Category Archives: Notable Quotables

What About the Symphony?

I wasn’t going to post today, but I ran across an idea in my morning reading (quoted in Thrive by Arianna Huffington) that made me think–and that I thought might be helpful for others, as well.

“No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along or that the whole point of it is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them.”

-Alan Watts

Quite the idea to process while I was going over my plans for the day, setting my goals, and generally trying to take steps to improve my life. Does this mean we should let go with the idea of improving ourselves, our circumstances, our productivity (*cough*), or our lives?

I don’t think so. But it’s a great reminder to look at why I’m setting the goals I am, why I’m creating new habits, and why I’m putting so much damned work into making my days work for me instead of letting them slip away.

Because, as with so much of life, it’s about balance.

I don’t have a boss. Nobody’s going to fire me if I’m unproductive in the short term. Maybe that’s why it’s easy for me to let a day go by and feel like I’ve wasted it (especially if I’m in a bad place with social media or other things that seem enjoyable, but really add nothing to my life). That’s why I need a to do list, why I set my top three priorities for the day, why I get my work done before I play.

On the other hand, it’s also far too easy to buy into the self-improvement hype that says you can do anything and everything if only you believe in yourself… which really means you’re falling short if you’re not doing, having, and being it all (and posting it on Instagram, obviously). To focus so much on what we should be doing to better our lives that we never actually stop to reflect on how far we’ve come or to enjoy the benefits of all this improvement.

I mean, so many things that I do don’t seem like parts of a symphony. I meditate, but I often find the process uncomfortable. I work so hard on my writing that the fun bit where I’m making up stories for my own enjoyment is dwarfed by the analysis, the problem solving, the revisions, the editing, the learning about writing craft–things that can be rewarding in the end, but are often stressful in the moment (and don’t even get me started on marketing, bookkeeping, or taxes). I don’t enjoy telling my kids to get off their tablets and enduring their grumbling, and I don’t enjoy getting them to clean up after themselves when it would really be easier and less stressful to do it myself. I don’t enjoy cooking or cleaning at all. And playing with my schedule and tracking results was rather tedious.

Why not let it go?

Because though I don’t always enjoy this stuff in the moment, it improves my quality of life in general.

Meditation is helping me stay in the moment and is helping me distance myself from emotions and physical pain that might otherwise consume me. Improving my writing means a better experience for my readers, and it offers me immense satisfaction in knowing that I’m learning and growing (and all that other crap makes it possible for me to keep writing, because income to cover editing costs is rather essential). The effort I put into making my kids do things they don’t like is helping them establish habits that will help them (and me) in the long run. Cooking puts food on the table, and while I don’t like cleaning, I do like a clean house.

And as for improving my productivity, I’m happier when I’m getting stuff done, and everyone in this house is happier when I’m not stressed about deadlines that crept up while I was procrastinating. I like knowing that I’m doing my best.

…And none of that is me disagreeing with the quote. It’s why this idea is so important.

Because I do get caught up in it. I feel at times like every minute has to be well spent on working toward a goal or doing something productive. I tend to become unduly absorbed in improving my life.

At times I need to be reminded to stop and smell the damn roses. To appreciate the “fog happiness” that my work offers if only I take time to step away from the stresses and appreciate it.

To actually live the life I’m working so hard at.

Who I am and what I’m doing right now are important and worth enjoying all on their own. This moment and this day aren’t just steps toward some end goal, and what I’ve got now is pretty damned amazing.

Not every day has to be perfect. Blah days and down days and unproductive days are normal and fine. But taken as a whole, there’s a whole lot to appreciate, even in darker times.

I’m proud of the work I’ve done to get to where I am, and my life is immensely more satisfying than it was five years ago. I’ll keep working on improving what I can as needs arise.

But this morning, I added that quote to my bullet journal. I put it on the January “memories” page, on the back of my habit tracker and directly opposite the spot where I note my accomplishments for the month.

Because it’s easy to note the good stuff without really stopping to go, “Yes, I did a thing that improved my life. I did a favour for Future Me, and she’s going to be thrilled about it. I helped make someone else’s life better. I did something I couldn’t have imagined doing a year ago. I improved a relationship even though it felt awkward in the moment. I changed my world in some way.”

It’s easy for me to just jump into the next goal, to not stop to listen and enjoy the symphony as it plays, and to become unduly absorbed in the improvements as though there’s some end goal I’m racing for.

This moment, right now, even with all of its stresses and problems, is what I dreamed of just a few years ago. There’s no guarantee anything will last forever. Every symphony ends. I’m glad to have been reminded to appreciate mine while it lasts.

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31 Day Blog Challenge, Day 3: Quote-tastic

OK, let’s see, day three… carry the one, exponents before multiplication, and that makes… yep, still day three.

I have to check my work, you see.

blog challenge

My favourite quote.

Just one?! Guys, I have a book FULL of them somewhere, if I could just remember where I put it.

Here’s one of the ones I have hanging over my desk. It gets me through those moments when my inner perfectionist tells me that there’s no point trying if I can’t do it perfectly or better than anyone else:

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“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”  -Henry Van Dyke

There’s more to it than that, but that’s the bit that my aching brain needs to be reminded of. Frequently.

Please share your own favourites in the comments, if you feel so inclined. 🙂


Inspiration for Writers Spending Themselves in a Worthy Cause

This is perfect.

Melissa Janda - A Time to Write

After reading Jill London’s post about some of her favourite quotes, I decided to share one that I love by Theodore Roosevelt.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how theodore-roosevelt_114086tthe strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never…

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Clarity from Patton Oswalt (link)

When tragedy strikes, I don’t usually comment on facebook or anywhere else; I don’t feel like I have anything to add, and I assume that anyone who knows me understands without me saying it that my thoughts and prayers (and probably my tears) are with the victims and their families.

This deserves to be shared, though.

I’ve seen a few posts this morning in various places acknowledging what happened yesterday in Boston and offering ideas on positive things we can all do to make the world a better place. No, the blood you donate today won’t go to Boston (unless you live there), but it might save a life. The smiles you share on the street will remind people that there’s good in the world, and the support you give to someone who’s hurting or struggling– for any reason– adds to the flood of good that overcomes evil every time.

Happy thoughts don’t change what happened, but putting good out there in thought and deed makes the world a better place.

Wishing you all joy in difficult times. ❤

(click the link below for this thing that deserved to be shared)

Clarity from Patton Oswalt.


Quote o’ the Day

“Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it.”

— William Durant


Words for Wednesday (it… it is Wednesday, right?)

“Fall seven times, stand up eight”
-Japanese Proverb

Tip of the day: if you like Women’s Health magazine on Facebook, you’ll get a motivational quotation every day. Also articles about squats and whether condoms are really such a terrible thing, but you know. Whatever.


Quickie Quotation

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
-Roald Dahl


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