Nov 26

Gratitude: A Few Quotes for Thanksgiving; Plus, Brene Brown Links to Joy

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse. Henry Van Dyke

“The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have. If you get what you expect, you will not be grateful for getting it.” Dennis Prager

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

“I am thankful for all difficult people in my life, they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

“Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.” Anne Lamott

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” Randy Pausch 

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

“If you can’t be content with what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped.” Author unknown

“Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

Twelve years of research led to Brené Brown‘s own conclusion, echoing the above, that people who describe their lives as joyous are those who practice gratitude actively:

Apr 18

On Courage and Choices: Quotes By Well-Known Self-Help Authors

Some quotes by well-known self-help authors on courage and choices, two interrelated topics.

Richard Carlson: One of the mistakes many of us make is that we feel sorry for ourselves, or for others, thinking that life should be fair, or that someday it will be. It’s not and it won’t. When we make this mistake we tend to spend a lot of time wallowing and/or complaining about what’s wrong with life. “It’s not fair,” we complain, not realizing that, perhaps, it was never intended to be.

Randy PauschWe cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

M. Scott Peck:

  • Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
  • The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

Ellen Bass/Laura Davis: Everyone has the right to tell the truth about her own life.

Mark Twain:Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.

Winston Churchill: Fear is a reaction; courage is a choice.

Jack Canfield:

A lot of people feel like they’re victims in life, and they’ll often point to past events, perhaps growing up with an abusive parent or in a dysfunctional family. Most psychologists believe that about 85 percent of families are dysfunctional, so all of a sudden you’re not so unique. My parents were alcoholics. My dad abused me. My mother divorced him when I was six…I mean, that’s almost everybody’s story in some form or not. The real question is, what are you going to do now? What do you choose now? Because you can either keep focusing on that, or you can focus on what you want. And when people start focusing on what they want, what they don’t want falls away, and what they want expands, and the other part disappears.

Surya Das: Other people can’t cause us to be impatient unless we let them do so. In other words, others don’t make us impatient. We make ourselves impatient, through our expectations and demands, fixated attachments and stuckness.

Anne LamottYour problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

Eckhart Tolle: Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.

Stephen R. Covey: But until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.”

Jan 10

Finding Your Own Identity: Lizzie Velasquez’s TED Talk, Plus

Finding your own identity is the theme of  24-year-old author and motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez in her inspirational TED talk. Her point? You don’t have to be what others perceive about you or how they want to define you. Finding your own identity can be significantly challenging, but it’s a process worth undertaking.

Lizzie knows of what she speaks, having lived with an extremely rare kind of disorder all her life that prevents weight gain and has blinded her in one eye. It’s believed that what she may have is Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome, “a condition that causes accelerated aging and fat loss from the face and body” (The Huffington Post).

Because of how she’s been perceived, Lizzie has been the victim of widespread bullying—she was once called “The World’s Ugliest Woman” in a YouTube video watched by millions.

Lizzie, however, has risen above. One major and positive factor in her development has been her parents, who’ve always given her full support—indeed, to the point that she didn’t know when she first started school why others reacted to her so differently.

Below, Lizzie recent TED talk:

How does one actually become oneself? Sounds easy, but usually it’s not at all. Writer Anne Lamott has some advice and words of wisdom in her article called “How to Find Out Who You Really Are.”

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.

Other Selected Quotes On Finding Your Own Identity

Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna LoveBlood Trinity: “To know who you are is the greatest power of all.”

Harvey Fierstein: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Choke: “We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.”

George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones: “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

Laurell K. Hamilton, Narcissus in Chains: “The only true happiness lies in knowing who you are…and making peace with it.”

Dec 17

Anne Lamott On Spirituality: Faith, Prayer, and Meaning

I am a terrible and lazy Christian. I do not believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. I just skip about a third of it. I love the parts I love so much, but I find a lot of it just appalling. When a right-wing person quotes a passage in order to attack and stigmatize another person—or group of people—I just roll my eyes. I find most famous Christians to be full of themselves and of prejudice and self-loathing, masquerading as devout religious belief. I find all fundamentalism to be terrifying and very destructive. Anne Lamott, Friends Journal (interview with Jana Llewellyn)

Anne Lamott is such an admired author I wish I could be fully interested in all of her stuff—her nonfiction books on topics related to faith included. (For some background, see my previous post on Bird By Bird as well as one on perfectionism.)

