Every so often a sentence is spoken which reverberates longer that the sound-wave which carried it. These words delve straight into the center of our hearts, pound down stakes and make a home for themselves. It is our job to listen and learn.
Be strong. Be loving. Be fearless.
These words came from a Catholic hymn I can’t quite remember. When I first heard them, they struck such a chord in me that I instantly knew them by heart. The extraordinary aspect of these words is that they cover all the bases for how to live well. There are times when we may act strong, but fail to speak with kindness. Other times we can be overly generous, to the point where it weakens our spirit. Everyone needs a shot of fearlessness to move forward in life. For years I sung these words to myself whenever I was consciously making a choice. They challenge me be strong, loving and fearless in every way I possibly can. Just the simple repetition of these words enabled me to live with greater intention and feel comfortable being my authentic self. I plan on posting these words in my children’s room to act as a gardening stake, guiding their path upward as they grow.
Always take the riskiest choice.
I was rushing down a street in 90s grunge Seattle, late for an acting class I no longer cared about when this idea popped into my mind. I distinctly remember living by this motto throughout my college years. I am certain my mother was not thrilled about some of the choices these words inspired. I never took the words to mean act recklessly. It was more of a personal dare to explore the world outside my comfort zone. Choices these words facilitated include: riding on the back of a scooter, transferring colleges, modeling nude for art classes, speaking up during class discussions, releasing an old dream to be an actor and initiating friendships. At the time I thought I was stepping out of my comfort zone, but in retrospect I see that I was actually expanding it. With each small and large risk the world cracked open a little bit more for me.
You will meet a man and he will follow you.
A fortune teller from my hometown’s local gypsy family told me this when she read my palm on Independence Day. The electricity fizzled and flashed us into darkness and fireworks exploded just as she uttered these words. It was all very prophetic and spooky for me, being nineteen years old at the time. These words turned out to be untrue, but I’m glad I took them to heart, because they gave me incredible freedom. I was never afraid to risk a romance over changing geography. When I felt compelled to move, I was convinced that whatever boyfriend I was with at the time would follow me if he was my true love. This enabled me to sidestep mistakes some of my friends made: staying in a rut for Mr. Right Now, or worse, dropping her own dreams to move for Mr. Wrong. I wish every young woman would have a psychic give her this reading to empower her to follow her passionate heart, not just her romantic heart. That reading was perhaps the best five dollars I ever spent.
You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.
If you watched Oprah, you probably know these words from the magnificent poet and author, Maya Angelou. In one sentence Ms. Angelou enabled me to release deep-seeded regrets a psychoanalyst would have spent a lifetime muddling through. I scrambled and scraped my way through some traumatic experiences and I survived. But once I got to the other side of my struggles, I looked back and saw all the mistakes I had made and time I had wasted. I was filled with profound regret over this. I thought I had squandered my youth and some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Ms. Angelou’s words rang true, because I knew I had always done my best. Of course, as we grow our best gets better, but that doesn’t mean our first efforts were useless, meaningless or weak. First steps may be small and wobbly, but they initiate the movement forward. I no longer regret them and I am filled with deep gratitude for Ms. Angelou’s wisdom.
Never mistake mercy for weakness.
During a teenage spat with my mom she sent a chill down my spine with these words. I have no idea what the argument was about, but these words put me in me and my smart mouth in my place. I was throwing everything I had at her and arrogantly assumed I was winning the fight. When she spoke these words, I realized two things. 1. She was much stronger than me, even though her demeanor was more gentle. 2. Her love for me was absolute and pure. In one sentence she knocked the wind out of my sails, spun me around, and shoved me off in a different direction. Besides the lesson of the moment, these words help me maintain control of myself when I argue. I pause before saying something truly cruel or hurtful, and usually choose against verbalizing a particularly mean thought. Sometimes I lose the fight because of this, but I do feel a sense of victory over myself. Choosing mercy over triumph is an act of incredible strength. Funny thing is, my mom doesn’t even remember saying this at all. A mother’s words carry such enormous power.
Throw your heart in front of yourself and run to catch it.
This Arab proverb is my current mantra and I absolutely love it! When I hear these words I see a stick figure girl literally throwing her heart in front of herself and running to catch it. It inspires me to live a bold, passionate life. What if I’m not fast enough? What if my heart splatters or shatters on the ground? There is no ending in this proverb. It is all verb: throw, run, catch. There is no room for hesitation or doubt. Throw everything you have, the contents of your entire heart into your future, and run like mad to get there yourself. Beautiful.
What words do you live by?