Encouragement for the Weary from Literary Greats

So it’s only been three weeks of school, and I’m already overwhelmed as a parent and a teacher. The pandemic continues its disruption to education. I miss my students, friends, and family and just want life to be normal again. Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight.

I’m also exhausted by the disarray of American democracy. Dirty politics, terrible public policy, lack of action on climate issues–you name it, we seem to be doing it wrong these days. Regular hardworking people are struggling, but politicians seem to be too busy with their own self-interests to care.

Our country’s dysfunction and the demands of everyday life have sapped my creative energy. A writer who wants to write but feels too drained is not a happy writer.

Chances are lots of others are feeling the same way. Everything about life has been upended in ways nobody imagined possible this time last year. The grumblings of a year ago are grains of sand compared to the mountains in front of us today.

Last week, after a particularly long day that had been preceded by an unbearably long day, I remembered the words of Emerson. Something about finishing the day and being done with it. Ah, yes.

Reading is an escape for me. I haven’t been reading enough lately. Writers are not only artists, but their words can also serve as encouragement. These writers’ wise words help me to rally and remind me how important reading is to me.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson’s life was riddled with hardship. The loss of his father at age 8, poor health, and the death of his first wife did not hinder him from becoming an influential essayist and lecturer. No doubt, releasing the “blunders and absurdities” of the day is the best course of action. Look to tomorrow as a blank page to be filled rather than remaining beleaguered by the difficulties of yesterday.

Maya Angelou

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou

Few have endured such pain and reveled in such success as Angelou. Despite childhood abuse and rocky young adult life, she became a powerful voice as a poet, activist, and lecturer. Angelou reminds us that we must aspire to better once we know how. Each obstacle provides a chance to learn this lesson. Such things take time, yet they produce depth and strength as payment for our trouble.

Truman Capote

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” -Truman Capote

Capote’s difficult childhood and lifelong struggle with insecurity and addiction impacted him deeply. Despite these difficulties, he produced some of the most lauded literary works of the 20th Century. In Cold Blood, his 1966 nonfiction novel, is the second best-selling true crime book in history. But his success was not always easily obtained. Capote’s reminder that failure has a purpose is encouragement for us to press on, even when we aren’t winning at life.

Flannery O’Connor

“Faith comes and goes. It rises and falls like the tides of an invisible ocean. If it is presumptuous to think that faith will stay with you forever, it is just as presumptuous to think that unbelief will.” -Flannery O’Connor

A deeply religious woman, O’Connor was transparent about spiritual restlessness. She struggled with chronic illness and loneliness, undoubtedly a source of stress for her. Knowing that we may ebb and flow in our faith makes me feel less a failure and more a human. Hard days can test my faith, but these tests are not permanent. Returning again and again to the foundation of my faith, I am encouraged and renewed.

Neil Gaiman

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” -Neil Gaiman

Gaiman’s otherworldly charm as a writer is captured in this final quote. It’s one of hope, but it charges us to take action in order to possess “magic and dreams and good madness”. Ultimately, our attitude and actions will determine our success in overcoming the weariness the world seems to be dishing out these days.

Remember, you have value and make an impact on the world. Be encouraged as you regroup and refresh, even in the toughest of times.

With Love and Gratitude,

Tracy is a New Jersey writer who loves Earl Grey tea, spending time outside, and painting. She lives with her husband and children in a home where birdsong and rainstorms provide the soundtrack for her creative life.

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