Thursday, May 11, 2017

It's Not The Attitude, It's The Platitude

According to Wikipedia, a platitude is, "a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, generally directed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease."

My father, the football coach, was a veritable library of platitudes when it came to his children, "it always seems darkest before the dawn," "when the going gets tough, the tough get going," "sometimes you just have to take it on the chin."  On the other hand, my mother was a truth talker, telling us life was a problem solving process and we should seek real answers and solutions.  She actually once scolded my dad who was trying to help me through an emotional moment, "Ehrler," my mother called Daddy by his last name, as did everyone those days, football coach remember, "that child does not need platitudes, she needs your honest advice!"  Both my parents were very intelligent and wonderfully verbal, so while in the long run I benefited as an adult from Mom's, what felt sometimes like brutal, honesty, I was also soothed by Daddy's platitudes of comfort and encouragement.

Now that I'm in the "over 60" phase of my life, I'm suddenly making some very tough decisions about the use of platitudes.  Although, in everyday conversation these sayings have good uses, I find myself more and more engaged in conversations with friends and family about very difficult or life changing matters.  Conversations concerning devastating or debilitating illness, loss, sorrow, and despair.  What do you say?  How do you comfort?  As I search for the right words it seems the lessons of my mother come to the forefront more often than those of my father.  My mother's words, that could sometimes take you by the shoulders and shake you, also let me know someone cared about me enough to tell me the truth.  When you are looking into the eyes of real pain, a dismissive, "you poor thing," just isn't going to cut it.  I have found lately it's of much more help to say, "I see you're hurting, we both know this is not going away anytime soon, so let's get it out here, and I will hold your hand while you do what you have to do to face it."

Happy Mothers Day, Dear Hearts,


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