Inner strength quotes
July 15, 2013 1:13 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for quotes/phrases/short poems that sum up the feeling of I'm struggling but I'll survive. Something that encompasses the struggle of being knee deep in the mud of hard facing your psyche/complexes but also that you know you will be able to get through it.

(Please NO Keep Calm and Carry On dreck).

I am looking for them to be on the shorter side as this is going to be going towards inspiration for a larger piece of art concerning struggles with healing from abuse. Answers should not be mainly abuse focused though.

Basically life sucks, but I won't die.
posted by kanata to Grab Bag (47 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
This too shall pass.
(If religious) If God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it.
posted by ichomp at 1:22 AM on July 15, 2013

"Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'-I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build-why, I'll be there."
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
posted by mannequito at 1:26 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

lucille clifton, "won't you celebrate with me"
posted by liketitanic at 1:50 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not quite what you're looking for, but the Finnish word sisu sums up the vibe precisely.
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:24 AM on July 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

- Calvin Coolidge
posted by mani at 2:30 AM on July 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

I broke my nose against a stick
I broke my left leg
There's something in my eye
And yet I go on.

Quote from an unknown (to me) Ghanese writer or poet. It's always given me strength when I needed it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:32 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

"Crossing the Swamp," by Mary Oliver.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:37 AM on July 15, 2013

Invictus by William Ernest Henley. The verse I like:

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

posted by pianissimo at 3:06 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is a classic one:
Never give in - never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
Winston Churchill

However, my go to "quote", is a picture of Barbara Jordan called "Pray to the Spirit of Barbara for Strength During Adversity", bought for the princely sum of $5 from an artist from Harlem. I am none of the things Barbara Jordan was. When I think about my own challenges, remembering a black, southern, lesbian, disabled woman who rose above all the prejudice and adversity she will have faced to win a seat in the Texas State Senate and then Congress tends to put things into perspective.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:07 AM on July 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

"It is not on you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.“ ~Rabbi Tarfon~

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here." ~Richard Dawkins~

"What is true is already so. Owning up to it doesn't make it worse. Not being open about it doesn't make it go away. And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with. Anything untrue isn't there to be lived. People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it." ~Eugene Gendlin~

Poem: Falling and Flying by Jack Gilbert
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

You didn't ask for music but One Foot by Fun is my go-to song for this
I'll put one foot in front of the other one
I don't need a new love or a new life
Just a better place to die
I'll put one foot in front of the other one
I don't need a new love or a new life
Just a better place to die

posted by Gilgongo at 3:27 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Never let the weeds get higher than the garden" - Tom Waits' Get Behind the Mule.

“I've always thought tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune.” - Lois McMaster Bujold Shards of Honour.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:36 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you go on Pinterest and search on quotes, you will find tons of this kind of stuff.

One small crack does no mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn't fall apart. - Linda Poindexter

The struggle you're in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.

I am strong, because I've been weak
I am fearless, because I've been afraid
I am wise, because I've been foolish

posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:51 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” - Albert Camus
posted by sevenofspades at 5:02 AM on July 15, 2013 [14 favorites]

We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us it's no use

- Black Flag, Rise Above

"They say it'll get better
It fucking better!"

- Black Flag, Depression (Much of the song is "Depression's gonna kill me", et al, but the underlying vibe is "No, it's not but I am extremely pissed about it.")

Chaos A.D.
Disorder unleashed
Starting to burn
Starting to lynch
Silence means death
Stand on your feet
Inner fear
Your worst enemy


- Sepultura, Refuse/Resist

Actually, half the songs on Chaos A.D. are basically, "this situation is bad, but I will continue to defy it."
posted by ignignokt at 5:41 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

“Regarding life, it is much the best to think that the experiences we have are necessary for us. It is by means of experience that we develop and not through our imagination. Imagination is nothing. Explanation is nothing. One can only experience and somehow describe--with, in Camus's phrase, lucid indifference. At the same time, experience is fundamentally illusory. When one is experiencing emotional pain or grief, one feels that everything that happens in life is unreal. And this is a right understanding of life.”

-Joy Williams
posted by whistle pig at 5:50 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on...

"Little Mercy" by Doomtree.

"If you're going through hell, keep going." (Winston Churchill)

"Anthem" by Leonard Cohen.

ring the bells that still can ring
forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in

posted by divined by radio at 6:03 AM on July 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

"Bad things happen to everyone. It's how you deal with them that tells what you're made of."

(Danielle Spencer-Fields)
posted by Gathering Rosebuds at 6:20 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Good things come to those who wait.

Good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up.
posted by Gathering Rosebuds at 6:26 AM on July 15, 2013

If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment." - Lao Tzu
posted by any major dude at 6:45 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

There are three Margaret Atwood quotes that I love:

“Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there's no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It's loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.”

