That’s My Motto

I am of the belief that as you travel on in life, if you are on the right path for you, you acquire regalia–outward trappings of your ever-more-bounteous inner majesty. Maybe your regalia is a scarf your grandma knit or a beer stein your dad picked up while serving our country in Germany. The value of your regalia lies in its emotional merit, its ability to anchor you to something genuine and precious in your life.

Among my regalia is a little slate coaster that I bought on my first visit to Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands. The trip was magical, a series of unfortunate events morphing into a little Cinderella moment for a woman on the backside of forty who dreamed of writing books someday. On the coaster is the motto of the Royal House of Stuart and the Order of the Thistle: Nemo Me Impune Lacessit. (Voltaire says it’s his motto too.)

This motto, which was dear to Queen Victoria, means, essentially: You mess with me, I’ll make you pay, or, nobody provokes me with impunity. For a woman barely five feet tall, ruling from a throne that hadn’t been held by a female in centuries, those words probably spoke to her heart. (And, lest we forget, she had nine kids and her adored hubby popped his clogs at the tender age of 42.)

The other night I was reading along in one of my improving tomes–I think it was Give and Take by Adam Grant?–and I learned that Frank Lloyd Wright’s family had a motto: Truth Against the World. I imagine young Frank, watching his dad raise a toast to the family motto–has a nice ring to it.

And then I bethought myself: What would Lord Stephen Wentworth’s motto be? Must think on that. (The title for his tale is, “How to Catch A Duke,” release date in about year.)

And then methinks: What is MY motto? My website says, “I believe in love,” and that’s true. My personal theory for why Romance as a genre scares so many people is because it’s about love, and love is the most positive, transformative power on earth. Scary business, and I believe in love strongly. But what’s my motto?

My prime directive is, “Be kind; tell the truth.” Having that moral touchstone in my ethical treasure box helps keep me going in an honorable direction, and true to myself. So I s’pose my motto might be: Honesty and Kindness. (Latin: Probitatis et Misericordiam.) Or maybe my motto is simply: Honor.

Family crests and coats of arms have mottoes. Schools have mottoes. Corporations have missions statements, but most of those read to me like so much blah-blah that the PR folks came up with for the shareholder report. Maybe corporations would be better citizens if they could boil their values down to a motto. Not my circus.

By I am curious: Do you have a motto? Does your family? Can you think up a motto that might be appropriate for muddling through the present interesting times? To one commenter, I will send a $25 B&N gift card.


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17 comments on “That’s My Motto

  1. The state of Washington’s is unofficially “Alki.” Means “By and by.” It might be good for the present concern.

  2. There has never been anything formal, but the family of my birth’s motto is this: “keep your chin up.” In so many ways, no matter what happened, our parents taught us to keep our chins up, our heads held up high, grit our teeth and get through it. And for some reason, we did.

    In the family created with my husband it’s: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade….or an Old Fashion!” We have tried to always make the best of whatever situation we are handed and have tried to instill that in our children. Often, things turn out better than anything we expected or planned.

    Both mottos have something in common–getting through *it* the best ways you can. That’s what we’re all trying to do right now, in these interesting times.

  3. Be kind but most of all be true to yourself.I was for twenty five years married to a man who treated his family badly His narcissistic and controlling behaviour frightened us all.My children grew up and left home.I saw what I had become a pathetic woman who had lost all respect for herself and her identiity.I fought back and admitted my marriage was over.Twenty five years later my life is rich and happy.I have achieved a lot and have friends and my family near.Have courage be kind be true to yourself and throw back the rubbish that often comes into our lives.We all have to survive the best we can but never loose faith in yourself.

  4. I can clearly remembering my Dad saying…Gormans are not quitters. Figure it out. His words have seen me through many tough times and hard decisions. I have worked through a lot of personal and professional issues.

    My own motto is you can be liked or respected. This has been a work in progress for me. People think they can take advantage of me because I am a nice person. And they do…until I have had enough.

