Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Vanquishing Platitudes Wherever They May Cower or Everything Will Revert to the Mean

I heard that song, "Rocka.bye" or "Lullabye" by Shawn Mull.ins on the radio today. I'm not complaining, mind you. Anything beyond the core rotation of 4 songs on the average radio station is most welcome. Anyway, digression off... The line in the chorus, "Ev.er.y.thing's gonna be alright..." got me thinking about one of my favorite bones of contention -- the feeble platitude. I have written about this topic before. It's become a little obsession, actually. One of the ways I have changed as a person as a direct result of what we went through with the twins and with losing Eva is a renunciation, a lack of patience with these insipid throwaway words. Maybe it's because we heard so many of them and they were so hollow.
That which doesn't kill you...
Everything happens for a reason...
It'll be okay/alright/fine...
Forgetting the expressions of blind faith, which leave me cold.

I want to know what that line means. On some level, I should accept it as meaningless, as all platitudes are, by definition. But what if there is some truth to it. After all, the phrase isn't "everything will be great" or "nothing will change" just that everything will be alright. Maybe it is a more humble and truthful expression than I give it credit for and it does account for the possibility of the unexpected even if the unexpected sucks. Maybe it is my understanding of what 'alright' means that needed an adjustment and the expression was right all along.

Further, "everything's gonna be alright" doesn't imply a deadline and so maybe over long horizons the majority of us survive what befalls us, even if some of us are slightly more diminished and some of us are slightly enhanced (a topic for another day). Is there some profound truth that over time everything and everyone -- including those who've experienced tragedies -- will revert to our mean, give or take a standard deviation? Is that what it means to have hope and to "be alright?"

1 comment:

  1. Audbrey, I think the need for platitudes vanish only when people stop feeling obligated to fill with words what may be a painful and scary time in the presence of a sick or grieving person. This is incredibly difficult. I am not so comfortable with raw emotions and even after my first daughter's death at 2 I can grope and almost hold onto these feeble attempts to fill space. You are right to underscore how weasely they can sound however how we respond is really up to us. Death scares others and perhaps the attempt at communication is better than avoidance. Perhaps simply asking 'How Are You?' and not saying anymore is a good start; where we do not know what to say, perhaps it is a good guide to say little, while being there, honestly. Even having lived through a child's death, now a few years later, I often struggle when in the presence of another who is facing personal health challenges. I am still learning. My favorite in this stripe is that 'Time Heals All'. Three years on I know that time can blunt pain, allows supports that can help healing, and still I am left with some pain and the healing is probably lifelong. And yet grief work has allowed the third year to put me in a very different relationship with my dead daughter than I felt on the third day after her funeral. Thanks for your post.