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I am not sure if everyone is like me, but in order for me to apply Socrates’ “Know Thyself,” I have to look for pieces of myself in every author, artist, photograph, fictional or historical character, play, movie, and especially book.
When it comes to Margaret Atwood, I can say I hit the jackpot. I came to understand many aspects of womanhood, including feelings that I wouldn’t have been able to acknowledge, express, and put in words otherwise.
When it came to this literary legend, it was so hard to select only a few quotes that best depict the woman I have become over the years, but I gave it a shot.
Here are 20 quotes from Atwood that influenced who I am today:
“What is believed in society is not always the equivalent of what is true; but as regards to a woman’s reputation, it amounts to the same thing.”
“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”
“I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.”
“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.”
“Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”
“And she finds it difficult to believe—that a person would love her even when she isn’t trying. Trying to figure out what other people need, trying to be worthy.”
“I knew what love was supposed to be: obsession with undertones of nausea.”
“Never pray for justice because you might get some.”
“Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future.”
“No mother is ever, completely, a child’s idea of what a mother should be, and I suppose it works the other way around as well. But despite everything, we didn’t do too badly by one another, we did as well as most.”
“But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.”
“Falling in love, we said; I fell for him. We were falling women. We believed in it, this downward motion: so lovely, like flying, and yet at the same time so dire, so extreme, so unlikely. God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total. We were waiting, always, for the incarnation. That word, made flesh.”
“And sometimes it happened, for a time. That kind of love comes and goes and is hard to remember afterward, like pain. You would look at the man one day and you would think, I loved you, and the tense would be past, and you would be filled with a sense of wonder, because it was such an amazing and precarious and dumb thing to have done; and you would know too why your friends had been evasive about it, at the time.”
“I exist in two places, here and where you are.”
“People cry at weddings for the same reason they cry at happy endings: because they so desperately want to believe in something they know is not credible.”
“She wasn’t ready to settle down, she told her friends. That was one way of putting it. Another was would have been that she had not found anyone to settle down with. There had been several men in her life, but they hadn’t been convincing. They’d been somewhat like her table—quickly acquired, brightened up a little, but temporary. The time for that kind of thing was running out, however. She was tired of renting.”
“Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories.”
“I feared I might lose my faith. If you’ve never had a faith, you will not understand what that means. You feel as if your best friend is dying, that everything that defined you is being burned away; that you’ll be left all alone.”
Someone I love was blessed enough to have taken a writing class with this literary idol of mine.
Furthermore, I will end this with two wishes that I will put out there for the universe with a dash of pixie dust. I would like to be blessed with a similar opportunity and…
“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.”