Unknown Me: Couple Goals + At Grandfather's House || Russia Files, Week 2
i do not write this lightly. it is rare for me to see two people genuinely joyful in their existence of one another. for this couple, I can confidently say: couple goals, because their love, their partnership, and their commitment to one another is based on all the things that I believe to be important for a relationship; respect, individuality, mutual interests (self-betterment, healthy lifestyle, physically active, intellectually curious), open communication, emphasis on emotional processing, physical attraction, support, encouragement, active listening, affection, purpose and drive, laughter, and accountability. Add to this building a business together — i’d say this falls in line with mutual interests — they’ve chosen a partnership which constantly challenges them to SHOW UP. for one another, for each individually, and for the community that they’re building. I, for one, think this is extremely powerful.
the more time I spent with them, the more love I had for them. they reawakened my belief in true partnership and that we are all capable of becoming architects of one, should we choose to be.
it’s not easy…and that’s the point. they see all the non-pretty things which life constantly throws at them, as it does to all of us. but it’s the support and confidence they have in one another and together which allows them to move through each bump. it’s really beautiful to watch.
AN EXCERPT FOR CONTEXT
Sept. 30, 2018
I will say and will continue to say that there is one scene [in Vanilla Sky] that needs to be seen by every human. It is the scene of the party and it is where we see our main character at his narcissistic height.
He has what we all dream of; money, fame, power, good looks, control of the world around him, choice in every category, he can have what he pleases when he pleases...accountability is a word that needs not worry him “it’s been taken care of” is something his lawyer repeats. Enter, as she always does, the understated beauty. Most often - although society always points to beauty - she is the one with the brain. Let me point out that it’s not the kind of brain you’re thinking. It need not be the brain that is most educated or brimming with intellect. It’s not the brain that is most successful, or well-known. Throw out all the things that we think matter. It’s always the brain with the highest emotional intelligence. One that is acutely equipped with empathy. One that can see through the facade and the bullshit, and has no interest in being one of the people parading around this star. Always, always she’s the one (or he’s the one) who strikes in a way that this star has never been stricken.
The scene continues in a dance between the two where their brains are working more than their eyes. It is not lust, nor love. It is genuine curiosity … something that we in society don’t often showcase, especially for another (usually this results in “such a creep”). He’s outside himself. He doesn't even recognize what he’s feeling. This, Tom Cruise’s character, is called being Seen. Not for your persona, but for you. She, Penelope Cruz’s character, plays it smoothly. She sees that he sees her and moves accordingly, for what she’s seen in him is worth exploring -- there is good within. What follows are moments that may seem cheesy. Two people sitting across from one another drawing out each other's portraits; it is intimate and vulnerable and intimidating all at once -- to show another your view of them, and to see how another views you. It ends with a kiss and nothing more, and it would seem that a new path has been open for the two to embark on.
Here’s the part that really drags one’s heart against the dirty floor. There is always … always, always, always … that moment where the old “good” stuff comes into your world. It’s there to test you. It’s there to see how committed you are to the work. Because here’s the thing. Although we view this new path for Tom and Penelope’s characters as a beautiful one, what we’re not focusing on is that it is going to take immense work. Commitment is work. Communication is work. Listening is work. Loving is work. Relationship is work. The difference between them and others is that they’re starting on a solid foundation -- seeing one another only for who they really are.
And so the Universe comes calling, sweeping in the old “good” stuff. She arrives in the form of Cameron Diaz’s character. She tests you. She tries to break you. To steal you away from the clarity that you have found. And it’s quite easy for her because Tom’s just found this clarity. He hasn’t yet built up the immunity to defend himself. His foundation isn’t strong; repetition, time, patience; these are the things that are required in order to stand strong. We watch and we silently scream “don’t get in the car” but we know that he’s about to. This is done not out of a lack of excitement for the new path he’s found, but because his old pattern is infinitely stronger. He caves and we, the viewer, are horrified.
At this point, I sat and wondered why? We do this all the time. I’ve done this so many times over. Just when a good thing would present itself, I would totally wipe out. So many of us can’t seem to accept the good stuff. Why? Because we’re so afraid of it being taken away. But I think that many of us don’t understand that the pain that hurts the most is not the pain of heartbreak or from things not working out. It’s the pain that seeps in much later in life, when we look back and recognize that we missed out on something wonderful. That we didn’t have the courage to take a risk outside of our comfort norms; it’s the people we walked away from, the places we didn’t go. It’s all the fear-based decisions that come crashing down on us with age. That happy person could have been you -- but you chose to play it safe. And you see? What Tom’s character gets to learn in the worst kind of way is that there are consequences when we steer into the comfort, or the known.
a story on my grandfather
I just completed my 4 day stay with my Grandpa. This November he’s turning 91. During this time I was on his schedule mimicking his daily life in order to spend as much time together as possible.
