On Chekhov’s The Death of a Clerk: When Something Means Nothing

Hardly anyone can stop oneself from sneezing, so when a clerk, Ivan Dmitrich Cherviakov sneezed in the middle of an opera, he accidentally sprayed the man in front of him, a general who served in the Department of Transportation. (I know some people don’t think of covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze, so I’m guessing this main character is of that kind.) He apologized to the general who simply dismissed it as nothing of importance, but our hero was convinced that the general did not believe it was unintentional and thought of him (Cherviakov) as being rude. Hence, he tried to apologize again, even going to his office days after the incident. In the end the general got extremely annoyed with the clerk Cherviakov and yelled at him to get out of his office.

The clerk deeply affected by this treatment, went home and died.

Sometimes we tend to attach meaning to actions of people who may not have meant for those actions to mean anything. Simply put, we misunderstand/misread/misconstrue people’s actions.

Such is what happened with Cherviakov. He was convinced that he made a bad impression on the general and wanted to rectify it even after the general had said, “Never mind, never mind” and later, “I’ve already forgotten it, and you keep at it.” He could not accept the fact that the general was dismissive of something he thought was important. He misread the general’s annoyance with his (Cherviakov’s) pestering him for the latter’s refusal to accept his sincere apology.

This is all too common. I know I was guilty of this in my past relationship when I was young and very immature: I insisted on being offended over something so inconsequential just because I wanted attention.

Some people simply lack the capacity to ignore paltry matters. Everything has meaning even when there’s none.

It is not uncommon to hear from someone you know about how offended they felt about something that somebody had said to them, or the look that was thrown at them by somebody, although you may personally think that it was not intended to mean anything.

Especially on social media today — a friend may post something like a meme, and another will think it is directed at him.

These days people get offended so easily. When have we become so weak? Why can’t we be like the general and simply let go of minor nuisances? Why do we have to be like the clerk who kept harping on something that the general dismissed as nothing of importance and for which Cherviakov later died?

The only one we are hurting by being too concerned about trivial matters such as what the clerk experienced, is ourselves because realizing that nobody else cares about what we deem important will just hurt us even more.

Let’s not allow trivialities to annoy us to death. 😉

Happy weekend! 💕

T.

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What matters most to you?

Jimei, Xiamen

Why do people feel the need to be always doing something exciting or at least perceived by other people as interesting? They put undue pressure on themselves to be perceived as an interesting person themselves. This sounds exhausting to me.

I can understand young people being under this kind of pressure because it is a normal phase of every person’s development. If you are past your 20’s , you still can’t be as obsessed with being the first one to discover a new bar or restaurant, to be the first one among your friends to have seen the latest Marvel movie, or to have climbed Mt. Everest. As an adult, you need to be out of that playground mentality. Though competition can be healthy in that it encourages you to better yourself, it ceases to be when you constantly compare yourself to others in every aspect of life and put yourself down for not reaching the standard you, yourself, have unnecessarily set to achieve.

Some lives are indeed more exciting than others given the nature of their occupations or their personalities. My life as a wife, mother, and teacher may not be as exciting as that of an artist or a single woman who is a paragliding instructor or a UN volunteer in a war-torn country, but who says there’s an ongoing competition as to who has the most exciting life? Given my personality, I don’t think I’ll find satisfaction doing what they do. We all have different personalities, talents. Hence we create our own stories about our lives. It’s not a competition.

This sense of competition is so obvious to me in daily life. For instance, I have been living away from home for almost 2 decades, and most of my friends have left the country. The ones who are still around I seldom see because when I’m home I spend most of my time with my son. When I go on Facebook I see photos of new places of interest in my city, and it makes me happy. When people ask me if I’ve been to such and such a place, and I say “No,” they have this incredulous look on their face as if I had just come out of a cave!

If I were still in my 20’s I would have gone to the place right away just to prove to them that first, I could afford to go. Second, that I was one of the “in” crowd. Third, that I will not be the last to know.

But I am in my 40’s, and knowing the latest gossip about celebrities or the newest restaurant in town, or what is currently “lit” is the least of my priorities.

I would rather know what my teenage nephew is learning at school; what new sentences my autistic son has learned to say; how my husband solved the problem at work; what my sisters are busy with; how my friend is coping with the big change in his life. These are more important to me than Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk calling it quits (though as a Bradley Cooper fan, that truly made me sad!)

I would rather go out for a quiet walk with my husband, read or sing to my son, read Dostoevsky, have coffee with my friend as I listen to him complain about life, or have a noisy meal at home with my sisters and nephews than go out with a group doing things that do not really interest me.

