Quotes for the Year

For my sixteenth birthday, one of my best high school friends got me this little pink polka-dotted journal, and since then, I’ve written my favorite poems and quotations in it.  When I read something in a book or magazine that speaks to me, I copy it down.  When a friend or family member says something that I want to remember, I record it.  When I see a quotation inscribed on a memorial, or floating around on the internet, or in a church program, I snap a picture to then later transcribe into my book. 

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I filled up my pink journal a decade after receiving it, and around the same time I found an old journal of my moms that had been used for the same purpose, with only a few pages filled.  I started a new “quote book” in it.  I return to these books time and again when I am in need of motivation, inspiration, comfort or hope. 

Over my holiday vacation, I spent several hours reading through the entire collection, and I picked out a generous handful of quotes to guide my year.  (Can you tell that I’m into New Years?  I’ve got words, I’ve got goals, I’ve got quotes!  It’s very orienting for me. And interestingly, though I didn’t intend this, I realize that they can roughly be categorized within my words for the year…plus one more category: perseverance). 

To use a quotation itself to explain my inclination towards quotations at guides: “One is pat to think of moral failure as due to weakness of character: more often it is due to an inadequate ideal.”  I agree with Richard Winn Livingstone’s sentiment, and for me, quotes serve as an ideal — a model, an example — to work towards.   

Perspective

“For there is only trying.  The rest is not our business.” —T. S. Eliot

Life is hard but love wins.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

“And now the you don’t have to be perfect you can just be good” – John Steinbeck

“Be joyful thought you have considered all the facts” – Wendell Berry

“Energy creates energy.  It is by spending myself that I became rich.” – Sarah Bernhardt

“At the best moments a great humility fused with a great ambition: to be only what I was, but to the utmost of what I was” – Stephen Spender

Prayerfulness

“Prayer uncovers the truth that sets us free (John 8:32)” – Henri Nouwen

“Grace is the assistance God gives us to do hat is good, true, noble and right.” — Matthew Kelly

“All moments are key moments, and life itself is grace” – Frederich Buechner

“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings” – Mary Baker Edy

“A sheltered life can be a daring life as well.  For all serious daring starts from within.” – Eudora Welty

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable” – Mary Oliver

Poise

“Be soft.  Do not let the world make you hard.  Do not let pain make you hate.  Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“The most congenial social occasions are those ruled by cheerful deference for all” – Goethe

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance” — Brene Brown

Perseverance

“I am not afraid.  I was born to do this.” – Joan of Arc

“Everything is hard before it gets easy.” -Goethe

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act.  The rest is really tenacity” — Amelia Earhart

Resolutions

A post or two back, I wrote about my words for 2017: Perspective, Prayerfulness and Poise.  I’m letting those words propel me, like the wind behind a boat, into this year that I hope will be one of growth and goodness. 

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But, we all know that a boat needs more than a bluster to venture far.  A rudder to guide it, a centerboard to balance it and a sail to catch the breeze are as necessary as the wind, and so, too, are some specific smart goals to accompany my words for the year.  Smart goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based, and they’re meant to add focus and specificity to one’s actions. 

I love the idea of having a word (or three, in my case) to give an overarching theme to the year, but I know that it’s the practicality of smart goals that will make living out my words possible.  With this in mind, I have created a few smart goals to accompany each of my words for the year.

Perspective

Most of my smart goals are related to Perspective, for a few reasons.  First, it’s my primary word for the year; prayerfulness and poise stem from it and I hope lead towards it.  Secondly, it’s a bit of a catch all.  The place where I most need perspective is work (I need to not let the petty (and legitimate) frustrations, the causes for anxiety, the at-times-annoying people get to me the way I do), and I’m of the mind that focusing on all the joyful, successful, meaningful and life-giving aspects of my life outside of work will help me remember what is important, thus giving me perspective when I have to deal with the inevitable challenges at work.  For this reason, I’ve crafted a whole slew of goals that will direct my attention outside of work.  That’s perspective after all, right? (one of my favorite definitions: a true understanding of the relative importance of things).

