“and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
I love this poem, the ending above, a work of the great poet Mary Oliver. I have studied it for years along with another, “The Butterfly,” (“Don’t love your life too much.”) They were ports in the storm of the most tumultuous time of my life and eventually helped me find the courage to leave behind what needed to be left behind and move forward (not unafraid) but with at least, solid shaky confidence.
Many years have passed since that time and, although I would be loathe to do it all again, I would. As I screamed and cried and wrote and sought elusive “safety,” (which is a sad figment of our imaginations), I was growing and changing profoundly in ways that I am still uncovering today.
Recently, someone asked me what was the most important thing I learned back then.
And this is it.
We can change only one person and save only one life. Our own.
That is why it is so important to maintain our integrity with ourselves. Not to drown out our own voices with the loud noise of the seductive world. Not to give up our own personal freedom and choice by capitulating to inappropriate commands of others. But to live a life that is thoughtful and intentional and in line with our purpose.
That means taking time to be still and listen and give the Divine a chance to help us remember who we are. And to guide us through being brutally honest with ourselves about how to move forward.
Is it selfish, you might ask, doing what it takes to save our life? I don’t think so.
This is the life we have and it is flying by and we have work to do to leave this whole place in better shape when we pass one day into the Great Mystery.
Sometimes that means moving on as it did years ago for me. And as it does today when I realize I am conceding my own intention in relationships and situations and, thus, not remaining true to myself. (Read, in fact, sometimes lying to myself).
Thank you, Mary Oliver, for the words I needed and still need today.
We owe ourselves and the Divine a life lived in Our Truth.