The Quotation Challenge

Today I have picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Half-baked in Paradise to share three quotes, meaningful for me and perhaps for others too. I fear they may reveal the true depth of my character – as Oscar Wilde said: “Only the shallow know themselves”. (That’s a bonus quote; now engaging smug mode).

So quote number one will be familiar, or at least the first words will be. They are chanted like a mantra by just about every personal/life coach and self-help book on the planet. However, it is what follows that has more impact for me.

“When one door closes another door opens but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.” (Alexander Graham Bell)

In my occasional reflective mode I look back over my life and see a pattern of doors not opened through fear – of change; of the unknown; of lack of ability. Sadly in the past, I have fallen into the trap of gazing wistfully at the closed door but I’m making up for it now! A door opened, I stuck my foot in it, burnt all my boats and bridges in the UK and, voila, here I am, in France, loving life and learning to become the best writer I can be – which brings me neatly on to my second quote.

When I started to write, I mean seriously write, I plotted, planned, characterised my characters within an inch of their lives and read every “how to write a best-selling blockbuster in 24 hours” book. In doing so I accumulated more scrap paper (yes I still write longhand, I’m an old-fashioned kinda gal) to replant a rainforest. Then I came across this, from poet Ted Hughes (Poetry in the Making):

“Imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it. Do not think it up laboriously, as if you were working out mental arithmetic. Just look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself into it. When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic.”

Something just “clicked” for me and this is how I try to write now. I let the story roll through my mind like a film, fuzzy at first but eventually coming into focus. I let my characters take me over for a while. I can be seen flitting distractedly around the garden grizzling to myself like a demented bumblebee as I develop one of my characters. My upcoming book of short stories represents the first dip of a toe in the water of this Hughesian philosophy… it’s much more relaxed and fun to work this way.

So, my last quote for day comes from Zen Buddhism:

“Tension is who you think you should be; Relaxation is who you are”.

I have spent the greater part of my life, stressed and uptight, trying to be who I think I should be – conscientious student, good wife, dynamic business-woman, empathic coach blah, blah, it is only now that I’m discovering who (and what) I am. The tragedy for many of us is that this awareness (and the time and space to sit back and breathe again) often comes so late in life.

It is never too late.

In France, I have learned to relax and reacquaint myself with myself. I still “work” hard but at something I really love so it doesn’t count as work and I remember now to value the little things of life – watching the lizards playing tag on the sunny courtyard wall; treading barefoot on squishy turf that sparkles with dew, listening to an irate blackbird defend its territory and wanting to tell it to ‘chill out man there’s room for everyone.’ It is these little things too, that remind me to walk softly and thoughtfully on this beautiful planet that struggles so hard to combat the depredations we inflict on it.

That’s it folks!

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8 thoughts on “The Quotation Challenge

  1. I commend you for upping sticks and moving to France! But – I have to ask – I always dream of moving away but the same question always stands in my way: How would I be able to live and afford it? Unfortunately a lot of us are stuck in a rut, or a constant rotating conveyor belt of wake up, go to work, come home, sleep – barely having enough savings throughout the year to go on holiday. Oh to be live by the sea, be happy and free!

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. You’re right – the conveyor belt is a reality for so many of us – it is both difficult and scary to step off – particularly if you have a family. That is why so many ex-pats are retirees or do the kind of work that can be achieved via technology, or work in the UK and commute to “home”(France) at weekends. I hope you are able to keep your dream alive and perhaps, one day, make it happen for yourself.
      P.S. I haven’t found living in France any more expensive than in the UK and in some cases considerably less so.

  2. What a brilliant selection and how beautifully linked together to give the reader a chance to understand WHY they mean so much to you. I love the Ted Hughes (love Ted Hughes in fact) … I am far too discursive to anything but some version of what he advocates – it was interesting to see it laid out, so. Thank you for taking the challenge – I declare you a resounding success!

  3. Nice to see the whole door quote. Most people seem to just quip, when one door closes another door opens without adding the significant follow on. Thanks for reminding me, and I like the story you weave around them all.

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