I don’t have a mantra. I will probably never have a mantra, and my Sanskrit is… let’s just say patchy, at best.
But there are certain phrases I repeat to myself, over and over. Because they keep me from going nuts.
Every now and then I find a new phrase. It gets tacked to my wall, made into a screensaver, and it pops into my head at random times. It gets chanted (mentally) when my kids or my work threaten to make my blood boil.
Turns out you have some favorite sanity-saving phrases too, as evidenced by our call for great quotes on Facebook and Twitter. So what do I say, and what do you say? These:
Get knocked down seven times, get up eight.
This is supposedly a Japanese proverb, sometimes translated as “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” It makes no sense, literally, and that’s part of what I love about it. Because usually the thing that’s knocked me down for the sixth or seventh time makes no sense, either.
The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off. -- Gloria Steinem
I will save the story of how I met Gloria Steinem for some other time. Suffice to say that whatever I thought of her before I met her, it was nothing compared to how I felt about her after.
God bless the old people, for they have come far.
God bless the young people, for they have far to go.
God bless those in the middle, for we are doing the work. -- African prayer
A doula led this prayer at a ceremony for a pregnant friend of mine. Have I quoted it properly? Probably not. Is it really an African prayer? Who knows. But as someone “in the middle,” it sure stuck with me.
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. -- Goethe, via John Anster
This quote, which was tacked to a wall near my desk for years, has given me the motivational kick I need more than once. While usually attributed to Goethe, these lines are very far from a literal translation of anything he ever wrote. It seems that one of his translators, John Anster, took a very liberal approach to a couplet from Faust.
When you’re going through Hell, keep going. -- Winston Churchill
This is similar to another favorite of mine, which runs along the lines of “If it’s not all okay in the end, it’s not the end.”
It’s not your job to like me, it’s mine. -- Byron Katie
This one is fondly dedicated to everyone who’s ever told me I am “not like other women” (What is that supposed to mean!?) or that I don’t “fit in.” It is so nice, finally, not to care.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas Alva Edison
From the man, who, when asked if he felt like a failure because his attempts at making a light bulb seemed to be going nowhere, allegedly replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that a light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.”
If you don’t like starting over, than stop giving up.
Thanks to Sonja Thayer for suggesting this one. It’s an especially timely reminder, since my New Year’s resolutions are typically running into trouble about now.
Better keep yourself clean and bright. You are the window through which you must see the world. -- George Bernard Shaw
I remember taking computer science classes in college and learning the maxim, “Garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, no matter how good your algorithm, if you feed it bad data, it will spew bad results. I feel this way about everything we put into our minds and bodies, from food to relationships. If I feed my brain garbage, it will produce garbage -- no matter how smart or clever I think I am.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead
When my point of view on a particular issue seems completely outgunned and out-moneyed, this is the quote that gets me out of my funk.
If you think you will fail or succeed, you are right.
Descaid suggested this one via our Facebook page. I couldn’t find an attribution -- maybe because so many people have adopted it as their own?
Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Unknown
My all-time favorite. Not because it’s apolitical, but because you have to start somewhere.
-- Kimberly Weisul
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Photo of Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in Annie Hall