Words of Wisdom August 2, 2019 3:07 PM   Subscribe

The end of another flabbergasting week is upon us and it's helpful to so many MeFites to think positive thoughts; in fact, for some, it's a discipline. Do you have a personal motto? Do you recite the Serenity Prayer to yourself on the regular? Mutter "Fear is the mind-killer" as you head into a contentious meeting or prepare to dive into cold water? Reassure yourself that "chance goes to the prepared" or that "perfect is the enemy of done?" If so, are you channeling someone who played a big role in your life? If, say, the Golden Rule still functions as your personal operating system, how did you learn it? Let us know, and maybe you'll help a fellow MeFite regain their balance.

This MetaTalk query is part of an ongoing series continuing the good work of Fizz, who is taking a break from the site. Be a font of thoughtful good cheer, like Fizz: kind to yourself and your fellow MeFites!
posted by carmicha to MetaFilter-Related at 3:07 PM (105 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

One I like but don't always follow is "Preparation is the grandfather of success". I'm pretty sure I read it in a Black Panther comic book.

My high school calculus teacher used to tell us "Practice makes better" and I use it all the time now.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:16 PM on August 2 [8 favorites]


“The perfect is the enemy of the good” helps me in every aspect of my life. Especially the times when I hesitate to reach out to someone because I’m not sure of the right thing to say in a sad situation.
posted by sallybrown at 3:22 PM on August 2 [19 favorites]


I have always taken solace from this song.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:34 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


I have so many of these! I come by them randomly, some of these are ones that I've had knocking around in my head forever, some of them are new - I never know what's going to strike me as suddenly powerful. I write things like this down in my journal all year and look at them at the end of the year.

"You do not have to be good." - Mary Oliver

"There is a crack in everything/ that's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen

"You can't predict the future." - my BFF, whenever my anxiety starts to spike abt something I have zero control over

People do what they need to do to survive. (potentially I got this from Grey's Anatomy a million years ago)

"Name it to tame it." - Dan Siegel (about naming your emotions and experiences in order to manage and integrate them)

"There is nothing broken inside you." and "What if you are deeply okay?" - Lisa Dion, founder of Synergetic Play Therapy

“At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”
- Fred Rogers

"It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have." - Cheryl Strayed

"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief... For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." - Wendell Berry

“I think my quarry is illusion. I war against magic. I believe that, though illusion often cheers and comforts, it ultimately and invariably weakens and constricts the spirit.” - Irvin Yalom

I love quotes and words of wisdom - I also have a flag hanging over my desk that just says "inhale - exhale" for a reminder to Keep Breathing Through It. If I think of more, I'll post again! Love this one.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 3:39 PM on August 2 [14 favorites]


This Assata Shakur quote is prayer-level status for me:

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
posted by sugar and confetti at 3:47 PM on August 2 [6 favorites]

Accountability feels like an attack when you're not ready to acknowledge how your behaviour [sic] harms others.
Whenever I feel my back getting up in a conversation, I try to take a moment to stop and think about why I'm feeling attacked, and what I am trying not to acknowledge. Conversely, if someone else is ramping up a discussion into an argument, I try to look at it as "they're trying to avoid something unpleasant", and that often shows me a path to de-escalation.

My 12-step program has me saying the Serenity Prayer at least 3 times a week, and they'd probably like me to say it and live it more.

A couple of other things I try to keep in mind:

"My feelings will not kill me"

"You can't save your ass and your face at the same time"

"Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others"
posted by hanov3r at 3:48 PM on August 2 [7 favorites]


“Do not worry. Worrying is like paying interest on a debt you may never have owed.” —Charlie Papazian

“First do it right, then do it fast.” —Jim B., a former co-worker of mine.

“What do we know, and what do we not know?” —another former co-worker whose face and voice I can picture but whose name I can’t remember right now.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:51 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Mine is “worst first” - it kills procrastination dead. On any given day, with any given list of tasks, I quickly asses which I want to do least and then I just ... go do it.

Which frees up so many resources that I was unknowingly using to resist said worst thing.
posted by hilaryjade at 4:03 PM on August 2 [10 favorites]


“Self torture breeds character”. Mostly applied to exercise or other difficult, chosen tasks. Basically I’m choosing to make myself uncomfortable right now because I know I’ll like myself a lot more later for having done it (and finished it) rather than quitting when it starts to get hard.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 4:12 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


I mentioned this is a similar Ask a while back. I don’t have, and am not planning to have kids, but I came up with possibly the most perfect dad advice I’ve ever heard, the sort of thing a dad tells their kids until they’re tired of hearing it, until one day, much later in life, they think, “wow, dad was right” and I turn they badger their kids with it. And, since I’m not planning to spawn, here you go, free to a good home:

If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

It’s something I’ve arrived at after being a part of too many groups in too many situations where there's a sudden paralysis, where no one knows what to do, or if something is okay or not, and it’s always something I find to be frustrating. If you’re not sure, just ask someone, and they’ll tell you. Is it possible to get that dish, but with a different side? Just ask the waiter. Is it okay to do this thing in this space? Ask someone in charge. If you don’t ask, it won’t happen. If you do ask, maybe you’ll be told no, but maybe you’ll be told yes. It’s a little thing, but it makes life so much simpler than trying to guess, or waiting for someone else to ask for you.

