Reading, Russia, and Current Events: Two Books

The timing is curious. With Russia headlining the news in the terrible war with Ukraine, my interest grew in the two books currently on my reading list. I no longer watch the news and now find more time to read to gain insights into world events.

I just finished reading Red Notice, by Bill Browder, an autobiography recommended by a friend last year. I’ve had it on a shelf since summer. She recently reminded me to read it to inform my understanding of Russia, the government, the oligarchs, and the sanctions being used by the United States currently. It was helpful. I finished it last week.

Here’s a brief video about the story.

Red Notice was an interesting read for me, set in the 1990s – 2016 in the business and crime world. I found it dramatic, engaging, and insightful. It did expand my understanding of sanctions, oligarchs, Putin, and other nuances that make dealing with Russia so complicated.

Oligarchs is a term I could not have confidently defined on the spot before reading the book. Part of the strategy to impact Russia includes these oligarchs. How did they get so wealthy?

A Google internet search turned up this definition for your reference.

I am now finishing another book about Russia, also recommended by several of my friends, titled Gentleman in Moscow. This story is fiction and set in Moscow during the 1920s and 1930s. Actually, I saw in the video below that it continues to the 1950s, but I’ve not gotten to the end yet. It is also informative and engaging to read and find out more about the history of Russia, the challenges, and some of the cultural perspectives. This is a well-told story that provides insight into the era of Bolshevik Russia.

Here is a brief video about Gentleman in Moscow.

Exploring both of these books during this time has broadened my worldview and informed my perspective on humankind. Isn’t that one of the benefits of turning off the news and taking the time to read a good book?

Have you read either book? What did you think? Perhaps you are of Russian descent and can provide personal insights into the country and how it works.

Please, no spoilers as I am merely halfway through Gentleman in Moscow. I plan to finish it by mid-April, but on behalf of those of us who haven’t read it completely, please refrain from any comments containing spoilers at this time. Thank you!

Keep learning, my friends.

P.S. Please continue to pray for the people and nation of Ukraine, and all who are separated from loved ones. Do what you can if you can contribute to trustworthy organizations working to help, especially refugees. I support the International Rescue Organization, and there are many other worthy organizations to support.

International Rescue Organization

Road Signs of Life

The Game of Life was fun to play as a child, but gets complicated.

When circumstances shift unexpectedly and become challenging, awkward, or even painful, pay attention. Maybe the shift came with recent news. Maybe it came with mystery and no apparent explanation of what is actually going on. Perhaps many questions came next. Perhaps good people behaved in hurtful ways, acted differently, or things got confusing.

Recently, I found myself in that kind of situation. I was face to face with a change in my circumstances, not initiated by me. I rarely make any changes when I am content. Yet I’ve learned that the gift of growth and good is often hidden in opportunities that come with discomfort in change I did not initiate.

What can I control when things seem out of control? What tools do I have to get through the situation? I reflected back on other times where change came my way and identified some things I could do to get through this new challenge, along with the layers surrounding it.

In a Brene Brown course I took online years ago, based on the wonderful book The Gifts of Imperfection, I sketched out a “change map.” Starting at the point of awareness that change was coming or needed, I mapped out steps I took to end up in a better place down the road. That was such a helpful exercise. I recently looked again at that map and reviewed the tools. I could apply some to my current situation, and that was empowering.

Are there new possibilities? What is just one next step to take? Read the road signs and determine options.

In a season of redirection, focus on internal growth. Look for the strength to accept things are now different. Realize that expectations will not be met in an expected way. That’s not easy. Leaning on family, friends, community, and faith provided the support I needed to keep my head clear and heart strong when circumstances intersected with change.

keep clear

We all come to forks in the road. I’d prefer a spoon. And a bowl of ice cream. But off I go in a new direction, whether I want to or not. When things don’t go the way I’d planned, will I pull off the road or continue to go forward and grow as I continue down a new road?

Often the new road is winding. Watching for ways to grow in those troubled days is too much at times. Just keeping focused on the road, moving at a safe speed, hoping to get home safely, takes all we’ve got.

