Warning: naughty language ahead!
My life crumbled into a thousand little pieces last November.
The story is too long and too labored to share here. But suffice it to say that every single part of my life went up in smoke, and I was faced with the incomprehensibly daunting task of putting it all back together.
At the time, I reached out to a friend from college and told her what was going on. She replied, “Text me your mailing address. I’m sending you a book.”
A week later, tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed showed up at my door. I worked my way through its chapters over the course of the next couple of weeks. Reading it was like eating and digesting a 17-course meal. I could only take small bits at a time. Some chapters made me laugh. Others made me weep. Others made me gasp or say “wow” aloud to no one.
Cheryl’s words became my mantra and my bible as I slowly gathered up the fragments of my life. I have read and reread and reread it. I have memorized my favorite sentences.
If you haven’t read this treasure of a book, I have one assignment for you: go to your local bookstore as soon as you can, buy a copy, and curl up with it to soak in Cheryl’s heart-splitting words.
In the meantime, or if you’re lucky enough to have already read it, here are 19 quotes that will leave you tender and gutted and split open:
1. “Love is our essential nutrient. Without it, life has little meaning. It’s the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we receive. It’s worthy of all the hullabaloo.”
2. “Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”
3. “Forgiveness doesn’t sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.”
4. “Of this I am absolutely sure: 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. I know too many people who didn’t do those things. They all end up mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions of the people they intended to be.”
5. “The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that.”
6. “I’ve written often about how we have to reach hard in the direction of the lives we want, even if it’s difficult to do so. I’ve advised people to set healthy boundaries and communicate mindfully and take risks and work hard on what actually matters and confront contradictory truths and trust the inner voice that speaks with love and shut out the inner voice that speaks with hate. But the thing is—the thing so many of us forget—is that those values and principles don’t only apply to our emotional lives. We’ve got to live them out in our bodies too. Yours. Mine. Droopy and ugly and fat and thin and marred and wretched as they are. We have to be as fearless about our bellies as we are with our hearts.”
7. “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.”
8. “Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.”
9. “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.”
10. “Go, even though you love him. Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him. Go, even though you’re afraid of being alone. Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay. Go, because you want to. Because wanting to leave is enough. Get a pen. Write that last sentence on your palm. Then read it over and over again until your tears have washed it away.”
11. “Be brave enough to break your own heart.”
12. “Jump high and hard with intention and heart. Pay no mind to the vision the commission made up. It’s up to you to make your life. Take what you have and stack it up like a tower of teetering blocks. Build your dream around that.”
13. “Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.”
14. “You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”
15. “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
16. “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love.”
17. “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.”
18. “It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.”
19. “Just close your eyes and remember everything you already know. Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.”