Marrow by Elizabeth Lesser


My Favorite Quotes

“There is no 10-ways-to-get-it-right when it comes to love. No exact formulas for when to be vulnerable and when to be strong, when to wait and when to pursue, when to relent and when to be a relentless love warrior. Rather, love is a mess, love is a dance, love is a miracle. Love is also stronger than death, but I’m only learning that now.”

“ Love of self, love of others: two strands in the love braid.”

“Amor Fati — love of fate. The ability not to merrily bear our fate but to love it. To be human is to have the kind of faith that doles out all sorts of wondrous and horrible things. No one gets through life without big doses of confusion and angst, pain and loss. If you say yes to amor fatti, if you practice loving the fullness of your fate, if you pick up the third strand of the love braid, you will thread and gratitude and meaning through your life.”

“When I talk about love, I am not talking about romance. Romance is good. I like it a lot. It’s fiery and fun. But it is merrily one sliver of the love story. It’s a mistake to reduce the whole ocean of love to a little flame of romance and then spend all of one’s energy trying to keep the flame from burning out. In doing so, we give short shift to the vast majority of our love relationships: parents, siblings, children, friends, colleagues, and, of course, mates after the initial passion has mellowed. Trying to sustain fairytale romance is a foolish quest. But you can’t sustain a different kind of love across a lifetime with the whole motley crew of people. It takes guts to love well, and it takes work to sustain important relationships, but I promise you, it is possible, that’s what our hearts are really longing for.”

“And like most people, and certainly like most siblings, we carted around with us bags of old stories and resentment and regrets. We drag those bags from childhood into adulthood, into other relationships, into our work, into our families. We believe the stories in the bags, details we had heard about ourselves and told about each other. We had never unpacked those bags and show each other what was in them.”

“Being true to the self involves sifting through the layers of bad advice and unreasonable expectations of others. It requires seeing through your own delusions of grandeur or your fear of failure or your imposter syndrome or your conviction that there is something uniquely and obviously screwed up about your particular self.”

“And then we grow up, we become adults, and we spent so much of our time uncomfortable in our own skin — almost embarrassed of being human. We devalue and cover the original self, layer by layer, as we make our way through life.”

“ I know that people who have tasted the dignity and goodness of their own true nature are more likely to see and respect the dignity of others.”

“Instead of traveling side-by-side, helping each other as we fall and being inspired by each other as we rise, we defend ourselves, we attack, we try to go it alone. Instead of reveling in one another’s shining authenticity, we compete, as if there is a limited amount of shine in the world, as if the only way to see the shining self is against the backdrop of a diminished other.”

“Deep in the center of the cell are the soul cells of who you really are. Dig for them, believe in them, and offer them to another person, and you can heal each other’s hearts and keep love alive forever.”

“When soul speaks, there’s really no arguing. Everyone else just shuts up and listens. The bigger story sparkles in the silence. What needs to be done is revealed. Mind and heart join hands and vowed to work together.”

“But that’s not what hope is about. It’s not about everything turning out OK. It’s about being OK with whatever happens.”

“If you fight the pain, if you resist the contractions, you cause even more pain. I told them that labor is like life and life is like labor: sometimes the most painful experiences deliver the best things — new life, unexpected insights, the chance to stretch and grow. This was the greatest lesson I learned in my years of delivering babies: don’t strain against pain; learn its purpose; work with it and the energy of the universe will assist you.”

“Perhaps if Maggie and I can sit together and, with the help of the therapist, retrace our years of sisterhood and clear up old wounds or misconceptions, we can affect her body’s willingness to accept myself. We can call on my cells to make a peaceful passage into her bloodstream. We can go into the medical procedures better able to give and receive, having put down never expressed grievances, secret shame, made up stories, blame, or judgment. Before the bone marrow transplant, we could try for a soul marrow transplant each of us setting aside the old stories that have kept a separate so that a more truthful intimacy can grow.”

“We’ve made up a lot of things in our head about each other,” I explain. “Maybe if we talk about those things, maybe will find some stuff to let go of, to forgive, to clean up and clear out before the harvest and the transplant. What if we come out of hiding and go for the deep stuff?”

“We crave intimacy with others, and yet we fear it. We want to be seen and loved for who we are, yet we don’t know who we are! This is a tragedy in the comedy of being human. Afraid to look too deeply into our own selves, and afraid to ask others, “Who am I to you?” we circle each other, harboring old stories, many of which are not even true. I’ve been a brave person all my life. I travel to dangerous places, I delivered babies, I’ve given speeches to large crowds and intimate gatherings, I’ve stood my ground at work and in the world. But being brave one on one with another person to me, that takes the most courage.”

