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As the year ends, I thought I’d look back at the audio, digital and physical markings and folded corners of my favorite reads. Here are a few memorable quotables from some of the books on my 2023 bookshelf. I hope you find them as impactful and/or inspiring as I have this year…

I believe that each of us carries a bit of inner brightness, something entirely unique and individual. A flame that’s worth protecting. When we are able to recognize our own light, we become empowered to use it. When we learn to foster what’s unique in the people around us, we become better able to build compassionate communities and make meaningful change…Going high is about learning to keep the poison out and the power in. It means that you have to be judicious with your energy and clear in your convictions. You push ahead in some instances and pull back in others, giving yourself opportunities to rest and restore. It helps to recognize that you are operating on a budget, as all of us are. When it comes to our attention, our time, our credibility, our goodwill toward and from others, we work with a limited but renewable set of resources.

Obama, Michelle (2022). The light we carry: overcoming in uncertain times / Michelle Obama. (First edition.). Crown.

Nerve plays a unique role in forging a woman leader and in empowering her to lead throughout her life. Without nerve, women run the real risk of failing to seize an opportunity to exert themselves actively in the pursuit of their life goals. Nerve is the basis for women to be free and choose for themselves how and when they will lead. Nerve underpins every phase of their leadership journey, permitting them to act on their convictions, develop their own style of leadership and defy convention when it stands in the way…

Piper, Martha & Samarasekera, Indira. (2021). Nerve: Lessons on leadership from two women who went first. Foreword by The Right Honorable Kim Campbell (first and to-date the only woman Prime Minister of Canada). ECW Press.

The truth that we may be afraid or unsure of how and when we will rest is valid. We can move through our guilt, shame, and fear that will emerge from reclaiming our bodies and time as our own. This is a vulnerable truth that we should not run from or hide. It can be overwhelming to go against the dominant culture’s desires and plans. We have been taught to hustle, fake it till we make it, ignore our bodies’ cues for rest, all because our systems have been created to ignore and push the laborers and the workers as hard as possible to increase profit. The “dream” aspect of our rest work is deeply tied to the metaphysical and spiritual. It is a time to be free from the confines of linear and grounded reality….This is a time to simply stop and feel. A time to not force or attempt to make sense of what can and will happen when we allow our bodies to heal from the massive load we have been carrying consciously and unconsciously. Can you remember a moment in your life when you have been told that the machine pace of your days is not normal? Sit with this for a moment. Breathe this in for a moment now. There has been no space for any of us to dream of anything outside of what we have been born into. To hear the simple and bold proclamation, “You are doing too much. You can rest. You can just be. You can be,” is revolutionary. To believe it and continue to dream up ways to feel and find rest, care, and healing is liberation. When we recognize this, we can, little by little, begin to honor our bodies and trust our ability to learn new ways of being. We don’t have to be burned out, sleep-deprived, painfully exhausted, or disconnected from ourselves and each other. 

Hersey, Tricia. (2022). Rest is resistance: a manifesto / Tricia Hersey. (First edition.). Little, Brown Spark.

All flourishing is mutual. Soil, fungus, tree, squirrel, boy—all are the beneficiaries of reciprocity. How generously they shower us with food, literally giving themselves so that we can live. But in the giving their lives are also ensured. Our taking returns benefit to them in the circle of life making life, the chain of reciprocity. Living by the precepts of the Honorable Harvest—to take only what is given, to use it well, to be grateful for the gift, and to reciprocate the gift—

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. The Council of Pecans in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Milkweed Editions, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central.

There is a barrier of language and meaning between science and traditional knowledge, different ways of knowing, different ways of communicating. I’m not sure I want to force the teachings of grass into the tight uniform of scientific thinking and technical writing that is required of the academy: Introduction, Literature Review, Hypothesis, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusions, Acknowledgments, References Cited. But I’ve been asked on behalf of sweetgrass, and I know my responsibility. To be heard, you must speak the language of the one you want to listen.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Mishkos Kenomagwen: The Teachings of Grass in Braiding Sweetgrass : Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Milkweed Editions, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central.

We are constantly co-creating the world, so we need not be victims of it…yet, when we choose life, we quickly confront the reality of a culture riddled with violence. By violence, I mean more than the physical savagery that gets much of the press. Far more common, are those assaults on the human spirit, so endemic to our lives that we may not even recognize them as acts of violence. Violence is done when parents insult children; when teachers demean students; when supervisors treat employees as disposable means to economic ends; when physicians treat patients as objects; when people condemn gays and lesbians in the name of God; when racists live with the belief that people with a different skin colour are less than human. And just as physical violence may lead to bodily death, spiritual violence causes death in other guises—the death of a sense of self, of trust in others, of risk taking on behalf of creativity, of commitment to the common good. If obituaries were written for deaths of this kind, every daily newspaper would be a tome…By violence I mean, any way, we have of violating the identity and integrity of another person…

Palmer, Parker. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey towards an Undivided Life, 2009. Jossey Bass.

Where am I?

How did I get here from there?

How do I get there from here?

These questions are central to understanding the physical world, and they’re central to understanding our internal world..But rather than elevation and roads and water, human emotions and experiences are layers of biology, biography, behavior and backstory…we have to:

1.Understand how they show up in our bodies and why (biology)

2. Get curious about how our families and communities shape our beliefs about the connection between our feelings, thoughts and behaviour (biography)

3. Examine our go-to (behaviours), and

4. Recognize the context of what we’re feeling or thinking. What brought this on? (backstory)

These are the questions that help us make meaning of our lives.

Brown, Brené. (2021). Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience. Random House Publishing Group.

Tarana: We need to live in an antiracist society and people need to learn to be antiracist and practice antiracism. But I do not believe in your antiracist work if you have not engaged with Black humanity.

Brené: Oh, my God. Please say that again.

Tarana: I don’t believe your antiracist work is complete or valid or useful if you haven’t engaged with Black humanity. And so to that end, I feel like the audience for this book is first and foremost Black people, right?

Brené: Absolutely.

Tarana: These pages are breathing room for our humanity. I learned so much about the Black experience reading these essays. It’s not like Black people don’t have anything to learn about the Black experience. Our experiences are vast and different. It’s validating to see that even in our various identities and experiences, we engage in similar struggles, we have the same needs. And as other people engage with the book, it’s about seeing the breadth of our humanity, and the depth of it, because this is the reality. It comes back to compassion and love. Always love.

Burke, Tarana, & Brown, Brené (2021). Introduction to: You are your best thing : vulnerability, shame resilience, and the Black experience — an anthology / edited by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown. (First edition.). Random House.