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life cliches

I'd have got up earlier, only the alarm clock didn't work properly because I didn't set it right -- which makes it my fault. Hmmm. Or you could say that I'd have got up earlier, only I was too dim to buy an alarm clock I could use. Again, my fault. I want to blame the alarm clock, but I can't seem to get there. It's hard to overcome your early training, and one of the phrases of my childhood was: It's a poor workman who blames his tools.

Don't know why my parents picked this particular life cliche to fasten on, considering that my dad is possibly the least handy guy in the world after Stephen Hawking (and what a cheap joke that was. Apologies, Dad. You are way handier than Stephen Hawking.

Apologies to you too, Steve. Problem is that there aren't enough famous quadriplegics. You and Christopher Reeve are it, no? I suppose I could have used a blind icon instead of a paralysed one. Helen Keller: not handy around the house. Ray Charles: lousy choice to host a home reno show. You would not want to give a reciprocating saw to Louis Braille, or John Milton, or Tiresias, or Michael J. Fox for that matter, which brings us to a whole new aisle in the supermarket of bad taste) -- but that was the phrase we heard most often. No matter what went wrong -- broken bikes, broken hearts, goals unmet, goals against -- you were never allowed to blame the outside world. My parents were teaching us a tough truth: whatever happens to you, it's your fault.

Kind of a bleak life cliche. Not a lot of room for miracles or metaphysics. Bad luck if you are born in disease or abuse or Darfur. But there's a strong element of usefulness there too: your life is what you make it.

Compare a poor workman blames his tools with some other life cliches. A high-school friend had: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. What does this teach? Don't bother dreaming, kid. I'm kind of partial to dreams myself. I'm glad I didn't get that drilled into me. Or a how about the classic: Never complain, never explain. I didn't hear that until I met my ex in-laws, and then I heard it all the time. Surely that advice is just plain wrong. Communication is a good thing. We'd never know about abuse or Darfur if no one complained. Mind you, I have never been described as the strong silent type, and complaining does make you look like a bit of a ween (my kids' new favorite word. I want to use it while it's still current).

Notice that all these rules for living share a basic underlying philosophy: Life sucks. Sheesh. Are there any happy life cliches?

Time's up for today. Back to real work. Hey, I've seen the cover for my new book, and I don't like it. I'll get to that next time.


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