Outside of that, Hillel the Elder is pretty much what I try to live my life by:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, who am I?
If not now, when?
posted by Ghidorah at 4:25 PM on August 2 [14 favorites]


'What would the Green say?' still has some utility for me.
posted by Chairboy at 4:46 PM on August 2 [8 favorites]


hilaryjade, you eat the frog first!
posted by hanov3r at 4:47 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Recently came across this picture, from this ted talk:
look. life is bad. evryones
sad. we're all gona die. but i
alredy bought this inflatable
boumcy castle so r u gona
take ur shoes off or wat

posted by Glinn at 4:52 PM on August 2 [13 favorites]


"Nobody said life was going to be fair." -- my mom
"When you know better, you do better." -- Maya Angelou
"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."

And I don't exactly have a quote for it, but I try to live my life assuming the best, giving people the benefit of the doubt and allowing them room to make mistakes and correct them. I've gotten burned on occasion but to the extent that that it is a thing, the "karma" I've earned in exchange far outweighs those occasions.
posted by drlith at 4:55 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


This, too, shall pass. Works for bad times (it won't last forever!) as well as good times (soak it all in!).

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." Gandalf, via J.R.R. Tolkien

“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Albus Dumbledore via JK Rowling

And about a million Terry Pratchett writings; some of my favorites:
Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.
Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That's why they’re called revolutions.
Goodness is about what you do. Not what you pray to.
So much universe, and so little time.
Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.
posted by cooker girl at 5:00 PM on August 2 [15 favorites]


MEESE CAN FAIL THIS TEST AND STILL HAVE A HAPPY LIFE

In one year in high school, I transferred after a few days from a physics class to a chemistry class. The chemistry class had spent the few days I missed going over a long list of ions, working on memorizing them. I came into the class the day before the test was scheduled, when all the students were going to be tested on those ions. I, of course, knew none of them.

The night before the test, I was at a friend's house. I was freaking out. I couldn't memorize all those ions in such a short period of time--it was hopeless, and I was terrified. It was probably an anxiety attack I was having there, while sitting on the floor of my best friend's room. She was trying to help me study by helping me make flashcards, but I was far more preoccupied with freaking out than actually studying.

It's also important to understand: it wasn't actually a test. It was a stupid little memorization quiz. It was so small, it ultimately had almost no bearing on my final grade in the class. I wasn't good at perspective, back then.

At one point, she got very frustrated with me. She took one of the index cards she was making into flashcards for me, she drew a giant happy face on it, and she wrote those words in all-caps over it: MEESE CAN FAIL THIS TEST AND STILL HAVE A HAPPY LIFE

She used my actual name, of course, rather than my username here.

That was twenty-one years ago now. I still have that index card. It's gone with me everywhere I have, from college, to grad school, from one side of the United States to the other. I will always keep it. And, when in doubt, I remind myself: whatever the test, whatever the circumstances, I can fail it and still have a happy life.
posted by meese at 5:13 PM on August 2 [70 favorites]


"The failure mode of 'clever' is 'asshole'" is something I read on John Scalzi's blog years ago and has stuck ever since. When you've (me!) got a wiseass streak, it's good to keep some neural homunculi keeping at least half an eye on the relevant warning gauges at all times. Sometimes they (me!) still slack off at their post, but overall the team's doing better than it used to. I think!

"It's okay to get angry...just try not to make a habit of it," my dad, when I shared an anecdote of one of the very few times I flat out lost my temper on some meeting or other. And mused that I didn't feel great about it but you know what, it sure did resolve that issue and afterwards whoever the other guy was actually started doing their job properly instead of heaving things over the wall.

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." -- attributed to Mark Twain, I think.
posted by Drastic at 5:24 PM on August 2 [6 favorites]


Oh, and: "Cheap. Fast. Good. Choose two." Applicable to so many things, especially to a usually much more accurate than not bullshit test of anyone proposing any plan anywhere--if they're promising all three, they're full of it, whether willfully or just delusionally.
posted by Drastic at 5:28 PM on August 2 [12 favorites]


I had a doc, now deceased. She said, "People say life is wonderful, then bad things happen, and they are wrong. Life Is difficult, and sometimes good things happen."
posted by Oyéah at 5:50 PM on August 2 [16 favorites]


Too many, mostly from fiction; I have a long personal quotes file that I revisit from time to time for inspiration. But here are three that have been speaking to me recently:

“I didn't get where I am by having reasonable goals.” — Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice.

“Suicidal glory is the luxury of the irresponsible. We're not giving up. We're waiting for a better opportunity to win.” — Lois Bujold, Barrayar.

“Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.” — Lois Bujold, A Civil Campaign.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 5:51 PM on August 2 [8 favorites]


Bill O’Reilly is a dick, but “fuck it .... we’ll do it live” is a good motto for a rock musician.
posted by spitbull at 6:09 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Not a saying applicable to anyone else, but I was in line to get into the cavernous convention hall to take the qualifying exam for my profession, and it had been, like, a week of me barely sleeping, barely eating, not having an appetite which had never happened in my life to that point, and I was having vivid fantasies about having to walk into my future boss's office and explain why I had failed. And we were all lined up single-file against the wall against a ramp, clutching our laptops and breathing through our noses. You could FEEL the aerosolized anxiety and panic in the air.

