On Identity


  • “I have always been tormented by the image of multiplicity of selves. Some days I call it richness, and other days I see it as a disease, a proliferation as dangerous as cancer. My first concept about people around me was that all of them were coordinated into a WHOLE, whereas I was made up of multiple selves, of fragments. I know that I was upset as a child to discover that we had only one life. It seems to me that I wanted to compensate for this by multiplying experience. Or perhaps it always seems like this when you follow all your impulses and they take you in different directions. In any case, when I was happy, always at the beginning of a love, euphoric, I felt I was gifted for living many lives fully. It was only when I was in trouble, lost in a maze, stifled by complications and paradoxes that I was haunted or that I spoke of my “madness,” but I meant the madness of the poets.” ― Anaïs Nin 
  • “There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.”  ~ Anaïs Nin
  • “I am aware of a monstrous paradox; By giving myself I learn to love Hugo. By living as I do I am preserving our love from bitterness and death.  The truth is that this is the only way I can live: in two directions. I need two lives. I am two beings. When I return to Hugo in the evening, to the peace and warmth of the house, I return with a deep contentment, as if this were the only condition for me. I bring home to Hugo a whole woman, freed of all ‘possessed’ fevers, cured of the poison of restlessness and curiosity which used to threaten our marriage, cured through action. Our love lives, because I live. I sustain and feed it. I am loyal to it, in my own way, which cannot be his way. If he ever reads these lines, he must believe me. I am writing calmly, lucidly while waiting for him to come home, as one who waits for the chosen lover, the eternal one.”   ~  Anaïs Nin
  • “I’m not that serene, I can get quite hysterical at times. As a child I was so shy that the only time I could get out of myself was acting. The only defence is to play a role because then you can get behind somebody else’s skin — not be yourself.”   ~  Ingrid Bergman
  • “But to do this kind of work, you have to be very strong, otherwise you lose your personality, your identity.” ~ Claudia Cardinale on Being an Actress
  • “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” ~ Camus
  • “I’ve always admitted that I’m ruled by my passions.” ~ Elizabeth Taylor
  • “We cannot learn without pain.”  ~ Aristotle
  • “When you hit a wall – of your own imagined limitations – just kick it in.”  ~ Sam Shepard
  • “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”  ~ Joyce Maynard
  • “You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book (Lady Chatterley, for instance), or you take a trip, or you talk with Richard, and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.” ~ Anaïs Nin , fromThe Diary of Anaïs Nin , Volume One 1931-1934
  • “I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes.”  ~ Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
  • “Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world will say, whether you are in your place or out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, do your best works.” ~ Susan B. Anthony
  • “Nature is busy creating absolutely unique individuals, whereas culture has invented a single mold to which all must conform.  It is grotesque.”  ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • “If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment … all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.”  ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The House of the Dead
  • “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” ~ Salvador Dali 
  • “Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” ~ Albert Camus
  • “I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.” ― Albert Camus, L’etranger
  • “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” ~ Albert Camus (1913-1960) — in Drean, Annaba, Algeria.
  • “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  ~ T.S. Eliot
  • “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ~ C.G. Jung
  • “Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.” ~ Nora Ephron
  • “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”  ~ Albert Camus
  • “But how entirely I live in my imagination; how completely depend upon spurts of thought, coming as I walk, as I sit; things churning up in my mind and so making a perpetual pageant, which is to be my happiness.”  ~ Virginia Woolf, from A Writer’s Diary
  •  “A man wants to earn money in order to be happy, and his whole effort and the best of a life are devoted to the earning of that money. Happiness is forgotten; the means are taken for the end.” ~  Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays 
  • “Get scared. It will do you good. Smoke a bit, stare blankly at some ceilings, beat your head against some walls, refuse to see some people, paint and write. Get scared some more. Allow your little mind to do nothing but function. Stay inside, go out – I don’t care what you’ll do; but stay scared as hell. You will never be able to experience everything. So, please, do poetical justice to your soul and simply experience yourself.”  ~  Albert Camus (Notebooks 1951-1959)
  • “If you want to marry him, you must love him. Unconditionally and with devotion. You chose him. He must be wonderful. If you chose him for any other reason, your problem, whatever it may be, lies in the realm of which I know nothing. If your brain, instead of your heart, pilots your emotions, there must be regrets. You cannot trust your brain. You can trust your heart.”  ~ Marlene Dietrich
  • “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”  ~ from “The Brothers Karamazov” by  Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • “To say goodbye is to die a little.”  ~ Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
  • “Mostly I just kill time,” he said, “and it dies hard.”  ~ Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
  • “As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style.” ~ Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
  • “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”  ~ Arthur Miller
  • “There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.”  ~ Raymond Chandler, Long Goodbye
  • “Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”  ~ Henry Miller
  • “I want to find myself, way deep inside. And enjoy being myself. It isn’t easy. Nothing’s ever easy as long as you go on living.”  ~ Marilyn Monroe 
  • “To lose one’s life is no great matter; when the time comes I’ll have the courage to lose mine. But what’s intolerable is to see one’s life being drained of meaning, to be told there’s no reason for existing. A man can’t live without some reason for living.” ~ Albert Camus, Caligula 
  • “When I love, I do it without counting. I give myself entirely. And each time, it is the grand love of my life.” ~ Brigitte Bardot
  • “What does beauty mean, after all? There must be something more than that, something inside.” ~ Sophia Loren
  • “I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.” ~ Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
  • “There has always been, for me, this other world, this second world to fall back on–a more reliable world in so far as it does not hide that its premise is illusion.” ~ Graham Swift, Ever After
  • “There is in the soul a desire for not thinking. / For being still. Coupled with this / a desire to be strict, yes, and rigorous. / But the soul is also a smooth son of a bitch, / not always trustworthy. And I forgot that.” ~  Raymond Carver, All of Us: The Collected Poems 
  • “The past is unclear. It’s as if there is a film over those early years. I can’t even be sure that the things I remember happening really happened to me.” ~ Raymond Carver Short Cuts: Selected Stories 
  • “When my emotions kick me on the inside and the world kicks me on the outside, where do I go from there?” ~ Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn and Me
  • “I told her once I wasn’t good at anything. She told me survival is a talent.”  ~ Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted
  • “I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.” ~ Donna Tartt, The Secret History
  • “Oh, something is there, waiting for me.  Perhaps someday the revelation will burst in upon me and I will see the other side of this monumnetal grotesque joke.  And then I’ll laugh.  And then I’ll know what life is.”  ~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals
  • “To look at her, you might not guess that inside she is laughing and crying, at her own stupidities and luckiness, and at the strange enigmatic ways of the world which she will spend lifetime trying to learn and understand.”  ~  Sylvia Plath
  • “He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” — Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
  • “While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.” ~ Jack Kerouac, The Scripture Of The Golden Eternity
  • “Sometimes I feel like if you just watch things, just sit still and let the world exist in front of you – sometimes I swear that just for a second time freezes and the world pauses in its tilt. Just for a second. And if you somehow found a way to live in that second, then you would live forever.” ~ Lauren Oliver, “Pandemonium”
  • “You get born and you try this and you don’t know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they don’t know why either except that the strings are all in one another’s way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it can’t matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying or having to keep on trying and then all of a sudden it’s all over.” ~ William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

