Discover Joy

I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.

— Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 58

Caring for Ourselves

When we are caring for ourselves, we discover that there is actually plenty of time and energy to care for others and the world too. It is not negatively “selfish” to care for yourself brilliantly and exquisitely. In fact, as you fill your own well from the inside and tend to your self with great love, it will naturally and effortlessly “spill over” for others to appreciate and utilize.

When you see someone who radiantly glows from within, you are seeing a self-caring soul. This kind of self-care is a living example to be inspired by, so that you can live that way also.

— SARK, Glad No Matter What, p. 56

Spirals and Layers

I’ve seen and experienced over and over that grief and loss are ALWAYS

Doorways to Transformation.

My experiences with both have showed me that we can more actively work with time as we process grief and loss, instead of just waiting for time to pass. We really can consciously practice integrating loss and grief and living with them more fully and beautifully.

I know now that this healing happens in spirals and layers and NOT in steps like a ladder.

We cycle back around and start over, get stuck in the middle, and sometimes get to what feels like the end quickly.

We can weave all these experiences together into an eventual elegant tapestry. I’ve been speaking with lots of people about the subjects of loss and grief, and it’s clear that in every case, whatever has been lost — job, savings, home, health, money, life — has tremendous gifts and opportunities to offer


We do our transformational work.

— SARK, Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change Into Gift and Opportunity, p. 19-20

Better For It

We can choose to ascribe meaning to what happened to us, even after the fact. We do that by taking pride in the people we have become. You have gained new skills out of your hardship. You know things about yourself now that you would never have known if you had not been put to the test. And it is not unusual, in my experience, for the skills and confidence forged in the fire of trauma to become the things about ourselves that give us the most pride.

You would not have chosen to get better and smarter and stronger in this way. But this thing happened to you — and you are better and smarter and stronger for it.

— Alicia Salzer, Back to Life, p. 30

Possibilities and Limits

We read books to widen and to deepen our own repertoire, because the performances of others (including fictive others) shed light on our own possibilities and limits. About those possibilities and limits — the self taking form, the figure achieving shape, the shape finally dissolving — we are otherwise, as I’ve said, strangely in the dark, since our education in school seems oddly outward-directed and generic in nature, anonymous even, unattuned to the outgoing private voyage we are making every minute. (The dazed look of students around the globe confirms this: whatever is happening in the classroom, whatever the subject, is distinctly not-me.) In the dark also because of natural incarceration, we are all landlocked creatures, stuck in particular minds and bodies, marooned in our specific time and place; and no matter how much information may come our way by dint of the electronic revolution that puts the world seemingly at our fingertips, only a click away, the austere fact of life is that we live and die within our own shell, doomed to our own perceptual equipment. Our eye can gauge much, but it cannot take the measure of “I.”

Literature is the great bridge that enables us to exit our precincts, that enables other places and other lives to come to us, asking us to “try it on,” “try it out.” Facts, statistics, theorems, and discursive argument address only our reasoning powers. Art operates differently; it is a beckoning mirror. It is, in the poet Baudelaire’s terms, an invitation au voyage. Put differently, literature grows us, and I am especially drawn to the unfurling organic processes in play here: not just the evolution of “characters” but our own move through time and — no less central — our move into the mirror, into the precious virtuality of art. . . . Only the work of art treats us to that richer, pulsating, lived experience of what it might feel like to be there, to have been there, whether coming or going or both.

Art is our second life.

— Arnold Weinstein, Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life’s Stages Through Books, p. 7-8

Books as Mirrors

A living work of art actually possesses a bare-bones practicality, indeed a utility, that we need to recover: it helps us toward a richer grasp of our own estate. What you find inside this mirror of life stories is an inexhaustible treasure house of “might-have-beens” and “might-bes,” a repertoire of scenarios showing how one moves through time, how one is made up of forces beyond one’s control and ken, how events form and deform us, how one becomes oneself, how that self responds to its pact with time and conducts its pas de deux with entropy and death. This is precious. A novel of two hundred pages may package a life of seventy years; yet a novel of two hundred pages requires a day or so to read, while a seventy-year life requires seventy years. Isn’t this one profound reason we read novels? Art makes life visible.

You might ask: How can a work of literature, especially one written centuries ago, possibly shed light on me: my experiences, my formation, my running story? It is a good question, and it has some good answers. Great art lives in a way that transcends its moment, reaching something more universal, gesturing toward life experiences that are at once time-bound and timeless. The proof behind this (ahistorical) assertion is embarrassingly simple: every time you read a book that speaks to you, that engages your mind and feelings, you are encountering the truth of art. This is an exchange of inestimable value: testimony of the past traveling across the bridge of time into you the reader, hence becoming, at some hard-to-define level, your own lived experience. We are a far cry from websites and databases. We are tapping into living scripts that are big with life, into a mother lode that will nourish and grow us.

When a friend of mine was once asked, “Do you know much about Shakespeare?” she answered, “Not as much as he knows about me.”

Arnold Weinstein, Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life’s Stages Through Books, p. 6

The Pleasure of Reading

The sheer luxury of reading and reveling in the world I live in is something I treasure. Life is more than meat and potatoes and duties. Learning to see, to laugh, and to enjoy encounters with others is reason enough to read. The world has comedy built into it; the ridiculous is but to be explored. Every reader knows the pleasure of being transported to another world in books.

— Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Woman’s Heart, p. 26


Let’s become more beautiful with age, attaining the stature of the Jungian crone. Let’s be wise and mature and queenly. Let’s allow our centers of power to shift with grace, from focus on physical expression to focus on spiritual strength. The game isn’t cruel except when played by the negative mind. In the life God has in mind for us, we grow more and more beautiful and know more and more joy. The longer we live, the more time we have to pursue the things that make life meaningful. Above all, let’s not be ashamed of age. How often I’ve heard it said about a woman, “She’s fifty. I’m telling you, she’s not a day under,” as though she had been caught in some crime. Youth is not a great prize, and age a sad afterthought. If anything, youth is the bud, and age is when we blossom.

— Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth, p. 140