When we’re having a rough time, the first thing we’re told to do is to speak about it; talk it through with someone; a problem shared is a problem halved. This is good advice. We do need to talk out our feelings. But, saying it and doing it are different things and it can be hard to open up about things that you maybe feel embarrassed about, if you’re scared you might be judged, or if you feel like you’ve ‘talked too much’ about your feelings to someone and don’t want to be a burden. I can promise you that you are not a burden to people who are meant to be in your life and shame is a social construct. That said, it is difficult to open up, and that is where reading quotes comes in.
‘Friends make the good times better and the hard times easier‘
The perks of reading quotes
There are three main perks to reading, and writing down, quotes. First of all, they’re relatable. We all know the feeling; when someone is chatting and says something that you completely relate to, something that you thought other people wouldn’t understand. It happens a lot with grief, when we open up about the thoughts and feelings that seem ‘awful’ or ‘weird’ and someone else says, ‘OMG same’- the feeling of normality and validation is amazing. What’s great is that this doesn’t just come from talking to other people, it comes from quotes too.
The second perk is the ability of quotes to articulate a feeling or experience we’ve had but been unable to string into a sentence. They can also change our perspectives on those feelings and experiences, allowing us to heal better. Reading something- a poem, a post, a story or even listening to an interview and hearing someone else talk about a feeling or experience you had can be liberating as heck.
What’s even more amazing for me is reading something like this written a long time ago; a beautifully written, perfectly packaged, bite-sized experience reminds me I’m not alone. It shows me that other people have gone through what I have and survived it; survived it to the point where they’ve made a lasting positive impact on the world- a piece of writing for generations to relate to.
Finally, quotes can give us advice and direction. When we’re at a crossroads, they can direct us which way to go. They are that firm but fair friend who tells us what we need to hear- that we are responsible for our own lives, that a relationship where you aren’t valued isn’t sustainable no matter how much you want it to work, and that there is a journey to feeling good and that journey may take longer than you want it to.
‘Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own’
Where to find good quotes
My favourite place for quotes is Goodreads. You can search based on the topic – so I usually search for motivational quotes, quotes for grief, resilience or heartbreak. Goodreads includes quotes from all sorts of sources, specifically books. You can also be your own Goodreads and keep a little notebook (or quotebook) with you when you’re reading. Writing quotes as I read them isn’t a great method for me, as it breaks my reading flow, so sticky notes are a good compromise!
I also follow some poetry accounts on Instagram, to balance out my pretty negative newsfeed with some relevant positivity! Button Poetry is brilliant too, the passion of the speakers really drives home their messages. Some of my favourite poems are:
‘Life Attempt’ by Jae Nichelle
‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’ by Jesse Parent
‘Guilt Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ by Blythe Baird
‘Alternate Universe in Which I am Unfazed by the Men Who Do Not Love Me’ by Olivia Gatwood
I’d also recommend ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’. I read this book recently, after a student recommended it, and the whole cake and crumbs analogy for relationships helped a LOT.
Quotes and me
My mum gave me a diary when I left for Japan in 2018. To tackle loneliness and capture as many memories as possible I would write what I did every day, even if it was just a trip to the shop for veggies. One of the first things I wrote in that diary was a quote by Bob Bitchin, that I also had up on my wall.
‘The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude’
When things got difficult, I started writing down more and more quotes that I had seen and found relatable. They would come from books I’d read, songs I’d listened to, advice from a friend or quotes I’d found online. Soon I was writing a quote a day until the diary became a museum of my own survival. It was physical evidence of me cancelling out the bad with the inspirational, the understanding and the resilient. It was a reminder when I felt that things were too much that I’d already gotten over so much already. This whittled away in my second year, until completely stopping when my dad died.
I was focused so much on surviving each day, operating on autopilot, that I subconsciously refused to address my feelings. And because I wasn’t addressing them, I didn’t need quotes that would help me understand them. I don’t regret it. It meant that, at a really difficult time, when things got difficult, I could handle it. I could keep going to work, giving advice, washing my hair, smiling, cooking and functioning.
‘Sometimes even to live is an act of courage‘
I grieved bit by bit, my grief like water through a pinhole in a barrel. It worked well enough for some time, until the water was emptying more slowly than the water poured in. Recent heartbreak flooded my barrel and the power of the flood stripped the skin from my bones, leaving me exposed and feeling everything all at once. It’s painful and frustrating. My bones scrape against everyday life and there are times that it gets too much, where I look away from the light at the end of the tunnel and deny the purpose of struggling through. But there is a purpose.
My skeletal nudity allows me to get a good look at parts of myself I don’t usually see. I get to see the worn cartilage at my humerus from carrying so much pain, the cracks in my metacarpals from holding on to people who would break me and the missing fragments of my ribs from the pounding of my overgrown heart so full of love. Seeing my worn body means that I can heal it. I can wrap my hands and hold onto boxing gloves, steering wheels and pizza. I can grow thick, blossoming vines around my humerus and in the gaps in my ribs I can build an extension with gold and soil and hard things, allowing my overgrown heart room to keep growing.
When you feel entirely bare or broken, that is the time to improve your foundations.
However it is you’re feeling, I can guarantee that someone else has felt it. They won’t have had your exact experiences, but they will have felt what you’re feeling. Reach out to that pool of understanding and bathe in it. Things will get better and you will be able to share your own stories of perseverance which will, in turn, help someone else.
Another quote (last one I promise) that I found when I was revisiting my 2018 diary was from one of my favourite books, by Haruki Murakami:
‘And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about‘
What quote have you found useful recently? Let me know in the comments!