I am a sucker for an inspirational quote. My whole house is littered with words said by everyone from Buddha to Hank Williams Jr. They're on $6 greeting cards. They're painted on signs. They're scribbled on Post-it notes and piled up in my desk drawers. For years I've threatened to have my favorite quotes tattooed on my arm, half-sleeve style, but that wouldn't even cover the lyrics to "Slip Slidin' Away" by Paul Simon.
Every time a new quote strikes me, I think, This is it — this is the secret to life. If I can just remember this, my whole life will be easier/happier/more peaceful/more fulfilling. And then a friend sends me a great quote she's seen on Pinterest, and the whole thing starts all over again.
I haven't always believed in God, but I've always believed in fortune cookies, and quotes are my church. Here are just a few that have given me strength and comfort when I find myself low on faith:
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" —Mary Oliver
Well Mary, I had planned on doing the 400 things on my to-do list, but now that I've read this, maybe I'll blow bubbles in the backyard instead. My favorite thing about this quote is the Pulitzer-winning poet's use of the word "wild." As a stay-at-home mother and freelance writer, I hop on my little hamster wheel every day and run-run-run. "Wild" isn't a word I'd use to describe my life, but Mary reminds me otherwise. She's not really asking a question; she's issuing a challenge. And it never fails to fire me up.
"It's not like you're going to marry him." —Linda Abbott
A year after a really bad breakup, I started an interoffice flirtation with a younger man. When I listed all the reasons this was a terrible idea to my friend Linda, she pointed out that flirting didn't equal marriage. It widened my perspective and reminded me I could use that guy to ease back into the game. Oh, and we've been married for nearly eight years.
"Keep not standing fixed and rooted. Briskly venture, briskly roam." —Goethe
After getting married and buying a house, I told my husband that he'd have to drag my cold, dead body out of there because I was never moving again. I wanted to stay in Nashville forever, surrounded by friends, family and familiarity. Eight months later, we sold that house and moved in and out of four more places in three states before landing in our current rental on the other side of the country. When I've questioned myself along the way, I've turned to Goethe, who asks an even better question: Why live your one life one way when there are so many other options?
"Everything worth doing hurts like hell." —Tim Gautreaux
I've taped this quote — which comes from a short story about a man trying to make big changes late in life — to every computer I've had since college. Four years ago, I had serious complications more than halfway through my first pregnancy. The doctor said there was a 99 percent chance our son would be born too early and die, so I could either choose to abort immediately or wait it out and bet on the 1 percent he'd survive. It was a bet worth making, even though I lost. Afterward, I wanted a tangible reminder of him, so I had the quote engraved on a necklace that lies near my heart every day.
"You can't win if you don't play." —Marla Daniels, The Wire
This legendary HBO crime drama is full of fantastic quotes, many of which are about death, drugs, chess and Chicken McNuggets. But this one struck me during one of the 500 panic attacks I had while launching my website. Did the world really need another website? Another blog? Another writer trying to say something the way no one's ever said it before? Then Marla reminded me that you can't be read unless you write.
"We're all making it up as we go along."
When a friend sent me this unattributed quote recently, it lit up my brain like I'd just snorted wasabi. Every time I look at my Facebook feed I buy the lie that everyone else knows something I don't. Those pretty pictures and witty posts are proof they all have meaningful careers, easy marriages, clean houses, answers to every possible parenting question, tons of spare time and piles of money in savings accounts. They never struggle. They never question. They always know exactly what they're doing. How incredibly freeing to realize they're all just like me: making plans, making changes, making it up every single day.
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