"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday's inspiration

My dear friend Debbie Emerson Echelberger Haas (whom I will forever associate with 'John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt' in a gigglishly endearing way) pointed to a blog post this morning entitled, "7 Inspirational Quotes That Could Change Your Life." Bryan Hutchinson lists seven quotes and what they have meant to him, and then challenged other bloggers to post quotes that have inspired them.

It's Sunday. How can I resist?

There are a myriad of quotes that have pushed, led, and otherwise guided me throughout my life, from the ache of Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Hughes' A Dream Deferred, to the soul-rousing of Henley's Invictus (why, yes, I AM the master of my fate, thank you). But in the interest of time and space, I shall just list two, one that has steered my life and one that has steered my writing.

"Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." - Auntie Mame

I saw this movie as a child. My mother was watching it one New Year's Eve, and told me it was a comedy. It is, but it is certainly sad and poignant and other things, too. (Incidentally, my mother thought The Apartment was a comedy, too, because Jack Lemmon was in it and used a tennis racket to strain his spaghetti.)

Here's the funny thing about that movie for me - my family couldn't have been further from the theme if they'd tried. My sad confession here is my parents and I did not enjoy a close relationship. My mother spent most of her time on our couch, watching television. She did very little else, except to insist on living vicariously through me, which made us both unhappy. My dad worked two or three jobs to keep food on the table and was as emotionally absent as he was physically gone.

It might make me inhuman to say I didn't suffer any regrets when they passed away, but how exactly do you regret what was always impossible?

Auntie Mame's pronouncement opened my eyes. Why was I sitting and watching a character fulfill her life, instead of fulfilling my own? It was that seed, planted when I was ten or so, that pushed me as a young woman out of Illinois and into California and away from my mother's strangulating ways.

Here's the trailer for the movie.

"I associate many things with many things." - Katherine Hepburn in Desk Set

It's a trifle of a movie, but I love it, especially the scene where Spencer Tracy is giving Katherine Hepburn an intelligence/memory test.

And her quote explains perfectly how I write. Most writers complain that the question they hate the most is, "Where do you get your ideas?" The answer is where don't we get them? What we see, what we overhear, what we read about, are all fodder for our imaginations. But we're not stenographers, recording the facts as they happen. We take one thing which reminds us of another and blend them into a third.  In this way, we associate many things with many things.

It's a long sequence, but worth it. BTW, if you haven't figured out the last riddle, ask me - I know the answer.

What are some of the quotes that have inspired you? If this post inspires a blog post of your own, feel free to put your link in the comments.

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