52 Lists Project // Week 15

Yet another installment of the 52 Lists Project, from Morrea Seal. List your favorite quotes.

It’s funny. I often get a beetle up my bazoomba when people quote well-known authors. To me, it’s somewhat George Plimpton-ish.  You didn’t think it. You didn’t write it. You don’t get to say it. But that’s just the chip on my shoulder about being a lackadaisical English major and not reading all the books I should have read, instead of slacking off and bullshitting my way through fifteen-page term papers three hours before class. It’s not you, George. It’s me and my insecurity. Really. I wish I had such a good memory, and such a command of English literature. I don’t. I was drinking pitchers of beer in a basement bar in Syracuse, New York. My bad.

But I’d be an ignorant fool if I said that other people’s words and sentences and stories hadn’t changed me, affected me, perhaps even charted a different course in the direction of my life. I am in love with words. Always have been. There are times when I find mine to be self-serving and meaningless, and just when I do, I find that one other person has gotten solace from the simple act of my stating them.  Perhaps, even, if that one person is me — needing to see the words in my head out here in the world, on paper or on a screen. That’s really all there is, in the craft of writing. The telling, the sharing, the understanding, the affirming.

I’m listing some quotes here, but not all — because song lyrics alone can take up an entire chapter for me. I keep a “Words of Wisdom” file in Pinterest — because that’s exactly the kind of cheeseball that I am — but it helps, at times when I’m feeling less-than and grumpy and hopeless. Words heal. I am grateful for the legions of writers and thinkers and actors and musicians and artists whose expressions have affected my life.

This week’s challenge: list your favorite quotes.

“Think happy thoughts.” — my father, quoting “Peter Pan” whenever I was frightened by a nightmare, or not believing in myself.

“Everyone makes mistakes…oh, yes they do.” — my mother, quoting a song from “Sesame Street.” Heard less often in my teen years.

“You are bee-you-tee-ful, inside and out.” — my grandmother Rose. She always believed in me.

“Am I right am I wrong?” — my Aunt Patty. No need to answer her. Entirely rhetorical. Gives one pause.

“Boop-boop-ee-doo.” — my Uncle Billy. He’d been driving somewhere in Brooklyn while listening to the radio. The announcer was holding an on-air contest — the first caller to correctly identify George Washington’s words while crossing the Delaware would win a handsome cash prize. My Uncle Billy always quoted the one guy who called in, and when asked, “What did George Washington say when he crossed the Delaware?” loudly answered — BOOP-BOOP-EE-DOO! and hung up. “That guy shoulda won,” he often said.

“Be truthful, gentle and fearless.” — Gandhi

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” — Thich Nhat Hanh. I fail at this every day. But I get up the next day and try again.

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” — Buddha. I came across this quote when I lived in San Francisco, and I’ve always kept it close.

“I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other.” — Pete Seeger. Goodness. Isn’t that all there should be?

“Find what you love and let it kill you.” — Charles Bukowski

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. the truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” — Anne Lamott

“The most horrible line in the English language for me is, ‘God, you haven’t changed a bit.’ It’s the worst thing you can say to anybody.” — Elaine Stritch. I wish I had her cojones.

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.” — Henry Miller

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