Autobiography. December 28, 2011. Moscow
“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“So what do you want? Does what happens inside show on the outside? There is such a great fire in one’s soul, and yet nobody ever comes to warm themselves there, and passersby see nothing but a little smoke coming from the top of the chimney, and go on their way.” Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh
Yesterday, I had a dream: I am at a seminar, giving myself advice – to share more of my personal stories, facts of my biography, share the ‘meat’ of my life.
“Well, who needs my biography?” The usual critical voice spoke out in my head. “And what on earth can be interesting about it? Personal history, a set of facts… and everyone will think I am boasting”.
“It’s ok!” Answered another one. “Do boast! Xenia! And that’s going to be great material to understand your own self! Do write, just do…Do enjoy, please, don’t analyze and don’t gloss it over…Do boast…Get envious…..do criticize. Don’t make any corrections for now.”
I surfed on internet, looking for signs and the first quotation that caught my eye was:
Dance as if no one sees you,
Sing as if nobody hears,
Ok, I’ll will talk about myself. In case you get bored, dear reader, just scroll down this paragraph.
I was born in 1970 in the Soviet Union into a family of a mathematician and a psychologist. My grandpa was a famous poet in his time, and throughout my childhood I thought of myself as a very privileged kid. My childhood and youth officially happened in the Soviet Union, but literally, I spent my days, every school year in the very creative experimental Moscow school №91 on the former Vorovsky Street. I spent my summers I in Belorussia, the land of forests, lakes and farmers. Our country house faced the lake and the other side looked into the woods. I usually had total freedom to spend my time as I wished in the village. I would go into the woods to my favorite meadow, I would talk to the pine trees, gather blueberries and wild strawberries, mushrooms, climb trees and all in all I had the lifestyle of a naughty boy. In my formative years, it seemed to me I was only a girl from the outside, and actually inside — a boy. Seriously — I felt like a boy inside.
Up to 16, I don’t remember being interested in my weight, nor the quantity of food I consumed. My body was somehow regulating it all by itself. I was evaluating my appearance only by boys’ reaction to it. Some were saying I was good-looking, some — not quite. My hobby in senior school years was opera singing. To be honest, I didn’t sing very well. I just really liked our vocal teacher from Gnesins’s School. She had brought together an experimental group of school kids who were able to be more or less in tune. Her name was Vera, she was a beautiful woman and I fell in love with her. I never missed a rehearsal; I remember that I was happy. It’s an amazing feeling when you do something you love! It may not be perfect but it’s a joy just to do it. And it’s so wonderful when this “craft” is interesting for someone else. And not just for someone else, but for a respected, grown-up, fantastic woman. That was a blast!
Age 16-25. During Perestroika, I was lucky be accepted into the Soviet-American Peace Child Program. This was a theatrical play about the relationships between our two countries, and we travelled throughout Russia and later in different American cities as members of the theater troupe, agents of public diplomacy. It was an unforgettable experience for the teenager I was. I was 16, participating in this grown-up project. This was my first time abroad experiencing the unknown fascinating Western World. After the trip, I got into disagreements with the Russian leaders of the troupe as to who would continue to lead the project. Two warring parties were trying to persuade each child to join its own side. But I stood strong, not taking any side. I am proud of the fact that I did not side against the leader of our musical group and didn’t sign the petition in KGB. After that battle, I found a lifelong friend – Stas. A strong, 33 years old, powerfully creative and unbelievably kind man with a vehement temperament. Now, as a psychologist, I understand that metaphorically speaking, I met my “Inner Male” (Jung names that as Animus). That man inside me, the one that had grown from the naughty boy climbing trees, felt very connected to Stas. We both had strong tempers, I tried to hide mine. Stas and I were like two brothers, though Stas could openly be a man, but I had to hide myself in the body of a nice soul-stirring girl.
Now, some details about my family. I grew up a willful girl. My parents, in every way, supported me to express my ideas. They gave me a lot of freedom in the way I studied and the way I spent my free time. But to talk of feelings, especially romantic ones was considered vulgar. I grew up as a “Tom-boy”. Only at the adolescent stage did the softness, sexuality and female power arrive. That same power that my father had started to struggle against and I had started to struggle back. So…at the age of 17, I promised myself to let no man ever tell me what to do.
It wasn’t long before my cold boyish mannerisms integrated with my foxy felinity – which created a magical mixture, the “ideal personality” to manipulate men. I wanted to prove to my dad that this female part of me he considered to be my weakness actually was my power. That he was mistaken! I wanted to use all my efforts, advantages and disadvantages to get freedom, freedom to make my own decisions, to travel, to study people and the world. Countries and cultures, traditions and social classes were beckoning me. Therefore, I thought “I have to get out of my parent’s control and I need to have money.” I felt that money and female power were the key to my freedom.