  • Try at least one new recipe from each of my cookbooks.  I have all these great cookbooks, but every time I want to try a new recipe, I look on pinterest or elsewhere on the internet, not in them.  I thought this would be a good goal to help me enjoy my home more… and delve into a hobby that I always take pleasure in, cooking.
  • Read Middlemarch.  I have a “Read Before I Die” list and, for the past several years, have tried to read one or two books off of it each year.  This is the year for Middlemarch.
  • Go on one adventure a month (I have a list of adventures, which I’ll discuss in a different post).
  • Complete a full twelve weeks of BBG (this is the exercise plan that I use fairly consistently — I really like it — but hop all over with; having consistency and a sense of completion but completing the full 12-week cycle will be satisfying).
  • Decrease sugar consumption by taking sugar-free weeks, or weeks with sugar just one or two days.  There is no reason that I should be having dessert every day, if not multiple times a day.  With 28 upon me, it’s time to change this.
  • Acknowledge birthdays. Send cards, texts, emails or phone calls.  Do something to celebrate and connect with the people I love. 
  • Blog 50 times.
  • Connect with my siblings monthly, at minimum.  My brothers and sister, along with Caleb and my parents, are the people who matter most to me in the world and I almost always have fun and feel lifted up when I talk/text/snap with them.  And yet, I don’t do it enough. 
  • Get organized with giving.  I donate here and there, but in a highly disorganized fashion.  I want to consider what causes and organizations I value and admire (and Caleb, too) and get organized about making donations to them. 

Prayerfulness

  • Reflect/journal for at least fifteen minutes each day. 
  • Continue to invest in Spiritual Direction, and integrate what Rosemary (my Spiritual Director) has to say to me into my life. 
  • When I have a lull moment — in the grocery store line, or the shower or the car — give a “help, thanks, wow” prayer: ask for help with something I need, say thanks for something I’m grateful for, and lift a word of praise.
  • A feeling of skepticism accompanies most of my moments of prayer; let the skepticism go

Poise

  • Wear heels more, because: look good, feel good, do good.  Or, as William James more poignantly wrote, “Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.”  In other words, if I look poised, I will feel more poised, and I will be more poised.
  • Floss daily and take vitamins at least a few times each week.  Flossing is one of those things that I have known for a long time I should do regularly, but just couldn’t have been bothered about it.  I figured that 2017 was as good a time to commit to this as any, and I knew that developing this healthy habit would help me feel on top of my life; the same goes for vitamins.  These goals loosely tie into poise for the same reason as wearing heals.
  • Before going into situations that I know will push my buttons, prepare myself: take a deep breath and say a prayer for composure and remind myself that I have agency and the ability to be poised.  Then go act accordingly!

“Life is Hard. But Love Wins.”

I recently read this quote by Glennon Doyle Melton on her Instagram feed: “Life is hard.  But love wins.”  If I had to pick six words to summarize my philosophy of life, those might be them. dsc_0133

Challenge, struggle, grief, pain, frustration, annoyance, anxiety — these things are real.  Informed by Internal Family Systems model, I am a big proponent of acknowledging and naming all our feelings, of giving the negative as well as the positive a voice, of normalizing the dark aspects of ourselves and our experiences that we so often want to hide or gloss over.  Life is hard.  And if not particularly so in the present moment, we know that it will be: we will all face losses and heartache and disappointment, in some capacity.  As one of my favorite Divinity School professors said, “the one thing I guaranteed my children upon giving them life was death.” 

And yet.  (Those are two golden words themselves, offering the chance for a closer examination, a longer look, a turning over of an idea, like a coin in your hand, to get a different perspective.)