In his masterpiece of a book, The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm writes that love is an art that must be learned, but that “in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power - almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.” He writes, “ Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence. If I perceive in another person mainly the surface, I perceive mainly the differences, that which separates us. If I penetrate to the core, I perceive our identity, the fact of our brotherhood.”

“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

“Over the years, I have build cases in my heart around one sisterly slight, one overheard remark, attracting to them little grudges and bigger wounds, like a magnet gathering metal shavings and rusty nails. If I let the grudge build, it can affect a relationship for years. Sometimes I find the courage to bare my heart to a sister, and sometime she will meet me halfway. When that happens, two things never cease to amaze me — one, how different our reality can be, and and two, how the shavings and rusty nails will drop away if we just tell each other our stories- if we reveal hurts, explain our behaviors, respect each other’s point of view, apologize or except an apology. If we let the shavings and nails go, we come home to each other’s truths, and to the bigger truth that we love each other. Then we can start over.”

“I’ve tried some weird therapies and chancy adventures-all night ceremonies, dubious teachers, exotic healings. All to find what isn’t even lost. All to uncover what is barely beneath the surface. All to reveal what seems uniquely mine, and yet is part of the same fabric of what is uniquely yours.”

“And why, you may ask, spend precious time searching for something as elusive as a soul? Why not leave it where it hides near to us, yet so difficult to find and sometimes dangerous to follow? There are two reasons first, you search for the soul for the sake of your own life for a purpose, for meaning, for strength, for freedom and peace and love. Second, you search for your soul for the sake for everyone else. The world needs your originality, your ideas, your humor, your creations. All of this is alive and well within you, hiding somewhere near you, beneath the layers, down, down, down, into the soul.”

“When we show each other our whole selves, scars in all, we get down to the marrow, to the soul.”

“In greeting so many babies in their first minutes of life, I became convinced that our only purpose here is to study the fingerprint of our own soul, to get to know it, to love it, to live it.”

“There is no finish line. There is always more to uncover, more to know, more to heal, more to love, more to give. Being true to oneself is a rough and tumble ride, full of challenges and wonders. The Jungian scholar James Hollis writes, “we are not here to fit in, be well balanced, or provide exempla for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merrily to add our small piece, our little, clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As a God intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.”

Sometimes it is in the eye of the storm where we find I have the heart the genuine self, the marrow of what really matters.

I love molding emotions into form. I was usually surprised by what my hands chose to make.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in the grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.-Rumi”

“Intimacy is always an exposure, truth telling can be downright scary, but I hadn’t realized I was this scared.”

“We are all a mess, but we are all enough.”

“I put my other hand on my heart because I feel movement there too as the old stories release and the truth rises to the top.”

“Stimulating growth even if it’s painful, mining the deep and hidden places for healing, offering ourselves to each other as gifts of love.”

William James wrote, “we are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” This is the change I most want to activate-to relate less to the surface of the people in my life and more to the depths of our connection. When that connection is hidden under layers of petty annoyances and knee-jerk reactive or when my sense of unworthiness and shame makes me an island unto myself, I want to dive deeper. I want to take a risk and break the spell of separation. And if I am met with rejection if the other is unwilling to meet me in the deep still, I will emerge having tried.”

“From the beginning, I knew meeting could only end in parting, yet I ignored the coming dawn and I gave myself to you.”

“Give ourselves to each other, even though we know one day we must part? Give ourselves to this life, even though we know it will end? This is the paradox at the heart of being human. Nothing stays the same -everything will change. And yet the love we long to feel, and the love we were born to give, can only be ours if we abandon ourselves to each moment, each breath, each other. If we wait for the perfect time, the perfect person, the perfect itself, we will stay frozen in an idea of love. But if we fearlessly engage with the life spread out before us, we will be rewarded with a heart that can hold it all happiness and messiness, clarity and confusion, love and loss.”

“Sometimes we have to do our own healing before mixing it up with another person. Sometimes we have to wait for the ripening the right time, the right place, the right chemistry.”

“Dr. Byock believes there were only four things people need to say to each other to heal and restore relationships (1) thank (2) I love you (3) forgive me (4) I forgive you.”

“I believe endearing to err in the direction of connection-expressing love, naming the elephant in the room, and asking for and giving forgiveness. Someone has to start the ball rolling because we are all so shy when it comes to emotional intimacy afraid of being rejected or blamed or exposed. And yet we crave connection we stand around waiting for it like awkward teenagers at a dance. It can take the most modest invitation to make magic. In most cases, it’s worth a try.”

