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When Life Gets You Down, Turn to Your Inspiration Box

Pat TaubPat Taub

April in New England, where I live, is often a time that brings out the worst in its neighbors. We split hairs over our taxes, curse the weather for taking so long to bring us Spring, and for older women, like me, for the dampness which exacerbates arthritis.

Wanting to avoid the crotchy old lady label, I suddenly remembered my inspiration box, which isn’t really a box but a collection of inspiring quotes stored in a file on my laptop. If I take them to heart, and even meditate on them, I’m usually able to lift my spirits. In the hopes that they might have a similar effect on my readers, I’m sharing some of my favorite inspiring passages in this week’s post.

Mary Oliver in solitude with her beloved dog. (Rachel Giese Brown)

Mary Oliver in solitude with her beloved dog. (Rachel Giese Brown)

The words of Mary Oliver, the award-winning poet, hold a central place in my ‘inspiration box.’ Here is a favorite Oliver passage, which never fails to stir me:

 When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
 When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
 I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


In a former house I kept this Dali Lama quote on a blackboard in my kitchen:

Whenever possible practice compassion,
It is always possible.


Pat Taub, WOW blog, Portland, Maine

The Dali Lama exhibiting his wonderful smile

Rilke reminds us to tend to our souls in this passage from “A Year with Rilke:”

As you unfold, just keep on, quietly and earnestly, growing through all that happens
to you.
You cannot disrupt this process more violently than by looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feelings.

And then there’s the classic Rilke advice on living with uncertainty, found in “Letters to a Young Poet:”

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions”

 Rumi, the legendary Sufi poet, offers guidance in forging genuine connections with others:

Since in order to speak, one must first listen, learn to speak by listening.


Pat Taub, WOW blog, Portland, Maine

A cup of tea is a good companion when consulting one’s inspiration box

In closing, I return to Mary Oliver’s magic words for a reminder to embrace life fully with eyes wide-open:

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.



What’s in your inspiration box?












Pat Taub is a family therapist, writer and activist and life-long feminist. She hopes that WOW will start a conversation among other older women who are fed up with the ageism and sexism in our culture and are looking for cohorts to affirm their value as an older woman.