Monthly Archives: December 2015

Brave Enough – Cheryl Strayed

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brave enough

Do not reach the era of child-rearing and real jobs with a guitar case full of crushing regret for all the things you wished you’d done in your youth. People who didn’t do those things risk becoming mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions of the people they intended to be.

There isn’t a thing to eat down there in the rabbit hole of your bitterness except your own desperate heart.

Transformation doesn’t ask that you stop being you. It demands that you find a way back to the authenticity and strength that’s already inside of you. You only have to bloom.

What if I forgave myself? What if I forgave myself even though I’d done some things I shouldn’t have? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything different from what I’d done? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if all those things I shouldn’t have done were what got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

Hello Fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.

Believe in the integrity and value of the jagged path. We don’t always do the right thing on our way to rightness.

Be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it.

An ethical and evolved life entails telling the truth about oneself and living out that truth. Leaving a relationship because you want to doesn’t exempt you from your obligation to be a decent human being. You can leave and still be a compassionate friend to your partner. Leaving because you want to doesn’t mean you pack your bags the moment there’s strife or struggle or uncertainty. It means that if you yearn to be free of a particular relationship and you feel that yearning lodged within you more firmly than any of the other competing and contrary yearnings are lodged, your desire to leave is not only valid, but probably the right thing to do. Even if someone you love is hurt by that.

The people who don’t give up are the people who find a way to believe in abundance rather than scarcity. They’ve taken into their hearts the idea that there is enough for all of us, that success will manifest itself in different ways for different people, that keeping the faith is more important than cashing the check.

If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely on the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up. And if they don’t – if they have loved too deeply, if they do wake each morning thinking, I cannot continue to live – well, then we pathologize their pain; we call their suffering a disease. We do not help them: we tell them that they need to get help.

You will learn a lot from yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.

No is golden. No is the power the good witch wields.

GRIEF is tremendous, but love is bigger. You are grieving because you loved truly. The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of death. Allowing this into your consciousness will not keep you from your suffering, but it will help you survive the next day.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long, meandering walks. The days reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.

You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.

FEAR, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. That nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.

Withholding love distorts reality. It makes the people who do the withholding ugly and small-hearted. It makes the people from whom things are withheld crazy and desperate and incapable of knowing what they actually feel. Don’t be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word love to the people you love, so when it matters the most to say it, you will.

Trust your gut. Forgive yourself. Be grateful.

What’s important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart. Pay no mind to the vision that the committee made up. You get to make your life.

You must love in order to be loved. You must be inclusive in order to feel yourself among the included. You must give in order to receive.

Desperation is unsustainable.

The question isn’t whether you should stay or go. The question is: How would your life be transformed if you chose to love this time with all your intelligence?

Some facts of your childhood will remain immutable, but others won’t. You may never make sense of the bad things that happened to you, but with work and with mindfulness, with understanding and heart, you will make sense of yourself.

Fucked-up people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you and they teach you how to respect yourself.

That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it.

There is a middle path, but it goes in only one direction: toward the light. Your light. The one that goes blink, blink, blink inside your chest when you know what you’re doing is right.

Forgiveness doesn’t just sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up the hill.

In order to set limits successfully one must see the situation for what it is, discern what one wants and is willing to give, and then respectfully communicate those things to the involved parties. Limits are not punishments, but rather lucid and respectful expressions of our needs and desires and capabilities. They allow us to be rational about situations that would otherwise make us froth at the mouth with fury. When we fail to set healthy limits we become bitter, angry, tiny-hearted people.

Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.

Art isn’t anecdote. It’s the consciousness we bring to bear on our lives.

It was wrong. It was so relentlessly awful that my mother had been taken from me. I couldn’t even hate her properly. I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I wished she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she did the best she could and realize that what she did was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could fill. I’d have to fill it myself again and again and again.

The narratives we create in order to justify our actions and choices become in so many ways who we are. They are the things we say to ourselves to explain our complicated lives. Perhaps the reason you’ve not yet been able to forgive yourself is that you’re still invested in your self-loathing. Would you be a better or worse person if you forgave yourself for the bad things you did? If you perpetually condemn yourself, does that make you good?

The greatest truth isn’t in the confession, but rather in the lesson learned.

Can I convince the person about whom I’m crazy to be crazy about me? The short answer is no. The long answer is no. There are so many things to be tortured about. So many torturous things in this life. Don’t let someone who doesn’t love you be one of them.

IF someone is being unkind or petty or jealous or distant or weird, you don’t have to take it in. You don’t have to turn it into a big psychodrama about your worth. That behavior so often is not even about you. It’s about the person who’s being unkind or petty or jealous or distant or weird. If this were summed up on a bumper sticker, it would say: Don’t own other people’s crap. The world would be a better place if we all did that.

Trust that all you’ve learned was worth learning, no matter what answer you have or do not have about what practical use it has in your life. Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into the crazy beauty that awaits.

The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.

