Tiny, Beautiful Things

I became a travel writer/editor because I wanted to live a million different lives. My favorite part of my job is that it lets me step into someone else's shoes for an hour, a day, a week - to spend moments in their ordinary lives that are extraordinary to me. And it makes me think - what are paths they and I didn't take? Cheryl Strayed called these paths the "ghost ships that didn't carry us." 

I am a huge reader but can count very few books as LIFE-CHANGING - "Tiny, Beautiful Things" is one of them. Written by Cheryl Strayed (of "Wild" fame), the book is a series of advice columns that she originally answered anonymously as "Sugar." She answers the most difficult, personal questions of life with endless compassion and complete honesty - and doesn't let you off the hook. 

I read it in the aftermath of what it looks like to take divergent roads when you thought you'd be with someone forever. It completely slayed me, while holding me up. I cannot tell you what this book means to me - and what it has meant to so many friends of mine, as well. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes, that you might need to read today: 

  • "Every life, Tranströmer writes, “has a sister ship,” one that follows “quite another route” than the one we ended up taking. We want it to be otherwise, but it cannot be: the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are....."
  • “Who would I have met if I had bicycled across Iceland and hiked across Mongolia and what would I have experienced and where would that have taken me? 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.” 
  • “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.”
  • "She offers what we wish every mother would: enough compassion to make us feel safe within our broken need, and enough wisdom to hold on to hope." 
  • "Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep."
  • "The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”
  • “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.” 
  • "Fear of being alone is not a good reason to stay. Leaving this man you've been with for six years won't be easy, but you'll be okay and so will he. The end of your relationship with him will likely also mark the end of an era of your life. In moving into this next era there are going to be things you lose and things you gain." 
  • "And 'if your Nerve deny you--,' as Emily Dickinson wrote, "go above your Nerve."
  • "Some people will judge and condemn you, but most won't. Our minds are small, but our hearts are big. Just about every one of us has fucked up at one point or another." 
  • "In spite of my fears, I didn't regret having a baby. My son's body against mine was the clarity I never had. The first few weeks of his life, I felt honestly rattled by the knowledge of how close I'd come to opting to live my life without him. It was a penetrating, relentless, unalterable thing, to be his mother, my life ending and beginning at once."