I entered the Moscow Medical Institute after High School. It was an interesting time in Russia. The country was opening up to the world, old communistic ideas were disappearing like dreams and old rules were getting destroyed as I mentioned before. Studying at medical school was terrible. At first, I didn’t like the learning itself and all those bones and cells seemed very boring. Secondly, I didn’t like the process where there was no place for feelings, and teachers had no personal relationships with students. I felt like just another student with a number – one of the crowd. More importantly, internally, I absolutely disagreed with the biological-mechanical approach to patients. Everything seemed to be so impersonal. It was not only difficult for me to study academically but also emotionally. During this time, I participated in different public diplomacy programs which really saved me. I had a side job as an interpreter and guide for very interesting foreigners who came to Russia. That work was a real escape because those people had something amazingly different about them. They were progressive, something you wanted to be in touch with, be around. That’s how I met Henry Deikin (big benefactor from USA), Djuny Calau (the fighter for independence from the Philippines), Ben and Jerry (B&J ice cream), Ozzy Osbourne, I was also interpreting for native American midwives (from Washington, USA) during their work in the birth houses.
In my third year, I sailed a whole semester around the world on a college ship called SS Universe (international program). I was living as if I was in two parallel worlds. One, my institute, too traditional on my opinion, where I felt like a” looser” and that always made me cower inside. The other was the world of my side jobs – the new one, wide open, filled with wonderful open, sparkling, creative people. But in neither part of these worlds did I feel in charge or being a creator of my life. All that was happening to me, “IT” was happening. I was like a boat without a captain, floating on the wild waves of the life around me, one day being happy with the speed, the other day being choked with the water surrounding me — reality getting into my nose.
And what do I want to become when I grow older? What will I do then, who will I become? The questions did not find answers at that time, the same as now. I couldn’t find any talent in myself. I liked to be around strong and inner-beautiful people. I was inspired and happy with someone’s talents, and I was pleased to help people shine with their beautiful ideas from within. THEY were great and strong and played a big role in the world.
And who was I? No-one.
Age 26 to 31. I tried all kinds of odd things and jobs. Business, election campaigns, the way to a deputy position, a job at the State Duma, newscaster’s course at TV and Radio Broadcasting School, Psychology courses and a second diploma (Psychological department of Moscow State University), numerous attempts to an active professional life. But nothing felt fulfilling. I just did not fit in.
Also, there were numerous attempts to become pregnant, shamans, hypnotizers, more attempts still to have a baby, and in the end I decided, seeing no baby coming, to work with students at the medical academy. I was thinking, well, if I can’t do anything else, I’d better help students, support them in tasks that were then also difficult for me, and through them fulfill my desire to nurture, to mother. Several wonderful years of work! It was cool, warm, joyful, sexy and caring.
When my pregnancy came at the age of 32, I thought WOW!!! That’s it! I know “Who” I am! I am a woman No A WOMAN, a vessel for new life … mystery of life that is impossible to explain, but one could only feel. Time had stopped, as if life and death were just dreams. Happiness….
Age 33. Skin cancer. They have cut it out. I was lucky. But the doctor forbade tanning rooms. Yes, I’ve forgotten to say! In order for my body to look slimmer I was tanning in tanning rooms…for years…
Age 38. Who am I? I have definitely grown out of my maternal Identity. Kids have gotten bigger and I’ve started to wonder about my purpose again, struggling with my body and feelings of being “a small person” on a daily basis. These struggles brought me back to psychology. I started to study psychology again, hoping it would help. I don’t know who I am. But it’s interesting to find that out…
Age 39- 42. Learning…Who am I?…Learning…Who am I?…
Who am I? I don’t know… Who do I want to become? Sexuality, attraction…that’s great! Yes, honestly, I’m not kidding. To be a wife, a mother, it’s so good, it’s worthy and proper… but still there is something fundamental missing — I’m searching for my own self, my core values and qualities. My path, purpose and direction. I am feeling frustrated and empty inside. The only answer I have for now is that I am a finder, seeker, and student — a leaf in the wind.
Personal observation: Re-reading and studying this autobiography, I see that my primary discomfort and suffering is associated to the fact that I cannot identify with the ‘transpersonal power’ or anything that navigates life. Being slim appears to be the only possible attempt to be in charge, to take control, to take the reins in my hands. That’s why the ambitious, easy-going, progressive men who know their calling attract me so much. I pushed away the heavy controlling traditionalists. But in striving for freedom, I sought stability, being afraid of the uncertainty of my path. Two polarities — the lightness and heaviness are not hormones inside and outside of me. There comes again an image of feather and stone. These two alternative states of my life are at war inside; they do not know how to get along.