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Nancy Mairs

  • ... the waves chewed at the sand / with white teeth ...

    • Nancy Mairs,
    • "Mother, Because We Do Not Speak of Such Things, I Have Written You a Poem," In All the Rooms of the Yellow House ()
  • The man who doesn't love me / I love twice: / once for his beauty, again / for his sound sense.

    • Nancy Mairs,
    • "Wise," In All the Rooms of the Yellow House ()
  • To view your life as blessed does not require you to deny your pain. It simply demands a more complicated vision, one in which a condition or event is not either good or bad but is, rather, both good and bad, not sequentially but simultaneously.

  • ... physical disability looms pretty large in one's life. But it doesn't devour one wholly. I'm not, for instance, Ms. MS, a walking, talking embodiment of a chronic incurable degenerative disease.

  • The fact is that ours is the only minority you can join involuntarily, without warning, at any time. And if you live long enough, as you're increasingly likely to do, you may well join it.

  • A line, once crossed, can never be uncrossed.

  • ... our lives are stories we tell ourselves.

  • This kind of split makes me crazy, this territorializing of the holy. Here God may dwell. Here God may not dwell. It contradicts everything in my experience, which says: God dwells where I dwell.

  • Anyone who ... thinks that, through her own words and actions, she initiates and controls the connections between herself and God — mustn't have much experience of God's boundless affection for even the grudgingest of creatures.

  • Weddings in our society seem designed to reduce the bride and groom to precisely the condition of those who, because they 'lack sufficient use of reason,' are 'incapable of contracting marriage,' according to canon law.

  • Conceiving love only as a warm fuzzy, you can readily forget just how much work it entails. But it's authentic work, strenuous and productive: doing a do, not avoiding a don't. It puts you in a right relation with God and others, reciprocal rather than hierarchical. At one time or another, legal penalties have been imposed for violations of all the ten commandments ... But the great commandment is extralegal. Love cannot be forced. It must be chosen. You love not out of dread but out of your own fullness. It's what you were made for. When you fail at it, you aren't sent to prison, or to the electric chair, or to hell. You are commanded again: Love.

  • If only we could have them back as babies today, now that we have some idea what to do with them.

  • Through its prohibition on birth control, the Church has suggested that the only right way to have children is through biological reproduction: a kind of forced labor culminating in the production of another soul for God. What kind of a God stands like Lee Iacocca at the end of an assembly line, driving his workers with a greedy 'More! More!' while the automobiles pile up in showrooms and on freeways and in used-car lots and finally junkyards, his only satisfaction the gross production figures at the end of every quarter?

  • Poor and afflicted and oppressed people have faces, and we are required to look squarely into them. We can't love what we won't experience.

  • The charity that begins at home cannot rest there but draws one inexorably over the threshold and off the porch and down the street and so out and out and out and out into the world which becomes the home wherein charity begins until it becomes possible, in theory at least, to love the whole of creation with the same patience, affection, and amusement one first practiced, in between the pouts and tantrums, with parents, siblings, spouse, and children.

  • God is no White Knight who charges into the world to pluck us like distressed damsels from the jaws of dragons, or diseases. God chooses to become present to and through us. It is up to us to rescue one another.

  • ... I belong to that enormous group, very likely a majority, in fact, who are both pro-choice and anti-abortion.

  • You don't have to want death in order to prepare for it.

  • From the moment of birth, at every level, human beings who are more alike than different become polarized into two absolutely exclusive classes with very different and ill-distributed symbolic powers.

  • Writing is not, alas, like riding a bicycle: it does not get easier with practice.

  • If the very thought of taking off all your clothes in the middle of the Washington Mall during a school holiday makes you blush, you haven't even begun to dream what it feels like to publish a book.

  • That's the trouble with honorable mentions: they let everyone know you applied and didn't win.

  • My writing arises out of erotic impulse toward an other: it is an act of love. And I want terribly to be loved in return, as a sign that I have loved well enough.

  • In a society that prates about, but seldom practices, communication, the craving to be listened to, heard, understood — which originates with the first terrified wail, the circling arms, the breast, the consolatory murmur — is hard to assuage.

  • ... people who seem most hostile to my presence are those most fearful of my fate. And since their fear keeps them emotionally distant from me, they are the ones least likely to learn that my life isn't half so dismal as they assume.

  • ... no one expects all impediments to be miraculously whisked away. In insisting that others view our lives as ample and precious, we are not demanding that they be made perfect. ... If it is both possible and pleasant for me and my kind to enter, the world will become a livelier place. You'll see.

  • I felt permanently exiled from 'normality.' Whether imposed by self or society, this outsider status — and not the disability itself — constitutes the most daunting barrier for most people with physical impairments, because it, even more than flights of steps or elevators without braille, prevents them from participating fully in the ordinary world, where most of life's satisfactions dwell.

  • One of the blessings that comes with parental territory is that children tug you into experiences you're pretty sure you'd never otherwise contemplate.

Nancy Mairs, U.S. writer

(1943)