  • “I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  • “If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.” ~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

  • “Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.” ~ David Foster Wallace, “Infinite Jest”
  •  “Life is but a continual succession of opportunities for surviving.” ~ Gabriel García Márquez
  • “But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”  ~  Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

  • “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.” ~ Albert Camus, The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt

  • “With me, the present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead. But you can’t start over with each new second. You have to judge by what is dead. It’s like quicksand… hopeless from the start. ” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • “I believe that there are people who think as I do, who have thought as I do, who will think as I do. There are those who will live, unconscious of me, but continuing my attitude, so to speak, as I continue, unknowingly, the similar attitude of those before me. I could write and write. All it takes is a motion of the hand in response to a brain impulse, trained from childhood to record in our own American brand of hieroglyphics the translations of external stimuli. How much of my brain is willfully my own? How much is not a rubber stamp of what I have read and heard and lived? Sure, I make a sort of synthesis of what I come across, but that is all that differentiates me from another person? – – – That I have banged into and assimilated various things? That my environment and a chance combination of genes got me where I am?”  ~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • “You be greater than your feelings. I don’t demand this of you – life does. Otherwise you’ll be washed away by feelings. You’ll be washed out to sea and never seen again.” ~ Philip Roth, Indignation

  • “We are duplicitous, we’re blind- and it is hard to live, trusting only in life: earthly life is a murky translation from the divine original; the general thought is clear but the primordial music is missing in its words. . . What are passions? Mistakes in the translation. What is love? A rhyme lost in transmission to our discordant language. . . It’s time for me to take up the original!” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, The Tragedy of Mister Morn
  • “The thought, when written down, becomes less oppressive, but some thoughts are like a cancerous tumor: you express is, you excise it, and it grows back worse than before.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading 
  • “Love does not terrify me. But the going away of it does. I have been made terribly aware of how everything can be wrenched away from you and your life torn apart. If I had known very secure nights all my life, if I had never seen or felt the fear of being tortured or deported or blown up into a million pieces, then I would not fear it.” ~ Audrey Hepburn
  • “Beauty is a form of Genius; it’s higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in the dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.”  ~  Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • ‘How wonderful to be alive, he thought. But why does it always hurt?’~  Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago 
  • “I carry it all with me, in the quiet pools and strong currents of my being. I fill my hands with the black dirt left by the river’s birth. I believe that what I hold in my hands is memory: like the river, it takes what it touches, carrying it along until all that remains is the bed over which the water flows.” ~ Kim Barnes, In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country

  • “Every man carries with him through life a mirror, as unique and impossible to get rid of as his shadow.”  ~ W.H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand  
  • “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” ~  Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • “I may be the wrong person for my life.”  ~ Thomas McGuane

