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One Insightful Woman: Quotes by Courtney E. Martin

Updated on April 1, 2016

Author Courtney E. Martin

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In 2014 a friend recommended the website www.onbeing.org. Rather characteristically, I recorded this detail and promptly set it aside. Months later, after I'd moved over 1000 miles away from my family, I decided to investigate this website to see why he was so enthusiastic. Almost immediately I was drawn to the blog, and, more importantly, to the works of Courtney E. Martin. Her writing style and her subject choice rarely fail to fascinate and inspire me. Since I can be enormously picky about what I read, this is saying something. Already I've shared numerous quotes by her with my family and friends, and now it is time to offer them on HubPages. Enjoy.

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“You say no so you can say yes. It’s sad in the way that all limitations are, but also liberating. You are human and finite and precious and fumbling. This is your one chance to spend your gifts, your attention, most importantly your love, on the things that matter most. Don’t screw it up by being sentimental about what could have been or delusional about your own capacity. Have the grace to acknowledge your own priorities. Prune and survive.”

“We want to wake up in the morning and feel like there is a place to direct our energy and that place, while it may not define us, dignifies us.”


“I am so often wrong about what I think my life is supposed to be, who I think I am supposed to be with, what I think I am supposed to create.”


“It’s tempting to fall in love with the idea of destiny. It’s both comforting and humbling… I can’t screw it up, because I’m actually not in control. It makes this one precious life feel even more precious—like it was carefully made, down to the smallest details, just for you. Like your profession, your partner, your child, was meant for you and you were meant for them.

This is even truer in a time of such overwhelming choice. It takes a bit of the burden off the grasping, fumbling human and foists it onto the broad, strong backs of the gods—whoever, whatever they may be, whatever you call them.”

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“If I blur my eyes and look at the broadest outlines of my life, I can feel like a self-made woman. The truth is far more complicated. I wanted to be a writer and I am a writer, but the journey getting there, the truth of what it feels like—day in and day out—to be this, a person who looks for patterns, stays curious, feels things, asks questions, puts it into words, is nothing like I thought it would be.”


“I am so lucky to live with, to have lived with, people that guard my quiet, that need me there even when I have nothing to say, that know my presence as something far different than my performances. I might even be most myself in these shared silences.”

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“Even as an author, I don’t always feel like the author. I often feel like there is some other force pulsing under the surface of my life, of my work, of my words. I sit down at the blank screen and hope that this thing that has consistently happened will happen again, that all the strange fragments that make their way into my brain and heart, will coalesce into something worth saying. It’s a sort of magic, a mystery for sure, and it propels me onto different places and into different relationships than I ever could have chosen.”

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“…we all have a way of being in the world that makes us feel safe. Habits are part of what make our lives livable. In the chaos of contemporary life, we crave the easily ordered, the familiar, the given. The things we do over and over again, the things that we don’t have to orchestrate or anticipate or invent, are like welcome exhales.”


“Ultimately, I’m learning to say no with more grace because I want to live with authentic generosity. When yes is overused it takes what should be a wholehearted gift and turns it into an anxiety-producing check box. I don’t want to live a life measured by check boxes. I want to live a life measured by acts of unhurried love.”

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“So the capturing is part of the shadow side of the incessant documenting—this instinct to make permanent what is inherently fleeting. It pulls you out of the moment, makes you less present to the people you are actually surrounded by and spending precious time with. Another part of the shadow is the calculated, even if subconsciously, curation of the you that exists in public. The you that drinks certain kinds of fruity drinks. The you who is playful, adorable, sun-dappled but never sunburned. The you that is always having the time of your life at those rooftop parties. The fictional you, at worse, the incomplete you, at best.”


“If I’m going to lose friends, at least I want to gain insight. I also know I can’t wear the insight like an armor, protecting me from future loss. Some friendships erode; it’s a painful but inevitable part of life. It makes room for new relationships, new emotional risks, new chemistry. It helps expunge old toxins, stubborn patterns, stale air…”

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“…it’s always edifying to realize that a single year can contain so much. A year is an arbitrary unit of measure, of course, but it’s as good as any to pause and recognize yourself for getting through the hard stuff, revisit the really good stuff, and get closer to integrating all of it.”


“Maybe my question this coming year will be simple: What do I want?”

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“Ian Maclaren, a Scottish theologian, wrote, ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’ We are all fighting, indeed, but it’s not as external a battle as it seems. So much of it isn’t fight at all; it’s surrender. Surrender to sleep. Surrender to discomfort. Surrender to what it is. Surrender to our own greatness. Surrender to love. In truth, it’s not as epic as a battle; it’s a million little moments when we do our best to draw on our own sensory genius, our own self-awareness, our own faith, to feel okay in the world. It’s as tiny as a chubby baby in footie pajamas, finally, by the grace of her own persistent ingenuity, peacefully asleep.”

“…if you don’t learn to say no, you use your energy in ways that don’t make you happy.”


“Each and every one of us has the capacity to act dumb with fear.”


“When I think about my death—I mean really think about its inevitability—I see how truly infantile the effort to control everything is. It makes me want to live passionate, kindly, courageously, to acknowledge that horrific violence exists, but not let that harden me against other people.

The hardening is what births terror in the first place.”

Is this the kind of chaos you need to learn to be joyful within?
Is this the kind of chaos you need to learn to be joyful within? | Source

“Or maybe 2016 is my year for learning how to be more joyful within chaos. How can I just ride the wave of the puzzle pieces and half-finished conversations and undone to-do lists and Facetime catch-ups rather than trying to cling to completion?”


“I am desperate to understand how to live in a way that reflects my values, how to be good to the people I love, how to stay awake.”

“…it’s gratitude that seems to be the best antidote to the whole range of my less attractive states. I meditate erratically. I pray frequently. I wonder constantly.”

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    • Julie K Henderson profile image
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      Julie K Henderson 18 months ago

      FatBoyThin: Thank you for commenting. I am glad that you enjoyed them. Take care.

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 18 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Some great, inspirational quotes, Julie.