I have to admit…I am a collector of sayings. Words speak to me. I love hearing how other people view the world, whether it’s cheesy or moving or a little of both. It is one more way in which I discover that I am not alone in my experiences and emotions. People say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes I would prefer the thousand words. Language is a beautiful thing, so I thought I would share some recent favorites. Most of these have either popped up on my Facebook newsfeed or are sayings that friends or family have shared with me (If I know the author I am sure to give them credit, otherwise I mark the author as “Unknown”). You will certainly see a pattern with the phrases that have meant the most to me of late. I hope they hit you right in the feels the way they have for me.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” – C.S. Lewis
God bless C.S. Lewis. As someone who loves to write, I absolutely adore this take on life. We are each writing our own story. Although the past cannot be changed, we have the ability – the responsibility – to not use our past as an excuse to not make the most of the present, which will in turn change our future for the better. If I let my past determine my future, I would never love again and would hide myself away from the world, for fear of further heartache or abuse. But how could that truly be called living? I am here, in this present moment, and am responsible for the next step on my journey. Life is what we make it, is it not?
“She loves deeply regardless of the love she gets back in return, and it is both her biggest strength and her biggest weakness…” – N.R. Hart
I initially started to type here that I have spent the last decade being used by other people, but that would not be entirely accurate. I have actually spent the last decade giving of myself. I am a servant at heart. If I feel that I can help someone or bring some small amount of light to someone’s day, I will do whatever it takes. I have finally come to the realization that this is not always a good thing. This is why the above quote means so much to me right now. It is a reminder that being a kind and generous spirit can lead to personal pain and suffering. Too much of a good thing is bad…or so I’ve been told when I eat too many almonds or take too much Vitmain C. There must be a happy medium between unbridled generosity and complete selfishness. If that happy medium is either ignored or never discovered, either extreme will push us to the point of emptiness and despair.
“You have to meet people where they are and sometimes you have to leave them there.” – Iyanla Vanzant
The first part of the statement is fairly easy for me. As an empath, I am naturally drawn to people where they are in that moment. I see them. I feel them. I tend to have much lower expectations for others than I do for myself because I want to give them credit for trying. I only want to see the good in others, regardless of their actual intentions. Inevitably, I often end up giving more than I receive in a relationship or friendship. If this isn’t nipped in the bud, it can result in a toxic relationship. That is where the difficult latter part of the statement comes into play. No matter how desperately I want someone’s intentions to be good and pure, they sometimes just aren’t. And it’s okay to acknowledge that, admit that they aren’t good for you, and walk away. Yes, it might hurt the other person, but a toxic relationship is never one sided…it’s toxic for everyone involved. Know when to walk away.
“If you don’t define yourself for yourself, then you will be crushed into other’s fantasies of you and eaten alive.” – Audre Lorde
This one is a bit morbid, but truth can be grotesque. I have spent my life trying to be what other people want me to be – or at the very least, what I think other people want me to be. I am now paying the price for never figuring out who I am. I feel like a balloon – full of air, but likely to pop at any moment. After so many years of inventing a version of myself based on the needs around me, I am finally finding the courage to shed light on the bits and pieces of humanity that make me who I am. I want to examine the ugly sides of me so I know what to improve upon, while also focusing on the beautiful parts of me so that I don’t lose sight of my intrinsic worth. Instead of a balloon barely hanging on by a string, I hope to soon be a rock that is solidly grounded. I want to get out of bed every morning, confident in who I am for me, rather than who I might be for this person or that person. The more confidence I have in my own identity, the more others will hopefully acknowledge my light and welcome my authenticity.
“And like the moon, we must go through phases of emptiness to feel full again.” – Unknown
This is a hard pill to swallow. I can tell you just how hard it is because I am in the empty phase right now. As you may have gathered by now, I have had a few rough patches over the last few years. I would argue that I have never been completely empty, but I have been dangerously close. It is a scary feeling to reach a point at which it’s difficult to remember why you need to take your next breath. What I find so hopeful about the above statement is this: it’s a phase. This means that the pendulum must swing the other way at some point. It may not be tomorrow or next week, but I will feel less empty at some point. When the pendulum does arc in the opposite direction, I will be ready.
