Truths and Tautologies

Truths and Tautologies.

Catchphrases.  Quotable quotes. Life Commandments.  Maybe our mothers used to say them; maybe we read them in some book and it sounded smart to use in conversation.  Maybe we wrote them in lipstick on a lover’s bathroom mirror in a desperate(ly pathetic) act of romantic grandiosity.  Or maybe they were just simple things we’ve picked up along the way that we have found to be, well, pretty damned accurate in this ongoing tightrope walk we walk.

It’s a balancing act, this thing called life

Whatever the reason, I think these little quips/big ideas are golden, and I’ve seen a whole pot of gold turn up on this site.  I’ve even started using a couple myself (Thanks, LZ for “‘a perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life” and the gift of learning to appreciate “small moments”; and BH for the sticker idea, for example).

These kernels are not hipsterish memes; they probably won’t appear on Urban Dictionary.  But we find ourselves referring to them over and over again, as dependable and reliable “stuff we know to be true”.  We love to share with others these things because they have been revelatory, or foundational (or both), for us at times.  Our life’s tonic, shall we say.

And it got me thinking:  what a dearth of worldly wisdom we have amongst us!… I wonder if it would be interesting to write down some of this stuff and see if we can’t create our own little library of Sugarisms, shall we say.  To be argued about, used, credited, plagiarized etc., as appropriate by all of us.

So, to the sound of one hand clapping, here’s a few little things I’ve found to be useful at the right time/s.  What are yours?  Sprinkle your sugar…

  1. For an instant pick-me-up alongside your morning rituals: “Today is a new day with no mistakes in it”.  Gets me going, especially after a hard day before.
  2. When debating the ever-ongoing-struggle of balancing priorities between work and life:  “You should treat your family better than your number one client”
  3. Self awareness is about how well you know yourself.  Self management is about what you do about it.  Self awareness is easy.  Self management is hard.
  4. Yes, it’s old and boring, but “Just Do It”.  No really.  Do it.  DO IT!
  5. To avoid becoming overly emotional or judgmental when making decisions or reacting to things, I try to remind myself that, “it’s all just data”.  Data is neither good, nor bad, it’s just a set of information to ponder.  Often this takes me off the ledge, even just for a moment.  And it has stopped me from putting my foot in my mouth on probably hundreds of occasions. See the world like a student, and problems become jigsaw puzzles.  Life is just a whole lotta data.
  6. I’ve mentioned this before, but I believe friends are there to help share the sunshine and pick up the pieces.  Some are fair weather friends, and some are best in a crisis.  Both are not to be taken for granted.
  7. It is what it is.
  8. Tautologies will always win an argument because they can’t be disproved (see 7, above).
  9. This is not my own, but a friend of mine hums the Mission Impossible theme inside his head when going through a challenging day.  He’s his own superhero in his own life’s adventure.  While I hate the themesong, I love the concept.  Way to motivate!
  10. Wrinkles are reminders of the paths of our lives, like rings on a tree.  Each has a story.

17 thoughts on “Truths and Tautologies

  1. Fantastic idea, PM. It’s so interesting that a few simple words can do so much to calm the most complicated chaos in us. It’s also incredibly interesting to see which combination of magic words does the trick for one person but perhaps not another. Some of your tautologies definitely vibrated on my frequency (I read and re-read number three at least a dozen times). Others, for one reason or another, did not resonate with me in the same way– perhaps because we have different blind spots, different Achilles’ heels, different relationships with the words themselves.

    My best friend, who I’ve written about here before, is a major collector of, as she would say, good quotes. She uses them like mantras, like maps. It’s almost as if she’s compiling her own personal holy text– and although I’ve always had a strong relationship with language, I’ve learned a lot from her. Here are a few excerpts from mine:

    *”Dwell in possibility” -Emily Dickinson
    *”Your soul is rooting for you.”
    *”Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” -Anne Frank
    *”The cure for anything is salt water– tears, sweat or the sea.” -Isak Dinesen
    *”Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” -Elizabeth Taylor
    *And this one, one of my favorites, from Emerson:
    “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with
    your old nonsense.”

    And basically every word of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, starting with, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

    I’m also a sucker for good song lyrics. “Drift Away.” A lot of Mos Def. Fleetwood Mac.

    For a full-color version:

  2. These are so great! From a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, “Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies. And be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.”

  3. Lovely post. I love how a few words can encapsulate a grand idea or bring comfort in a bad moment. Just today I was thinking of one of my favorites by the great Voltaire: “in my life I have made but one prayer to God. Lord, please make my enemies ridiculous. And he has granted it!” Not all quotes need be “good” in order to be uplifting 🙂 In fact, I also love “The bitch is back” – Elton John. I think it silently whenever I have to face someone or something that scares me slightly. It makes me feel stronger than wearing red underwear. (Hey, I think you could definitely quote me on that one).

    One thing I try to live by is “There is an advantage to closing a few doors”. It helps to remind me that endings are not always sad and are often necessary.

    Totally stolen from movies: “Time not important – only life” The Fifth Element and “Balance is never letting anybody love you less than you love yourself” Eat, Pray, Love.

    Drilled into me at a young age by my loving and pragmatic Dutch and Italian parents: “Men who want to get married want to eat pork chops” Dad, Circa 1990
    “It’s just advertising. It wouldn’t be that great if you actually had it” Mom Circa 1970 (she began telling us this type of thing when we were three or four – when we asked for presents from Santa we would inevitably follow up with “but that’s just advertising, right Mom?”. Yes, she was right.
    I want to put some of this stuff on t shirts and wear them around.
    “He’s just a boy, and he doesn’t even know who you are”. Mom, Circa 1976 – me, aged 9 – in response to any kind of adoration I had for anyone on tv. Again, she was right. I still find it very hard to adore movie stars – of course book characters are totally fair game. Mr. Darcy WILL be mine.