    That being said, a motto for these times should be…Be Kind. Be Respectful. Be generous.
    My husband has been going out for groceries. Friday he was able to buy chicken, fruit, veggies, eggs ( baking today!) and 1 small bottle of handsantizer (which we gave to a friend). No TP and he was shopping at 6:30 am. Where does all of the TP go? Could be a plot for your next mystery book. We have enough for awhile but I hope the shelves are stocked up soon and people buy what they need.

    I think with a positive attitude we can get through this crisis. Staying home has its merits- reconnecting with family members, watching a movie with husband, getting Netflix recommendations from our daughter and having the time to cook and enjoy a family meal.
    And the corgis are very happy to have me home!

    Take care and enjoy the beginning of Spring.

  5. My guiding motto has always been: Suck It Up and Soldier On
    So I guess it fits right in with current events!

    I am part Scottish, so I do have things with the clan motto around the house, but I don’t really think of that as MINE per se, just a fun historical tie-in.

  6. I don’t have a motto, but I have to tell you — that some of what is sustaining me in these weird times are your books. You have written some of my very favorite tales in this genre (The Captive! Darius, Lord of Pleasure! Anything with Dornings or the Wentworths!) and I thank you from the bottom of my currently too-anxious heart. Keep writing!

  7. My motto is and has always been, “This, too, shall pass.” I like it because no only does it help me to endure the bad times in my life, it also reminds me to savor the good times, because the pendulum swings both ways. Neither good times nor bad are destined to last forever. Especially important to keep in mind in the times which face us today!

  8. Being a Scot by ancestry, my clan motto is “Sub sole sub umbra virens” which means “Flourishing in both sunshine and shade”. Good times & bad is my modern take. Keep an even keel & plan for bad times while enjoying good.

    My dad used to add a paraphrase of the bard – “Be true to yourself.” Works for me. I’m not a follower & it helps me flourish.

  9. First let me second Mary’s comment (#8) and thank you for your books. I just reread Will’s True Wish – love that guy and love the dogs! Also Devlin St. Just (sigh) and Hamish McHugh (paraphrase — the spirits of a thousand generations of Scottish warriors rose up and danced across the sky) Gosh, what a line!

    I first saw the Scottish motto in Edinburgh and practically fell to the ground in shock and awe – these are my people! I brought it home and keep it close. But my own personal motto is my Dad’s — Keep the Faith. Not just religion although we are that, but honor, truth, honesty, kindness, loyalty, dependability

    Thanks Grace Love you.

  10. Moderation in all things. I have a personality that is susceptible to drama and a personal history that makes me inclined to it, so at times moderation is a huge struggle. One great thing about perimenopause is that I feel much more grounded and drama is not appealing at all, so it is getting much easier to embrace moderation and calmness. It is certainly coming in handy right now.

  11. Have compassion. You never know what the person in front of you is dealing with.

    Be blunt when necessary.

    fyi Plealse don’t give me a gift card as I don’t use B&N.

  12. how about ‘fanann an teaghlach a imríonn le chéile le chéile’ – that’s Irish for ‘the family that plays together stays together’ – seems appropriate for these times

  13. The motto that appeals to me right now is “Do what you can.”

    There is a lot that I can do right now. I can create a safe and nurturing environment for our children. I can support my husband and let him support me. I can connect with wider family and friends remotely. I can join local support groups, and donate money to help those who are being hit hardest. I can wash my hands.

    Equally, implicit is the idea that there will be things I can’t do. I can’t control the direction this pandemic or the government takes. I can’t remove all risk of me or my loved ones catching it. I can’t spend all my time with the toddler whilst simultaneously spending all my time with the baby. Some things will have to give, and that’s ok.

  14. My parents told us over and over from our first day in school
    Stand up for what you know is right no matter what others say

  15. I’m not entering since I recently won two of your giveaways.
    My motto is one I picked up from the brother of the man I was then dating. I don’t remember what we were talking about but because we were in a bar, I said “ears have walls” instead of the old saying of “walls have ears”.
    After we quit laughing he said he done similar things many times and said “I just open my mouth to switch feet”. I told him I was adopting that as my motto, that was back in 1972 and I’ve kept it.