And to keep from being swept away, I ended up muttering to myself in Chinese, in 100% seriousness and 0% perspective:

YOU ARE THE DAUGHTER OF EXPERT TEST TAKERS

YOU ARE THE GRANDDAUGHTER OF EXPERT TEST TAKERS

AS A THOROUGBRED IS BRED TO RUN

SO YOU ARE DESTINED FOR THIS

My father was one of the top five scorers in all of Hong Kong in his year of taking the high school graduating/college entrance examination. So was his older sister. And his younger brother. And my grandfather excelled in college examinations, and legendarily survived the brutal Chinese campaign against the Japanese in Burma in WWII because he was in the Army, and they were starving and malnourished, and he lost his molars from chewing on grass and plants because that was all they had to eat, but by God, when a high-ranking commander was visiting, my grandfather somehow wrote an essay that impressed the commander, and that was his ticket out of the jungles of Burma.

IF HE COULD WRITE AN ESSAY IN THOSE CONDITIONS, I COULD GODDAMN SIT AT A TABLE IN AN AIR CONDITIONED ROOM AND DRINK MY WATER AND TYPE 500 WORDS ABOUT WHO GOT TO INHEIRIT BLACKACRE!!!!!!!!!!
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:10 PM on August 2 [42 favorites]

Do you have a personal motto?
No time like the present!
posted by 4rtemis at 6:13 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


I should probably look for one. My primary relief is knowing I'll be dead eventually, so a pithy quote or saying would be a bit better.
posted by Freeze Peach at 6:17 PM on August 2 [7 favorites]


“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it" from the Jewish ethical text Pirkei Avot.
posted by softlord at 6:26 PM on August 2 [7 favorites]


My personal mottoes are:

"The perfect is the enemy of the good enough."
"A word to the wise is sufficient."
"When in doubt, punt."
"First time? Do half."
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:28 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


I have been getting a lot of mileage lately out of "Just Do The Thing."

Also, I'm in a place where there are SO MANY up in the air variables and I find "Either it will work, or it will not" to be kind of comforting. There are only two possible outcomes, and there are next steps for either.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:35 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


I have a few but the one I’ll share:

Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. - Chögyam Trungpa
posted by warriorqueen at 6:39 PM on August 2 [5 favorites]


The original Jessamyn West had a lot of good quotes that I often think of as good aphorisms. One of the ones that has always stuck with me is this one
You make what seems a simple choice: choose a man or a job or a neighborhood- and what you have chosen is not a man or a job or a neighborhood, but a life.
Not super deep, but it helps to remind me "This is it. This, right now, is it." I'm an anxious person, so I spend a lot of time living in or imagining the future, what might go wrong, what could go right if I only overdetermined it correctly. It's tiring. So sometimes it's good to remember that if I'm a state of relative ease or freedom from discomfort, that it's okay to just be in that place, that I did somehow choose that either now or in the past, and it's okay to just inhabit it and not have racing squirrel brain trying to make it .01% better. I literally tell myself "You are OK"
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:52 PM on August 2 [18 favorites]


Do today today.
posted by thelonius at 6:53 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


I ATEN'T DEAD
- Discworld's Granny Weatherwax

(I can't really explain why, but it gives me such a peaceful yet determined feeling whenever I remember it)
posted by rather be jorting at 7:05 PM on August 2 [7 favorites]


End of day recitation:
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
posted by Miko at 7:14 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]


I have always taken solace from this song

Fixed that for me. "Always look on the bright side of life..."

"This, too, shall pass" was my mantra when our first was tiny and I was exhausted. That, and "everyone was a baby once."
posted by filthy light thief at 7:26 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


I like, "fall down seven times, stand up eight". It's essentially, "never give up", which I say to myself daily. And, when I'm very anxious I think, "I could be right; I could be wrong". Other things that I say to myself are probably mottos, but I think this operates more like a 'mantra', and is how I talk myself down. It helps remind me that I don't actually know the outcome of anything.
posted by marimeko at 7:48 PM on August 2 [5 favorites]


I'm very fond of a quote by Bishop Kallistos Ware that I got from Suzette Haden Elgin's Religious Language Quotations page:
"Each of us from the moment of his or her birth exists in an environment in which it is easy to do evil and hard to do good.... If I know somebody very well, in ten minutes, if I set my mind to it, I could perhaps say to them things so cruel, so destructive, that they would never forget them for the rest of their life. But could I in ten minutes say things so beautiful, so creative, that they would never forget them?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:02 PM on August 2 [10 favorites]


Lyrical snippets forever.

"One penny won't do!"
"Not your run of the mill, 'cos for the mill I don't run!"
"Von der Stirne heiss, rinnen muss der Schweiss!"
"Stand up! You've got to manage...."
"Oh no love, you're not alone!"

That's selective and misdirectional, though none the less true for it.

I never watched the BBC series Hustle (feat. an aging Napoleon Solo), but the constant trailers gave me a way of expressing and framing the way I still, naively, approach life, i.e. "You can't cheat an honest man". Neither original nor accurate of course, but true in its context.

On the other hand, real life does sometimes make me invoke the fork-wielding Irishman in the old E&I&S joke, to whit "You're not making a canoe out of me!". He's meant to be the butt of the joke, but frankly I always thought he had the right idea.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:09 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


Watch whose money you pick up. - William S. Burroughs
posted by Candleman at 8:10 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]


"This isn't the best situation, but least there aren't snakes in here with me."

