Success and other dirty words.
If adversity breeds triumph then success spawns destruction. Marriage bonds have snapped under its tensile strength and many a child has been crushed by success’ weight. So, we at CoupleDumb, after an incredibly successful launch of our book Dysaffirmations: Because this kind of stupid takes work on Saturday, are going into Monday writing about success and doing everything that it can not to do what is natural when facing the monster we call success; run for the hills.
Paul says: Lee and I do not celebrate our successes. Please understand me, this is not an ideal that we promote but, instead, our own marital dysfunction that we are really, really trying to break. We celebrated our 20 year anniversary with a three day cruise because somewhere in our garden of crazy there was a weed of healthiness that said we should make note of two decades of success in relationship. Anniversaries, promotions, book publications, and awards all slip away like a mirage. And why is this? Because success is personal that is defined by the recipient.
When I was a child, I made one of those turkeys, the kind were you trace your hand. I’ve always been kind of a short bus person when it comes to the visual arts so my hand-turkey had some form of Simpsons-like disease with the finger/feathers being too few and not proportional for a human. I don’t know whether hoofed animals can make hand-turkeys. Of course, I presented it to my mother who accepted it like mothers do with raves and kisses and stuck it, with a magnet, in the museum that was our refrigerator. Immediately that palsied turkey became my own surreal still life with poultry.
As children, others assign our successes. Our parents say ‘good job’ when we make poopoo in the potty. Our teachers begin to place a letter value on our work. But when we get older, the locus of success moves from outside ourselves to inside. We get that ‘A’ in a class and we define whether or not it is a success. In my experience, we do everything that we can to discount the success. ‘I got an A but it was a low A’ or ‘It was an easy class’ or my personal favorite, ‘but I had to work my ass off to get an A’ thus implying that others received the grade easily and that I am not entirely worthy of my ‘A’.
So we flit from event to event, looking for the next success to discount and always making accomplishment a function of the next goal up to be mastered. It is ingrained in our culture to downplay success. ‘Pride goeth before a fall’. And, of course, pride is one of the deadly sins. But I am not talking about pride here. I’m not writing about an inordinate opinion of my importance. What I am committing to myself is to thank God for the gifts that he made of me by stopping and taking a moment to say ‘good job.’ I’m going to decorate my refrigerator with some of my stuff. I’m going to enjoy my own deformed turkey.
Lee says: May I say Good Monday everybody! Paul, in his cute and unsocial way, gets a little freaked around success and forgets his manners.
For me, success is something I strive for and completely discount within the same breath. I was bred to be a winner. My parents were successful; from penniless immigrants to wealthy entrepreneurs within a matter of a handful of years. My brother is a business wizard and my sister has supported herself and family her whole life. For me, success has been a given. That’s what we do.
But with my success comes a healthy dose of ‘Something is wrong here’; the disbelief so thick that any concept of cheering is lost in the investigation. Paul and I only recently noticed that we don’t celebrate our success. I know, so much insight but not much brains. I think the celebration is an acceptance that we are special. That validation means nothing without the belief that we are.
Personally, I know I’m good but the idea that anyone else would recognize that is unfathomable. Welcome to my hovel of crazy. I am a very good employee and work my butt off every chance I get. Excellence is our motto and winning comes naturally. I would say that I am the employee of the month but that might come with cake and a certificate and we wouldn’t want that.