If you are like me, I work hard to make sense of difficult circumstances. On days that feel uncomfortable and odd, it is exhausting and sometimes a waste of my time and energy. If I’m feeling anger, I work hard to make sure that doesn’t cause the flat tires of bitterness or blame, which only slows me down. I need to keep moving down the road looking for a better place.

Some circumstances bring major delays in life. Often those leave us waiting and waiting. Our frame of mind or trusting heart goes under construction. We are reminded to use caution, to be patient and kind to ourselves and others. Waiting is a challenge in itself.

Some dark times cannot be simplified when choices are limited by commitment or resources. Some change brings limited options. Some change brings that impact like a truck overturned and spilled cargo blocking the road. So much to clean up and sort through before making any decisions! Sometimes the only choice is how we respond at that moment. Though change and weird circumstances can bring delays to plans, but growth is still possible.

1 merge

Perhaps we need discernment and good counsel from wise people to determine if we’ve simply hit a speed bump to endure or need to merge at the end of the lane to a new lane in the journey of life.

1 speed bump

I have learned that rough situations lead to new opportunities. Willingness to look beyond the situation, listen, watch, wait, and prepare to change can be so helpful. If you remain in difficult times, at least growing stronger is a hopeful option. But you might just find an open door to a new phase of life that brings more good.

1 changinglanescropped

Stay strong, my friends!

P.S. Recently, my job ended earlier than I would have planned. It’s a long story, and things are working out. It was a patch of rough road. Nothing tragic. Lots of challenge. I’d be happy to share more, but not here. However, it was unexpected and filled me with uncertainty, disappointment, and insecurity. I am still “under construction,” but enjoying a bit more of a scenic byway as of this posting.

Panic & Perspective

Do you ever have those moments when you notice something different happening in your body, and suddenly push the health panic button, ready to assume the worst? Maybe it’s just me.

On a recent weekday morning, I was driving to work in a bit of a hurry. Not unusual. I’m usually in a hurry to leave work. I’m rarely in a hurry to get there. Anyway, something caught my eye. Pun intended.

I noticed an unusual level of glare and clarity of focus in one eye. It startled me. The vision in my left eye was oddly sharper and clearer than my right. And the glare made me squint.

This was not normal, and I began to panic. Just a bit. But still, I went down the rabbit hole of concern. I confess that quickness to fear potential health problems has become more natural as I age.

What could this mean, besides a visit to the eye doctor? We all know it is always better to see the expert before diagnosing ourselves, but we worry in the meantime. So helpful. Not helpful.

I continued to worry and wonder what was happening. But I renewed my vow NOT to check online. That always fuels the panic fire in health concerns, since online information can often misdirect in a negative way.

Take a breath. Breathe.

I continued on the route to work, consumed by “what if” thoughts, of course, and the downhill spiral of wondering if it could be something serious. I knew there was nothing I could do in the moment. I tried to relax. Or at least distract myself.

Take a breath. Breathe.

Soon I arrived at work, parked the car, gathered my things, and opened the car door to exit. Worry still rented space in my head, as my husband would say.

Take a breath. Breathe deep. I can call the eye doctor when I get to my desk.

I removed my sunglasses and turned to walk in the building.

Suddenly, a sense of calm moved through my little soul, and I burst into laughter. All worry fled the scene. One of the lenses had popped out of my sunglasses, and I had not noticed. No wonder I had more glare and clarity in one eye without explanation at the time! That immediate sense of relief was awesome, but the little lesson that came with it was even better.

I smiled all the way in to my desk, shaking my head at the simplicity of the explanation, after all my wasted worry and the dread brewing about the “oh, no!” of the unknown.

My eyes were fine. But I was too close to the problem to see it clearly. A good reminder to take a deep breath, and press pause on the panic. This little lesson was a good reminder to wait, move away from the situation, and get some perspective.

Isn’t it true that sometimes we are too close to the problem to see (again, pun intended – forgive me!) what’s really happening, to view the situation with perspective? And a little distance can often help. That truth was glaring to me in the moment. And I continued to laugh for a while. I will remember to keep perspective in problems that come. And to fix my sunglasses.

Have a good week! And stay charming, friends!

P.S. I want to acknowledge some health panics do lead to a serious diagnosis. I want to honor that difficult journey for folks, too. This one just turned out lighthearted, for which I am grateful.