If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Russia. On a different note.

I went to Moscow at the end of January. For 4 days. I know. To every question "is it worth flying across the world for such a short time?" the answer is "yes", every time". To every "how come only that little?" the answer is "how long do you stay with your family?". It doesn't mean you (or I) may not like the family. The thing is, family or not, I don't like to be a guest, anywhere, in any place. Actually, in Russian language, we have a word that describes opposite of "guest" - something in-between "hostess" and "owner", but basically it's about being in your own place, on your own terms, with your own routines. No matter how wonderful travels are, by day 5 I am unsettled, agitated, bored, the tension grows, and it is much better to leave on good terms. I want to go home. And my home is here.

What about your 2-weeks hikes, one might ask (as my sister angrily did)? Well, I AM in my home out there, in the mountains. On my own terms - because I am alone. Yes, setting up and settling in to my own routine. One of a number of reasons I do long hikes by myself - 4 days confound to another human every second would be my limit even in pristine nature, even in the woods. After all, I am an introvert. My own space is important to me.

But I digress. I went to Russia for 4 days. It was a perfect strike for me - the shortest of my trips by a  day, exactly the length before that tension mounts. I was on cloud nine. And yes, with my (and my sister's) personality, I did fit EVERY little detail that has been planned and needed - and wanted - to be done.

There were trips to Mom's apartment - I normally stay at my sister'r apartment, and those two are about a mile and half apart, although it is on an unconventional route for the bus trip. Thus I walk - always do, and love that walk every time. It clears my head and gives me some sort of exercise, especially since this particular visit I haven't run a step, both due to short time of stay and frigid temperatures (average 5-10F, not too bad, but traveling light, I haven't packed any extras besides what  wore). I went to mom's daily. I helped cleaning her place - without much to say, my almost-83 years old mom slipped into a very sad existence in terms of cleaning and self-care. But she lets me vacuum and mop and dust and straighten up and take things for laundry. As good as it gets. Apparently, I am her favorite child - and this is how it's expressed. I'll take it.

There was, of course, a visit to 2 cemeteries - to my nephew Misha (14 years gone) and to my dad (coming on 3). Every time I think I can remain calm - and every time I choke up walking to the graveside. Never fails. The memory stirs. Misha - how horribly early (he was 24). Dad - how I miss his commanding voice...
It was cold on that morning, and the buses on the outskirt of Moscow skip rides (a.k.a. do not show up for an hour), so I end up walking from one cemetery to another. It's only a mile, but one has to cross a highway with a divider - an unnerving task with Russian drivers. I stand for an hour waiting, then end up walking. Every year I swear I'd just walk right away, but hope prevails. I shall learn the lesson one day.
Tanya and I make a trip to her "other" apartment, her escape - on the opposite side of Moscow, it is facing the National Park "Los'" (Elk). It is vast with trails, trees, a few lakes. You can see it from her window. It is a small place she got there, one she was fortunate to purchase with some effort (we, in Russia, as a general rule do not do loans, and for a normal human, not one involved in a shady business, it is impossible to earn/save enough money for buying a place. But I had an apartment before I left the country, and at some point it was sold, split into couple tiny places in the suburbs, rented out, and eventually sold again, and with added profit plus more savings the 2 Moscow "hubs" were bought). It is peaceful in her "dacha" (she calls it her vacation retreat, or weekend get-away, because of the views and how far from busy Moscow center it is), but it is inconvenient for public transport for those working more central, and for mom's visits to take care of her needs.

We also visited the place of my sister's charity's headquarters - she blossomed at participating in it during the last 6 months. Few years ago she started donating excess of hers and her friends and co-workers clothes and household items to a place that distributed those items to nursing homes around Central Russia and rural centers for underprivileged. Since September of 2018 the simple donation perk grew into almost business (charge-free) for her. Her occupation is something I could never find a translation in English in general or in American life. She teaches "design and construction of clothes' elements" - she lectures and gives practicals for future clothes model designers on how to correctly, in many (many) ways attach/insert pockets, additional details, construct a certain blouse/shirt in about 25 ways...you get the gist. She is extremely gifted at both, her trade and teaching. Her lectures are the only 100% occupied by students these days in her school, and she is sought after. She is turning 60 this year, and has been only doing it part-time for good many years, but it feeds her soul more than anything else - the salary in the college environment is laughable.

