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Russian PeasantsI admit that I often have strange thoughts.  I usually have these thoughts in order to somehow put life into perspective.  My life, which is by most standards, incredible, feels often like a hamster on a wheel.  I am stuck on the bottom of the wheel, moving and running with all my might to get to the highest point, yet I stay in the exact same place.  Life, the wheel, certainly moves, but I seem to just run in a world without change. Not the scenery, not the challenge, not even the air changes as I run.

I think of those Russian peasants in the old photos.  You know the ones I am talking about; they look beaten, weary, old before their time.  They live in some of the remote places of Siberia or other places of hell on earth, and they do so each day of their lives. They wear unadorned clothing and scarves around their head that have no color.  They eat what they grow and they happily live in a world without internet, the newspaper, and in many cases neighborhood friends. They are isolate, maybe by choice, but mostly by survival. They don’t know who the dictator is making choices for them, nor do I imagine, they care.  Their days are routine and they survive with it.

I am the first to admit that I may have dramatized this world for my own sake. I have never been to Russia.  I have never visited the far reaches of Siberia. Instead I look at photos and read stories and feel like I know people who have their own hearts, their own minds.  I see beauty, but a harsh beauty that is probably not appreciated within the need to live.

And I wonder about their children.  Those few who decide that this life isn’t their own.  Those few that leave the comfort of routine for the big city and jobs in factories and mines.  Those children that move beyond the comfort of their parents to find something else. It is not an urge usually taught by parents, anywhere in the world, but rather a single light fed into the soul that says something is different. I think of those thousands in little lives, and I think about those ones who lives spark something much different.

And I wonder if different is change.  We all romanticize change.  We believe if we just move to a new house or a new job, or if we simply change our diet and exercise plans, things will be different.  Maybe if we had bigger or better, or maybe if we just had new, things would be different.

What I have found instead is change, changing that around you until you don’t even recognize it, doesn’t get you off the hamster wheel. Maybe the tank was moved and so the view is different, or maybe someone finally got tired of the squeaking in the middle of the night, and revolutionized your wheel.  Doesn’t really matter, you are still running and you are still living.

Recently, I changed pretty much everything in the hopes of making a better life for my family.  I moved multiple states away, got a job that was different than any I had before, moved in with family so that some of the stress of bills would be lessen, and I promised myself that I would seek and work towards a more comfortable person.

None of that happen.  Oh, I moved, I got the job, I live with my wonderful mother, but none of the real things changed.  And that is somewhat heartbreaking.

I still deal with stress – that of raising children, and that of closing my old life.  I still deal with a disease that makes it literally impossible for me to fundamentally believe that everything is going to be okay.   I still come home some days worn to the bone, look at my children, and wonder when it will end.  I still get up and I still go to sleep.  Life doesn’t fundamentally change.

For all those who have tried to change, and found even in the midst of the big ones life is fundamentally the same you know exactly what I am speaking about.  There is so much that is the same, even when everything looks different.  There is so much that you can’t walk away from, no matter the books or cute little sayings that promise different.

Life is a continual struggle to race to the top of a wheel.  It doesn’t matter what state you are in and it doesn’t matter what you are wearing.  You don’t have to look the same, to see the same. And it is sad and depressing this truth.  It makes one wonder what the point of going forward really is.

One of those ridiculous sayings points out that if you are not going forward, you are standing still.  I wonder today, what is the difference? Does life really change or does the outside, the ineffectual change, and the inside where it counts, stays the same?

One then has to posit the age old question, what is the point? Why move forward? Why work to change when it all seems to stay so much the same? You can’t change me.  We can’t change our fundamental selves. Who and what we are deep inside doesn’t change when we exchange outfits anymore than when we exchange states.

Growth to me, especially growth of the self, is something that happens so slowly as to be like watching the earth crack.  It happens, sometimes at a burst, but for the most part so slowly as to be boring.

And change, real change that can help you out of the drudgery of your life only happens when you change yourself.  And please allow me a moment to remind you that we are talking about your own self, not anyone else’s. But change of one’s self when you accept that you are in Siberia, with a warm but unattractive scarf, practical shoes, and no makeup or jewelry, takes more time than one can watch.  Instead one is only allowed to look at that little watch on the treadmill to find jubilation in how far you have come. And even then you have to remember to change the batteries.

 

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