There are stories hidden in the language we use, whether we’re conscious of them or not. They tell the truth of our hearts and minds.

We do not have the right to feel helpless. We must help ourselves. After destiny has delivered what it delivers, we are responsible for our lives.

Accept that their actions hurt you deeply. Accept that this experience taught you something you didn’t want to know. Accept that sorrow and strife are part of even a joyful life. Accept that it’s going to take a long time for you to get that monster out of your chest. Accept that someday what pains you now will surely pain you less.

We have the capacity to redraw the lines between our powerlessness and our power. We’re altered by what hurts us, but with love and consciousness, with intention and forgiveness, we can become whole again.

The whole deal about loving truly and for real and with all you’ve got has everything to do with letting those we love see us. Silence makes hard things harder than they need to be. It creates a secret you’re too beautiful to keep. Telling has a way of dispersing things.

Parents teach their children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you didn’t get that from your parents, you have to teach yourself.

My advice to my adolescent self? You know who you are, so let yourself be her now. It’s okay to be smart and ambitious and curious and not terribly cool. Don’t waste all those years trying to get the boys to want you and the girls to like you. Don’t starve yourself skinny. Don’t be a pretty cheerleader. Don’t lose your virginity to the captain of the football team. Don’t lose anything to him. Be the captain. You are the captain. Take the ball and run.

Go because you want to go. Because wanting to leave is enough.

You have to say “I am forgiven” again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.

The particularity of our problems can be made bearable only through the recognition of our universal humanity. We suffer uniquely, but we survive the same way.

If love were an animal, it would be two: a hummingbird and a snake. Both are perfectly untrainable.

Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.

If it is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.

How worthless, how weak, how vanquished, how hollow it is to have a parent who exists but cannot reach, who says but will not be, who thinks but doesn’t dare, who plays and plays and plays, but only, always, forever in the minor key. We sing the song of parenthood only in the major notes. Were you there? Did you love full-throttle? Did you fix it after you fucked it up?

Cultivate an understanding that life is long, that people both change and remain the same, that every last one of us will need to fuck up and be forgiven, that we’re all just walking and walking and walking and trying to find our way, that all roads lead eventually to the mountaintop.

Most people don’t cheat because they’re cheaters. They cheat because they’re people. They are driven by hunger or for the experience of someone being hungry once more for them. They find themselves in friendships that take an unintended turn or they seek them out because they’re horny or drunk or damaged from all the stuff they didn’t get when they were kids. There is love. There is lust. There is opportunity. There is alcohol. And youth. And middle age. There is loneliness and boredom and sorrow and weakness and self-destruction and idiocy and arrogance and romance and ego and nostalgia and power and need. There is the compelling temptation of intimacies with someone other than the person with whom one is most intimate. Which is a complicated way of saying it’s a long damn life. And people get mucked up in it from time to time. Even the people we marry. Even us.

You don’t have to be young. You don’t have to be thin. You don’t have to be “hot” in a way that some dumbfuckedly narrow mind-set has construed that word. You don’t have to have taut flesh or a tight ass or an eternally upright set of tits. You have to find a way to inhabit your body while enacting your deepest desires. You have to be brave enough to build the intimacy you deserve. You have to take off all of your clothes and say, I’m right here.

We all get stuck in place on occasion. We all move backward sometimes. Every day we must make the decision to move in the direction of our intentions. Forward is the direction of real life.

You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.

Acceptance has everything to do with simplicity, with sitting in the ordinary place, with bearing witness to the plain facts of our lives, with not just starting at the essential, but ending up there. Acceptance speaks in the gentlest voice. It commands only that we acknowledge what’s true.
It’s folly to measure your success in money or fame. Success is measured only by your ability to say yes to these two questions: Did I do the work I needed to do? Did I give it everything I had?

ONE ends a romantic relationship while remaining a compassionate friend by being kind above all else. By explaining one’s decision to leave the relationship with love and respect and emotional transparency. By being honest without being brutal. By expressing gratitude for what was given. By taking responsibility for mistakes and attempting to make amends. By acknowledging that one’s decision has caused another human being to suffer. By suffering because of that. By having the guts to stand by one’s partner even while one is leaving. By talking it all the way through and by listening. By honoring what once was. By bearing witness to the undoing and salvaging what one can. By being a friend, even if an actual friendship is impossible. By having good manners. By considering how one might feel if the tables were turned. By going out of one’s way to minimize hurt and humiliation. By trusting that the most compassionate thing of all is to release those we don’t love hard enough or true enough or big enough or right. By believing we are all worthy of hard, true, big, right love. By remembering while letting go.

Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

I used to see a butterfly in my mind’s eye every time I heard the word transformation, but life has schooled me. Transformation isn’t a butterfly. It’s the thing before you get to be a pretty bug flying away. It’s huddling in the dark cocoon and then pushing your way out. It’s the messy work of making sense of your fortunes and misfortunes, desires and doubts, hang-ups and sorrows, actions and accidents, mistakes and successes, so you can go on and become the person you must next become.