27 November 2016

Wedding Day Cold Feet, Mothers, and Roman Philosophers

I have a story to tell you that has to do with my search for an inspirational quote. I'm not really the inspirational quote type. I like a few authors that are very quotable...Lemony Snicket...C.S. Lewis...but I don't fall in love with quotes on a regular basis.

However, back in college I'd read a line in one of my literature texts that had really meant a lot to me. My early semesters in college were a tough time emotionally--living in the USA for the first time as an almost-adult and being far away from family and friends and trying to fit in to a completely foreign culture was tough at that age. I distinctly remembered reading this quote and it impacted me so much that I remembered having written about the quote to my mom in the daily emails I sent her.

Problem was, I couldn't exactly remember the quote. I knew it was written in the context of soldiers or warriors, and it was something about even if they had fallen in battle, they wouldn't give up and lie still--they would fight on their knees. Basically, it's the Monty Python idea--get all your limbs chopped off and still scream "I'll bite you to death!" As I've been facing this recent season of loss and emotional turmoil and feeling like I'm fighting a vicious battle merely to hold onto my joy and my sense of self, I've been drawn back to the quote, which to me, describes tenacity and courage and never giving up even when giving up would be so, so much easier.

But I didn't remember the quote word-for-word, which made it impossible to find. I searched "fight on their knees" to no avail on Google, because it came up with a whole bunch of references to prayer. Not what I was looking for. I searched my email to see if I'd saved the email I sent Mom. Nope, not there. Finally, I asked Mom to search her email. You see--Mom is my most avid blog follower. She has always loved my writing, and I know that even when I sent her daily emails during my early years of college, she saved most of them in her "Rachel" folder.

I guessed that I'd sent her the email sometime around 2009-2010, so that narrowed it down a bit, and she started looking. Funny thing was her stumbling across other old emails long-forgotten, including an email from Dec. 1, 2010 where I wrote, "I'm really reconsidering marrying Angel. I'm trying to think of reasons for and against getting married and at the moment the only reason I can think of for getting married is that it would be too inconvenient to uninvite everyone from the wedding."

Poor Angel. No wonder he's always said he was nervous that I'd get up to the altar and say "I don't." Ever since I said "I do," he's been perfectly content. I vaguely remember getting cold feet a few days before the wedding, but I don't think Angel had done anything at all, it was just probably a side effect of being 19 and making lifelong commitments. I do remember him giving me a hug that week and saying "Just...please...don't break up with me." Good thing Mom was not overly worried by the emails I was sending her.

Anyways--after getting sidetracked by emails that make me laugh as we quickly approach our 6th anniversary, we actually found the email with the quote! I'd sent it during the second semester of my sophomore year, and I'd originally read the quote in Michel de Montaigne's "Of Cannibals." Strange text to find an inspiring quote in. However--armed with the exact wording, I was able to do research and discover that it appears 16th century Montaigne was actually borrowing from 1st century Seneca (the philosopher)! Very much the same line appears in De Providentia by Seneca. It was originally written in Latin, which I don't read, so I looked up a few different translations. The context is basically a conversation about whether bad things happen to wise people/the response of wise people to what normal people would consider tragedy and hardship (you probably remember from your college philosophy class, that, generally speaking, wise=good in their usual view of the world).

I used a different translation to draw the quote above, but here's my favorite translation of the surrounding paragraph:

"A complete bliss can't withstand any stress,
but injustice and offenses can't frustrate him
who was constantly in harm's way.
He's nothing daunted and never the prey of
no matter what kind of crisis
And when he falls, he fights on his knees."

I'm not much of a philosopher, but you can probably tell from the preceding paragraph about my search for the source of this quote that I am a bit of a nerd. I'm also still grieving, still recovering--but though I may be wounded, I won't give up the fight.


Did you get cold feet before your wedding and the commitment of a lifetime? Have you ever had to go on a search to find the source of a quote you almost-remembered but not quite? What do you think of Seneca and these words of his?
Kynia said...

this is just so POWERFUL. you are so inspiring xX love this, and your great strength. xX

Ali Hval said...

Ah, I love this quote. And I am so glad that you were able to find it--most the quotes I find I end up putting on Tumblr and then tagging #quotes so I can easy sift through them and find them. I honestly need to paint a few on them on old boards and hang them around my apartment for some inspiration. This was such a nice read, though I had no idea you both were afraid of having cold feet before getting married!

Bethany Carson said...

Ha! I love Angel's week-before-wedding quote: "Just...please...don't break up with me." :D Glad you didn't.

Oh, and that quote by Seneca is awesome! I really like it.

Kecia | From Mom's Desk said...

I love finding quotes that resonate with me and my life. This one sounds very true and inspiring!

Donna said...

That is a great quote. I used to be really good about writing down quotes I found and connected to in a little notebook. Then I filled the notebook and even though I started a new one I haven't been near as diligent about keeping it up to date.

Bethany Lotulelei said...

This is my new favorite quote! Thank you for going to all that work to find it, because it is definitely what I needed this week. Lately, I have felt quite a few burdens on my back, and yesterday I was talking with my hubby, and I said "We can do this. We are Lotuleleis. We have conquered harder stuff than this!". It was a lightbulb moment of me. Something about just vocalizing that I wasn't going to just let my fear and worry take control anymore was invigorating. I have had to rely on mantras, quotes and scriptures at key moments throughout my life. It is when things get the hardest that I have found that I have to train my mind to dwell on something (like a quote) or else it will run rampant without any direction (and it tends to thrive on anxiety, worry, and fear). I, also, got a bit of cold feet in the months leading up to our marriage. Getting married is such a huge decision, isn't it?! I am so glad that part of my life is over and I am settled into married life now. I would never want to go through the whole dating/engagement period again. Whew! Still thinking about you and praying for you, Rachel. Hugs!

Marissa said...

Very beautiful! I love the quote you chose as well.

AnneMarie said...

I love this quote! Thanks for sharing it with all of us. Those ancient philosophers said some fabulous things! I took Latin in college, and my professor (who looked like Santa Claus) loved talking about history and philosophy, so when we would translate phrases from Seneca, Aristotle, or other people, he would start a conversation about the wisdom that was expressed in their words. Even though those classes were lots of work, and I was/am really bad at translating Latin and remembering all the techniques, I loved them, and would love to be able to go back and re-take my Latin classes with him.

Suzanne said...

These are great words. Never give up basically.

I did freak out a tiny bit before I got married, for a few seconds when my then boyfriend took me into the bathroom (we got married in a hotel room) and I was worried he had changed his mind. Instead he took me in there so we could talk privately. He told me I was making him the happiness man on earth. {sigh} Still gets me after 25 years.


Cristina said...

I am a quote fan, but my memory is so weird that I always end up mixing them up in a very weird way, but the new quite resulted is quite inspirational as well, haha.

Brittany Putman said...

Love this. I kept a notebook of quotes whenever I was in high school and I often think about dragging it back out. Words are so powerful.

Anonymous said...

I think I've seen the Seneca quote before and I love the double meaning - whether it was intended that way or not!

P.S: Only nerds have anything interesting to write about!

Anonymous said...

That's so interesting! I love going back and looking at things I've written along the way- not a bad inspiration for blogging in general :)

Vicki said...

I love this quote! It definitely reminds me of Monty Python, haha. But in a good way! It's really inspiring.

Also, it's been forever since I read your blog! Hi again! :)

Basically Beautiful

Anna Nuttall said...

Very beautiful. I love the quote. It also remind me of Monty Python. xx

Michelle said...

I love that quote!