    “Bite me” Cricket the wonder dog, the response that emanates from her one good eye any time someone tries to boss her around. Circa 2012.

    “Enjoy life” – my grandmother – Circa 2012 – age 93.

    “We can do no great things, only small ones, with great love” Mother Teresa. A great reminder of the power of modesty.

  4. Love your comments!
    Coming as I do from an earlier generation, I find it interesting – and inspiring – to read the words that have shaped, and are shaping you.

    I grew up with a list of proverbs coming straight out of a lay Scotsman’s bible; quoted often by my mother who learned them from her father who grew up in tough times in the late 19th century. (that’s a whole other story). Tough words too, for small ears, but they shaped my childhood and my growing-up years, until they were added to or modified by other people of significance in my life.

    – A stitch in time saves nine
    – Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’peth of tar
    – Many hand make light work – and yet…
    – Too many cooks spoil the broth.
    – It is far better to give than to receive
    – You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
    – A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    – Accept what you’ve been given and be thankful
    – The man is bless’d who does his best and leaves the rest and doesn’t worry. (Supposed to be the panacea for all pre-exam nerves, even if one hadn’t studied)!)

    Such teaching has been modified over the years; and now I have the luxury of time and experience and suffering to be able to embrace, absorb and modify my mantras according to the season of my life.

    From Ricard Rohr: “Beauty is experienced in our ability to hold together the oneness, the truthfulness, and the goodness of things—despite all the seeming contrary evidence”.

    From John Olsen: “Life is fantastic. We’re all here on a short holiday from eternity, so let’s enjoy. Every day gives new opportunities to see the beauty around us”.

    From Eckhart Tolle: “Let stillness direct your thoughts and your actions”.

    Poetry has also always provided wisdom and guidance. Perhaps there will be opportunity to share some of that with you sometime….

    • I like that version a lot more! I’d heard another, “it’s better to aim for the sky and hit the trees, than aim for the trees and hit the ground”.

  5. I was in a horrible mood a few days ago, read this, and felt much better! What a great idea, Pavlova! I love your little gems of worldly wisdom (esp. #1 for reminding me of that sweet Anne of Green Gables wisdom). I also loved reading everyone else’s. Like LZ I found it interesting that some resonated more with me than others – depending, perhaps, on where our experiences overlap.

    Here are some to add to the pot:
    1. A literal mantra “Inhale peace, exhale release”. I’ve been using that one a lot these days.
    2. Lately when I feel angry or upset or cranky because a situation isn’t the way I want it to be, I remind myself that how I react to the situation is my choice. I can be cranky, or not. It’s up to me. This is often more easily said than done… 🙂

    • I read your comment while I was on the subway on the way home last night, and tried #1 right away, standing between a sweaty smelly old man and a rowdy bunch of teenage boys. And I’m pleased to report: it works! And yes, as to number 2, I remember being told, “no one can make you feel guilty without your consent”. I don’t know I agree with it, but for some reason I thought of it when I read your number 2.

  6. I have spent the last week trying to come up with some witty or enlightened truth to add to this discussion. I am terrible at this stuff. If I try to reuse a common saying I always get it wrong!

    ‘It’s the same as 6 or’… wait I know it’s something about a half dozen.

    Actually, number 7 is something I say frequently. It’s simple enough that I seem to be able to keep that one straight.

    I admire that you have such masterful use and memory for words.

    Rather than remembering these little tidbits the one truth that I can handle is to remember how grateful I am for everything. I am the luckiest most blessed person I know and as long as I remember that, things seem to go well. Life always seems more difficult when I forget how much I have to be grateful for.

    Thank you for a lovely post and all of the food for thought.

  7. I am a bit in the flapper pie camp; I can never remember any anecdotes long enough to repeat them, though when I hear a good one, it’s a little bit of magic.

    It is what it is. Did that one come from a certain bank?? Because I use that one a lot. Like when they send the wrong flower for the groom to wear. Or when my dad booked a duplicate rehearsal dinner, or another pianist than what I wanted. Or when my ovaries rebel, or when it’s raining (like now). I would make a terrible buddhist- always working on accepting what is fact. All that data.

    More recently though I have new one that runs through my head. It’s a good day. Because these days, the days have been good. And maybe I’m getting old, but I feel it’s been a lifetime since I could say that and not second guess myself. I’ve always lacked a bit of faith (I was always too demanding, unlike flapper pie). But yeah, it’s been good days.

  8. This was so much fun to read. I’m glad I got to it a little later than the rest because the comments are lovely! Like a lot of the other comments here, I love that different things resonate with different people. It’s reaffirming that we seem to know what we need to hear when we hear it.

    About 15 years ago I used to keep a file on my computer of all of my favourite quotes and phrases, excerpts from books and poetry I liked. And lately I’ve been right-clicking some of those inspiring quotations that appear in my Facebook feed. It seems a bit trite when I write about it but when I look at the collection it gives me pleasure. All the excuse I need!

    Here’s a few that have rolled around in my head lately:

    – “Where your attention goes, energy flows.”
    – “I’m enough.”
    – “The meaning of life is to find your gifts. The purpose of life is to share them.”
    – “Speak with the expectation of being heard. Listen with the expectation of being changed.”
    – “When I get sad, I stop being sad and I go and be awesome instead.” Okay, so it’s not great grammar but it works! And along the same lines
    – “You’re awesome. Start fucking acting like it.”
    – “Don’t feel guilty. Feel grateful”

    I think I’ll add “Today is a day with no mistakes in it” to my list too!

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