We all have words of wisdom we cling to, maxims that make a difference in our lives.
How do I know?
Because when Next Avenue published my article “7 Mantras to Live By,” the editors asked readers to spread more good words by posting their own. More than 3,000 of you “liked” the article on PBS Facebook, 1,400 shared the post and heartfelt responses poured in for days.
Below are the powerful words that some of you live by. Thank you for sharing them.
“Be kind.” That’s what drives Aubree Woods-Flanery, and 10 others count kindness as a key directive in their lives. They are Melanie Beaulieu, Myna Burgoyne, Cate Callahan, Debbie Decker, Karen Sims Engstrom, Mary Ishmael, Mary Ernst Larson, L. Ruth Minnis, Jo-Ellen Burell Tramontana and Rob Woolbright.
“This too shall pass” does it for Celeste Mellett Coverdill, Evelyn A. Genovese, Susan Kuntz Heiser, Janice Skreehart Hooper, Janell Selkie Oelrich-Schreiber, Belinda Patel, Kawanna Ridout and Irene Wright.
MaryEllen Danyluk and Sage Sill take heart from “Just keep swimming,” as Dory advised in the movie Finding Nemo.
When Things Are Difficult
Even in times of trouble, we can find peace. Sue Mara posted, “When my Dad was dying, a friend told me to ‘look for the moments of grace.’ I still use this almost every day.”
Glenn Maney posted: “On a bad day I think, ‘If this is worst thing that happens all day, I will be back tomorrow.’ On a good day: ‘It is getting better, I can’t wait for tomorrow.’ On days that seem to be filler, ‘The calm is nice.’”
That calm has another name: serenity. Based on a lot of the mantras posted, many of us seek that. When do we want it? “Serenity now!” wrote Julie Andrew Brown. Anne Scheer Wright said, “The Serenity Prayer [by Reinhold Niebhur and adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous] has simplified my life: serenity for the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Pam Ford Cavanagh agreed.
And how do we tell the difference?
Karen Amoroso, Jenny Pate and Anna Raab gave the nod to “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” said to be an old Polish proverb that urges you to ask yourself whether you are busy minding someone else’s business. (As a teenager, whenever I attempted to take over someone’s circus or primate training, my dad would suggest a shift in my focus by saying, “Run through your own backyard.”)
Amy Ellen said: “If it won’t matter in five years, let it go.” Lorraine LaFrazia took a slightly modified tack, with: “In 100 years it won’t matter. In fact, it doesn’t matter now.”
That’s Rule Number One in Roger Rosenblatt’s delightful book, Rules for Aging. Rosenblatt elaborates: “It does not matter if you are late, or early; if you are here, or if you are there; if you said it, or did not say it; if you were clever, or if you were stupid; if you are having a bad hair day, or a no hair day… if you don’t get that promotion, or prize, or house, or if you do. It doesn’t matter.”
Some might see that dictum as negative, a lack of caring about anything, but I think it’s a reminder that if what we had in mind does not work out, something else will — because everything changes.
Fight It or Accept It?
Opinions on making changes to achieve serenity varied. “You could change the things you cannot accept,” Genevieve Ameduri wrote, noting that the quote has been attributed to activist and scholar Angela Davis. Rebecca Shawn Powers posted a different approach: “If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it!”
Just thinking about change worries many of us. Marlene Smith posted a couple of fierce maxims, among them this one: “I’ve never seen worry change anything!” Laura Hannon Ferrans said that, too. “Most problems work out on their own,” she wrote. “Let go of worry.” Michael Sims noted, “Some things are worth getting upset about, but most aren’t.”
Some words of wisdom championed acceptance. “Do what you can with what you have right now,” wrote Gail Dishman. Peter Neill said, “I am what you see. No excuses, no apologies, no regrets.” And Nancy J. Meacham wisely advised, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
Yourself, As You Are
Debbie White Schmidt looks to author Anne Lamott for inspiration. “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”
And while working on being who we were born to be, Judy Taral Honigfort cautioned against getting too involved in our children’s lives. “Vicariously living through my children is a toxic habit I’m trying hard to break. Above my sink is a reminder scrawled on scrap paper: ‘Find your own joy.’”
When to begin? Now!, said Vida Schulman. “Life is short. Eat dessert first. By that I mean metaphorical dessert. Don’t put off the things you really want to do. If you do, you may run out of time. Have fun now. Do that traveling. Take that class. Plan for it all and get cracking!”
Attitude Is Everything
Counting the reasons why you can’t?
Judi Nobie’s father always told her there is no such thing as “can’t.” She also admires this Chinese Proverb: “Man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt man doing it.” Mary Burk Laird looks to another source of wisdom — Yoda. “Do or do not; there is no try,” the Star Wars Jedi Master said.
Trying takes guts. Janice Cullinane accepts that, and embraces Eleanor Roosevelt’s challenge: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Patricia Barrett looks to philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard for assurance: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose one’s self.”
William Peterson offers a practical reason to make a plan: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up someplace else.” Psychologist and educator Robert Mager gets credit for the quote.
Wherever you end up, you will have stories to tell, and Marie Wheeler Clingan wants to hear them — if they are new. Her mantra is “Do new things, have new stories to tell.” She took up weaving at 65.
From The Beatles to Buffett
Many readers looked to cultural icons of every stripe for words of wisdom. Venancia Hopkins said, “The Beatles always had the greatest lyrics. ‘All you need is love’, is my mantra!” Susan P. Fox stuck by The Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” Jimmy Buffett’s lyrics speak to Gale Wagoner: “Breathe in, breathe out, move on.”
Annette Kennedy admires what the late Leonard Nimoy penned in a poem: “I have tried to prove my worth to worthless judges” and she cautions against that. Cindy Kelly follows a similar theme, writing, “Be with those who help your being,” attributed to the poet Rumi. James Watts looked to Dylan Thomas for a powerful mantra: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” lines from a poem Thomas wrote for his dying father.
Brett DiGiovanni posted, “Don’t live by mantras.” But isn’t that one? Just teasing!
Let’s end with Marcia Evans’ words to live by. “I think Bill and Ted got it right: Be excellent to one another!“
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