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Cheryl Strayed


Allow your acceptance to be a transformative experience. You do that by simply looking it square in the face and then moving on. You don’t have to move fast or far. You can go just an inch. You can mark your progress breath by breath.


Be brave enough to break your own heart.


Be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of. Your life will be a hundred times better for it.


But the reality is we often become our kindest, most ethical selves only by seeing what it feels like to be a selfish jackass first.


But we can’t erase our lives. We can’t change what our mothers or fathers or step-parents were like or what demons or gods ruled them or when they died or how. We can only change who we are in relation to them. We can revise how we narrate those stories of our lives.


Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don’t stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don’t fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight. Don’t focus on the short-term fun instead of the long-term fall out. Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore. Don’t seek joy at all costs.


Don't lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don't have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don't know what it is yet.


Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.


Fear begets fear. Power begets power.


Forgiveness doesn't mean you let the forgiven stomp all over you once again. Forgiveness means you've found a way forward that acknowledges harm done and hurt caused without letting either your anger or your pain rule your life or define your relationship with the one who did you wrong.


Forgiveness doesn't sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.


Go, even though you love him. Go, even though he is kind and faithful and dear to you. Go, even though he's your best friend and you're his. Go, even though you can't imagine your life without him. Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him. Go, even though your friends will be disappointed or surprised or pissed off or all three. Go, even though you once said you would stay. Go, even though you're afraid of being alone. Go, even though you're sure no one will ever love you as well as he does. Go, even though there is nowhere to go. Go, even though you don't know exactly why you can't stay. Go, because you want to. Because wanting to leave is enough.


How wild it was, to let it be.


I can’t say when you’ll get love or how you’ll find it or even promise that you will. I can only say you are worthy of it and that it’s never too much to ask for it and that it’s not crazy to fear you’ll never have it again, even though your fears are probably wrong. Love is our essential nutrient. Without it, life has little meaning. It’s the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we receive. It’s worthy of all the hullabaloo.


I don’t think there’s a single dumbass thing I’ve done in my adult life that I didn’t know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it. Even when I justified it to myself—as I did every damn time—the truest part of me knew I was doing the wrong thing. Always.


I’d finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted was a way in. I was there now. Or close.


I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.


It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.


It’s hard to go. It’s scary and lonely…and half the time you’ll be wondering why the hell you’re in Cincinnati or Austin or North Dakota or Mongolia or wherever your melodious little finger-plucking heinie takes you. There will be boondoggles and discombobulated days, freaked-out nights and metaphorical flat tires. But it will be soul-smashingly beautiful… It will open up your life.


Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.


Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you'll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.


Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.


Romantic love is not a competitive sport. Some of those women your boyfriend used to fuck have nicer asses than you. Some are smarter or funnier or fatter or more generous or more messed-up than you. That’s okay. That has no bearing on you whatsoever. You’re not up against those women. You’re running your own race. We don’t dig or not dig people based on a comparison chart of body measurements and intellectual achievements and personality quirks. We dig them because we do.


The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.


The narratives we create in order to justify our actions and choices become in so many ways who we are. They are the things we say back to ourselves to explain our complicated lives. Perhaps the reason you've not yet been able to forgive yourself is that you're still invested in your self-loathing. Perhaps not forgiving yourself is the flip side of your stealing-this-now cycle. Would you be a better or worse person if you forgave yourself for the bad things you did? If you perpetually condemn yourself for being a liar and a thief, does that make you good?


The obliterated place is equal parts destruction and creation. The obliterated place is pitch black and bright light. It is water and parched earth. It is mud and it is manna. The real work of deep grief is making a home there.


The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.


The whole deal about loving truly and for real and with all you’ve got has everything to do with letting those we love see what made us.


There are so many things to be tortured about, sweet pea. Don't let the man who doesn't love you be one of them.


There isn’t a thing to eat down there in the rabbit hole of your bitterness except your own desperate heart.


This is not your responsibility but it is your problem.


Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.


We are obligated to the people we care about and who we allow to care about us, whether we say we love them or not.


We do not have the right to feel helpless. We must help ourselves. After destiny has delivered what it delivers, we are responsible for our lives.


We have the power to heal what needs to be healed. We get to give ourselves that. We have the capacity to stand before the scorching flames and decide what to swallow and what to cast out.


What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done? What if I'd actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?


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.


What’s important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart. Pay no mind to the vision that the commission made up. It’s up to you to make your life. Take what you have and stack it up like a tower of teetering blocks. Build your dream around that.


Writing is hard....Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.


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.


You can't fake the core.


You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt with. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding and my dear one, you and I have been granted a mighty generous one.


You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success.


You have to say 'I am forgiven' again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.


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.


You're so outraged and surprised this shitty thing happened to you that there's a piece of you that isn't yet convinced it did. You're looking for the explanation, the loophole, the bright twist in the dark tale that reverses its course. Anyone would be. It's the reason I've had to narrate my own stories of injustice about seven thousand times, as if by raging about it once more the story will change and by the end of it I won't still be the woman hanging on the end of the line.















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