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Jo Coudert

  • While it is necessary to eat and therefore it is pleasantest to eat food that looks handsome and tastes good, on the other hand there are things I would far rather do than spend time in a kitchen.

  • ... cookbooks, I found, are intended for people with time to cook — and, surprisingly often, for people who already know how to cook.

  • It is possible to ruin a chicken in the cooking of it, but not easily. Short of burning it or letting it get dried out, you can hardly go wrong.

  • Almost anything can be stretched to serve more people by being added to a white sauce or canned gravy or undiluted or very slightly diluted canned soup and served over noodles or rice. With chops or chocolate eclairs, however, the only solution is to claim you don't like them.

  • To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.

  • It takes an enormous amount of energy, creative energy withdrawn from the total economy of the person, to hold a trait underground, and, unfortunately, needs and drives do not go underground alone; they carry with them useful parts of the personality, depriving it of richness and the possibility of a variety of response.

  • We find what we expect to find. We do not see the world as it is but as we are.

  • Operating in an unlit world, the unconscious mind is a brilliant detective.

  • There is no way of steering successfully between a failed situation and a failed self except by stopping and taking our bearings.

  • If life is envisioned as a continuously running motion picture, the keeping of a notebook stops the action and allows a meaningful scene to be explored frame by frame.

  • The people trying to change others can conveniently be termed the angry, while the people trying to change themselves might be called the guilty, although it would be just as descriptive to speak of the controlling and the dependent, or the paranoid and the repressive, or, inelegantly, the screamers and the criers. In some circles, attaching labels to people rates only a little higher than chicken stealing, because ... a label immediately ends attempts to understand the individual.

  • We can win the struggle to avoid responsibility for our personal lives, but if we do, what we lose is our lives.

  • At what age should one marry? As a rule of thumb, perhaps not until you are past the age of feeling strongly that you must marry. When you have gained assurance that you can cope effectively in the world, when you feel comfortable on your own, when you have had time to develop an awareness of the self as a quite separate person, and, more particularly, when you have been deeply lonely and felt the panic of loneliness ebbing, it is safe to marry, for then you can have fair confidence that you are marrying the person, not the institution. There should be a time of being unplugged from your original family before plugging into a new family for sustenance and support. If that time is cut short, you will be marrying for what you can take from marriage, not for what you can bring to it. You will be marrying as a defense against anxiety, not because you have found someone with whom you believe you can live for the rest of your life and like it. You will be marrying because you are afraid of being single, which is not a good reason for marriage. To be yourself, you must be yourself in the world, which means you must first give yourself time in the world.

  • At what age should one marry? As a rule of thumb, perhaps not until you are past the age of feeling strongly that you must marry.

  • ... the divorced person is like a man with a black patch over one eye: he looks rather dashing but the fact is that he has been through a maiming experience.

  • Most people ask of their friends that they understand them, but, on balance, I think I prefer a friend who understands himself.

  • Every life is a dilemma that must be solved by the person living it.

  • To live with the terrible truths about ourselves is the only way of not living them out. A need denied has infinitely more power than a need accepted.

  • What nonsense it is, this desire to be without limitations, this wish always to be seen in the most flattering light. We are anxious, not because we think so little of ourselves, but because we think so much of ourselves. We are anxious, not that we may appear in the worst light, but that we may not appear in the best light. Anxiety is born of self-consciousness, and it is alleviated to the exact extent that we can drop consciousness of the self.

  • Life is not worth dying for...

  • Examining love is like examining a stocking: if you hold it up to the light and stretch it to search for snags, any snags there are may well run and ruin the stocking. In fact, if I may fashion Coudert's law from Heisenberg's principle of indeterminacy, it is this: Love is not only changed by observation; it is changed for the worse.

  • Self-affirmation cannot be found in love; it is a prior condition of genuine love.

  • People who are good to each other make each other good.

