Friday, March 11, 2011

Apothegms

ap·o·thegm [ap-uh-them]  –noun
a short, pithy, instructive saying; a terse remark or aphorism.

“Another day another dollar”, “six one way, half a dozen the other”, “in for a penny, in for a pound”, “slow and steady wins the race” These are the apothegms I grew up with and find myself repeating on a daily basis. They give me courage, help me stay on course (NOT stay the course, what a ridiculous tag line), help get me motivated in the morning and help me deal with the results of my actions at the end of the day.

Every morning before entering the monolith I work in I say “another day, another dollar”. It reminds me that that is the reason I come here, for a pay check. I do my job, they pay me, end of story. I like my co-workers for the most part, like what I do for the most part, but it is not my life, it is a means for obtaining and keeping the life I want. Life is what happens to me when I leave here, with my family, my friends, my interests. I simply do not understand people that feel that retirement is a loss. I yearn for the day I can retire, when I can spend my days in happy pursuit of the things that make me content. I want to write and get paid for it. I want to cook for people, to have them say ‘My gosh this is delicious’ and stand groaning and releasing buttons after a fantastic meal. I want to experience at will that moment when the batter I am stirring takes on the exactly right sheen and thickness and air bubbles pop leaving quarter size craters in the glossy slick surface. I want to read about a thousand books (for starters). I want to paint murals on the walls that surround me—trees and flowers, water and rocks, calming, lovely and wildly fertile murals so that the walls do not close in on me. I want to sleep until noon or not at all and spend the day in my pajamas watching trash TV or listening to beautiful music or dancing around my living room singing at the top of my lungs. In short, I want to be the one that everyone refers to as ‘that crazy lady’ while discussing my latest literary work or divine dish. Until then, I square my shoulders, mutter ’another day, another dollar’ and go on about my business.

‘Six one way, half a dozen the other’ is an apothegm that reminds me not to over analyze situations, people, conversations, directives and decisions. I find it so incredibly easy and self indulgent to get into my head and just spend the day there, playing around, messing with things that are better left alone. Imagine a child in a laboratory filled with chemicals and flame under beakers full of brightly colored smoking liquids and you will have an idea of what I mean. I am terribly introspective and could spend all of my time getting to know the ins and outs of me but frankly I am not all that interesting. I have to remind myself that since I don’t even have that good a handle on my motives and inspirations (Lets face it, every new day changes us. How can we ever understand it all?)  why the heck would I ever assume I had the power to determine what someone else was thinking or feeling or dealing with when they say or do something I find questionable. If I go six one way, questioning, theorizing, imagining and wondering, or half a dozen the other, accept at face value, the end result is the same. They said or did something I do not agree with or understand. Why stress over it?

One of my favorite apothegms, ‘In for a penny, in for a pound’, means just go for it. If you are going to try a little bit then just throw your self into it head first and arms akimbo. I had a basketball coach in high school who told us if you are going to foul make them bleed. I thought it was horrible at the time but now, 35 years later I can see the wisdom in the advice (even if I would never, ever tell a child to hurt someone); In short, if you are going to do something that possibly carries a very high price you better give it everything you’ve got. Otherwise you will end up paying the maximum for surely minimal rewards. I am not saying I am courageous. Hell, I am not even close to bold most of the time, but if something is important enough for me to try then screw creeping down the steps in the shallow end! I head for the deep end right away.

The last apothegm in my list, ‘Slow and steady wins the race’, is one I think everyone knows, has heard since they were two and grandma read the ‘Tortoise And The Hare’ to them. I think this is an idea wasted on children, they just want to go, go fast, go faster, higher, longer than any other kid and possibly become Superman, you never know! But, if we hear it enough when we are tots,  ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ becomes meaningful when we need it most, brand new and shiny with purpose (imagine a tortoise with a big S—for slow—on his chest, rolling out of the phone booth of our imagination while a light bulb comes on over our heads). Slow and steady allows us to visualize and set long term goals (i.e. crazy lady status at retirement). Slow and steady allows us to endure the years of school, of work, of corporate climbing because we KNOW that these things pay off, that they will give us lasting peace and contentment (or at least a 401K so that we can fund our own peace and contentment). Slow and steady allows us to stay emotionally and/or physically afloat during the lean years, to stay with our spouse during the ‘Why did I ever marry YOU?’ times, to love our kids through the ‘I hate you! Gimme five dollars’ times, to tolerate our pets during the piss on the floor, chew the shoes and bite the preacher times. In short, slow and steady allows us to shudder through the not so great times so that we can revel in the wonderful times.

What grandma failed to read to us as kids was the epilogue to that story, when the tortoise goes home, has a nice hot soak in a well appointed bath, dresses in a natty new shell, aerodynamically designed with the racing tortoise in mind, pours himself an ice cold beer in a tall chilled glass, looks at a picture of the hare and goes ‘nanny nanny boo boo sucker’ under his breath as he sinks into his comfy furniture in that wonderful log he calls home.