  • “The most frightening thing in the world is to discover the abnormal in that which is closest to us.” ~ Kōbō Abe

  • “The walls of books around him, dense with the past, formed a kind of insulation against the present world and its disasters.” ― Ross Macdonald

  • “When you’re in love you don’t have to do a damn thing. You can just be. You can just stay quiet in the world. You don’t have to move an inch.” ~  Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love

  • “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative—which ever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.”  ~  Sylvia Plath
  • “I should have reciprocated her feelings and held her tight. That was the one thing she was hoping for — to be accepted and embraced unconditionally, to be comforted by someone, if only for a moment.” ~ Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

  • “Jekyll and Hyde. More than two. I’m so many people. They shock me sometimes. I wish it was just me.”  ~ Marilyn Monroe
  • “These are the stories that we tell ourselves and only ourselves, and they are better left unshared.” ~ Jim Crace, Harvest 
  • “She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” ~  Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park
  • “Sometimes it’s to your advantage for people to think you’re crazy.”  ~ Thelonious Monk 
  • “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  ~ T. S. Eliot

  • “I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” ~ excerpt from “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by William Butler Yeats
  • “Love does not terrify me. But the going away of it does. I have been made terribly aware of how everything can be wrenched away from you and your life torn apart. If I had known very secure nights all my life, if I had never seen or felt the fear of being tortured or deported or blown up into a million pieces, then I would not fear it.”  ~  Audrey Hepburn
  • “I was always hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it – to be fed so much love I couldn’t take any more. Just once. ”  ~ Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
  • “If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.” ~  Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • “I desire the things which will destroy me in the end.”  ~ Sylvia Plath
  • “I married him against all evidence. I married him believing that marriage doesn’t work, that love dies, that passion fades, and in so doing I became the kind of romantic only a cynic is truly capable of being.”  ~  Nora Ephron, Heartburn
  • “To whom can I expose the urgency of my own passion?” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Waves

  • “Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”  ~ Zelda Fitzgerald, Save Me The Waltz

  • “I am leaving the town to the invaders: increasingly numerous, mediocre, dirty, badly behaved, shameless tourists.” ~  Brigitte Bardot

  • “Your wound, your silly little wound! That’s your real love, Leo, that wound, the one true love of your life! I know how it will be, even if we tried, even if we managed to build something all over again. The music too, that would be no different. Even if they’d accepted you tonight, even if you became celebrated in this town, you’d destroy it all, you’d destroy everything, pull it all down around you just as you did before. And all because of that wound. Me, the music, we’re neither of us anything more to you than mistresses you seek consolation from. You’ll always go back to your one real love. To that wound!”  ~ Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled

  • “I’ve never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It’s probably because they have forgotten their own.” ~ Margaret Atwood
  • “From childhood’s hour I have not been. As others were, I have not seen. As others saw, I could not awaken. My heart to joy at the same tone. And all I loved, I loved alone.”  ~ Edgar Allan Poe
  • “I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.” ~ Virginia Woolf
  • “She hoped that although he could not hear her she could somehow imprint her ordinary love upon his memory through all eternity, hoped he would rise thinking of her, we were each other, we were each other, not that it mattered much in the long run but what else mattered as much.” ~  Joan Didion, Run River

  • “Our imagination teaches us our limits and then how to grow beyond those limits. The imagination says listen to me. I am your darkest voice. I am your 4 a.m. voice. I am the voice that wakes you up and says this is what I’m afraid of. Do not listen to me at your peril… The imagination is not our escape. On the contrary, the imagination is the place we are all trying to get to.”  ~ John Guare, Six Degrees of Separation

  • “Women were brought up to believe that men were the answer. They weren’t. They weren’t even one of the questions. ” ~  Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10½ Chapters
  • “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” 
    ― Frida Kahlo 
  • “I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” ~  Tom Waits
  • “Be a loner.  That gives you time to wonder, to search for truth.  Have holy curiosity.  Make your life worth living.”  ~ Albert Einstein 
  • “Do you fall in love often?”

    “Yes often. With a view, with a book, with a dog, a cat, with numbers, with friends, with complete strangers, with nothing at all.” ~  Jeanette Winterson, Gut Symmetries

  • “I suppose most of us are lonely in this big world, but we must fall tremendously in love to find it out. The cure is the discovery of our need for company — I mean company in the very special sense we’ve come to understand since we happened to each other — you and I. The pleasures of human experience are emptied away without that companionship […] You are my life — my very life. Never imagine your hope approximates what you are to me. Beautiful, precious little baby — hurry up the sun! — make the days shorter till we meet. I love you, that’s all there is to it. Your boy, Orson”  ~  Love letter by Orson Welles to Rita Hayworth.

  • “When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat”   ~ Charles Bukowski
  •  “Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants.  The way it stops and starts.” ~ Edgar Allen Poe
  • “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” ~ Jane Austen, ‘Persuasion’ 
  • “I know now that most people are so closely concerned with themselves that they are not aware of their own individuality. I can see myself, and it has helped me to say what I want to say… in paint.”  ~ Georgia O’Keeffe



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