Webster-Meridian definition for success is as follows:
Suc·cess Pronunciation: sk-ses
a : degree or measure of succeeding b : satisfactory completion of something c :the gaining of wealth, respect, or fame
On my recent post about going to a reunion dinner with the people I used to work with I made this statement:
This morning I counted my dimes and quarters and thought there is no way I can go, I had $21.23 to my name. I was going to have to bow out and I was disappointed. I was finally ready to go and enjoy a night with old friends. I know who I am now and I like me, I am ready to talk about my plans for the future and I once again feel somewhat successful; at least not a failure. I am no longer ashamed of what I have been through, now I am proud of what I have survived and accomplished since.
A commenter said she was pleased to see me write that I felt I was successful even though I didn’t have a lot of money.
First I will point out what I actually said “somewhat successful; at least not a failure.”
It got me thinking about the definition of success; to discuss it gets you many definitions, it ‘s very subjective and depends who you are talking to. I know that my brother and mother would not describe me as successful, I am not sure if my son would. Come to think about it, I doubt many people would look at me and immediately think successful.
I have successfully survived an abusive relationship (and other things in my lifetime) and I believe I will be successful in the future with other endeavors, but the verdict on whether I can be called successful is still out and won’t be determined until I die and then I suppose my success or failure will be determined by the people I leave behind. By my definitions I will be successful because I am half way there already.
Success to some people is not how things actually are but how they look, where do they live? is it a high society location and then is it the nicest house on the street? What kind of car do they drive? Do they wear expensive clothes? What kind of job do they have? and debt be damned; as long as they look the part.
Many things go into being successful. Someone can be very successful in their career but a failure in their marriage. If we are going to judge a person’s success by what they have materially then in this economy; success is a very fragile and tentative thing. You could be a success one day and not the next.
If you win the lottery are you successful? Inherit money?
So does that mean a man can work his whole life and obtain a lifestyle that is considered successful and then the economy tanks and he has some poor investments and loses it all, goes bankrupt and dies poor. Was he not successful?
It causes a dilemma for me. But I can tell you what makes a person NOT successful.
I don’t know if this holds true for all narcissists but with JC success was all about the image he projected. The last place JC worked while I was with him was a trucking company with the slogan, “Image is Everything”. JC loved that slogan and it made sense that he would and I think his boss was a narcissist too. To JC his “success” was determined by how well he lied. I overheard him on the phone talking to a friend describing some place, it sounded great, had a shop and acres of land and I wondered where this place was and I then I realized he was talking about where we lived; a rat infested shack. His mother called it being resilient, I called it being delusional and a liar.
JC uses people to be “successful”, He told me once that he would screw his own grandmother in a deal, business is business, no one gets a deal. I don’t care how much money you have, where you live or what you drive; if you are not respectful, kind, honest, and charitable, you are not successful in my mind. If you haven’t earned your money you are not successful, if you have money and don’t do something to help the less fortunate you are not successful. Not in my mind.
After we had been split for over a year and he was engaged to his new woman; he came to me professing his love, apologizing and wanting to be “friends”. I thought I would try the friendship thing with him, after all I had remained friends with my other ex’s. It didn’t take long to realize there was no way I could be his friends and heal because he was not being a friend. (the definition of friend is another post) He came to my place one night with his speech memorized and told me he wanted to help me be successful like him. He said that now that he was a success. what kind of man would he be if he didn’t help his people.
I couldn’t believe what I just heard, “Your people?”
Him,”Yeah, the people I care about. What kind of person attains success and doesn’t help the people he cares about. You are one of my people?”
I said, “oh”
I guess I should have been happy to hear that but instead said, “You, aren’t successful, you were successful at hooking a woman with money, that does not make you successful. Her husband earned that money, You didn’t earn it and I doubt she would be too pleased about you sharing it with me.”
JC shot me that look that says, “Don’t ruin this for me with the truth, I don’t have a response practiced for that”
I told him I could not be his friend and he said, “Sshh just let things play out, you never know where things will end up. Just let things play out.” (That was the “hook” supposed to make me think that I still might have a chance of him and I having a relationship, no doubt on his terms and behind her back and it had no appeal to me whatsoever)
He left and I sent him a 14 page email and cc’d her, explaining why I could not be his friend and that I didn’t think she would appreciate him sharing his success with me. Shortly after that email he arrived driving her car with her in the passenger seat and handed me a letter saying it was over and I needed to get it through my head that he would never be there for me again, he had met the woman of his dreams. I gather she was not too happy about sharing her inheritance with JC’s “people”.
I believe that you don’t know if you are a success until you die because life is full of twists and turns and it is always possible to redeem yourself. JC doesn’t have to die for me to know whether he will ever be successful or not; in his mind and maybe in the minds of people who don’t know his history he may seem successful. But I have to respect people who I consider successful and I do not have one ounce of respect for JC or the way he operates.
