Soul Matters, May 2014 – by Kate Ingram, M.A.
I learned early this morning that I am a success. A story on NPR related how certain wingless mosquitos in Antarctica survive under the most miserable of conditions, awaken out of semi-dormancy, live for ten days, mate, and die. In the animal world, the reporter noted, this is considered a successful life. You have reproduced. You have won.
So, I have made it after all. My genes—such as they are and God help my offspring—will go on. Success, it seems, is all a matter of perspective.
This is comforting, in some baseline sort of way. I’ve always wanted to make my mark in the world, and certainly children—at least well-loved, happy, compassionate children—are a mark well made. But the reason this tidbit left such an impression upon me is because I struggle with the definition of success, at least the American definition: namely, money and fame. Of course, as this little NPR piece highlights, success is all in how you define it. Still, it may be a bit premature to break out the champagne.
One of my Very Least Favorite Things is the arrival of my college alumni magazine in the mail. Every three months I receive the beautiful glossy thing in the box and immediately flip to the back to see who is CEO of what, or how fellow alum Steven Colbert is doing, or who just published her third best-seller. It’s masochism at its full-blown best. I mope about and jab my finger at the page saying, “Look at her! Look what she’s done!” and mumble, “I coulda been a contender, I could’ve been somebody.” Then I throw the magazine—which cost me $80,000 for the privilege of receiving it—with all its success stories into the recycling, breathe deeply, pour myself a glass of wine, and tell myself that I’m a late bloomer and that the highest sort of success is not easily measured; after all, I have two beautiful children (if I do say so myself). But inside, I still secretly think, I want to do something worth putting in this stupid magazine. Reproducing just doesn’t quite say success for me the way it does for the Antarctic Mosquito. More’s the pity.
Deep down I really do believe that success means to love and be loved, to share yourself with the world, in whatever fashion, and to find happiness in simplicity. I’m working on all of the above. But I’m not so evolved that I can’t admit that a bit of fortune or a smidge of notoriety wouldn’t be nice. Being a good mother is immeasurably important, but it’s not the end of the story, at least for me. There’s more to life than sex and its after effects.
But, thanks to NPR and those sad, cold mosquitos (have they not heard of Belize?), I do feel as though I have done something worth celebrating, a couple of lovely somethings actually, without whom all the rest of whatever else is waiting in the wings would matter little. Success is only sweet when you have someone to share it with you. Message received. And I’m not dead yet. I might still be a contender.
KATE INGRAM, MA, is a mother, writer, therapist, and life-coach, in that order. Find out more at www.katherineingram.com.
Posted May 2, 2014