At least her stuff about God and such is not of standard fare. Because of this and because she’s so honest and down to earth and funny, I’m more than okay with directing certain readers—you’ll know who you are—to two of her most recent books, small companion presentations on prayer (Help, Thanks, Wow) and on “meaning, hope, and repair” (Stitches).

I. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (2012)

Jana Llewellyn, Friends Journal, describes this highly popular volume as follows:

Help, Thanks, Wow focuses on the simplicity and importance of three prayers we all find ourselves saying from time to time: the prayer for when we feel desperate or hopeless (Help!), the prayer for when we feel fulfilled (Thanks!), and the prayer for when we feel awed by the beauty around us (Wow!)…(T)here is something to be said for the moments when we utter—perhaps on purpose or by accident—a word or phrase that helps us find a deepening, an opening, the ability to go on.

Not to mention her fourth prayer, “Help me not be such an ass,” though she doesn’t elaborate on this one. Maybe someday, she says.

Publishers Weekly says of Help, Thanks, Wow: “Equal parts 12 Step meeting in the church basement and walks on the beach, it’s a prayer manual for people who wouldn’t be caught dead reading prayer manuals…(A)nybody who gets it as a holiday gift will likely just say, ‘Thanks. Wow.'”

Anne Lamott, by the way, does happen to be openly in recovery. As quoted on the site Big Think: “…I became a Christian before I got sober. So I was a drunk, bulimic Christian…” before finding generally healthier ways.

Some Quotes from Help, Thanks, Wow:

A sober friend from Texas said once that the three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you. I hate this insight so much.

If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.

People always told me, “You’ve got to get a thicker skin,” like now they might say, jovially, “Let go and let God.” Believe me, if I could, I would, and in the meantime I feel like stabbing you in the forehead.

Below, Anne Lamott shares a few words with Oprah regarding prayer:

II. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (2013)

Caroline Leavittville interviewed Lamott about the title’s concept of “living stitch by stitch”:

When we have a huge change, or loss, empty nest or divorce, or a public catastrophe, like Newtown, it’s so daunting. It leaves us stunned, raw, speechless, feeling like little children. It seems hopeless. Our minds tell us that we can’t get over this, or make peace with that, or have a big rich trusting life again; let alone joy and laughter.
But all around us are people who can and do help, who rush to our sides, like white blood cells. I love that Mr. Rogers’ mother told him when he was a boy that after a tragedy, he should look towards the helpers–that’s where we’ll see the miracles. And all around us are people who did lose their spouses to death or divorce or Alzheimer’s, who did resurrect, over time and with infusions of grace, and the revelation of life’s difficult, gorgeous truths. And one of these truths is that we just have to make a knot in a piece of thread, and make one stitch, in fabric that will hold a knot, and then figure out one place on the other side of the torn fabric, that will hold one stitch. How can that POSSIBLY be enough? I just know that it is.

“Lamott’s…most insightful book yet, Stitches offers plenty of her characteristic witty wisdom…this slim, readable volume [is] a lens on life, widening and narrowing, encouraging each reader to reflect on what it is, after all, that really matters,” says People.

Publishers Weekly calls it “vintage Lamott: funny, brilliantly self-deprecating, and insightful.”

Stocking stuffers, anyone?

Oct 03

“Desiderata”: The Middle Part of Max Ehrmann’s Prose Poem

Picking up from yesterday’s post on Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata,” here’s Part Two… 

VI. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Psychology Today“Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. As a result, we are constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of domains (for example, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success). Most of us have the social skills and impulse control to keep our envy and social comparisons quiet but our true feelings may come out in subtle ways.”

Steve Furtick“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Anne Lamott: “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.”

VII. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

 VIII. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Seeking everyday heroes? Not hard. Here are just a few websites of note:

Or watch this video of real life heroes—and others like it—from YouTube:

IX. Be yourself.

Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Bernard Baruch: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Leo Buscaglia: “The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.”

Harvey Fierstein: “Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

Jo Coudert: “For you cannot live in someone else. You cannot find yourself in someone else. You cannot be given a life by someone else. Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose.”

X. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Erica Jong: “Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it…It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”

Douglas Yates: “People who are sensible about love are incapable of it.”

Shown below, “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (featuring Mary Lambert) has been known to melt the hearts of gay and straight and in between:

The final part of this blog series on “Desiderata” will be here tomorrow…