Sunday, November 4, 2012
Today... I don't
I don't like the phone I like letters, live chat, and e-mails. But not the phone. It's an odd phobia I've had all my life - I do not like speaking to people on the phone. I don't like unexpected phone calls. I don't like making calls "just because". In college, I could never understand those girls who spent two hours every night talking on the phone to their boyfriends. I have to do seven conference calls for my job every month, and participate in eight more. I don't like it, but at least I get paid for those. I call my husband on my cell phone if one of us is running late on the way home from somewhere - to make sure everything is ok. With so much of our lives already out there - like Facebook and blogs and such - I don't even know what I could possibly say to someone on the phone that they don't already know (of the stuff I would want them to know that is). Even with my family in Ukraine, I call them once every three weeks. It appears to be the perfect length of time to accumulate enough news to talk for an hour. In their case, the news is usually bad. So, in my case, I spend three weeks gathering up every bit of good news I can locate to offset their bad news. And that's about as meaningful as the phone gets to be in my life. I don't do gloom and doom If I see one more "end of the world" or "all people are crap and we are all going to die" or "there is nothing to hope for" communication, I am certain to become of the mind to lose my patience and bring said end of the world about singlehandedly. Just to put myself out of everyone's misery. I am very well-read and well-informed. I am fully aware about social, economic, political, and environmental issues in this world. Based on every bit of history, economics, psychology, and a few other sciences I have studied very carefully, yelling and screaming about how awful it all is does squat. Nada. Zilch. Either shut up and live with it or shut up and do something about it. Those are your two choices. Do you see panic and fear-mongering anywhere here? No. Because I did not include it and I will be ruthless with anyone who chooses to engage in these practices. Any time you feel tempted to engage in them, read the following brilliant quote by the science fiction writer James P. Hogan, "Everntually, the people would discover that, as their numbers and their demands increased, they would no longer beable to satisfy their needs with the resources that came readily to hand. At that point, ...they could simply give up, they could fight over what they had until it ran out and then be obliged to give up anyway, or they could develop the intellectual potential inherent in their design and apply it to discovering the progression of newer resources hiding around them like the successively more challenging, but at the same time more rewarding, clues of a treasure hunt. The way out of the maze lays in the third alternative." What would you prefer? To wait for things just run their course uncontrollably and die? To fight and die? Or to use your brain and figure out the solution? The answer should be pretty straightforward. I don't assume In all of my science, engineering and analytical practice assumptions were treated like that family member that nobody likes but everyone is forced to deal with out of courtesy. Acceptance of assumptions into any problem or project out of necessity left everyone with the uneasy understanding that the results would not be 100% accurate, because the assumptions introduced uncertainty. The moment the information in the assumptions could be verified, they were gotten rid of like weeds. So, considering the undesirable and disdained position of assumptions in science, engineering, project management and many other areas, why are they so widely applied in life and human relationships? Not only that, but they are often presented as truth. Why? Why is it when I state that money can be a positive force, so many people rush to assume that I come from the position of wealth and privilege? Ours is a middle class family, with one spouse working full-time and the other one self-employed. We work our butts off routinely - both to pay the bills and to fulfill our charity commitments. Yes, we do have charity commitments, believe it or not. And we've had them since way back when we were too broke to eat anything but Raman noodles. Because even then we realized that, while times were tough for us, they were tougher for someone else. And we also realized, that having more money meant the ability to make tough times easier for that many more people. Huh... go figure! Why is it when I urge parents to set aside some time and money for themselves and not turn into slaves to their children, they throw it in my face that I don't have children and that I want them to become selfish and deprive their kids? First of all, I can't have children due to a serious genetic defect. Thanks for asking. Second, does one have to be a doctor, or a policeman, or a fireman, or a soldier to realize that it is a tough job but that it can also be done well? No. It's enough to observe doctors, policemen, firemen, and soldiers, read about them, watch them on TV to figure that out. I grew up with incredible parents, grandparents, and friends of my parents and grandparents, and I've done plenty of observation. They had to raise families in conditions that make American poor look like royalty. Yet, it was considered a matter of personal dignity and pride to keep a clean house, to look good, and retain one's personality not as someone's spouse or parent, but as him or herself. It was encouraged and praised. My parents and grandparents were all fantastic - I've written a book about them. I was always loved, taken care of, fed, clothed and educated. The fact that my parents also kept a great-looking stylish home and always looked incredible does not in any way imply that they somehow took something away from me. On the contrary, they set an example I would remember for the rest of my life, and a standard I have always wanted to follow. And because it was so much harder to keep things together, it mattered that much more. Someone argued that children won't remember a dirty house or mom's disheveled appearance when they grow up. Really? How dumb do you really think your kids are? Of course they