If I could distill everything that I have learnt about love and attraction and lust and life and persistence and bravery and marriage and children and facing your fears and growing up?
If I could do that, it would be this slim book.
I stumbled across Cheryl Strayed, in (as usual) a Farnam Street post.
And then promptly bought all her books and forgot about reading them.
Better late than never though.
Like I said, if I could distill everything I know, it’d be this book.
But I could never do it as beautifully, as eloquently as Cheryl does.
Riffing off a popular meme,
So did you highlight the book?
The book, yes!
Cheryl says in the introduction, “This aims to be a book of yes.” It definitely is!
I’ve put some here, but honestly, the whole darned book is quotable!
On books and quotes and reading …
The best quotes don’t speak to one particular truth, but rather to universal truths that resonate—across time, culture, gender, generation, and situation—in our own hearts and minds.
They guide, motivate, validate, challenge, and comfort us in our own lives. They reiterate what we’ve figured out and remind us how much there is yet to learn.
Pithily and succinctly, they lift us momentarily out of the confused and conflicted human muddle. Most of all, they tell us we’re not alone. Their existence is proof that others have questioned, grappled with, and come to know the same truths we question and grapple with, too.
I hope this book serves that purpose for you. Read it like a motherfucker.
Be brave enough to
break your own heart.
We don’t reach the mountaintop from the mountaintop.
We start at the bottom and climb up.
Blood is involved.
YOU* don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts. You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you’ve got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.*
But that’s all.
Don’t surrender all your joy
for an idea you used
to have about yourself that
isn’t true anymore.
When you recognize that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrows, but because of them, that you would not have chosen the things that happened in your life, but you are grateful for them, that you will hold the empty bowls eternally in your hands, but you also have the capacity to fill them? The word for that is healing.
Eight of the ten things you have decided about yourself at the age of twenty will, over time, prove to be false. The other two things will prove to be so true that you’ll look back in twenty years and howl.
I considered my options.
There was only one, I knew.
There was always only one.
To keep walking.
You go on by doing the best you can.
You go on by being generous.
You go on by being true.
You go on by offering comfort to others who can’t go on.
You go on by allowing the unbearable days to pass and by allowing the pleasure in other days.
You go on by finding a channel for your love and another for your rage.
On taking risks while still young …
Do not reach the era of child-rearing and real jobs with a guitar case full of crushing regret for all the things you wished you’d done in your youth.
People who didn’t do those things risk becoming mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions of the people they intended to be.
Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be.
Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose.
Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go.
Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
What if I forgave myself? What if I forgave myself even though I’d done some things I shouldn’t have? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything different from what I’d done? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if all those things I shouldn’t have done were what got me here?
What if I was never redeemed?
What if I already was?
Thank you for being here.
You’re my indication
that I’m doing what I
need to do.
On Parenting …
When it comes to our children, we do not have the luxury of despair.
If we rise, they will rise with us every time, no matter how many times we’ve fallen.
Remembering that is the most important work we can possibly do as parents.
Be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it.
An ethical and evolved life entails telling the truth about oneself and living out that truth. Leaving a relationship because you want to doesn’t exempt you from your obligation to be a decent human being. You can leave and still be a compassionate friend to your partner. Leaving because you want to doesn’t mean you pack your bags the moment there’s strife or struggle or uncertainty. It means that if you yearn to be free of a particular relationship and you feel that yearning lodged within you more firmly than any of the other competing and contrary yearnings are lodged, your desire to leave is not only valid, but probably the right thing to do. Even if someone you love is hurt by that.
These little snippets on grief, ring specially true for me. Having been on both sides. I try to be better at this all the time …
If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely on the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up. And if they don’t—if they have loved too deeply, if they do wake each morning thinking, I cannot continue to live—well, then we pathologize their pain; we call their suffering a disease. We do not help them: we tell them that they need to get help.
Grief is tremendous, but love is bigger. You are grieving because you loved truly. The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of death. Allowing this into your consciousness will not keep you from your suffering, but …
it will help you survive the next day.
Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor, and loaded with promises and commitments that we may or may not want or keep. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long, meandering walks. The days reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not.
These things are your becoming.
Walk without a stick
into the darkest
The unifying theme is resilience and faith.
The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker.
It is not fragility. It’s strength.
And “if your Nerve, deny you—,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “Go above your Nerve.”
Honor is inconvenient and absolute. Honor is looking it square in the face and taking it on the chin. It’s having the guts to break someone’s heart so as to avoid fucking with his or her head.
You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.
What is the best I can do?
And then do that.
FEAR, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.
I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. That nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid.
Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.
Fucked-up people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals.
They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you and they teach you how to respect yourself.
On getting over pain and heartbreak.
You let time pass. That’s the cure.
You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months.
And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re okay.
Forgiveness doesn’t just sit there like a pretty boy in a bar.
Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up the hill.
On doing the work …
Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life.
Do the work.
Keep the faith.
Be true blue.
You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.
We are all entitled to our opinions and religious beliefs, but we are not entitled to make shit up and then use the shit we made up to oppress other people.
Can I convince the person
about whom I’m crazy
to be crazy about me?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is no.
There are so many things
to be tortured about.
So many torturous things
in this life.
Don’t let someone
who doesn’t love you
be one of them.
Travel by foot.
There is so much you can’t identify at top speed.
If someone is being unkind or petty or jealous or distant or weird, you don’t have to take it in. You don’t have to turn it into a big psychodrama about your worth. That behavior so often is not even about you. It’s about the person who’s being unkind or petty or jealous or distant or weird. If this were summed up on a bumper sticker, it would say:
Don’t own other people’s crap.
The world would be a better place if we all did that.
We do not have the right to feel helpless.
We must help ourselves.
After destiny has delivered what it delivers, we are responsible for our lives.
Accept that their actions hurt you deeply.
Accept that this experience taught you something you didn’t want to know.
Accept that sorrow and strife are part of even a joyful life.
Accept that it’s going to take a long time for you to get that monster out of your chest.
Accept that someday what pains you now will surely pain you less.
This isn’t a spotless life. There is
much ahead, my immaculate peach.
Let fall your notions about “perfect couples.” It’s such an impossible thing to either perceive honestly in others or live up to when others believe it about us. It does nothing but box some people in and shut other people out, and it ultimately makes just about everyone feel like shit. A perfect couple is a wholly private thing. No one but the two people in the perfect relationship know for certain whether they’re in one. Its only defining quality is that it’s composed of two people who feel perfectly right about sharing their lives with each other, even during the hard times.
The story of human
intimacy is one of
constantly allowing ourselves to see those
we love most deeply in a
new, more fractured light.
It isn’t too late.
Time is not running out.
Your life is here and now.
And the moment has arrived
at which you’re finally ready
Go because you want to
go. Because wanting to
leave is enough.
You have to say I am forgiven again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.
If it is impossible for
you to go on as you
were before, so you
must go on as you
Bravery is acknowledging your
fear and doing it anyway.
Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing.
And it’s one thing and one thing only:
it’s doing what you have to do.
Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal. Therapists and friends can help you along the way, but the healing—the genuine healing, the actual real-deal, down-on-your-knees-in-the-mud change—is entirely and absolutely up to you.
This is not the moment to wilt into
the underbrush of your insecurities.
You’ve earned the right to grow.
Humility is about refusing to get all tangled up with yourself. It’s about surrender, receptivity, awareness, simplicity. Breathing in. Breathing out.
Trusting yourself means
living out what you
already know to be true.