Today, we’re celebrating the release of Cheryl Strayed’s new book of quotations, Brave Enough. I found her memoir Wild to be life-changing. Both the book and the film continue to influence me, remind that each of us is capable of great things when we hold ourselves accountable. When I watched Reese Witherspoon go on that reallllllly long walk along the Pacific Crest Trail, even though I knew without a doubt that I could never achieve such a feat, I was emotionally sold. Cheryl Strayed’s quest to find herself, overcome her grief, mourn her divorce, and understand why she’d made the choices she had in her life, totally spoke to me. After reading Wild, I devoured Tiny Beautiful Things, which collects letters Cheryl wrote anonymously as part of the Dear Sugar column on The Rumpus. People wrote to her with their problems about life, love, family, work, death and sex. Cheryl replied honestly, personally and, often, brutally. She didn’t hold back with the wisdom and cut straight to the heart of every problem.
The biggest thing I learnt from Cheryl Strayed was the importance of forgiveness. As a person with anxiety, I self-blame a lot in almost every situation. And Cheryl’s words worked as a mantra or tonic, which came at the exact time I needed them: when life was its absolute worst. Despite everything that’s happened, towards the end of Wild, Cheryl Strayed reaches an epiphany of sorts. “What if I forgave myself?” she muses. “What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have?” Which is not to say she exonerates herself from all blame ever, just that sometimes the things that happen to us in life are the things that are meant to happen, good and bad. “What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done?”
The idea of self-forgiveness was so powerful to me and still is. Because it’s about owning the things that have happened to you, instead of dwelling on what ifs or wishing for do-overs that won’t come. Understanding that sometimes the way we get to the perfect-now, and become the version of ourselves we want to be, is via a series of events which might not be what we expected.
In honor of Cheryl’s latest book, here are some of my own favorite quotes. Each of these helped me in some way, gave me a perspective I otherwise wouldn’t have had, and helped me feel strong when I didn’t. I hope they do the same for you.
From Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (Vintage Books 2012)
“Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
From Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)
“I didn’t feel sad or happy. I didn’t feel proud or ashamed. I only felt that in spite of all the things I’d done wrong, in getting myself here, I’d done right.”
“In my perception, the world wasn’t a graph or formula or an equation. It was a story.”
“I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go.”
From O Magazine
“We all suffer. We all have heartbreak. We all have difficult things. They’re part of life. Realizing that was very profound for me.”
From an interview with Jenn Tardif for 99u.com
“I find the most important thing for aspiring writers is for them to give themselves permission to be brave on the page, to write in the presence of fear, to go to those places that you think you can’t write – really that’s exactly what you need to write.”
From an interview with Tracy Clark-Flory for Salon
“I was always very self-conscious about not being cool enough, that I wasn’t snarky or super-aloof and witty and cutting in that cool way. But I will risk telling the truth.”
[Image courtesy Cheryl Strayed]