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Quotes to live by

Roxanne Henke

“It’s often said that before you die, your life passes before your eyes. It is, in fact, true. It’s called living.”

Author Terry Pratchett wrote those words and they struck such a chord with me I had to write them down.

At my age (63), a person can’t help but look back now and then and take an assessment of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and what’s left that I want to do. There’s a sense of time running out. And that’s not a bad thing. At least not to me. Instead it’s a spur to urge me to get on with it – whatever “it” happens to be.

There’s a saying often quoted to determine your personality: Is the glass half full or half empty? If you say, “half full,” you’re an optimist. If you respond, “half empty,” you’re a pessimist. What am I? I’m a realist. I don’t ask if the glass is full or empty, I ask, “What’s in the glass?”

And, so it is with life. Unless you stop occasionally and take a good, long look at what makes up your life, one can easily pass minutes, hours, days, even years, without much to show for the time spent on this earth.

I muse about things like that more these days. So, this following quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald also got me thinking: “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

Let me tell you about a time when I had a wake-up call and needed to “start over.” I’ve always prided myself on being able to keep a confidence. My dad was a banker (I grew up working at the bank) and he taught me that that to keep the trust of our customers, we had to keep their information completely private. So, I learned from an early age how to, in blunter terms, keep my mouth shut.

Fast-forward many years. My phone rang and it was someone I didn’t know well on the other end of the line. He was a writer like me, and he had some big news he wanted to share with me. I know he called because I would know what he’d accomplished was “something.” In the writing world, there are times when you are asked to write something, or you sign a contract, and are asked to keep that information confidential.

But, I’m sure you know that feeling when you get good news – you just have to tell someone. You want to share the hard work you’ve done with someone who will rejoice with you. And, in this case, keep it private. And so, he confided in me. What he’d done was a big deal. Even I was excited about what he’d done.

Shortly after I hung up, the phone rang again. This time it was my oldest daughter. We talked in general, then busting with the urge to share what I’d just learned (because I knew she’d understand what a big deal it was), I told her. And, told her not to tell anyone.

We hung up and about an hour later, my phone rang again. It was the writer again. I can still hear his voice, “Roxy. Roxy. Rrrroxy.” His tone was filled with disappointment. He’d just learned that his confidential news had gotten around, and he was sure it had come from me.

I was mortified and confessed I’d told my daughter but, I added, “I told her not to tell a soul.” I could almost see him shaking his head on the other end of the line. Even I was disappointed in myself. I knew better.

We hung up and I immediately called my daughter, already almost as upset with her as I was with myself. I asked who she’d told. “No one,” she said, and then added, “but (a mutual friend) called me after I talked to you and she told me the same news.”

So, “it” was out there, and it hadn’t come from me. I called the writer back and told him the update, about how my daughter had heard the same news from a friend. Still, I apologized once more. I’d “told” when I’d said I wouldn’t. He (sort of) offered forgiveness.

But, to this day (this incident happened years ago), the fact that I broke his trust weighs on me. The good news is, it reinforced my dad’s lesson. When you share a confidence, you are breaking a trust. Believe me, I learned that the humiliation, shame and guilt I felt (and still feel when I recall that time) were not worth the momentary thrill I got sharing someone else’s secret.

And so, I had a chance to start over. Since that hard, embarrassing lesson years ago, I have not ever used a confidence as gossip. Believe me, I have been sorely tempted at times. Sometimes I practically have to self-pierce my tongue with my teeth to keep the words inside.

Often a mistake can be the biggest lesson. And, in my case, it was. I had a chance to start over. And so, I did. As I live my life, watching each day pass before my eyes, I try my best to make it a life worth watching. By me – and by anyone observing me.

Oprah Winfrey has said, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that no one is going to know whether you did it or not.” To that I’d like to add, “But, if someone does find out, what they’ll find out is that you did the right thing.” Live with integrity. Make your life one worth watching.

Roxanne (Roxy) Henke muses over quotes like these from her home in rural North Dakota, where she lives with her husband, and their dog, DeeDee. You can find more of her writing online at: or contact her at