(Retired, after it caused me to have a nightmare about snakes.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:17 PM on August 2 [5 favorites]


Some personal reminders for myself when navigating humans stuff:
There is no perfect word or saying or sentence that will change another person, nothing I can say that will make them suddenly realize "Aha! I see how terribly I have wronged you!" and then they change and it never happens again.

And because I can hopefully remember that, I can also remember this: I can leave.
posted by twentyfeetof tacos at 8:21 PM on August 2 [7 favorites]


I had a ghastly year of personal loss. My mantra then was "When you're going through hell, keep going." It helped me get out of bed and do what needed doing.
posted by workerant at 8:44 PM on August 2 [9 favorites]


1. After a personal circumstance left me in such grinding anguished depression that I couldn't face the idea of feeling that way for the rest of my life, I started telling myself "Just For Today, I don't have to worry about tomorrow; there's no value in torturing myself over yesterday; I only need to jump through today's hoops right now." That sort of became my unplanned mantra. By breaking my suffering into day-size chunks, putting off coping with the accumulative potential of tomorrow's and the next day's and the next day's (and so on) agony until each individual "next day" actually arrived, I was able to manage just today's pain - I didn't have to carry the burden of a lifetime's worth of it every day. Eventually the constant misery receded, I started healing, and life got better. But that reminder helped me get through the worst of the bad times without giving up in a fairly spectacular and tragic manner.

2. Granted it lacks the gravitas of the one above, but "Anything for a weird life" frequently prompts me to not get too hung up on what-ifs and yeah-buts to have fun, to go with the flow and see what new experiences can be had. Granted, I don't let it lead me down dark alleys or into strangers' unmarked vans, but it can be fruitful nonetheless within reason.

3. Following this comment's trend from sublime to ridiculous: Life's to mysterious, don't take it serious! 🤪
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:46 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]


I find myself saying "Sic transit gloria mundi" a lot.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:10 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


Every morning I ask myself two questions:
1) Who do you want to be?
2) What are you going to do about it today?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:12 PM on August 2 [7 favorites]


Mine is crass: "Just because you can find people willing to eat open-faced diarrhea sandwiches doesn't mean that you're cooking when you wipe your ass with a piece of sourdough." (It's kind of open-ended- sometimes it means "Don't get too arrogant over praise- remember to consider the source", sometimes it means "Stop wasting your time doing dumb stuff for foolish people- it will likely end up warping your sense of what's good", sometimes it means "Don't take advantage of folks just because you know you can get away with it.")
posted by 23skidoo at 9:22 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


If every porkchop were perfect, we wouldn't have hotdogs.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:27 PM on August 2 [11 favorites]


Nothing real is ever ideal, and vice versa.
posted by rpfields at 10:57 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Never cruel or cowardly. Buy the ticket take the ride. You win some you lose some but you always drink beer.
posted by vrakatar at 12:12 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
My version of this reverses the other saying: Be careful what you don't ask for, you may not get it.

She said, "People say life is wonderful, then bad things happen, and they are wrong. Life Is difficult, and sometimes good things happen."
This reminds me of a line by Jacob Riis that I try to say to myself sometimes. "The world is not bad. It is good. You have only to touch it right."
(If Riis could spend a lifetime seeing what he saw and still say that, it's worth repeating, for me.)

Also, one from Georges Balanchine. There are a lot of things I wouldn't take his advice on, to put it mildly, but this one helps me: "Dear, just do."
posted by huimangm at 1:22 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


"Take it one day at a time" is a common one, but I realized that sometimes, even the scope of one whole day can be too much for me. "One thing at a time" feels way more manageable. I've been telling myself that a lot recently. (Btw hooray for the show One Day at a Time getting another season)

I literally tell myself "You are OK"

Music -- listening or playing something -- is a big help to me, to keep me steady. A few years ago I got really anxious about something I'd messed up; I didn't realize I had messed up until it was late at night and I had to wait until morning to try to un-mess it up somehow. I was so wound up that I couldn't sleep, so I picked up my guitar and just started playing, at the same time saying all the cliches I could think of to make myself feel better, like "You will be okay," "things will work out," "you will make it through this," etc. When I started, I sort of did it as a joke and felt silly saying them to myself, but it morphed into a melody and more lyrics and I ended up creating a song that seemed to help me process the anxiety.

Everything did turn out fine. I (with some very welcome family help) was able to resolve the thing I'd messed up.

I've sometimes played the song since then to feel better, but I don't know if I'd ever share/release it because the words are so trite. Maybe after I've finished the other music projects I have cooking already.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:36 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


My personal motto is "Let reason guide, experience inform, and compassion inspire our actions," which I've adapted from "Humanism and Its Aspirations."

I also try to keep in mind the following:

"In gratitude to the past, we owe a duty to the future." Ernestine Rose
"Great reforms are not wrought in a day." Frances Wright
"This life is all and enough." Attributed to Edwin H. Wilson
"A shared life in a shared world." Humanist Manifesto I
"We are the custodians of life's meaning." Carl Sagan
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:36 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Also, one from Georges Balanchine. There are a lot of things I wouldn't take his advice on, to put it mildly, but this one helps me: "Dear, just do."