With that trait of her skills, she acquired a lot of fabric cuts - people's hidden stashes, college's funds, donations...and she proposed to the charity that she - and her students - would sew clothes for aforementioned charity's distribution, while she is teaching students random elements of clothes designs on practice. Everybody benefits. Of course, the people on the receiving side of the charity. Her students - for learning, and for feeling that their work is relate-able and useful. For those decluttering their stashes. For fabric - hundreds of yards - finding second life instead of being in the landfill...

I am so proud of her, and envy that she was able to figure this part of her life out. Of course, being 60, and in Russia, it takes toll on her, but bless her heart. It's an example for me, for sure.

We spent a couple of mornings walking around Moscow center. One of those two we were passing by Kremlin - and saw a very short line to Mausoleum (where Lenin is kept preserved). Is it possible that place is still open for viewing? Each of us went inside as a child, after standing 4-5 hours in a line of a crowd, moving alongside hundreds of people and not really getting a look (or having much understanding of our own). What would it be like today, now that we know as much as we do about the past? We had to go. Passing by the wall where our former "leaders" were buried, it was unsettling (horrifying?) to see live flowers on Stalin's grave. People! All this spontaneous craziness lead to a conversation. For a Russian - and especially a woman - politics is rarely if ever exists in our chats. We simply didn't care enough to have an opinion - or to know, to learn, to express any interest. I've been reading a lot lately on Russian history - including last 100 years of it. While my sister, technically speaking, is aware of the truth, the "don't want to care" is still prevailing in Russian society as a whole. Here is the answer to the question I am facing at least weekly: "Is Putin really supported by majority?"- Yes. Because, as a whole, we just don't care enough to believe we can change anything. There are about 25 other reasons, but overall, we, Russians, are all about daily survival.

How appropriate then once I returned, I was due to pick up at the library "Gulag" by Solzhenitsyn I put on hold a couple months ago. Echoing book by Orlando Figes "Revolutionary Russia", this hair-raising personal account of recollections of what was going on, from 1918 to 1958 (and beyond), was extremely hard to read. Yet I swallowed the book in exactly one week, sleep-deprived and all - finishing this morning at 4 am. How one can be nostalgic of "Soviet Times" (which my family members, and a lot of Russians of the era are) when one knows what price was paid for this "manicured" existence? Where everything is simple, because we just don't know any better, not open to exposing other worlds, and closing eyes and ears on the facts we may have glanced by accident? I am just glad my Father passed away before I learned details, not simply "it was bad in Stalin's times" - details of how My Country treated My People who disagreed. He was a true believer in Soviet Power. Yet our jails were NEVER empty of political prisoners, only full, crowded and over-crowded (most of the time the latter). There are more people who died during the years of establishing Socialism from the hands of its own Government - directly or by causation - than by the hands of Nazi during occupation (and that was estimated at 36 million, my friends, as of now). Russian people suffered more and were treated worse as humans in the 70 years after the revolution than in 1,000 years before, including natural famine, Tatar's 300 years invasion and living on our territory, wars, all kind of Tsars and serfdom...

And in nowadays people in this country, the one that is my home, want one-party ruling? I don't care which side you are one. I am not going political here, on my personal blog. But BECAUSE it is my genetic trait to be silent, I don't want to be silent any longer. Leave both parties, Republican and Democrat, together, untouched! The push-n-pull, the tag-of-war is EXACTLY what is needed to establish some kind of truth, requiring often long time changes to come through, half-country hated, slow and painful...but ONE party is NEVER good. Even if you think "yours" is the correct one. The truth is, after all, somewhere in-between. So, let's not call each other names, Left to Right and back, just because we have different opinions on things. We are all entitled exactly to that in this country, different opinions, and a voice to say them. All of us. Calmly. Not shouting. Not demanding others to change. Just share. And move on.
History shall be your lesson...

