Words I saved, read and wrote down last week. From remembering sweetness, to the practice of self-respect, to choosing soul over gold, to not sweating the small shit.
I just returned from a two-week trip to Cambodia. Jetlagged and tired as hell after navigating patchy wifi and grueling province to province travel. I visited family and paid respects to an aunt I lost, an aunt I loved. There’s much to reflect on, much I’m processing, much to write to you about, and quite a bit I’m coming to terms with through adult eyes given the multiple veils of my identity. The power and fragility and complexity of it all.
I hope you’ve had a lovely, relaxing weekend. And, as always, thank you for being here. Thank you for taking the time, friend.
“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.”
“The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others — who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.
Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.
Self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth.
We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. We play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the necessity of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.”
―Joan Didion, “On Self Respect” (1968).
"My story isn't pleasant, it's not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.”
“Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours.”
“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”
“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
I was in line at the airport two weeks ago, there were only two attendants, multiple flight cancelations, and no movement in twenty minutes of standing. The crowd started to grumble, impatience bubbled. The guy in front of me turned around, smiled wide through his mask, whispered:
“You hear all these people complaining? I’ve lived a lot of life, and, believe me, I’ve learned that if you sweat the small shit, the big shit will kill you.”
I always look forward to your emails, Nneka. Thank you so much for sending this lovely read our way. I hope the book writing process is going beautiful for you? Happy Tuesday!
My condolences for your loss. Thank you for the wisdom you shared in this collection of curated quotes.