"Do. Or do not. There is no try." Yoda
posted by carmicha at 6:26 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


There was an episode of Nurse Jackie where Eddie said "Is anyone dead? Then calm the fuck down."
I say that - mostly the second part - to myself a lot. Sometimes it helps.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:56 AM on August 3 [7 favorites]


rangefinder 1.4, I hope I get to hear your song someday.

cooker girl & filthy light thief, I'm with you in the "this, too, shall pass" club. A handwritten "This too shall pass" note is up next to my wall calendar.

I have what I really need to describe as a phobia about walking on bridges that cross substantial waterways. (In 2013 and 2014 I participated at the Recurse Center, and got over my fear, but it seems to have returned in recent years; I think I got a lot of practice at RC in facing irrational fear of failure, but now I need to strengthen that figurative muscle again.) I also have a bad? habit of FORGETTING my phobia, cheerfully setting off on a fun excursion that involves crossing such a bridge, and then having to deal with it once I actually see a river way below me and feel the vibrations in the metal. In several cases the chant I have used to get myself across is a Hindu mantra my parents taught me in childhood. I sing it over and over till I'm on the other side.

So a few days ago I was biking around on an afternoon off. As I started walking my bike across a bridge, listening to an episode of "Why Aren't You A Doctor Yet?", I glimpsed the river below me, and was terrified. But I did not want to back off and give up. So I listened to the podcast, and closed my right eye so I couldn't see the water off to the side over the railing, and looked right down at the walkway as I walked forward, and tried to listen to the podcast, and whenever I got scared, I said aloud to myself:

"The only way out is through."

I also told myself the names of various people who were brave, with the implication that if they were brave then I could be too. Like Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

And then I got across, and got to bike around and see a pretty place I had never seen before!

(And around sunset I started looking for a bus homeward, and was lucky and saw a cab, and folded up my bike into its trunk and got home.)
posted by brainwane at 7:49 AM on August 3 [7 favorites]


On failure, from a life that I narrowly avoided: “We must realize that errors by junior leaders stemming from overboldness are a necessary part of learning . . . Not only must we not stifle boldness or initiative, but we must continue to encourage both traits in spite of mistakes.”

On defeat (I don’t remember who told me this, but it stuck): ”Our work was started long before us and, if we are lucky, it will continue long after we are gone. But today we hold the baton. This leg is ours to run, and no one else’s.”

But mostly, these days, I keep coming back to Jennifer Finney Boylan’s introduction to Trans Bodies, Trans Selves:
I remember the mantra I used to have back then, though. I used to whisper it to myself as I walked through the world: Be brave. You are trying to learn something.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 7:59 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Thank you for this thread! These have all played a huge role in certain chapters of my life, and they still ring true. It is good to be reminded of them.

"Let love rule."

"Solvitur ambulando."

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." (R.W. Emerson)

"I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him." (Booker T. Washington)

"The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now." (Thich Nhat Hanh)

"I'm not dead yet." (Frank Turner)
posted by headnsouth at 8:02 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Oh I forgot to mention another one that I repeat to myself when I realize I'm trying to hurry through something: "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast." I hear that's something they say in the military.
posted by brainwane at 9:41 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


"Maximum effort."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:28 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I kind of like, you are not alone, and I like it for its double edge quality. It reminds me to keep others in my thoughts as I make choices. To care and put others first. But it also reminds me when I'm down that there are others around me to help. People care about me, even if I doubt that sometimes.

My wife's huge Catholic family has a saying they all use that I really like. It's family is family, and it's used everywhere among them. From, I love your corn casserole, thanks for making it, to we already knew you're trans and of course, we still love you, to yeah, that was really mean, but I forgive you.

I'm also partial to Miko's Keep an open mind, but not so open as to let your brains fall out.
posted by Stanczyk at 10:43 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Mutter "Fear is the mind-killer" as you head into a contentious meeting or prepare to dive into cold water?

Yes, as someone who has had anxiety my whole life, the Litany Against Fear really is helpful. I want to post the whole thing here:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
posted by capricorn at 10:49 AM on August 3 [12 favorites]


"You don't get to die today." Just something I tell myself when the slog is particularly hard or the shit is particularly deep. It's both a push through and a reminder that some day I'll be permitted to rest.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:51 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


This Kurt Vonnegut quote has influenced me a lot.
But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life-insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, "If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is."

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is."
posted by daisyk at 11:48 AM on August 3 [24 favorites]


"It's now or never" (encouraging myself to be more impulsive in low stakes situations; I feel like I really never get around to anything otherwise).

But also:

"If you need my answer now, it has to be no". (I do hate being put on the spot. I'm the only one who gets to tell myself it's now or never).

"Mühsam ernährt sich das Eichhörnchen". (The squirrel feeds itself with effort. I suppose the english equivalent would be "little by little the bird builds its nest". I'm a patient woman, and I feel that's the closest thing I have to a super power.)

"Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses." (I have a bit of a propensity towards talking without thinking. And in some contexts that's okay, I guess - no bad ideas in brainstorming, the gradual generation of thought through talk - but often, people haven't volunteered to be a sounding-board for my half-baked ideas and it would be better for me to hang back and just listen for a while)

"Never perfect, but if possible, better than necessary". (I never aim for perfect, because I have issues with procrastination as it is, and I really don't think perfectionism would help. I also deeply believe that in most areas of life 30% of the effort will get you 70% of the result. I'm not opposed to going the extra mile once in a while, but there absolutely is a point for me when the additional effort required to achieve the next level just isn't worth it. That will probably always preclude me from achieving true excellence, but I'm also not generally a minimalist, which people who work with me do tend to appreciate.)
posted by sohalt at 11:52 AM on August 3 [8 favorites]


Of course, often enough I'm very far from "better than necessary", so one final one:

"All I owe is my best effort. If that's not enough, it's out of my hands".
posted by sohalt at 12:03 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


I've been going with "All we gotta do is be brave and be kind" from Baby, We'll Be Fine by the National
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 12:31 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


"The right thing to do is the hard thing to do."

"The only way out is through."

"Am I being who Mr. Rogers believed I could be right now?"

When in social doubt, ask if you can get somebody something: some water, something to eat (maybe just a mint or some purse candy), or, if things look bad, some Advil or some Kleenex.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:34 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


I often tell myself: “You’re never in such a rush that you don’t have time to make the bed.”

Sometimes I say it to actually remind myself to make the bed, but mostly it’s a reminder to not forget or ignore the small actions that improve the environment in which I live, whether it’s picking up trash on the street and throwing it in a nearby trashcan or telling my family that I love them. There’s always enough time for that.
posted by Kattullus at 2:18 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


"Do it right or do it twice." But also, "Good enough is good enough." The great thing about words of wisdom is that there are so many.

+1 for "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast." Absolutely essential for any physical skill, and probably many mental ones as well.

From AA et al.: "Hungry, angry, lonely, tired: HALT." And "Play the tape forward."
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 2:53 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I'm also partial to Miko's Keep an open mind, but not so open as to let your brains fall out.

I'm glad it resonated with others! but can't take credit for it. I think I heard it from a teacher at some point, but always really liked it. Apparently its originator is a little hard to pin down.
posted by Miko at 3:40 PM on August 3


Julie Feeney, an Irish chamber pop soprano, has a song called Worry. I sometimes sing the chorus under my breath when things feel out of control.

Do the next right thing
Do the next right thing
Do the next right thing for a minute
Do the next right thing
And let it go


It's got a catchy melody and the tempo of a lullaby, so singing it to myself is a calming exercise. A bit like square breathing. Just do one helpful thing, in this one small moment.
posted by rollick at 3:46 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


My kids grew up on

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")

Don't worry 'bout a ting,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.

It doesn't seem to have ruined them.
posted by Stanczyk at 3:55 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I've always found special meaning in the ending of Gary Snyder's "For The Children":
stay together
learn the flowers
go light
posted by Rash at 6:06 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I'm partial to "do not hurry; do not rest" (a slightly mangled Goethe line).
posted by praemunire at 8:08 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." Gandalf, via J.R.R. Tolkien

also, what Stevie Wonder said ...

We all know sometimes life's hates and troubles
Can make you wish you were born in another time and space
But you can bet your life times that and twice its double
That God* knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed


* switch out God for universe or nature if you wish -- the gist remains the same.
posted by philip-random at 10:41 PM on August 3


I'm pretty sure I first came across this quote on mefi somewhere.

"Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head." - Ann Landers
posted by acidnova at 11:42 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


I am famous at work for saying, "It's always faster the second time." I started saying it in the early 90s when learning desktop publishing, after many an unexpected computer hang/crash/freeze and losing many hours of work.

I noticed when I redid lost work, it went faster because I knew what I was doing and could avoid mistakes I made the first time. Often, the result was not only faster, but better.

In the last two weeks, at work we have had a server crash and a protracted series of recovery attempts, and I have repeated this saying to many co-workers trying not to freak out about lost work.

I overheard another person in my office telling someone else, "Humble Nudibranch says that it's always faster the second time and it's true!"
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:18 AM on August 4 [9 favorites]


"Keep your expectations low and you'll rarely be disappointed". This one sounds like it's trying to be snarky, but it's actually really effective in a lot of situations, both work and personal. There's also kind of a corollary in the concept of managing other people's expectations.

"Stress is caused by giving a fuck". Which is not to say you shouldn't ever give a fuck about anything; but in every stressful situation you should give some thought to how much this actually matters to you in the grand scheme, and adjust your fucks-given and stress levels accordingly.

"Most things turn out mostly ok most of the time". Most of the stuff I worry about never comes to pass; and most problems that have arisen have been dealt with and turned out mostly ok.

"Am I ok right now? Ok." Useful for panic attacks, anxiety, catastrophizing, "what if?" scenarios, etc.

The Serenity Prayer - I've never been in a 12 step group, but the wisdom in this little prayer is so immense.

Here is an Ask from last year with a similar theme and lots of good answers
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:15 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


“If you save everything til the last minute, it only takes a minute.”

Attributing this to my long time BFF, but it’s an interpretation of an economic idea called Parkinson’s Law. Basically, it’s a reminder that misery and soulless bureaucracies are born when one is lost in the planning, preparation, and being responsible for the future and one misses out on the joy of living in the moment.