“And consider: it is loss to which everything flows, absence in which everything flowers”

And this may sound trite, but it's got me through a lot:

"The only way is through."
posted by billiebee at 6:46 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It gets worse before it gets better
posted by dinosaurprincess at 7:08 AM on July 15, 2013

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 7:32 AM on July 15, 2013

You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on. --Samuel Beckett
posted by seemoreglass at 8:02 AM on July 15, 2013

"To resist despair in this world is what it is to be free." Operation Ivy
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:04 AM on July 15, 2013

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving
you are arriving.

from "The Journey", by David Whyte

Sometimes it takes darkness
and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

from "Sweet Darkness", by David Whyte
posted by janey47 at 9:26 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh gosh, I should include this one. Back when I was still studying theology & spirituality etc., this quote, from Ecclesiaticus (Sirach) was a great help to me:

In fire, gold is tested, and the chosen in the furnace of humiliation.

Gold being "tested" in fire is an allusion to the method of finding out the purity of gold that just burns the FUCK out of any impurities, so that what's left is pure gold. You weigh it first, then stick it in the fire, then weigh it again and see how much burned away. It's done at a temperature of 1100 C so like whoa, you know? The furnace of humiliation often feels like it's 1100 C.

Also, the following is from an old theology professor that I think is very useful for Christians who are looking for this kind of wisdom. He said that there is a parallel between Christ's initiation of the Eucharist and the way that he chooses his disciples, including in the present if you think of yourself as a disciple. He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and distributed it. Expect to be broken and distributed, but not before you are blessed.

I always thought that was a nice metaphor.
posted by janey47 at 9:39 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's a Japanese proverb that says, "fall down seven times, rise up eight."
There's also Churchill's "If you're going through hell, keep going."
Bruce Lee's “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there; you must go beyond them.”
posted by oceano at 9:44 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

There's a Japanese proverb that says, "fall down seven times, rise up eight."

This reminds me of a story that Kamala Masters told during a retreat I was on a few years ago. She said that when she was first practicing, she went through a very dark period in which she simply did not believe she could continue and was extremely depressed. I can't remember the specific details except to say that her issues were most pronounced during walking meditation. So then in one of her interviews with the teacher, she talked about this and the teacher told her, "When you are overcome with these emotions, stop your walking and stand still. Then reach down and pull up your right sock. And then pull up your left sock. And then go on." She said that she still thinks "pull up your right sock, now pull up your left sock" when she is faced with difficulties.

Also, Joseph Goldstein once (maybe more than once, probably many times) said that during a very difficult period in his life and practice, he would quietly whisper to himself, "Courage." Courage, the etymology: c.1300, from Old French corage (12c., Modern French courage) "heart, innermost feelings; temper," from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor "heart".
posted by janey47 at 9:59 AM on July 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

Okay I swear I'm going to stop after this one, but I do want to add this one LAST thing:

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

-- Mary Oliver
posted by janey47 at 10:05 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

For this, I like The Man Watching, by Rainier Maria Rilke.
posted by gauche at 11:39 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

However you feel about Bukowski, I always liked the line, "what matters most is how well you walk through the fire."
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:06 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Trouble? Life is trouble. Only death is nice. To live is to roll up your sleeves and embrace trouble.
— Zorba the Greek
posted by Zozo at 12:23 PM on July 15, 2013

Forgot this. A couple of years ago I came across this on an "inspiration" greetings card when I was having a hard time and I started to cry standing in the shop. But it helped and I've thought of it often.

“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms
posted by billiebee at 12:48 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

"I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down"

Lyrics from "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba

They wrote it about the working class, with inadequate savings, insurance, whatever, getting fired and stuff. A few years ago, I put the quote in a frame and donated it to a homeless shelter where they were happy to promptly display it in the living room. Look it up on youtube if you don't know it. It is good stuff.

Also, I like Madonna's "Die another day."
posted by Michele in California at 1:22 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I came here to mention the wonderful Invictus, but another apt poem is Arthur Hugh Clough's lovely Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth, the last verse of which goes:

And not by eastern windows only
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright.

Equally, Tiger by A D Hope:

Then say, as his divine embrace
Destroys the mortal parts of you:
I too am of that royal race
Who do what we are born to do.

posted by raspberry-ripple at 1:47 PM on July 15, 2013

All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. - Samuel Beckett
posted by Errant at 5:11 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This bit of TS Eliot's Four Quartets gave me a lot of strength. The rest of it is also amazing, but not short.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

posted by Athanassiel at 7:11 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

From a poem by Clementine von Radics:

"We are more than the worst thing that's ever happened to us. All of us need to stop apologizing for having been to hell and come back breathing."

Cheryl Strayed: “The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will."

"[This is] how we find our way outward and onward: by holding onto beauty hardest. By cradling it like the cure that it is. By making it realer than anything ever was. The rest is just monsters and ghosts."
posted by frizzle at 10:00 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle
posted by jander03 at 10:28 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. - Louisa May Alcott
posted by yawper at 7:22 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Related to that: "Calm seas do not make good sailors."
posted by elizeh at 7:07 PM on July 16, 2013

The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals. --Orwell, in a critical essay on Gandhi
posted by seemoreglass at 7:52 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bruce Cockburn "Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. You've got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight".
posted by resurgem at 1:09 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

"the entire world is a narrow bridge: the main thing is not to have fear."
posted by liketitanic at 8:21 PM on July 28, 2013

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