“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.” – Bell Hooks
This gives me goosebumps. Part of the reason I jump at the chance to shower someone else with generosity and love is because I see my identity through the lens of what I can do for others. But what can we really offer in any sort of relationship if we don’t first have a solid appreciation for alone time with ourselves? On my dark days, I don’t want to be anywhere near myself or the stench of my insignificance and weakness. If that is how I view myself, how can I possibly expect anyone else to want to be near me either? Any escape I find by losing myself in someone else is temporary at best. At worst, I end up used up and unloved by both myself and the other person. The only way to be a light in someone else’s life is to recognize our own flame first and give it room to grow.
How did you know that you were meant to be a healer?
Because I kept falling in love with broken people.
Then why are you alone?
Because I’m broken too so I’m falling in love with myself to get a taste of my own medicine.
— Kwabena Foli
From a young age, I have been a rescuer. As a child, I cradled baby birds that fell out of their nest and attempted to nurse injured animals back to health. This carried over into adulthood. I am drawn to people who are broken, not because I believe I can fix them, but because I believe I can make their life better. I might not be able to heal your broken bones, but I can try to make you a little more comfortable while you heal yourself. The danger with this mentality is that it attracts people who want to be comfortable without actually going through the pain of healing themselves. They want to be pampered without doing any of the work necessary to better their own self. In fact, they often don’t actually acknowledge any brokenness at all. The rescuer mentality attracts the users and abusers who will suck you dry and then leave in the night when they realize you have nothing left to offer them.
I have been drawn repeatedly to this saying over the last few months. It catches my eye and sometimes gives me a touch of anxiety. It gives me anxiety because of how real it is. What it communicates is raw and devastating in its truth. I have fallen in love with broken people for me entire adult life. I am alone. There is a reason for that. I can’t help people discover peace if I can’t look at myself in the mirror every day. Now is my time to fall in love with my brokenness so I can begin the next phase of my journey just a little more whole.
“Empathy: Let me hold the door for you. I may have never walked in your shoes, but I can see your soles are worn, your strength is torn under the weight of a story I have never lived before. Let me hold the door for you. After all you have walked through, it is the least I can do.” – Morgan Harper Nichols
People might disagree with me, but in my opinion, this is the very idea of Namaste. I may not be able to comprehend the suffering or experiences you have been through, but my spirit acknowledges and respects that you have suffered it…that you have experienced it. I don’t need to experience cancer to recognize that it is devastating. I don’t need to experience the loss of a child to recognize that a piece of your heart has been snatched away and will never return. I don’t need to experience the loss of a home to realize that you have lost physical belongings and emotional memories all in one fowl blow. I don’t need to experience domestic violence to recognize the impact it has on your very spirit. I may not know exactly how you feel or why you feel that way, but I can still respect the fact that you feel…you hurt…you sometimes don’t know if you can go on. If we all had a little more empathy and respect for each other, this world would be a different place.
“Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.” – Unknown
This speaks to me of forgiveness. It is difficult to forgive other people, but even more so to forgive ourselves. There are times that I find myself thinking “If only I hadn’t given so many years of my life to the wrong person” or “Why didn’t I realize sooner…?” But what good do these thoughts do? Am I changing the past? No. Instead, I need to go through the difficult process of forgiving myself for not knowing better at the time. I try to remind myself that I would not be who I am today without each mistake along the way. Each bruise or scrape or cut adds to my character. No one is perfect…I don’t expect them to be. Why should I expect any different from myself? Learn to forgive yourself and move forward with the knowledge that you are beautiful because of the fact that you have made mistakes, fallen, and picked yourself back up again. If you never fall, you never have the chance to rise up again.
“May you attract someone who speaks your language so you don’t have to spend a lifetime translating your soul.” – Unknown
I think the reason I find this saying to be so gut-wrenchingly beautiful is because 1) I want to attract someone like this, but also because 2) to find someone who speaks your own language, you must first speak your own language. If I can discover who I am at my core and learn to love all that I am and all that I have to offer, only then will I recognize someone who too can love all that I am and all that I have to offer. The key is finding someone who can handle the bad along with the good…the ugly along with the beautiful. If they can recognize and appreciate all sides of me, whether good or bad, I won’t need to work as hard at explaining myself. Maybe someone like this exists…maybe not. Either way, I don’t intend to settle for someone less again. I have that in writing so I can’t go back on my word!
“And in the end, we were all just humans…drunk on the idea that love, only love, could heal our brokenness.” – Christopher Poindexter
This one leaves me speechless, so I will leave it at that.