You can read about it here. Below you can find a video of us making the bed. I call it an art because in his world, it is just that. Like a meditation. For context, read the excerpt.
an excerpt for context
OCT. 2, 2018
It is quite interesting the attention to detail this man places. Every time I sit down at our tiny, little table in the kitchen, there is always a clean tea cup, saucer and spoon. I do not see the dirty dishes for it seems there are none, and the sink remains empty even though we sit frequently for tea and all sorts of things throughout the day. He has a stash of chocolates and candies, no different than mine outside of the candy being Russian. He likes his sugar and he likes his tea. He likes to feed everyone. He wakes around 7:45 and spends time in the bathroom washing and cleaning and shaving and fixing his hair. His clothes are all washed and ironed and therefore flawlessly clean. It is impossible to tell the year he wears. Some items are from 1997, others even earlier and there’s no point in guessing, because there’s always a story to tell. After the washroom he’ll make his bed, using his hands to iron out any creases. He’ll put a kettle on the burner to boil water for tea. Thus far, I’ve seen him eat warm rice pudding for breakfast with butter, some salt, some sugar and milk. He’ll wash this down with chocolates and tea. In the afternoon he sits and reads, other times cleans. Yesterday he walked to the supermarket across the street to buy tomatoes he’s looking to freeze for winter. The tomatoes were not to his liking, so he took a bus to a second store a few minutes away from the apartment. There he found cheaper tomatoes which were brighter, stronger and tastier. He purchased a large bag. Once he came back to the apartment, he washed each tomato with care and placed them on the kitchen counter. He stole a few and ate them. The rest he put away in the freezer. As he put the bag away he pulled out another. “Peppers, you see? From last year. These will be great for soup.” I wondered inside my head if they weren’t already expired. It seems nonsensical to eat peppers purchased 365 days ago. Nonsensical is my thought, not his belief. He then sits to read the paper which he purchased earlier in the day. Lunch is had. Chicken soup. By dinner time he isn’t hungry. At 8pm he watches 60 minutes or the news. He’ll turn his head to me to tell me his feelings. Most of the time it’s frustration. Most of everything is frustration but I will get to this. Yesterday evening he gave me a tour around the cupboards. Every single one we’d open, he’d pull out all items and tell a story about each. This lasted ’til about 10:30 pm after which I said, I couldn’t open another cupboard. I did however get a camera out of it this — something which was gifted to my father some 20 years ago, perhaps more, and a t-shirt. “It’s clean. I just washed it and ironed it. You can have it. It’s too small for me.” I didn’t pack any white t-shirts so I folded it carefully in my suitcase. When we completed our tour, we began our 15 minute bed-making process. This is a serious task. Not to be rushed. Not to be half-assed. By the time the event is over, I am wiped. My patience is something I’m working on. Nearing 91, it seems he’s got it locked down.
The True You. It seems to me that many of us live lives based on some sort of a story we’ve been telling. In these stories we play characters. We become so familiar with these narratives that with time they’re on autopilot. I myself am guilty of this, playing a whole set of people over the course of 30 years of life. What I know is that right now I am taking the time to unpack each character so that I can reach my core. My core is who I truly am. It is ALL of me that I’ve always had from the beginning, but was more or less beaten out of me over time, replaced with roles to play. I say this not from a victim perspective - although, yes, some of these were not my fault - but, as an adult, it’s important to take responsibility. The choice is to be someone who’s expected of me, or to boldly be myself. I, of course, choose the latter.
For me this process begins with small steps. The first one being: choosing to go to Russia. Another one was trusting my gut to make a physical change without first asking for anyone’s opinion or validation, nor sending the group text with “new look, who dis”. Not that I would actually send this but you get the gist. Physical change 1? Hair. It took a lot of courage for me to try something I’ve always wanted to but have been afraid to do. Not because of how it would make me look, but because of the feedback I would receive. It was a small win for a bigger fucking win that will come in time.
A young woman in her late 20’s. Successful, meaning, she can afford to live a standard life working two jobs; one for income, the second a personal business. She is married but never considered herself to be in this position. We got to talking about social media and its effects on our overall well-being. She made mention of her friend, someone she’s known since childhood. She recalled that as a child, this friend adored dancing and had always wanted to take classes but couldn’t afford it. Now, in their late 20’s, our storyteller reaches out to her friend to tell her about a special where one can take dance classes for a reasonable price. Her friend responds, “what do I get out of it? a certificate of completion? what is it that i’m paying for?” The woman says,”to have the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do and to liven your mood. You know, a bucket list of sorts.” The friend says, “if there’s no certificate then what am I going to post on social media?” I found this upsetting - not shocking - as so many people consider opportunities through the lens of social media. This country is not exempt from it’s influence.
A young woman in her mid-20’s. Married. Travels between her hometown and Moscow to be able to gain the finances needed to invest into her education as she’s becoming a healer. We too spoke about friendships and how to navigate growing apart. As she dives deeper into her soul work, she finds that it’s much more difficult to communicate with the people whom she’d learned to call friends. Most are resistant, reluctant, or flat-out shut her down. “Again Olya?”, they’ll say. She’s stopped talking. But she was talking to me. I said, “when we begin on a path that is of healing, and awakening, and self-actualizing, and full of curiosity, along the way we lose those very people who seemed to be our core. This happens because the rate at which we’re growing is expedited and therefore our inner circle all of a sudden becomes outer. It is a bittersweet moment and a difficult terrain to navigate, one where we are to be careful not to hurt, but also to protect our forward movement. What you’ll see is that, if you trust the process, and sidestep with Kindness, people will appear with whom you’ll be able to find common language. You will no longer have to hide parts of yourself. You can be YOU; with all your curiosities, and questions, and seeking in tact.” She looked at me, “you mean like you.” “Yes,” I said. “Like us.”
