What's in a quote?


I think Shakespeare gets the credit for the title, along with a few dozen others in the "quotes to live by" library. Rumour has it the collection is rather impressive, from authors to astronauts and a bit of Aristotle - I hear you Elle Woods. As a Literature student, I was a frequent visitor of Quoteville; from caps to cups, with a calendar thrown in, if something was quotable it was a keeper. 

Nonetheless, earlier this year I had an epiphany. What's more, it wasn't inspired by anything I read, not even the words of the Holy Bard. It came from me. That's right, little old me; believe it or not, she has a voice... of her own. 

This "journey" (insert bicycle illustration and poetic proverb) began on the first day of 2016, which coincided with my first day of inpatient treatment for anorexia. In the dining room, staff encouraged us to put prompt cards and motivations by our seat at the table. I was given a mini quote calendar for christmas, which definitely seemed to fit the brief for "daily inspiration". Each morning, I would turn the page and read out the new quote. At first, it really helped. In the first couple of weeks, as the voices of anorexia tried to submerge me, these words were like little lifeboats. 

Nonetheless, by February my motivational mornings were replaced with scepticism. I joked with staff that it was a positive sign of re-nourishment; to to use my exact words: "Were the quotes always this shit? Either February is a really bad month, or I was completely out of it when I arrived." Potentially, both reasons were true. Looking back on the January nuggets of wisdom, February was dominated by sickly love quotes; however, my own state of mind was also important. 

For so long, words had masked the necessity for action. Now, I was finally walking and facing my biggest fear six times a day. By the time March arrived, the quote calendar had fallen under hard times. I vividly remember one morning, ,   directly challenged a certain Einstein quote: "only a life lived for others is a life worth living".

Sorry Albert, but I beg to differ. As I read the quote, I was its living contradiction.  I was sat in that chair, on a hospital ward, because I couldn't live for myself. Anorexia had exploited the belief that my life was dispensable, there to improve the wellbeing of others.  
The post-it note on the right was written by a nurse. Sometimes the simplest words are the most effective
The Einstein incident represented a turning point for Little Miss Rock-the-Quote, aka me. I have placed so much value in the words of others. In the past, my anorexia  recovery has been enveloped by motivational mantras, inspirational books and "recovery inspirations." I relied on them when my own voice was silent. 

In blogs and journals, I wrote recovery bucket lists and imagined a life without anorexia. I wrapped up my future in silver-lined wrapping paper, following the recovery script. Yet no matter how many  pages I wrote, tumblr quotes I reblogged and Instagram photos I posted, if I couldn't act I wouldn't get better. I was only following the recovery script. If I read"seize the day" enough, I would eventually seize the day. If I told others how recovery is a "journey", with weeds to trim and mountains to climb, I would reach the top of that mountain, just you wait and see.... and wait... and wait. Still waiting. 

This was me for as long as I can remember. Last December, when I set about doing a "Quotemas Calendar", my intentions were pure. It was a lovely idea and I don't discount that. It also introduced me to calligraphy and provided a much needed distraction. Yet every day, as fresh words were placed among the bunting and fairy lights, my mind could only see darkness. I talked about being the flower among weeds, yet my own body was withering away. 

Scary but important life lesson: no quote will save you, however beautiful it may sound. 

In my first week of treatment, I spent nearly all of my free time writing calligraphy quote cards. I remember how, one day, I completed over thirty and they all merged into one. I searched for new quotes to write, but I felt completely disconnected. Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I was barely holding a pen, for yarn had arrived and knitting took over. I loved how methodical and thought-free it was; it was a focused mindset that I applied to eating. I knew what I needed to do and only I could make that change. 

Since being discharged from hospital, I'm also learning to accept how things are. I changed my blog name from Writing Possibility, because it felt too idealistic. Now I have started a new chapter with Bumble and Be, one of my blogging resolutions is to be more honest. As anxious as I was to share my bad day post last week, I'm glad I did. Those days you simply have to bumble along and take things as they come. In these latter moments, you can't do an Audrey Hepburn and "believe in miracles", as lovely as this may sound. You can't always be happy, as nice as that would be. 

On Monday, as I flicked through the multitude of Brexit articles in the Spectator, one piece stood out: "Our Sinister, Soul-sapping happiness industry." Now, I'm pretty sure this headline won't be making any Pinterest "motivation" boards. In her article, Laura Freeman is extremely sceptical of the wellness industry, particularly getting 'appy (App happy) and picking up your colouring pens.  

On this subject, I am a bit more open-minded; nonetheless, it was her but her closing paragraph that struck a particular chord: "I am not averse to happiness. I simply think it is not so easily reeled in on a hashtag." Wellbeing matters and, because it matters, it needs to move. It needs more than a script, no matter how convincing your performance is; you cannot hide forever behind the walls of a well-penned phrase. Not if you want to truly live. 

The world has a quote for everything and anything; I wouldn't be surprised if a book "Quotes on Quotes" became a Christmas bestseller, but I know that I won't be the one writing it. I'll be too busy trying to bumble along in this world. Being doesn't always have a camera and quote to hand, nor is it made for instagram; on the contrary, it can be muddled and messy and, above all, imperfect. That's life. 

I haven't lost my love of quotes, but I'm learning to balance words with action. The truth is, acting frightens me; ignoring anorexia and anxiety terrifies me - but that is why I need to do it. I need to face reality and walk in it with my own two feet. I can't stay wrapped up in words forever.

No one else can put a quote on your life. No one can be you.

To Quote or not to Quote? 

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