But then again each one of us is different. Some are more extroverted than others and prefer the company of more people in a variety of settings. Some of us, introverts, though are pressured into socializing — we are told we have to go out more often; it’s healthy for us to socialize; we have to widen our circle of friends. Is socialization always healthy though?

I force myself to socialize with a group once in a while, and most of the time I only get stress from it — it is too much of an effort. I prefer socializing with a friend one-on-one, but then again I have a very small circle of friends.

My point is: my life may not be as exciting as most people, to most people. But it is MY life, and I choose to live this way.

Something my friend said to me the other day made me think — that being away from home “so much has gone on you.”

Though it may be true that so much has changed in my home city or country in the last 17 years, that my cousins now have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I have not even met; that my home city has more restaurants in an area I did not even know has been developed; that there’s a new TV series that everybody is talking about; that this or that celebrity has finally come out of the closet and I know nothing about these things — I am fine with it. It is life. There is so much going on every second in every corner of my small city. I cannot possibly make myself care about every thing that is going on in it. I am not bothered by the fact that I am the last to know.

I know myself and I know what matters to me. For as long as I know that the people who mean most to me are happy, healthy and safe — I’m good.

Everything else is for another time or others to care.

What matters most to you?

Have a lovely weekend! ♥️

T.

Trees and Roots

(I do not know what this tree is called, so if you do I’d be very grateful if you could drop me a line in the comments section. Thanks! 🙏🏽)

Jimei, Xiamen, China

I’ve taken photos of these trees’ roots before for the Weekly Photo Challenge. The roots then were not as big as they are now.

Have a lovely Monday! 💕

T.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge

Diet and workout update

Steamed spinach with tomatoes

Yesterday I decided not to use oil when cooking, so instead of having stir-fried vegetables for lunch, I am opting for steamed ones. I just added fresh tomatoes and onions to the steamed spinach and a bit of salt, pepper and soy sauce, and I had a really tasty lunch.

I’ve been serious about losing weight for almost 2 months now, and though I find it a bit slow I’ve lost 3 kg and my waistline is down by 2 inches! Yay for me!

A week ago, I was only doing 20-30-minute dance workouts confident that I would lose weight because I am on a 1000-calorie diet. But I’ve read several articles that said if you want to be healthy, a 15-20-minute exercise daily is good enough. However if you want to lose weight, you need at least an hour of exercise! And I’ve found out how true that is. Eating healthy and an hour of exercise daily for a week can surely show you positive results.

As for planking, I can hold a plank for a minute but after reading an article about waiting until you have really trimmed down before doing strengthening exercises, I just do it once a day.

It’s tough, but I am hopeful I can reach my goal. 😉 I’m sure you can, too!

Have a good week!

T.

Trying hard to stay healthy (and look younger!)

“But at my back I always hear, Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” — Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress

Peach tree sap/peach gum

Last week my husband made snow mushroom soup for me. It is what the Chinese call an anti-aging soup. That soup only had the snow mushroom, goji berries and dried dates.

Yesterday at the supermarket, as we walked by the Traditional Chinese Medicine section (there is one in every big supermarket here), he decided to add more ingredients to the next anti-aging soup he makes for me (he is more proactive in trying to make me look young than I am! Lol.)

This time he added lotus seeds, longans, peach tree gum and lily bulbs. Lily bulbs are supposedly good for the heart and lungs, too.

longans

lotus seeds

lily bulbs

I don’t know if these things actually work, but he wants and tries to get us to stay healthy, so I’ll give it a try!

Apart from watching what I eat, I have also started doing planks! This is the 5th day since I tried, and I can now hold a plank for 40 seconds, and it feels awesome to be able to do it.

I used to think it was hopeless for me to lose the stomach flab, but after watching this video of an 80-year old bodybuilder, I was truly inspired. Discipline. 😉 A healthy diet and regular exercise with tons of discipline — that’s all the recipe I need.

Have a lovely, healthy weekend!💕

T.

A healthy and enjoyable lunch

Spinach with dried scallop soup

I went to the island today for some errands and stopped by to see a friend. She was glad to hear I’ve been trying to eat healthy food, and we agreed to have a healthy lunch together. I told her I was OK with whatever she ordered, and I was not disappointed. Two of the dishes she ordered were so good, I just had to take a picture of them: the spinach and dried scallop soup and stir-fried mushrooms.

Lunch with my friend is always enjoyable as I enjoy listening to her talk just about everything. She is several years oder than I am, and I always feel I learn something new every time I have lunch with her as she can explain so many things to me about economics and politics.

I had a wonderful time, and I was happy I was able to enjoy lunch without ruining my diet!

Have a lovely Monday!💕

T.

Got a table by the window, but … buildings