will remember. Who likes coming home from school to a mess? Who likes having parents who always look pulled to pieces? Yes, your children will still love you. But they will remember the rest too. All my childhood friends and I still remember the comfort of trudging through the cold, snowed-in city, having to walk home for two hours from school, because public transportation shut down because of the weather, and knowing - always knowing - that there was a warm, clean, comfortable home waiting at the end of that trip. I still remember loving to hang out with my parents, because I was so proud of how fantastic they were and of how they were always the best-looking people anywhere. I saw their daily routines, I knew plenty well what it took, and I started helping out fairly young - at around four or five years old. That was what children were expected to do - to get a notion of keeping a house and get some hands-on experience as early as possible. And seeing, knowing, and participating in all this made me all the more proud of my parents. It stands to reason, that if things were the opposite, I would have remembered them just as well. Why is it that when I admonished someone for posting nothing but negative information about the United States of America, I was given a derisive lecture about "being asleep atop the ivory tower with my daddy footing the bill"? My daddy, along with the rest of my family lives in Ukraine. I have moved out and across the Atlantic ocean 18 years ago - at the ripe old age of 19 - and have been independent ever since. Moreover, I happen to send money to support my daddy and the rest - two families between Russia and Ukraine, including seven adults and two children, with two of the adults over the age of 60, one of the age of 80 with a heart disease, and both children struggling with chronic incurable illnesses. Does that sound like an ivory tower and daddy footing the bill to anyone? That old adage that "assume" makes an "ass of u and me" is alive and well. Just because someone offers a position of optimism, doesn't mean they have it easy. I don't watch TV We dropped cable during that period of time when we were stone cold broke. Somehow, we never missed it. Now that we live in the area where there is no cable - literally, they haven't pulled it this far yet - we still don't miss it. We can get the shows we like from Netflix. As for the rest... The inane discussions about this or that bit of news, celebrity trivia or reality show only reinforce our opinion to never go back to cable television. Even the shows that deal with things we care about are really not that enticing. Dancing With the Stars? I think it should be called Dancing With Z-List Celebrities, Torturing and Wasting Time of the Really Talented Dancers and Hoping for an Occasional Good One. I've been dancing all my life - from the age of five, my first ballroom dancing class. To me, love of dancing is not watching someone on TV - it's getting into a dance class, shaking a leg and then some, going to a ballet or a fantastic dance show, like Lord of the Dance. Dancing With the Stars? I just feel bad about the truly talented kids who have to deal with these spoiled pseudo-celebrities and be humiliated on public television. Iron Chef and Chopped? Same thing. Cooking should be fun and wonderful and almost magical. The sight of people, who are actually very good at cooking, getting yelled at, pushed into squabbling and backstabbing, and eliminated from the show in a demeaning and undignified manner has nothing fun, wonderful or magical. It sucks. Someone said to me once that she didn't want to read the Hunger Games trilogy, because she found the idea of kids killing kids on TV for entertainment distasteful. All I could think of "Oh really?" Seriously? We already have reality shows, where people get hurt - physically and emotionally - on public television, routinely, for the amusement of other people. Clearly, the audiences are already sufficiently desensitized to human suffering to witness it with merely a wince and call the show boring when there is not enough conflict and fighting going on. Are we really that far from Hunger Games? Be careful, America, for you are cultivating a curious lack of balance: on one hand, you are willing to watch pain and humiliation in a reality TV show, but on the other hand, when reminded that there is pain and humiliation in the world that is not televised, but needs to be addressed, you say we have plenty of our own problems and we should stop trying to save everyone else. Perhaps you are right - with that kind of dissonance, you really are in serious need of help, starting with mental evaluation and treatment. I don't do public drama There are days... Believe me, there are days when a thought flickers through my mind that maybe the Facebook drama kinds and queens have a point. Maybe they are onto something. Maybe vomiting your entire life into the public domain is the answer. Then I have a glass of wine and banish this monster. As I said before, just because what I express out there is positive and optimistic, doesn't mean that my life is flawless, privileged, problem-free or any other number of adjectives people decided to associate with my life, because they have no clue about it. Just because I choose not to lay out every single problem I have for everyone to see and discuss, doesn't mean I have no problems. Just because I give myself permission to indulge in finer things in life, doesn't mean I am selfish or greedy or spoiled. Just because I don't have children, doesn't mean I don't have cares or people whose livelihood depends on me. My privacy was utterly stripped away and my dignity - seriously compromised - when I went through the US immigration process. Ever since then, I made a point of restoring my own private core and keeping it private - all the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of it, of which there are many. I don't smile on cue, nor do I gasp or become horrified when someone else expects me to. If I have bad news - chances are I will say nothing about it. If I have good news, I'll share, but only if I think it might interest, inspire, or amuse others. "Don't pile your problems on other people - they've got plenty of their own," my parents taught me when I was six. And that's the way I intend to keep it.