I’ll start any way I like, thanks.

When I was in Girl Guides I always hated the Guide Law that stated ‘A guide smiles and sings, even under difficulty.’  I can see the value in the be-cheerful-keep-your-spirits-up sort of mentality it implies and sure, sheer grumpiness might make a bad situation worse sometimes but given that I will power through, I wanted the freedom to power through in whatever mood I wanted. 

My own personal version of that law became ‘If you can’t smile, then try not to throw up.’ – much more do-able for me.  And while I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I think part of my irritation came from the feeling the as a girl, I was supposed to be sweet and kind and never angry or upset.  Perhaps that’s not what the writer of the law intended, but I get that feeling from it even now.  *shudder*

I hate those sorts of sayings*,  a pat little description of how someone is supposed to behave without any reflection on the individual circumstances. 

One I’m struggling with right now is ‘Start as you mean to finish.’

How the hell am I supposed to do that when I don’t know what the end is going to look like yet?

Sure, I can see how it’s consistency is valuable, and I can see that it would be good to know where you’re going before you start but it’s not always possible – and it can really cause someone like me (always looking for the perfect system) to get stuck because I can’t start the way I ‘should’.

How does starting the way the way I mean to finish allow for growth?  How does it address the changes and obstacles that alter our plans?

Sure, I’m probably asking too much of a saying, but I expect a lot of words and this group is failing me.

I have a lot of big plans for this year, but I’m not starting as I mean to finish.  I’m starting where I am and seeing what happens.  I’ll aim for consistency, work toward finishing my projects, but I refuse to get so caught up in the method that I can’t do the practice.

I have no idea how I’ll finish – so I’m going to start as I mean to start – one tree at a time.**

* Another one that gets me is the one about how God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.  That actually hurts my teeth.  Seriously? So much presumption and shut-up and take it, all in a few words.  Sure, on the one hand it’s telling you that you have the strength to make it through, but it also makes it sound like you were given this trouble because you’re strong. Grrr.

** You remember, of course, that I have a backward forest and trees problem – it’s not that I can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s that I forget the forest is made of trees and I only see that giant, scary, dark mass and think I have no way to deal with it.

6 thoughts on “I’ll start any way I like, thanks.

  1. Nat says:

    I get what you’re saying. (I think I was much more vacuous as a child than you were, as the guide thing didn’t bother me then, but I never really thought about it until I was much older.)
    As for your trees, remember that your good friends (I just typed ‘goof friends’, which may be more accurate) can help act as a head-lamp if you’re looking for perspective in your dark mass.
    Go Mombie, go! Your year is going to truck along no matter where or how you start. So just start and the rest will sort itself out, one tangly tree at a time.

  2. mombie says:

    “Your year is going to truck along no matter where or how you start” – that’s just what I needed to hear, Nat – thanks. 🙂

  3. The version I’d always heard was, start as you mean to go on, which strikes me as more humane.

    The “god doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” thing irritates the hell out of me too. So, what? People who committed suicide just gave up when they could have made it through somehow? Their killing themselves isn’t proof enough that they couldn’t handle it, whatever it was? Blah.

  4. morganjlee says:

    So, I just dragged my cold-infected body up to my computer, with the thought that if I can sit up, I can sit up to my computer. However, my expectations for my day (starting at precisely 2:15 p.m.) are one of survival, and minimal productivity. I *definitely* do not want to end the way I’m starting–but I’m still pretty self-congratulatory on starting despite feeling sick. So I agree with you, as words to live by, those don’t work at all. Plus, i briefly lived a Southern state, surrounded by passively hostile women who had fake smiles pasted on by controlling parents. The experience taught me this life lesson: if you’re pissed off, your face should show it.

  5. I spout the phrase “start as you mean to go on” a good bit. Mostly when it comes to routine for children or trying to ingrain a new routine in myself. I would never start as I mean to finish either. The idea of finishing is either intimidating and/or terrifying. But I do often start as I mean to go on. Doesn’t mean I won’t change things along the way. I’ve never thought about the meaning of such pat sayings before and doing so has really made me consider them a lot more. Thanks.

  6. mombie says:

    @andrea – That is a lot more humane, but to me it still implies needing to know too much before you start, but my tendency to pick sayings and ‘common knowledge’ apart might be the biggest factor here. And yes, that whole ‘more than you can handle’ thing is infuriating, I hate how it doesn’t leave room to lean on someone.

    @morganjlee – I hope you feel better – I’m battling something here myself and it’s no party. I’m not going around with a fake smile, I tell you – I’m sure I have my ‘don’t cross me’ face on.

    @tina – yeah, I can see how it would work for routines, or for someone who can automatically build flexiblity into their system (I have to constantly remind myself to do that). I have always annoyed my family by picking these sayings apart – I’m superliteral in some ways I guess.

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