Hope, satisfaction, relief, connection, warmth, joy, kindness — these things, the many manifestations of love in its various emotions and flavors, are also real. dsc_0107

Caleb is visiting his parents and siblings in Ohio for our sweet niece’s first birthday party, so I’m spending the morning in bed, content with my laptop, journal, a stack of books, and a cup of coffee.  I’m cozy under the weight of the quilt my mom made us for a wedding gift, with its “courthouse steps” and “Ohio star” patterns, mixing fabrics from my childhood — snips of halloween costumes and Cameroonian prints and my St. Andrew School uniform.  What a gift of love.  What a tangible reminder of the attention, time, creativity, discipline and tenderness my mom has wrapped around me — warm and protective, like the quilt itself — for the past almost-three decades.dsc_0125

I’ve felt anxious and sad about my parents this past week.  My mom slipped on the ice — breaking her nose, jamming her shoulder and gashing her forehead — and then they’re also about to head off for six months in Uganda.  I worry about them and I worry about me and what I would do if something happened to them.

The realness of love doesn’t negate the hardness of life, but maybe it makes it worth it. 

Words for the Year

New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap.  I always begin the book group I facilitate with an icebreaker question — a way for the varied members gathered to get to know each other better, and a way for me to be reminded of everyone’s names — and this past week I asked after any New Year’s Resolutions.  Not only did 90% of the group not have resolutions, they actively disdained the whole premise of resolutions. 

Haters gonna hate/to each their own/different strokes for different folks/insert your chosen cliche here, and I stand firmly and excitedly by the premise of New Year’s Resolutions.  Goal setting, in general, gives me a sense of order, the chance to self-examine — to reflect on where I am and where I want to be — and an opportunity for growth.  Sure, January first is an arbitrary date for initiating goals and reflecting, but aren’t all holidays arbitrary dates for celebrating the things that matter to us (patriotism, gratitude, faith, love) and the things that make life fun (candy, autumn, warm weather)?  And isn’t an arbitrary date better than no date at all?  Having a set date ensures — for me, at least — that reviewing my life and making plans to improve it will happen at least annually. 

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Because I so enjoy the process of making New Year’s resolutions, and goal setting in general, I tend to make many resolutions.  For the past few years, I have also picked a word as an overarching theme for the year.  This year, I chose three words (all related) and each of my more concrete goals relates in some way to the words.  The words are like the light at the beginning and the end of the tunnel, and my individual goals are like the path that stretches through the tunnel.  The purpose of each individual goal is to help me reach the end, but the light at the end is also the light that propels me to move forward and illuminates the path. 

This year, my words are perspective, prayerfulness and poise.  I spent the afternoon journaling about the words to help me get a better sense of what they mean to me — how I hope they will frame my year, and what I hope they will guide me towards. 

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Do you have New Year’s Resolutions?

Holiday Reading

I was like a kid in a candy shop with my Christmas holiday reading — delighted, and a tad bit hyper-active. I bounced back and forth between three winners: Anna Quindlen’s Miller’s Valley, David Brooks’ The Road to Character, and Zadie Smith’s Swing Time.

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Since its recent publication, I had been saving Miller’s Valley, and, much as I enjoyed it, I also regretted finishing it.  For me, having an unread Anna Quindlen novel is akin to possessing a get-out-of-jail-free card.  It’s comforting to know that when hard-times come I have an almost-guaranteed good read on the shelf…all I can say is that my girl Anna better be hard at work on her next novel and taking good care of her health. 

The Road to Character is my kind of non-fiction: interesting, well-researched, digest-able, and relevant.  I don’t read anything that I think is entirely irrelevant (is anything entirely irrelevant?), but hey, a biography of Marcel Proust is uncontestedly less applicable to my life than the insights of David Brooks. What I particularly appreciate about Brooks is his ability to, on top of presenting thought-provoking information, instigate self-reflection.  I certainly wouldn’t consider his non-fiction “self-help,” but it prods me to examine my way of being in the world.

And Zadie Smith?  Well, she’s just flawless.  Swing Time includes almost all of my favorite attributes of R.F.P.P: it’s a coming-of-age story meets family drama meets tale of female friendship.  On top of that, it’s an “expand your worldview” kind of novel, giving me the opportunity to look at the world from a new perspective. 

I would highly recommend all three of these books.