I am not so naïve as to believe a Pollyanna quote can perk me up when the dogs of depression are hounding me or the tremors of anxiety are shaking my foundation. What I do know is the act of reading a quote says even though I feel like crap I have a morsel of faith I might feel less crappy in the future.
And that says a lot. Taking any action when in the midst of a crisis, minor or major, is enormously significant. Reading a quote in a book, glancing at one on twitter or googling for inspiration on-line may be a small step, but it IS a step and one towards health.
As recently as a couple weeks ago, I sat with mild depression. An oxymoron at best; depression no matter how mild, feels really bad and extremely scary when you know what it can become. So before my head hit the pillow, I grabbed one of my favourite writers, flipped to ear marked pages and scoured for the underlined and the highlighted. I swallowed Pema Chodron’s (an American Buddhist nun) words whole: “we consciously train in gentleness…developing a nonjudgmental attitude. One of loving-kindness…an unconditional friendliness toward whatever arises in our mind.” Difficult to imagine as I sat twisting uncomfortably in my heaviness. Friendliness is not the first quality that comes to mind when I feel depressed. But even so as I read the words, I felt ever so slightly less dead, slightly less alone. Still afraid, still rather lost and sad, but somehow more relaxed in my awkwardness of blue.
Quotes are odd things. What resonates with one person may not with another. But regardless, they can make us feel less alone. For me it’s because I see that somehow, somewhere, at some time, someone else felt similarly to me and got through it. It gives me permission to feel overwhelmed, but encourages me to go on. So I do. A quote may not save a life, but it can make suffering momentarily easier.
I also have to be careful though, because sometimes my self-talk is so malicious it turns these effervescent quotes into wet leaves with which I flog myself. ‘Oh yeah, Victoria – you think you’ve got it so bad – what about that Viktor Frankl guy who lived through a concentration camp. Don’t be such a wimp. What are you complaining about, huh?’
I need to be cautious and kind when I read quotes, reminding myself that my suffering is as valid and that to deny how much I am hurting only perpetuates the self-violence I am wanting to move through. It is through the acceptance of my pain and the willingness to see how we all suffer (but for different reasons) is what brings me closer to feeling more at peace.
So it is with this hope I offer some of my other favourite ‘strings of life’ from some of my favorite players (and even one from yours truly). These are from those who managed to escape graggy rock faces and re-entered fields of, not happiness, but ‘human-ness’. When that frightening feeling of depression descends, I don’t want to feel happy, I want to feel myself. I want to feel part of humanity again. These warm words seem to point me to the place of hope (and at times, humor) and hold me there even if only a second.
1. Even from a dark night, songs of beauty can be born. - Mary Anne Radmacher
2. Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground. - Anonymous
3. Once we make our decision, all things will come to us. Auspicious signs are not a superstition, but a confirmation. They are a response. - Deng Ming-Dao
4. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. - Anais Nin
5. We are not to blame for our illness, but we are responsible for our health.- Victoria Maxwell, BPP (Bipolar Princess)
6. Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, 'Grow, grow.' - The Talmud
7. Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'. - Viktor E. Frankl
8. My only advice: stay aware, listen carefully, and yell for help if you need it. -Judy Blume
9. The Truth shall set you free…but first it’ll piss you off. - Gloria Steinem
10. Even if you’re on the right track…if you just sit there, you’ll still get hit. - Will Rogers
11. Action is the antidote to despair. - Joan Baez
12. Try to love and live the question itself. Don't search for the answer. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. - Rainer Maria Rilke
13. When you follow your bliss... doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else. - Joseph Campbell
14. Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. - Kahlil Gibran
15. I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes, several attack me all at once. -Ashleigh Brilliant
16. Life is the art of living with uncertainty, without being paralyzed by fear. – Dr. W. Dillon
17. Oh great, here comes AFPGO: Another Freaking (or f#!king) Personal Growth Opportunity. - Unknown
18. Never underestimate a person’s potential for recovery – Victoria Maxwell, BPP
What are quotes that help you get through when you feel like you're going under? Email me or leave a comment here or on Facebook. I can always use more. Like great (well-fitting, comfortable and snappy) shoes, you can never have enough great quotes!