May 24, 2005

The Believer in Mottos

For a long time she held herself together with “Fake it till you make it.” But the years of faking it carved grooves of cement–hard cheerfulness along her mouth, and still every gush of enthusiasm echoed emptily within. At last she understood that the motto itself was fake.

Then there was “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” She grunted it to herself over and over, in her mind and under her breath, and waited to feel stronger, but she kept feeling the same. She told herself that this sameness was a strength, it was self–acceptance, she had never needed anything else. But it didn’t feel like strength, only a straining against stuckness. Everything around her was becoming stronger by pushing against her. And the motto became weak with repetition and died.

Then there was “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Well, after years of following her bliss, a look at her bank statement and a glance in her refrigerator took care of that.

That one was accompanied by “If you want a friend, be a friend.” But all the smiles and phone calls and caring questions and empathetic listening brought back nothing in her direction except demands for more. Who was listening empathetically to her?

She had had it with mottos. She wanted to clear them all away, to look at life plainly with no filter in between, to look at a tree and see only a tree, not a symbol of growth, to look at a road and see only a place to drive a car, not a lifetime journey.

“I am only interested in what is,” she said to herself.

She liked the sound of it. She repeated it often in her mind.