816 North

Words to live by, words that define and the power of language

Words can sometimes strike like a lightning bolt to the soul, even while watching a BBC program.
Words can sometimes strike like a lightning bolt to the soul, even while watching a BBC program. Twitter

“Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.”

I was watching TV with my daughter when a shot of excitement flew from the screen into my brain. I scrambled for the remote. Pause, rewind, replay ... and it happened again at the same moment when the main character delivered that line. I ran to find a pen and paper.

I’m not much of a Quote Gal. I might hear or read things that mean something outside the context that they appear, but I rarely write them down. Even more rarely do I think, “That would make a good tattoo.” I did both that day.

(I mean, I thought the tattoo part, I didn’t do it. I’m spontaneous but not Hear Quote/Get Tat Immediately spontaneous.)

“Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.” were the departing words of The 12th Doctor — not only that specific version of the character, but of the actor who played him. But beyond the scripted scene, they spoke to me on a personal level: six words that describe my ideal default settings.

To me “Laugh hard,” means to have a sense of humor deeply woven into my life; a thread to grab on to when laughing will keep me from crying and feeling hopeless.

“Run fast?” Put everything I have into whatever I’m doing; don’t half-tushie it — full-tushie it!

And “Be kind” means to be empathetic first, questioning second and angry only when it’s properly directed and fully warranted.

“Doctor Who,” the show that we were watching, has had a lot of memorable quotes through the years. The daughter across the sofa from me had used a line from it for her senior quote in high school.

“We’re all stories in the end, make it a good one, eh?”

Why one line out of years of lines hit me so strong, I don’t think I’ll ever know. I don’t think I want to, it would take away the mystery and uniqueness of the moment.

The only other time that a quote had me scrambling for writing implements was the first time I heard the Mumford and Sons song, “I Will Wait”:

“Now I’ll be bold / As well as strong / And use my head alongside my heart”

That bolt of excitement happened years ago during a very ordinary day, but had such an impact that I still remember it vividly. “Yes!” I thought as I dug a pen and paper out of the bottom of my purse while parked in front of a grocery store. “That’s how I want to be! Bold, strong, smart and compassionate!”

I’ve only written down these two, but if you search “Quote Tattoos” on Pinterest you’ll see a lot of words that touched people so much that they had them permanently inked onto their bodies.

Words have power when they’re arranged properly. Just 26 letters crafted into emotion that can motivate and console, energize and empathize. In the right order, words can touch our hearts.

Because I love my friends, I wondered what words they try to live by. So I asked and received so many responses I couldn’t possibly pick only a few to share. I strongly suggest you try it, the words they chose were as interesting as the people who repeated them.

“Choose your words carefully.”

I don’t know who said that oft-repeated wisdom first, but it’s true for a lot of situations. Including this one: when you carefully choose the words to live by, those words may very well be the ones that people remember you by.

“Life is mostly froth and bubble,

Two things stand like stone,

Kindness in another’s trouble,

Courage in your own.”

— 19th century poet Adam Lindsay Gordon ... via my friend, Sean Doherty, 1969-2015

Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to both the women’s history and media recap podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks or www.susanvollenweider.com. (She’s posted a companion piece of quotes and attributions on the latter site.)