  • If a man has a sense of identity that does not depend on being shored up by someone else, it cannot be eroded by someone else. If a woman has a sense of identity that does not depend on finding that identity in someone else, she cannot lose her identity in someone else. And so we return to the central fact: it is necessary to be.

  • Hardening of the hearteries is the most serious affliction besetting marriage, and warm, good-humored, approving words are the only effective preventive.

  • One does not marry to become a judge of the spouse's behavior. If a marriage license is mistaken for a hunting license and disapproval, punishment, and threat of withdrawal of love are employed as weapons, all one bags is one's own unhappiness.

  • Many people, if they were to treat other people as they treat their spouses, would soon have not a friend in the world. Why it is assumed that marriage is more impervious to the effects of discourtesy than friendship, I do not know ...

  • Men fear being used; women fear being used up.

  • Affection may be abiding and love may be abiding, but the state of being in love is transitory.

  • I saw one of the absolute truths of this world: each person is worrying about himself; no one is worrying about you. He or she is worrying about whether you like him, not whether he likes you. He is worrying about whether he looks prepossessing, not whether you are dressed correctly. He is worrying about whether he appears poised, not whether you are. He is worrying about whether you think well of him, not whether he thinks well of you. The way to be yourself ... is to forget yourself.

  • If you defy the system long enough you'll be rewarded. At first life takes revenge and reduces you to a sniveling mess. But keep sniveling, have the madness, the audacity, to do what interests you, forget about your pension, and eventually life will say all right, we'll let you do it.

  • A cruel joke has been played on us. We are fated always to remember what we learned but never to recall the experiences that taught us. Who can remember being born? Yet, it is possible to speculate that anxiety has its roots in this experience, that dread of abandonment, fears of separation, intolerable loneliness go back to this moment. Who can remember being cared for as an infant? ... Who can remember being toilet-trained? ... Who can remember the attachment which developed to the parent of the opposite sex? ... We cannot remember but what we have forgotten lives on dynamically.

  • Sometimes, if your own life is to add up, you must subtract yourself from someone else's life. This time comes, I think, whenever you find that the affection or love of someone else can be kept only at the cost of yourself. If you are on the receiving end of much criticism, if the other has nothing but dissatisfaction with you, if you have lost the sense that to be yourself is a good and decent thing, it is time to get out. If love lessens you, if an undeclared war is being carried on in its name, if it is an excuse for destructive demands, if it is painful and joyless, it is time to let the love go and save yourself. You will find another love but never another self.

  • The unlived life is not worth examining. ... Self-awareness, self-examination, self-consciousness are for the quiet moments. In the arena they are paralyzing. The self must not be held out of the arena until living skills have been learned.

  • The person who conveys, 'I am nothing. Make me something,' may all his life have people trying to answer his hidden plea, but their answer will be in terms of, 'I am trying to make you something because you are nothing,' and, thus, the insult will be embedded in the response. It will be heard just as clearly as the attempt to help. And it will be hated.

  • It is characteristic to believe that those in need are given to, that the squeaky hinge is the one that gets the oil, but in the realm of emotions this is not so. It is the person who does not solicit liking and love, admiration and respect, sympathy and empathy to whom they are freely given.

  • When sacrifices are made on the altar of love, it is characteristic that the person with a strong sense of identity volunteers them and the person with a weak sense of identity demands them. The person with a flawed sense of identity intuits that the strong person's love is not built on need, and because his own is and this is the way he interprets love, he is fearful that the love will go elsewhere, and he threatens to do what he fears the other person can do, that is, withdraw his love. He attempts to produce in the other the apprehension he feels. He maneuvers to undermine the other's sense of self so that the other will become dependent on him and thus be bound to him.

  • The cruelest affront is treating the person as exactly the person he is. We all long to be understood, but not for what we are. We long to be understood for what we might have been had all been for the best in the best of all possible worlds and, at the same time, to be forgiven for what we are.

  • It is one of those quirks of human nature that you love the person whom you treat well, not necessarily the person who treats you well.

Jo Coudert, U.S. writer, playwright, editor