I’m not sure how normal this is, but I get sayings and quotes and random sentences stuck in my head. Like songs. I find myself waking up with them, stomping them out with the beat of my footsteps, tapping them out on my leg, and chewing them over in a wonderfully circular fashion. I have a stockpile of them. One for every occasion, every friend, every mood. Even if I try to swallow these clichéd nuggets of cheese they still pop into my head, as desperate to prove their point as an annoying teacher. And that’s what they are, really. When I have to be brave, they become mantras.
When I first went to France, it was:
‘An adventure is misfortune thought of in the right way, misfortune is an adventure thought of in the wrong way.’*
It pounded itself into my brain: every time something went wrong, there it was, every time I had to take a deep breath, there it was, like ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ or ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’. It would relentlessly crop up when I thought I had forgotten it, and start spinning all over again. Then one day I moved onto something else, and now I think of it with a smile and realise how sane it kept me.
Perhaps when I have absorbed all I need it from a quote I can move on. Although I’m not sure what I have to learn from a few bars of arbitrary ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’s,’ which plagued me for years.
When I first came to Sydney, it was:
‘Sink or swim.’ And then in echoed whispers, ‘swim, swim, swim, swim…’
I haven’t quite moved on from this one yet. My head is just about above the water, but there is a lot of splashing.
More recently I’ve been thinking of the TV mini series, ‘Any Human Heart’, where a dying lady speaks of a time when she was down on her luck. She explains how she only had a few pennies, and she should have bought a sandwich, but she bought a bunch of violets instead. “I would never have remembered the sandwich…”
I think of this when I’d rather stay at home: when it’s too hard, or I’m tired, and my muscles are sore, or I want to be safe, or I’m trying to save money, or I just want to hide in my shell.
I’m not down to my last few pennies, so I’m not sure why it has stuck so vigorously. I’ve been thinking it is the prioritising of a memory over anything. But perhaps it is the way Jim Broadbent sniffs his own bunch of violets that he buys in memory of her. Or maybe there is just something about the rhythm of it that has found a groove in me.
I used to think words and music were two separate things, but they bleed into each other. I have just as many sentences on repeat as lyrics or tunes. Only good sentences, mind. The ones so beautifully crafted they carry their own notes with them. I hope one day one of my sentences may get stuck in someone’s head. Until then, I shall ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’. That seems like a good place to start. (Thanks Google – and Newton – for that one!)
* This is, apparently, wrong, but this was what got stuck. The real quote comes from GK Chesterton and reads, ‘An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.’