“Will this person be patient enough to hear me out, brave enough to confront me, and game enough to travel with me to the field be on wrongdoing and right doing? A person cannot give you what he doesn’t have.”

“Spiritual maturity is the territory beyond being special and being right.”

“We come into the world a potent little acorn, a distillation of the oak we were put here to become. The ego fears it is less than others, or at strive to be better than everyone else. But the acorn only yearns to be the oak. That’s the better urge- that’s the original urge to be the oak. To be the oak we do not have to keep others from growing into their full selves. We can stand side-by-side and still reach for the sun. We all belong here. There is room for all of us.”

“Sigmund Freud famously said in 1929, “ The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine so, is “what does a woman want?”

“Stephen Hawking, was asked by a science journal what he thinks about most often. “Women,” he answered. “Women are a complex mystery.” This from a man who has unraveled some of the most complex mysteries is cosmology and quantum physics.”

“I am not the one in charge here that there are forces far greater than my own little ego; that the destiny of my sisters’ life of my life of all life is out of my control. In that on some level, everything is OK, just as it is, in my work now is to know that, to trust that, to be at peace with whatever comes next.”

“The more I stop trying to be a perfect little human for everybody else, the more I stopped expecting other people to be perfect. The more I trusted myself, the more I trusted other people.”

“This is the ongoing work of my life time to let go, to let the world take care of itself.”

“You will always be falling apart and coming together and falling apart.”

“I stop asking the questions and start being the answer.”

“Does the truth heal? yes, because the truth sets my soul free in a world hungry for authentic soulfulness. One person speaking the truth emboldens the souls of others. Therefore, it is an act of healing to speak from my own true voice with love and conviction to care less about what others think of me and more about what I know is good and right.”

“This has been my practice for years and years to stop waiting. To quiet the mind from its compulsive rehashing of the past and it’s restless worrying about the future, and instead be curious and non-judgment till about here and now.”

“A good rule of thumb don’t believe anything you think between midnight and dawn.”

“Growing up in a large family and maybe an any family but certainly an ours then living in an atmosphere of competition, a sense that there was not enough to go around.”

“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement you can completely transform your life. Don Miguel Ruiz”

“Instead of assuming, ask questions instead of reacting or judging or shutting down, first find out what is really going on in the heart and the life of the other person. Invariably, it is not exactly as you have imagined.”

“When there is nothing left to be done, and the road ahead has no markers, there is always a choice-I can worry about what’s happening, or I can surrender to the road. I can go out into the world like an explorer. I can partake of life just as it is. I can roll around and get dirty with it. I can risk it, enjoy it, suffer with it, feel it, and allow those I love to do the same.”

“Please, remove the veils so I might see what is really happening here, and not be intoxicated by my will and my worries. Remove the veils that I might see beyond my fantasies and fears. Remove the veils that I might see.”

“By quieting the brains repetitive and habitual patterns, we can stop believing and reacting to everything we think, which is really a reduced, compressed, and tense form of something way more enjoyable to experience infinite consciousness. In meditation, we begin to experience life beyond the reducing valve, life on its own terms. We become an open-minded witness, as opposed to someone who is always scrambling for a sense of security.”

“The goal of meditation is liberation. Liberation from the stormy weather occurring between our skull bones. Liberation from the war within. We meditate to become comfortable with whatever is going on in any moment. To engage with reality on its own terms.”

“All I can do is meet them exactly where they are.”

“The way we die looks very much like the way we lived.”

“This is why spiritual traditions encourage us to work on polishing the lantern as we live, allowing the souls essence to shine through, and purging our personalities of their less attractive traits, or else we will drag them with us when we die.”

“The life review curriculum. She’s learning in both directions now finishing the past and looking into the future.”

“It may take Maggie a long time at the very end. She may lie still for hours, and you may wonder what to do, but just let her take her time. She will be completing the curriculum. She’ll know when to leave.”

“And what will I remember of my year of living as Maggie-Liz? Love. Big love. So big on my heart will never shrink back to its original size. Which still astonishes me, because during that year, month by month, day by day, my life shrinks first to the size of a hospital room, then a window see overlooking the field, then a bed, then a breath and another breath, and then a hole the size of my little sister. But in that shrinking, I became bigger, because I began to use love as a measuring stick. Love makes big from small. Love gives meaning to everything. Love of self, love of others, love of life, come what may. Amor fati, love a fate.”