For Christmas 2013, my parents gave me and my two sisters each a copy of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. My relationship with Cheryl Strayed went from “Yeah, I’ve heard of Wild but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet” to “Leave me alone, I’m reading Cheryl Strayed and I can’t stop so please get out of here.” I have spent countless hours and days completely submerged in her world and in her writing, for the very precious reason that she’s let so many people do so.
Tiny Beautiful Things is an otherworldly compilation of Strayed’s advice columns, written anonymously for the ever-compelling online lit-mag The Rumpus. The book was released in 2012, the same year as her best-selling memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Strayed’s first novel, Torch, was released in 2006. In between all of this success, she’s maintained her steady flow of honest, raw, and powerful essays, writing for Tin House, The Sun, the Best American Essays series, among so much more. She also hosts the Dear Sugar Radio podcast with writer Steve Almond on public radio.
In honor of her newest book Brave Enough – a compilation of Strayed’s best quotes, out today – here are our favorite tiny beautiful things:
1.“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?”
2. “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.”
3. “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”
4. “It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.”
5. “The reality is we often become our kindest, most ethical selves only by seeing what it feels like to be a selfish jackass first.”
6. “Go, because you want to. Because wanting to leave is enough.”
7. “If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up. And if they don’t — if they have loved too deeply, if they do wake each morning thinking, I cannot continue to live — well, then we pathologize their pain; we call their suffering a disease.
We do not help them: we tell them that they need to get help.”
8. “Be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of. Your life will be a hundred times better for it.”
9. “If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.”
10. “One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.
Say thank you.”
Photo via Cheryl Strayed
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