Sunday, March 11, 2007

Success = Life

It was beautiful as I walked to work today. The sun was warm, buds fat on the trees and bushes, and the air felt washed clean as it hit my lungs. Other people in our family are currently living through a dark time – the death of one of their closest friends from cancer, leaving her partner and 12 year old son. I find – and have always found – the relentless push of the seasons a great comfort when thinking about death.

The spring morning, every bird and leaf, was right here – right now. In spite of all the pain, beauty persists – life persists. I have a particular vivid memory of watching the sun glinting on the rippled surface of a river, the very morning my sister died.

I have been thinking a great deal recently about what constitutes success. When the government look with concern at our un-measured children they worry about success. When we ourselves succumb to moments of doubt about home educating, we worry about success. The spectre of failure lurking in the shadows – it haunts our whole world. And yet, it seems to me, we are so pitifully unaware of what success is. We are coached to chase it, chase it all our lives, and it is always just ahead of us – one more hurdle, one more qualification, one more promotion, one more pound.

Yesterday I read an article about people killing themselves at a Renault plant, where they were under extreme pressure to be successful – to be creative to order. How insane is our world that we should take people’s innate drive to create and make it into a weapon they eventually turn against themselves? How powerful is the spectre of failure that people sentence themselves to death if they feel its hand upon them?

For me, success is in the tiny moments. It isn’t in the certificates, the prizes, the appreciation. It isn’t in the smug lists of all that I can do – it isn’t in the cv. It isn’t invested in successful adults that my children must become. It isn’t in the unblemished record or the heroic comeback. It is in the tiny moments of peace. It is in the second that I pause to look at a sleeping child’s face. It is in the laugh that I can’t suppress. It is in the sun on my face on a spring morning. It is in life – it is life.


Tech said...

Beautiful :)

Gill said...

A great post!
I *think* I define success as working out what you want to do and how you want to do it, then doing it. But you're right, it's a very difficult thing to pin down.

Lucy said...

I've also been thinking about how to define success lately. I feel incredibly successful yet I have nothing very substantial on paper or in the bank. I think it's something to do with how you feel when you wake up in the morning.

peri said...

Lovely post Allie. I don't like to define anything as success personally but if I had to - it would to be as happy as I can be in any given moment (same for those I love) and to accept all I am and do and not to regret my actions or their consequences.

I truly feel the loss of someone close changes how you see/feel the world. It comes to define how you live.

I do so enjoy your thought provoking posts - a good start to my Monday - cheers.

Allie said...

Thanks, everyone. I think what I define as success is probably pretty close to what Peri says. I think it is about APPRECIATING the fact that I'm alive - and being in the moment. It is about appreciating everything that living gives me the opportunity to do and feel. So sometimes that's joy and sometimes sadness. Success for me is when I can keep that at the front of my mind.

And, Peri, I think you are so right about losing someone close. I know that, for me, it was a point that decided a lot of how I have chosen to live since.

The trouble with 'success' in our culture is that it is often dependent on someone else's 'failure'. Personally I can't stand the 'life is a race' model that is so dominant.

maya said...

Thanks so much for the important reminders! Hard to keep hold of sometimes when the rest of society is going the opposite direction.

Lucy said...

Thank you for this - I need these moments of knowing it isn't only us who don't measure success by exams and certificates :)

Most impressed with your organisation below too...

Elle at Ellesfuntimes said...

Really lovely words Allie. Elle

Carlotta said...

That is so interesting...I wouldn't have linked the idea of success to the feeling of peace, though I can see how this could be done. (I would, as a rule, see it in a way that Gill describes).

There is that sort of moment when the world seems so right, and it is a sort of spreading out sort of feeling as if it embraces everyone and everything with a sense of extraordinary rightness and beauty. I can see exactly how this could be described as a genuine sensation of success - success for all and everything.

I like it when it happens that one has that feeling and someone walking towards you just knows it, and it infects them, and they smile back at you with that sort of knowing. I like that very, very much indeed.