I’ve always been the busy little ant, slaving away all summer storing food for the winter, working hard through school, responsibly making my way through life towards some kind of vision of Effective Adulthood while my friend the grasshopper lived in the moment, partied through college doing theater, riding the highs and lows of being a dot com millionaire in SF then bankruptcy, divorce. But the whole time he was also traveling, running Burning Man, creating art and music, becoming famous, meeting amazing people and having assorted wild adventures. Somehow, over 35 years of friendship, we’ve always taken each other along for the ride. I just got home after spending another week with him, this time with both of our sets of kids in a cabin at Tahoe, again with our usual crazy ass shenanigans (involving the temporary loan of a faster than shit speedboat with which we tore ass across the lake), so it’s weighing heavily on my mind. In middle age, we both have regrets. His would certainly be that he failed to nurture long term endeavors more, mine that I expend too much time and energy delaying my gratification. Our perspectives balance and each of us has gained from our orbital paths around each other.

In my day to day, most of my friends and colleagues care too much about hospital boards, spend too many hours in meetings and reading financial reports and strategic plans. That’s the kind of meaningless shit I try to either change to make joyful in the moment or save for the last minute so I can give more of the precious little time I have on this planet to the things that are worthy of my attention.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:46 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I was able to finally write my novel thanks to this Andrew Carnegie quote hanging over my desk: People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.'
posted by Mchelly at 5:50 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


Addition through subtraction.

What can I remove from my life first that will improve my health and happiness rather than what I think I should add. This goes for vitamins, health foods, basically any purchases and new people in the pursuit of betterment. So much I can do to drastically improve by removing rather than adding.

Credit goes to an article about nutrition written by an M.D. I find it's worth applying wrt everything.
posted by waving at 6:15 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


These four sayings got me to adulthood:

It's hard to be happy when you have to take your wig off the dresser and your teeth out of a glass. (eg. being happy takes work)

That night when joy began... (Misery can lift spontaneously)

God answers all prayers. Sometimes the answer is no. (If you have to ask the answer is no.)

Don't laugh at my dream and I won't laugh at yours. (People may think I'm weird and disgusting, but that doesn't make me or them unworthy.)




And three more learned here:



Damn it, you've got to be kind.

Look for the helpers.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:59 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


This only works sometimes, but it has been helpful: worry (alone) is not a productive action.

Be kind.

For tough days in teaching: No one is hurt and nothing is on fire in my classroom. It will be okay.

After a tough day in general: I never have to do that day again.

Assume everyone is doing their best, including yourself.
posted by wiskunde at 1:26 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


A few more:

Yesterday is heavy. Let it go.

You cannot pour from an empty cup.

You are the person you've been waiting for.
posted by wiskunde at 1:33 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Go slow to go fast. (I tend to rush. It never pays off.)

"I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the Universe."

An old professor once told me, "My advice is, never teach a course for the first time."
posted by BrashTech at 1:52 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. Second best time is today.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:18 PM on August 4 [6 favorites]


E cosi desio me mena (And so I let desire carry me along)
posted by momus_window at 6:41 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


"Stress is caused by giving a fuck". Which is not to say you shouldn't ever give a fuck about anything

That's true, but don't underestimate the value of not giving a fuck about a lot of things that some people want to claim you should - apart from anything that could cause active or passive harm to yourself or others, of course, but that still leaves a lot to not get worked up over. "Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things."
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:06 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


My favorite is this thing I saw on the wall in the basement of Bexley Hall:

           I CHALLENGE  my traditions
               BECAUSE  I believe
                 TRUTH  without questioning
              IS FALSE

posted by M-x shell at 11:31 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Some I forgot:

"Z'Tod gfiacht is a gstorbn". (You die of fear, you're just as dead. - The Bavarian/Upper-Austrian version of "Fear is the mind killer.")

"Believe people when they warn you about themselves."

"Pick your battles." (But make sure you do pick some. I might be actually over-using that one; I fear I use it as an excuse to not enter the fray sometimes. But my energy is a limited ressource, I do feel I have a right to be a bit strategic about it.)

"One man's trash is another man's treasure."/"You can be the ripest juiciest peach in the world and there's still going to be someone who hates peaches."

In a similiar vein: "Wer nicht will, der hat schon." (You decline my offer, I'm going to assume your needs are already met. It's a reminder for myself that No is a complete sentence; it's not my job to then adjust my offer, try to make it more attractive, compromise my own terms, etc. I've made my offer, the other person can take it or leave it, that's the end of the interaction. I'm not going to woo or cajole.)

Also related: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." It's all about accepting people's choices, even if you don't understand them. (I have a bad habit of thinking I know better, I apparently need all the reminders I can get.)

A favourite from my mum:

"Die anderen kochen auch nur mit Wasser". (Everyone just cooks with water./Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. A reminder to not be overly in awe of people who appear very confident and accomplished - it might seem like they have some sort of superpower/secret inaccessible to you, but that's fairly unlikely; they accepted a challenge and rose to it and chances are you could as well if given the same opportunity. They're doing nothing you couldn't be doing too.)
posted by sohalt at 2:14 AM on August 5 [6 favorites]


The prayer of St. Francis:

O Master
Grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love.
posted by MiraK at 12:08 PM on August 5 [8 favorites]


I chose, and my world was shaken - so what?
The choice may have been mistaken,
The choosing was not.

--Stephen Sondheim
posted by dnash at 1:25 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


It's okay to not like things - it's a good reminder not to be a snob and to not judge. In a way it's a version of "be kind."

