spectrum on the marriage success thing.
Am I a success just being me? How does one even judge this??? And yet I'm obsessed with this today, so I'm going to try.
* As an artist: Well. Hmm. I like art. I put myself through college when my husband became very seriously ill and while having my last three kids. I even went through labor during finals one term, and my professor drove me to the hospital. I graduated with two degrees and 90% of a third. I have an AA in Illustration, and AS in General Studies (So I could transfer to a university and get an Art Ed degree), and am two classes shy of an AA in Graphic Design. I maintained a 3.75 GPA, made the Deans List several times, and have a portfolio that I am damn proud of. Success? Yes, I like to think so.
Ok, that was in college, though, and that was six years ago. My skills as an artist now... well... Not failure, but extremely rusty. My hands don't obey my brain as well as they used to. I'm having to retrain myself in art. It's... difficult. It's one of the things I'm insecure about. Successful? no. Failure? No. Again, somewhere in the middle.
* As a social creature: I love people. (I'm an introvert, yes, but I really do love people.) I hate confrontation. I prefer tact or keeping my opinions to myself if I feel I'll offend someone. I am extremely religious, but recognize those are MY beliefs and feel very, very, very strongly that others should be allowed to believe how and what they wish.
I consider myself tolerant. --Opinionated? Oh yeah. --Judgemental? I hope not, but, well, I'm human. I try to get over it when I recognize it. --Forgiving? Oh, trust me, I've had plenty of opportunities to learn how to forgive. Sometimes it takes me a while. And with some people, I simply say, "Well, I know God loves them. He can love them way over there, and I'll stay over here in my corner."
I have great friends. I LOVE my friends. They come from all walks of life and are all awesome. And while I love my friends, they don't always love each other, which I think says something about me and my ability to get along with people. So... success as a social being? If I'm honest, I have to say yes. Because somehow, the people I love and care about accept me, flaws and all. I think that means something.
* As a homemaker: Ugh. Ok, here, no, not so successful. Especially not now. I have a hard time just getting out of bed a lot of the time. Getting up to make breakfast for the kids is something I have to do, but I hate cooking. We turn on music and dance, but I'd rather be sleeping. I clean when I have a manic spurt. I love clean walls, but let's be honest here. I have six kids, four at home, and one of them a six year old boy. My 8 year old and 11 year old are not clean freaks, either. My walls have been colored on, decorated with nail polish, markers, stamps, and whatever else the kids thought would make them beautiful when mom's back was turned. The main bathroom is... well, you can tell little kids use it a lot.
So in terms of being a successful maid and cleaning crew, uh, no. Not even. My house isn't gross or neglected, and I doubt my kids would get taken away from me for the state of my house; but... you'll find weird smells here and there that I haven't been able to find the source of yet.
In terms of home being a place where my kids can relax and have fun, though, I think yes, success. We giggle, we play, we are silly, and we snuggle. A lot. The kids know if I'm in bed, they can climb in with me if they need mom time. I encourage the hubster to take the kids on father-child outings (one at a time, so they get time alone with dad) so he builds his relationship with them. So, success on making the home livable? I think yes. At least, I hope so. Well, this is maybe one of those middling areas. Because I fail a lot at this, too.
* As a writer: (added after a friend asked me about this tonight) Grammatical errors aside, I don't think I'm a terrible writer. Am I successful at it? I think that depends on what you're looking at. My blog posts and facebook posts about depression have spawned a great many private messages to me, thanking me for helping them understand. Or for letting them know they're not alone. Or for putting into words what they couldn't. I would consider that a success, no matter how vulnerable those posts have left me. As a fiction writer? You know what, I write. I enjoy it. I don't think I'm a bad story teller. Even if I'm the only person who enjoys what I write, I enjoy it. I may never get published. I may never be refined or edited enough to consider myself even self-publishable. But I still think that I'm good at it.
* As a... gifted? talented? person: Ok, I don't know how to talk about this. I learned how to footzone. I was very good at it. And then my brain broke, and I haven't been able to... um, "feel" anything anymore. I haven't seen auras or any of the other 'crazy' that made me, well, me. Except for a few things that pop up now and again without warning. Hmm. . I think my situation changed, therefore my talents have ... changed? hidden? Although I swear sometimes the anxiety is triggered because I can hear/feel *everyone* in the room, not just myself. So... sometimes maybe my gifts are amplified instead of muted.
You know what, I don't even think this is measurable, and it's irritating me to even be writing about this aspect of me as if it can be judged and quantified. It can't. This stuff is just part of who I am, whether it's an active working talent or latent and sleeping, I don't think it's possible to fail at it, unless I'm purposely ignoring it or trying to deny that its part of me. Which I'm not, so why am I still typing about it??
** Overall being me?
Well, I'm still here. I haven't let the depression kill me yet, although sometimes I think I'm on as much of an emotional self-destruct course as I can get physically. BUT - I still find things to laugh about. I love my kids. I love my friends. I find things worth sticking around for, no matter how bad the lows get or how grumpy and pissy my mood swings go. I write. I read. I play. I laugh, I cry. I FEEL. That's a success in and of itself, right? The fact that I'm still here and fighting? That I haven't given up on everything that matters, even though I am sooooooooooo very tempted to. A lot.
So, while the depression says "I suck, I suck, I suck, I suck, why bother" - I guess I don't really suck THAT bad. I wish I felt like dancing in the sunshine and listening to the wind tell me stories, but I'll be good with realizing that I have done some things right along with all the things I've done wrong.
Overall a success? I don't know. I may never know. But overall a failure? No, I don't think so. I think I'm somewhere in the middle. Which is better than being at rock bottom, so I'll take it.