My Favorite Quotes

Here I have compiled some of my favorite quotes. Some of them are from books I’ve read. Some of them are in prose form, some poetry. Some of them are from favorite authors of mine, others from authors with whom I’m not incredibly familiar. Some from popular authors, others from authors not well-known. Some of them I’ve come across randomly, others I’ve sought out. They inspire me in some way or are just beautiful passages. I begin with my favorite author, Shirley Jackson.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality. Even katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.

~Shirley Jackson

I know something about this obsession business. It isn’t real. It is a huge cloud of looming nothingness triggered off by small events. But it is not real. I am the captain of my fate. Laughter is possible. ~Shirley Jackson

‘Can’t you make them stop?’ I asked her that day, wondering if there was anything in this woman I could speak to, if she had ever run joyfully over grass, or had watched flowers, or known delight or love. ~Shirley Jackson

When shall we live if not now? ~Shirley Jackson

So long as you write it away regularly, nothing can really hurt you.

~Shirley Jackson

Time is the only critic without ambition. ~John Steinbeck

The power is in you. The answer is in you. And you are the answer to all your searches. You are the goal. You are the answer. It’s never outside.

~Eckhart Tolle

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

~Marcus Tullius Cicero

Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. ~James Baldwin

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. ~Emily Dickinson

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you. ~Charles Bukowski

If I never see you again I will always carry you Inside, Outside. On my fingertips and at brain edges and at centers, centers of what I am of what remains. ~Charles Bukowski

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster. ~Elizabeth Bishop

Breathe and release anything that does not serve you. ~Anonymous

The root of suffering is attachment. ~The Buddha

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ~Mahatma Gandhi

I am rooted, but I flow. ~Virginia Woolf

My brain hums with scraps of poetry and madness. ~Virginia Woolf

No need to hurry, no need to sparkle, no need to be anybody but oneself. ~Virginia Woolf

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here forever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself. ~Virginia Woolf

So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea. ~Virginia Woolf

What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on oneself with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark. ~Virginia Woolf

Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body? ~Virginia Woolf

Many are destined to reason wrongly; others, not to reason at all; and others, to persecute those who do reason. ~Voltaire

Poetry is what happens when nothing else can. ~Charles Bukowski

I am a series of small victories and large defeats and I am as amazed as any other that I have gotten from there to here. ~Charles Bukowski

The world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you. ~C.G. Jung

Difference is what unites us. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state. ~Andrew Solomon

Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open. ~Natalie Goldberg

I think hell is something you carry around with you, not somewhere you go. ~ Neil Gaiman

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself. ~Neil Gaiman

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It’s a community space. It’s a place of safety, a haven from the world. ~Neil Gaiman

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Gibran

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend. ~Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles William Eliot

A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar. ~Stephen King

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop. ~Rumi

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. ~Rumi

I cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do. ~Jana Stanfield

Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~Stephen King

Contentment vs. Striving

Both contentment and goal-setting are lauded as positive by society. Yet they seem very much like opposites. If you’re content, why are you striving to reach goals? If you’re striving to reach goals, does that mean you’re not content?

Let’s examine the issue. What is your reason for goal-setting? How do you know if your goals are worthy and are coming from a positive place? Is your motivation internal or external? What positives will reaching the goal bring into your life? Is it a lasting or temporary positive?

Be honest with yourself about why you’re setting a certain goal and whether the motivation comes from a place of good faith or insecurity. For example, wanting to lose weight because your BMI is dangerously high, you have trouble breathing after walking up one flight of stairs, or your knees have started to hurt are all healthy reasons to want to lose weight. But losing weight in order to catch your crush’s eye is not. The first set of reasons are in the spirit of self-care and self-love and have lasting positive effects. The second reason is due to feelings of inferiority, of not being “good enough”. And even if you do lose weight and win over your crush, a relationship based on looks is unstable, dehumanizing, bound to cause resentment on your part, and can be easily severed by the introduction of someone who is even better-looking. In other words, the effects are temporary. Likewise, setting a goal to make an A this quarter instead of a B is a worthy, healthy goal if it’s springing from yourself instead of your parents and is due to you knowing you are capable of making a better grade. In this case, the goal emanates from your knowledge that you are highly capable, intelligent, hard-working, and an A is within your grasp. On the contrary, giving in to your parents or professor and setting a goal to make an A when you used all your talents, skills, abilities, and other positive traits to make the B, is self-defeating, self-sabotaging, and inherently comes from a place of seeking to placate others by admitting to the falsehood that you’re not good enough as you are.

Is it lazy to be content? Should you always be goal-setting? Feeling contented (fulfilled, satisfied) when you already have what you need is often an indication you have not given in to societal standards that urge you to always be buying, upgrading, competing, and climbing life’s “ladder of success.” And goal-setting should not be considered inherently positive. Contentment and striving are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. You can feel content but also set goals. If you don’t meet the goals you set for yourself, does your unconditional positive-regard for yourself become diminished? It shouldn’t if you are truly content. If so, reappraise the motivation and origin of your goals. Are your goals the result of self-hate, lack of confidence, not feeling like you measure up, or not feeling like you play an important role in the world? This might mean self-care and introspection should take place in the immediate and goals set on the “back burner” until they can be re-evaluated when you are in a healthier and more loving frame of mind towards yourself. According to the Buddha, “the root of suffering is attachment”.

Happiness should be a positive effect of contentment and goal-achieving. It should not be the goal, itself. It should be the means, not the end. Striving for happiness is the best, fastest way to rob yourself of contentment. Happiness is an amorphous, abstract concept, and therefore, it’s easy to chase it your whole life. Instead, ensuring that you are living in a way concordant with your physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, financial, social, and spiritual health will bring happiness. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”