"Less is more." There are so many ways this helps me:

My work tends to have projects that try to accomplish OMG EVERYTHING ANYONE HAS EVER THOUGHT OF. Since I started pushing back and advocating for focus over doing literally everything, my productivity has gone up and my bosses have been happier with me. (I once had someone tell me to demo multi-facility software setup to a stand-alone 25-bed hospital, i.e., the least likely facility in the world to use multi-facility setup. No, we are not doing that - it's a distraction from the stuff they will actually use.) And I try to pick just one or two things every day to get done instead of five or six, and I actually accomplished those one or two things most days. It's also helped with work-life balance, when I'm done I'm done and I can go work out or spend time with my family which makes me more productive the next day (Not that productivity is the meaning of life.). Basically, "Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."

It's also a good reminder before taking on tasks at home to consider whether it's really necessary. Frankly I think almost everyone spends a lot of time making life hard on ourselves by doing labor that doesn't really need to be done. If someone you care about expresses concerns, don't jump into fixing mode, stop and listen first. Maybe all they want is listening. If you're about to start doing something at home that requires a bunch of labor, especially emotional labor and especially if it impacts other people, consider whether it really needs to be done or whether you're just doing it because that's the way you've always done it or out of a sense of guilt and obligation. Less labor means more time for healthy things and more time focused on the people you love.
posted by Tehhund at 6:15 AM on August 6 [5 favorites]


I thought of another quote that I've kept in mind for so long that I didn't realize I was thinking of it. In the Lord of the Rings, when Bilbo is suffering over his decision to give Frodo the Ring, Gandalf gently says to him: "Stop possessing it."

Through the years, I have had a lot of preoccupations, beliefs, and desires that have started to prey on me; I expect I always will. When I am wrapped up in something and feel anguished about what I can have or do about it, I will sometimes think: "Stop possessing it." It reminds me to let go of whatever that idea is. Often it makes me realize that in some sense I do not want to let go of it, even though I am sick of it.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:47 AM on August 6 [7 favorites]


Watching this helps me:

Penelope’s Card Trick
posted by shorstenbach at 2:22 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


These do not really make a coherent set, but they are what I got at various times.

* "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." - Hanlon, various. Reminder that I need to keep one of my worst tendencies in check. Companion is "No good deed goes unpunished."
* "We learn by doing." - Aristotle, Dewey - Most often ironic when doing something I really don't want to be doing. But, really the better, longer Dewey take is “We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.”
* "Never get out of the boat." - Willard. Generally applicable.
* "Nothing like food when you're hungry." - my dad says this. Now I say it.
* "Life! Life! Life is the only thing worth living for." - Bruce Loose, Flipper. Singing this (aloud or just in my brain) always makes me absurdly happy / feel better.
posted by Gotanda at 10:56 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


Measure twice, cut once.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:15 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Someone got my Emerson thing, which is on my fridge. I also feel things when I think of this:

I used to think I was on top, looking down on all that was awful. Now I feel that I am on the bottom of the sea looking up at everything that is marvelous!

You get where I'm coming from? So let us dance, all of us, together on the bottom of the sea.

-- Cary Tennis
posted by wellred at 11:15 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Living well is the best revenge.
posted by mostly vowels at 3:56 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Living well is the best revenge.
"Revenge is a dish best served cold."

Therefore: Living well is a cold dish.

I... think someone may have been lying to us.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:19 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


There are many wise and beautiful words here. I keep a few good ones on my profile page too. But the one quote that gets me through the day most often is, ”Ya gotta keep on keepin' on.”
posted by ob1quixote at 8:31 PM on August 7


> Therefore: Living well is a cold dish.

Living well is the best ice cream
posted by rather be jorting at 10:26 PM on August 7


"If you think long, you think wrong."

"How bad do you want to be good? Do you want to be good real bad?"

"What we had we gave;
What we kept is lost forever."

Say yes.

"Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Wayne Gretsky.

"The warmest beer I ever had was just cold enough." Jimmy Buffet.

"Somewhere a true believer is planning to kill you. He is trained with
minimum food or water, in austere conditions, day and night. The only
clean thing on him is his weapon. He doesn't worry about what workout
to do. His rucksack weighs what it weighs, and he runs until the enemy
stops chasing him. The true believer doesn't care how hard it is; he
knows he either wins or dies. He doesn't go home at 1700 hours; he is
home. He knows only the cause."
posted by AugustWest at 4:21 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I heard this from Project runway (allstars?! Even, I think)
Don't drown in a cup of water, because then you're drowning in a cup of water.

I feel that as an enlargener of feels and sads.
posted by PistachioRoux at 12:39 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


"Perfect is the enemy of good enough."

It works both ways. In routine matters, aiming at perfection is procrastination and delay. In matters of art, striving for perfection is a worthwhile goal and settling for good enough misses the purpose of the activity. The one saying helps me avoid both mistakes.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:52 PM on August 8


"No matter how bad it is, you can always make it worse."

When things go wrong, we often try to fix them. But these fixes are unusual, because they're improvised in response to unusual events. So they're likely to be wrong too. Think carefully so you don't do that.

In a similar vein: "During a code blue, the first vitals you should want are your own."
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:19 PM on August 8


I forgot the most obvious one: "Yo! Shinji, get in the robot!"
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:45 PM on August 9


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