Sunday, August 5, 2012

Putting the words back in my mouth: On being OLD and WISE

Posted on Sunday Scribblings:  Wise
The barber was the best listener of all...wise and quiet!

When we were children, I think we all aspired to be good when we grew up.  Poems like The Wise Old Owl created an image in our minds of listening more and talking less.  Then we grew up and we found out it was not nearly as easy as we thought it would be.  The nursery rhyme/poem went like this:

A Wise Old Owl
A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we be like that wise old bird?

Unfortunately it takes a whole lifetime to become as wise as the owl. By that time a lot of harm can be done. In my family we always called the malady the foot in our mouth syndrom.  You know. The one where you say things that you have said all your life without hurting someone's feelings and then you let the words out at the wrong time only to be rebuked or scolded. I have had this happen a lot several times.

I am a small town woman born and bred. There is no getting away from the fact that I was raised in a tough all be it diverse atmosphere.  I honestly did not know anything about ethnic groups or cultures.  My neighbors and friends were not of Swedish/German descent like me.  So then I suppose that made my family the minority in town.

The worst cultural slur I ever heard was that a certain nationality hung their wash clothes by the corners instead of square like they were suppose to be. Honestly. In that world lazy was lazy, dirty was dirty and smart was smart.

So as an adult I will say things not realizing that what I am saying might offend anyone.  But let it be known I don't make the same mistake twice. Sadly, I can never put the words back!  Once they are out there they float around in the air and inside peoples heads doing damage long after my mouth is closed!

Am I becoming wise in my old age?  Have I found a way to sort the things out that are not correct given the company I am in?  Probably not!  But it remains alway true that my heart is sad if I hurt anyone's feeling!  Like the wise old owl I am learning to listen more and talk less!



  1. It's so easy but utterly useless to be wise after the event!

  2. Maybe that is why I seem to have a guilt complex. I worry still about the things I've let slip out of my mouth years ago. I hope I'm growing a little wiser in my old age. But I just did it again this morning! Is there such a a thing as an unwise old owl?

  3. At least, by the sound of it, you know when to bite your tongue and keep those words from tumbling out. Far too often I come across people using the "getting older excuse" to explain their cutting words.

  4. Keith, yes you are so right. Here in the "west" we say that we have closed the barn door after the horses are out! Too late!


  5. Corina, being unkind is not so much my problem as things that are not politically correct. The rules keep changing on me!


  6. Granny Smith,

    Thank you so much for saying what I am feeling. Guilt for past offenses has me wanted to call people and apologize for what I said or did all those years ago.



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