Life Rules/Personal Proverbs

Mrs. Tittlemouse

I know someone who shared, in deep seriousness, his valuable Rule for Living Life: Never, repeat, never, order chip-in pizza for a group. (No one will get enough of the toppings they want, and you, the orderer, will always be short $5 by the end of the evening. ;) )

We collect rules as we wend our way through life, quippy sayings that sum up a corner of our behavior. Personal proverbs, they spring up like dandelions in the fertile field of experience, documenting bits of our approach to life, helping with decisions. I find them interesting. The Book of Proverbs is full of them, not to mention the ones we got from Ben Franklin. A stitch in time really does save nine, and it really is a bad idea to grab a dog by his ears.

Whether they constrict life (Don't Pick Your Nose!); or expand it (The times you'll remember are NOT the times the house was clean) or just maintain the status quo (Keep a trash bag in the car; it helps), they save us the trouble of evaluating every situation, giving us a rule to go by. This can be good, or bad.

Marvin and I have a life-rule: Always Stop to See the Two-headed Calf. Translation? Never miss a chance to visit what you may never get a chance to see again. Recently, we drove twenty miles out of our way to see... wait for it ... the world's largest ball of paint, in Alexandria, Indiana, as attested by the Guinness Book, and the Oak Ridge Boys. We traveled to Tennessee for the eclipse a few years ago, and viewed it standing next to an Elvis impersonator from Russia. Many years ago, my family drove an hour out of our way, across Texas, in July, for the joy of taking our photo in front of the sign that proclaimed we had arrived in a town named NOODLE. These quirky adventures expanded my life. A wise woman, Annabelle Smith, had a proverb: Learn to love to cook; people have to eat. My hospitality and my life have been enlarged many times over the years from heeding this one.

Noodle, Texas

Some rules cut the clutter that might otherwise surround us. My husband Takes No Calls from Unknown Numbers. (The rule cuts out distractions and saves him from spiels about replacement windows.) My friend Jane has decided to Only Wear Comfortable Clothes, neatly eliminating spike heels and tight pants from her list of outfit possibilities.

Some rules preserve life. My mother-in-law had a rule: De-vein the Celery. As a child, she once choked on stringy celery veins. She was a nurse; her rule, therefore, was a life-saving device. Dust Bowl survivors, decades after the Dust Bowl, would Always Rinse the Glass Beside the Sink because, when they were kids, wind left grit in every glass, every day. My own mom, who loved elegance but had to deal with living in our cinder block house without indoor plumbing, kept a white-knuckled grip on some social/sartorial rules: Pink and Red Don't Go Together! No White Shoes After Labor Day! and Put a Placemat on the Dining Table! Those personal proverbs were the tips of her soul's icebergs; daily life was the Titanic. Her rules sought to rearrange the deck chairs and maintain a precarious status quo. There's a whole body of issues underneath some rules.

I ran into issues of my own recently when I revised a rule I'd had for decades: No Dogs on the Couch.

I bought a graceful 1930s couch forty years ago for five dollars; I've reupholstered it twice for much more than that. It has always been a no-dog zone. My rule - No Dogs on the Couch - built a barricade against mess but, incidentally, against wholesome puppy-cuddling. We got a new puppy, and I began to resemble Beatrix Potter's Mrs. Tittlemouse, who spent her life sweeping, dusting, and wailing, "Oh, will it ever be tidy again?" I was cranky, and our puppy, Cookie, was worried.

I decided my rule discouraged connection, and reversed it. Let the Dog Flop on the Couch has proved to be a better rule; everyone is happier. I notice a relaxation in my heart, and an improved relationship with a happier mutt. And a nice little bit of Get Over Yourself, Mary! has seeped into other corners of my life. The latter is an all-purpose proverb that can be sprinkled like salt on any situation.

Cookie on the couch

When you stumble across one of your rules, do yourself a favor and examine it, to see if it still serves you well.

Have you got a few Personal Proverbs? Do share.

Here are some personal favorites:

"Spandex is a privilege, not a right." - clothing advice for, well, most of us over twenty-five.

"You live with a woman between her ears." - advice on choosing a mate.

"Bitterness is unfulfilled revenge; expectations are premeditated resentments." 'Nuff said.

An old New York farmer's rule for hiring youthful field help:

"A a boy. Two half a boy. And three boys is no boy at all."

A savvy assessment of fruitless endeavors:

"Three things you should never try: to climb a ladder leaning toward you; to kiss a girl leaning away from you; to help someone who doesn't want help."

Let me close with unintentionally hilarious rules from a sign in a restaurant in Celina, Ohio, many years ago (I swear I didn't make this up):

No shoes.
No shirts.

No smoking.
No roller blades.
No public restrooms.
No service.

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And my heartfelt thanks for taking the time to read this!