Archives for That’s Life
People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be. ― Abraham Lincoln There are two ways to read this quote. Lincoln might be telling us to “accentuate the positive.” That managing our emotions and deciding to be happy will make us feel happy. In which case, this quote is kind of ironic, given that poor Abe struggled with depression. Seems like there's a little self-loathing mixed into the words.
Stranger things have happened. This is one of my favorite things to say. It’s hopeful, but not giddy. Cautiously optimistic. Optimism for pessimists. It's a shrug of the shoulders, a little bit superstitious. You don't want to be too confident but, you know...it could happen. Stranger things have. And almost no matter what you’re talking about, it’s true. All kinds of strange stuff happens every day, so unless you’re talking about the Rapture, there’s a good chance that something stranger than whatever is under discussion has happened at some point in time.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Yeah, sure, I get it. Change is risky. You could go from the frying pan to the fire. From bad to worse. But still—the devil? If you know you’re dealing with Lucifer himself, isn’t it wise to at least toy with idea of getting the hell out of there? “Better the devil you know” seems an argument for stasis. It suggests that since there are no guarantees, you might as well just suck it up and stay stuck with the devil. Isn’t that setting the bar a little low?
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. – Epictetus I bought a new car yesterday. This is a BFD because I drive my cars until they crumble around me. I've been driving a 1994 Accord since 1997. (Those babies go forever.) By the end of our relationship, the bumper was held on with tape and it was in the throes of a two-year death rattle. Most of my friends had experienced some sort of breakdown adventure with me. But I drove my jalopy with pride. It was my badge of anti-consumerism. (Plus, no car payment. I loved that.) OK, I was a little embarrassed valet parking it at the Ritz-Carlton the other day, where I went for a business lunch, but at least when they brought it to me, the side with the taped-on bumper was facing away from the crowd. But otherwise, I don’t need no fancypants car. I'm not a particularly high-wants person when it comes to possessions. I’m greedy about experiences, but ho-hum about stuff.
The truth will set you free. – John 8:32 I’m not one to quote chapter and verse often (ever), but this tidbit is too wise to ignore. I am taking it entirely out of context here so if you want to tell me where it fits into Scripture, please feel free. But aside from all that—yes, yes, yes. And I’m not talking about that tangled web we weave when we lie to other people. That’s a whole other mess. I’m talking about the lies we tell ourselves—the most powerful, potent, and difficult to address lies. Lies like, “I’m happy.” Or, “I have a great job that I love.” Or, “If I had a different relationship, I would be happy.” Or, “If I do things this way, I can keep everyone happy.” Or, “I’m OK as long as you’re OK.” Lies, lies, lies.
Living well is the best revenge. A fine credo to live by. Noble, even. And win-win. You get your fine life, and you don’t debase yourself with some sort of tawdry act of revenge. And the other guy doesn't have vengeance rain down on him. I am not by nature a vengeful person. Which is not to say that I don’t hold grudges and fantasize about vengeance. But I don't do anything about it. Instead, I say, “Living well is the best revenge,” and stay honest. And smug. I'm taking the high road. I'm keepin' it healthy. But “living well is the best revenge” is like fruit for dessert. It’s tasty and it's good for you, but it’s not chocolate. Chocolate is desert. Fruit is a mere stand-in. Unless it has chocolate on it. Then, it's sweet revenge.
The moment you are ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens. Don’t give up.—The Internet* Usually? Really? Usually when the miracle happens? If miracles are usual, are they really miracles? This is one of those squishy motivational quotes that goes around the Internet and makes people feel good, but that has no real substance at all. Scrutinize them too hard and they melt into a sticky mess, like strawberry ice cream on a hot sidewalk. Nothing against perseverance, I’m 100 percent in favor of it. But a quote that guarantees a miracle is lying to you.
I would rather regret the things I have done than the things I haven’t. –Lucille Ball I’m taking the Internet’s word that Lucille Ball said this, although surely someone must have said it before her. I did find a similar (typically verbose) quote from Henry James: “I don’t regret a single ‘excess’ of my responsive youth—I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace.” When I last wrote about regret, the shorter sentiment was mentioned by several readers as a favorite quote to live by. I see the appeal. It’s so…active. So devil may care. So make it happen and caution to the wind.
At least I’m not internally decapitated. Thanks to my husband for this one. I remember exactly the context in which we first heard the term “internally decapitated,” but out of respect, I will leave that out of this discussion. I don’t mean to be flip. But wouldn’t you agree that internal decapitation sounds like a huge, gigantic, monumental bummer? I mean—you’re alive, yes. And that’s good. Your story isn’t over, as it would be with external decapitation. But still… Internal decapitation. Yikes. Makes a regular crappy day sound like happyfacerainbowsallthetime, don’t it?
Life is a cabaret.—Fred Ebb Hey, sad sack! Yeah, you. You know something? You’re kinda getting on my nerves. This whole Eeyore thing? No fun at all. Do you even know how to have fun? Do you know what brings you joy? Or are you going to trudge through life like it’s a chore? Stop it. Life is a cabaret, my friend. A goddam cabaret. So come on. Hurry up. Join the fun. Oh, I'm sympathetic to depression, tragedy, and hard times. I've wrestled with all those things. But the key word is "wrestled." I fight back. I fight back hard. And fighting back includes finding joy. Finding it. Not waiting for it. I’m on a solo road trip this week. Yesterday I was in Nebraska. That’s right. Nebraska. And it was a friggin' cabaret.