10 quotes I live by — and why

path trees winter cottonwoodThe mind is an amazing thing.  I keep dozens of quotes and catchphrases in my head, and they seem to pop up just when I need them.  I went through the exercise the other day of deciding which I use most often.  And here they are:

1)  “Good enough for government work.” 

Now before I get bombed, let me explain that I have nothing against government workers.  Some of my best friends are government works.  Both my parents, in fact, were government workers until they retired with 30 years in and a gold watch to prove it. 

But this phrase, to me, has always stood for those times in my life when I just can’t give 110% (my normal, high-achiever’s goal), and have to settle for, well, just plain average.  When I am under high stress, I have to settle for, and I have found, to my surprise, that it’s OK.  The world doesn’t stop spinning, most people don’t even notice, and I get a chance to catch my breath and have a time out, as it were.  There are times when a C average is just plain fine.

The next two come from Helen Keller.  She is my hero.  I have learned so many good things from her, and from reading about her.  In fact, the name of my blog, “Face to the Sun” is an excerpt from one quote, “Keep your face to the sun-shine and you cannot see the shadow.”  And the two that stick with me are:

2) “Life is an daring adventure or nothing.  Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature.” 

What a wonderful philosophy!  I keep repeating to myself, security is a superstition, security is a superstition.”  And I can often even believe it…most of the time.

3) “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” 

I suppose this is a takeoff on that quote by Winston Churchill, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  But it helps me, sometimes, when I am in a fearful place, to remember to breathe.

I went online to get the exact wording for these Keller quotes and found lots of others that I want to remember, too.  “College isn’t the place to go for answers.”  Or how about, “I do not want the peace which passes all understanding.  I want the understanding which bringeth peace.”  Yes.  Iike that one.

Numbers 4 and 5 come from the AA and Al-Anon traditions.  They help me deal with change.

4) “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”

  Or its variation, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Sometimes I find myself banging my nose on the same closed door, I guess, expecting that this time it will open.  But I forget that sometimes it helps to go in a window?

The next has to be, of course, The Serenity Prayer. 

5) “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I still keep striving for that wisdom in times of trouble, and this prayer helps.  It is commonly attributed to Rienhold Niebur, but I just read that a Yale man has tracked it down to some YWCA ladies some two decades before Rienhold used it.  I like that, that the women were there first. 🙂

The next four are quotations of from favorite poets.  (Disclosure:  I was an English teacher in a former lifetime.)

6)In just-spring   when the world is mud-lucious…”  

This has to be e.e. cummings, of course.  I first discovered him in high school and was delighted to discover he didn’t use punctuation.  He invented words.  Wow!  I loved it!  And still do.  He stands for the free spirit in me that sometimes gets lost.  I read e.e. to find it again.

7) Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” 

The only time I ever saw Robert Frost was when he was a frail old man with white hair blowing in the wind, giving a poem in honor of J. F. Kennedy. 

But this poem was written in the 20s, when Frost was in his mid 40s.  I like to think he was in the middle of a life crisis, wondering which road would be the ‘right’ one, and having to choose, not knowing what the future would bring.  I’ve had to do that.  And then looked back wondering if I made the ‘right’ choice and finally coming to realize that BOTH roads would have been OK, not right or wrong, just different.  I like that wisdom.

But with the wisdom is regret.  The realization that I don’t live in Eden, that things are not always perfect.  So another author I turn to is Omar Khayyam.  The chief guru of regret and loss.  He comforts me when I am in a like frame of mind!  I like a lot of his quattrains, but one that sticks with me is:

8.  “Ah, Love!  could you and I with Him conspire

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

Would not we shatter it to bits–and then

Remold it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

Oh, yes, yes I would! 

The next quote is also in a melancholy frame, but paradoxically, it comforts me when I am ready to move on, to be quit of the sorrow that I may presently be mired in.  The poet is Maria Rainier Rilke, and the quote is:

9) “How we squander our hours of pain.

How we gaze beyond them into the bitter duration
     to see if they have an end.

Though they are really seasons of us,
     our winter-enduring foliage,
     ponds, meadows, our inborn landscape,

Where birds and reed-dwelling creatures are at home.”

“Though they are really seasons of us…”  That helps me remember that grief has a purpose, that some losses are necessary.


The next quote comes from a series of four poems, of which this is the last one, “The Little Gittings” by T.S. Eliot.  It was written during the midst of WW II and has a special poinancy because of that.  It helps me look ahead, to remember that in letting go, I am also moving forward.

10. “We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, remembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning.”

That speaks to me.


And number 11, one to grow on.  The final one has many variations, of which I’ll give you a few.  The first is from 1John 4:8.  Being ignorant when I first looked it up, I though it was the fourth Gospel, but no, it is a letter, one of three, located much farther along in the New Testament! 

I first encountered the verse in a scene from an old Gary Cooper movie, Gentle Persuasion.  The little boy is required to memorize a Bible verse, and he picks the shortest one he can remember:

11. “God is love.”

Oh, yes.  No matter what your religion, and no matter how you define your higher power, this one rings of truth. 

Of course, being humans, we can’t resist tinkering with a good thing.  Two quotes I like are first from Samuel Butler, who adds, “God is love, I dare say.  But what a mischievous devil love is!”  Or from Gypsy Rose Lee, “God is love, but get it in writing.”

And the inspiring wisdom from Christopher Reeve, who says, “I think that old adage, “God is love” is literally true, whether or not you actually believe in God.  Thinking that way helped me to get past the me-me-me–my body, my problems, my condition, myself.”


I try to remember that.

And that’s it. My top 10 plus one to grow on.

 I know there are others.  But these keep me going!



About Author, Pegasus Quincy Mystery Series

I write a mystery series about a young rookie deputy on her first assignment in the Verde Valley of Arizona.
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