There have been some who have written to ask: how is Moscow? and how are you adjusting? The answer is (without looking into it too deeply): seamlessly. I enjoy all of it. Although to be fair, I’ve only spent four days in the city. What I hear is this rumbling sound of ‘winter is coming’ but I do not fear it. The cold is something I welcome more than the heat. Plus, with my new found freedom of transportation via the Metro, I feel that I will be able to bounce around as I please. I have yet to think much about what’s next, or where i’m going, or when i’ll surface online again. There have been a few moments where I’ve thought about IN THE UNKNOWN and where I’d like to take it. But I try not to focus on it, as I’m giving myself time to explore.
an excerpt for context
OCT. 1, 2018
I walked around Moscow yesterday. I took the subway which I love. It is clean and wide and bright and mostly made or granite and limestone. It is unlike the new york city subway and the London tube, and is infinitely grander than anything I’ve ridden in St. Petersburg. Simply put, it’s spectacular. It’s an attraction and an experience of it’s own. It’s also easier to navigate than the New York subway. There are numbered lines which head in two directions: one way and the other way. To switch lines, one comes out and walks a few minutes to hop on another line. Trains come every two minutes on the dot. There are two sets of recorded voices announcing the stops. One set is Male; in Russian and English. The other set Female; in Russian and English. The only signs that are similar are the signs which state “do not lean on doors”. Otherwise, there are no signs to step away from the platform, or the number of deaths by suicide from falling in or climbing down on the tracks, possibly to pick up dropped phones. There are no advertisements. And most odd of all, it is completely silent. No performers. No hagglers. No speaking. When the metro stops at its stop and the doors open — there is silence. Imagine: no sound. I noticed only because it felt so foreign to me. It’s quite wonderful.
A LIST OF TAKEAWAYS
Here are some of the things that I learned, accomplished, observed, and came up for me:
CAME UP || Elementary School Bully. A girl from my elementary school days who spent most of our relationship tormenting me. She came up out of nowhere and a flood of memories arose clear as day, reminding of many moments where I felt totally inept, unlovable, and not good enough. The oddity of it all is that I so desperately wanted her to like me. This behavior continued until about eighth grade when I suddenly had the gumption to ignore or deflect her spiteful and jealous behaviors. This confidence came not from an inner-place but from an outside source: boys. Suddenly I was one to be around and from there my confidence flooded over into everything that I did. I rode this wave for quite some time. All the way through to the age of 27. Then the tides changed.
OBSERVATION || Customer Service. So far I have noticed in Russia a dedicated attitude to customer service. Meaning, people play their roles accordingly to their tiles. If they are a server in a restaurant they fully commit to this role. If they’re the cashier at a McDonald’s they fully commit to this role. The lady at the Metro station from whom tickets are purchased. The woman at the supermarket. Place any person into any role which deals with customer service and everyone plays their role smoothly. There’s a sense of dedication and pride which far too often I do not see in the States, unless when dining in the fancy places, but even then, many are unhappy to be there, believing they deserve more. Perhaps they do. But perhaps their jobs wouldn’t be as miserable if they changed their attitude. Simply put: there’s a change of attitude here. I am what I am and I’m proud of what I’m doing. Would I like more? Possibly. But I’m going to put in 100% in my current title until there is another opportunity. I’m sure I’ll come across those who loathe the positions their in, but for now, this is the trend that I’m seeing.
LEARNED || Unemotional Men. In my Family - at least - but I am almost positive that this is an overwhelming trend in Russia. The more conversations I have with relatives, the more I begin to realize the framework on which I was raised. “Talk but not listen. Speak but not ask. Task but not feel.“ It is not very shocking that I’ve chosen to do what I’m doing, or that my life has lead me to a place where I do the exact opposite of what is genetically ingrained in me.
moments of awe
A small list of things that left me visibly joyful:
riding the long-winded escalator to the bottom step upon which the Moscow Metro is revealed
a new yogurt (tvorog) with sesame seeds which I have for breakfast
purchasing my favorite candies: chocolate covered halva + Korovka candy
reading (and actually progressing through) the brothers karamazov
taking a picture of a random stranger named Vasya just because the lighting and his outfit worked so well together
walking through old memories as I spent an afternoon in Gorki Park while enjoying a Raff Latte just because I wanted an insane amount of unnecessary fat in my latte
I write this already from Germany where I will shut off electronics for another 8 days. After which, I will return to Moscow for a week or so, and then will embark on some travels.
I WILL CONTINUE PONDERING THIS:
unemotional men + whether this is a family issue or a national crisis
social media and its affects on the russian population + the ways in which it differs between countries
relationships; the start of them, dating, engagement, and marriage … how are they different/similar to what i’ve seen + experienced in the States
an excerpt for context
OCT. 3, 2018