I digress, yet again. With all that, what I AM proud of in being Russian is exactly that - survival and resilience like no other. History and culture, 1100 years of it. Both of those - history and culture - incredibly tied into Orthodox Church. Even Soviet Era, all 70 years of it, couldn't take it out - how could it? Inseparable. And oh, so beautiful...
Last full day was a holiday - Tatyana's day. It is both a name-sake for all Tatyana's after a Saint Struggling Tatyana (and my sister's name), and National Student's day (their winter break starts on January 25th after midterms). Museum of Russian History on Red Square offered free entry to all Tatyana's - and we took advantage of it. I actually never visited it before. What an amazingly rich history, fantastic halls with exhibits displayed on 4 floors of this huge building! I am never seized to be amazed and inspired.

It was wonderful, the whole visit. All 4 days, even though the cold nipped at my face, the sun would break, and the smile spread over my lips. I love being back in my homeland. I don't want to live here, not any longer, I have a home - but I will forever be thankful to have been born and raised here. Despite - in spite? - the ugly history I now know so much better...

I am far into "READ" part of the new blog header - if anyone noticed the new header of my blog. Knitting is little, running does happen daily. But reading...it is, by the way, yet another Russian trait I cherish, literacy. I am happy to have returned to it full force.

In January I swallowed two books that nobody would want to discuss either. "Tweak" and "Beautiful Boy". If you know, you know, if you don't, but want to - Google it. If you care, read it. I live it, those books, daily. I share into each page. And 36 hrs after my return life forced me to live a chunk of some chapters very vividly. But this, too, shall stay away from public blog for now. One day I'll explode and put the truth out, because as it goes, the SILENCE is the most painful and wrong thing, the fact that we are afraid to face it, to share, to grasp the reality and shake the "feelings of others"...The real life needs to be shouted about. Not what media screams, bringing attention only to things they want to, but the things that are swept under the rug as accidental, single-happenings...For now, lets just say that after riveting few days, it is a status quo in my life, yet again. A pretty mind-numbing, heart-wrenching, status quo...

Knitting was definitely a thing on a side-ways. Seems that too many happenings since September  took over my inspirational side. While the technical "knit and purl" is easy and I still churn needles daily, it is less of - and less wonderful. There is only one peace I feel like worthy sharing made so far this year - and one more that my sister is sporting (we dug it out of mom's closets, I made it some 20 years ago, and it is now on its 3rd life with Tanya).
Allow me to finish on a positive note, nevertheless. That, too, is another trait I attribute to being Russian. Hard working ethic. According to the "bosses", for the last 6 months I have been a number 1 therapist - by numbers (whatever that means). Not necessarily the best therapist of "how it's done", mind you, as it is a very subjective thing, and there are therapists who are far superior in skills and experience. But the numbers - of return client, requests, new folks staying after first visit, re-booking on the spot, and whatever else I have no clue about, probably hours worked on top of it - got me to that position (the 2 years prior I was solidly in top-4). There are 40 therapists at Myo, and it being best therapeutic massage place in Austin, I do not take this lightly. Plus, I was also told that I surpassed the record of yearly salary last year (pretty much means most hours worked, as I am a contractor paid per hour hands-on) - the record I set last year myself. In fact, I am so far of the second-earning therapist, I am "in my own category". Not a huge salary it is by an American standard (although better than academic research paid, go figure, professional vs manual labor). But it proves one my often-spoken point - your life is in YOUR hands. Even McDonald workers may get ahead financially if they work a lot and hard. I work double of most massage therapists I know, norms being recommended by licensing standards. I subscribe to work ethic - in 4 years of being full time therapist (celebrated walking out of Science field in January) and 10 years being certified as an LMT, I had never called in sick or absent for any other personal reason. Reliability. May this discipline of mine be blessed.

It is that discipline that takes me out for a run 6 mornings a week, at 5:15 am. Then drags me to a gym to lift some weights for muscle health. And to yoga class to take care of my aging joints and ligaments. It is that discipline that keeps journaling my food log - daily, for the last 18 months. It is a skill that needs nurturing - nurture I do.

So much is being said here, just poured out. But as a whole, life goes on, as it should. The Universe rotates around the Sun, and seasons change, and the minutes tick into hours and days and weeks.

Be well, all my 2.5 readers:)

No comments:

Post a Comment