I have been to two funerals of people who I classify as successful, neither one had a lot of money, but lived comfortably. Both of them had “secret lives” that they never discussed. My foster-brother who died in a tragic airplane accident far too young, had people lined up out the door of the funeral home. Person after person came to the family to tell us another story about something John had done to help them. One story was when he went into a dangerous situation and carried a guy to safety with seconds to spare before it blew sky-high. Another it was a loan to a guy who was about to lose everything, story after story that he never talked about. Even in the plane crash, from how they found the bodies they determined he was trying to help people get out and probably would have survived had he only worried about himself. He had a tough life, he made his mistakes but he never stopped trying to be a better person, he worked hard, he provided well for his family, took excellent care of his health and the environment, He paid cash for most everything because he hated having debt, he earned every cent he had honestly and he left the world a better place for being here.
When my first husband’s brother drowned while they were on a fishing trip we held his funeral reception at our home. My husband was grief-stricken because he blamed himself. During the reception he ran off, stumbling, crying down the street. I went to go after him but my brother John said to let him go. They were gone a while before I saw them coming across the front lawn. My brother lifted weights and was an impressively big man; (women drooled in his company) and he was packing my husband like a baby in his arms. My husband must have weighed 190 lbs but my brother packed him like he weighed nothing, tears streaming down his face. He packed him into the bedroom and tucked him in like you would a child. That is the image that comes to mind when I think about my brother. I always think of the song, “He’s Not Heavy He’s My Brother.” It is the most fitting description of who he was.
The other was my cousin’s husband, a rough tough looking Harley rider who taught Sunday school, he raised his Spina Bifida (sp)son to not let his disability hold him back, he modified a car for him, taught him how to walk on his hands and never let him feel sorry for himself. At the funeral his son fell while getting up on the stool they had provided for him so he could speak into the mike. The church gasped and then fell silent as he struggled to get up on the podium. He started his speech with, “Well I know Dad got a good chuckle out of that.” His son gave a wonderful tribute to his dad, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. He had his trials in his life, he stumbled, he fell but he always got back up, he gave second chances, he paid a buddy’s rent for years, built an old age home. Once again no one, not even his wife knew of some of the things he had done for others and she will tell you that she lost her best friend when he died 10 years ago. He told her before he died that he was ready to go, he had done everything he had ever wanted to do and had no regrets. I call that success.
How much money you have, or where you live; none of that spells s.u.c.c.e.s.s. to me. I will feel successful when I feel I am being the best I can be and doing the best I can do.
Someone who had never gone hungry must have said, “money can’t buy happiness”. It may not buy happiness but it can put a roof over your head and food in the fridge, and if you are homeless and hungry a roof and food can make you damned happy!. It can enable you to help others and improve yourself. It is very hard to help others when you are living in poverty and wondering where your next meal is coming from. Even what I do, it doesn’t cost me anything but my time but if I didn’t have some money coming in I wouldn’t be able to continue. Money enables a person to be all they can be and I feel people with money should take any opportunity they have to help someone else succeed. Not handouts but a helping hand so the person can help themselves and then that person does what they can to help others. To me that is a successful society.
I am not sure if my healing came because enough time went by or if it was facilitated by living a better lifestyle, but I suspect it was a combination of both and if I were still living in that hell hole of a trailer I would not be as healed as I am today. To be honest I am unsure how I will handle moving should the cabin sell, I can’t say how it will affect me and my state of mind. It is much easier to heal when you are not struggling to make ends meet and living in abject poverty. I certainly don’t live a luxurious life but I never go hungry any more, I have clothes that I feel attractive in, I have a car, I go home to a place I love and I feel safe; surrounded by my gardens, nature and good people.
Years ago I felt I had proven my success as a parent when I took my son to Disneyland. On my scale of what makes a good parent that was up at the top and I was proud to give it to my son. Not long ago I asked him what his best memories of his childhood were; fully expecting Disneyland to be at the top of his list. You can imagine my surprise when it didn’t even make the list! What did make the list? Us snuggling on the couch with his head on my lap watching TV before bed, our special prayer we did every night, our saying when we said goodbye in the morning “I love you, I’ll miss you, But I won’t cry”, me trying to teach him how to hit a baseball and failing miserably, reading him recipe books, me always being there for him, our rainy day parties. None of it cost money.
I read the obituaries sometimes because I love to see what people have to say about a person’s life; I know what I want to be said in my obituary. I will feel I was a success if my son can say I was always there for him and he lost his best friend and if he talks about the wonderful Christmas’s we had, and if he can say he is proud of me.
If people who knew me say that I was a hard worker, had more challenges than most people and less than others but never gave up, that I was honest, fair, kind, kept my promises and always tried to help others, that I was nonjudgmental, that I made a positive difference in the world when I was here. If people smile when they talk about me I will know I was successful. Right now I am at the point of knowing I am not a failure and on my way to success and very certain that JC is not my definition of successful.
What defines success for you? Have you attained it? What will it take for you to feel successful?