Words To Live By

by Lisa Wolfson   

You know that wonderful sense of accomplishment you get when you’re able to remember an appropriate inspirational quote that helps a struggling friend? It’s great to have a meaningful adage to brighten a dark day or just to reflect upon when reviewing your own actions, or those of someone you care for. But if you’re like me, more often than not, the words don’t come. You have a recollection of a wonderful saying, but you just can’t quite latch onto it.

I love perusing the sayings and the adages that are thought-provoking and nurturing and beautifying, but I just hate those moments when my mind goes blank and I can’t recall them. So I tend to jot them down and tape them in appropriate areas. One of my favorite sayings — “The will of God won’t take you where the grace of God will not protect you” — is taped on the cabinet above my desk at work. My niece emailed it to me when I was going through treatment for breast cancer. When I would sit at my desk after chemo or radiation, I would read that maxim over and over, sometimes several times a day, and feel a warm peace come over me. It helped me put things in perspective, and gave me the knowledge that I would get through my ordeal. And the saying was right — I pulled through.

I also have an excerpt from The Secret Scrolls taped in my office to keep me from becoming bitter or resentful, and to always remind me that I am fortunate. “Begin your day by feeling grateful,” the excerpt says. “Be grateful for the bed you slept in, the roof over your head, the carpet or floor under your feet, the running water, the soap, your shower, your toothbrush, your clothes, your shoes, the car that you drive, your job, your friends, your refrigerator that keeps your food cold. Be grateful for the weather, the sun, the sky, the birds, the trees, the grass, the rain, and the flowers . . . ”  It’s a robust reminder about the power of gratitude.

I regularly send inspirational quotes to my email group and I encourage them to do the same. I find that people are often more open to the significance of these aphorisms, and the private thoughts the words might conjure up, when they are given the time and the chance to review them at their leisure, rather than having them spoken right to their face. Emails are not taken as personally as the spoken word and, in turn, allow for unscheduled and undemanding personal reflection.

I also collect quotes and phrases by adding them to a small journal. I have filled two so far, and I’m now working on my third. I love reflecting back through the pages, and coming upon a quote that is fitting for the season or for a situation someone is encountering. My most recent small journal is pink. The front cover reads: “HOPE. Celebrate Life every day,” while the back states: “We are the hero of our own story.” Each page in the journal starts out blank, save for a small quote in the bottom left corner. I read the quote as I fill the page with new ones. Two of my favorites so far are: “Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent” and “Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.”

Quotes are not all intended to sound positive, but can they provoke powerful thoughts nonetheless. The negative part of life needs to be recognized and addressed as well. Another of my favorites is: “Just as the tree whose root remains intact will grow again, anger that is not rooted out will re-emerge.” Very powerful and true, no? I have sent this to many people to nudge them into dealing with their feelings of anger and pain to avoid a costlier re-emergence later on. A co-worker of mine has a small basket on her desk filled with little strips of paper, all of them containing inspirational quotes. She has them there for herself and for others to pick from.

I even have two fortune-cookie messages in my wallet. Although I have changed wallets several times over the years, these fortunes have stayed with me. One is: “Nothing is impossible to a willing heart.” The other reads, “Friends come in all shapes and sizes, but their hearts are always BIG.”

So start printing or writing, clipping, taping — whatever it takes to find inspiration on a daily basis.


Lisa Wolfson lives in Rockville Centre, New York. She’s the Program Director at You Can Thrive!, an organization that provides free and low-cost support services for breast cancer survivors.

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