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a Resilient life [blog]

The Only Life You Could Save

When it comes to poetry, no one can rock my world and open my heart like Mary Oliver. Her voice is both vulnerable and fierce, and she knows how to remind you of what matters. What doesn't matter to Mary Oliver is what other people think when you 'wander away, from wherever you are, to look for your soul'. We have all experienced times when we know we need to take bold action to free ourselves, and people will disapprove mightily. But if we don't act, we will die while we are alive. When I was not bold enough yet to take that dreaded action, eventually the dreaded thing happened despite my efforts to stop it - bringing with it the freedom I needed - but with a good dose of suffering. There is a difference between the pain of taking action that will be judged harshly, and the suffering of not taking that action. However, there is no judgment in not being ready to act courageously in the face of potential shame. There is a reason we avoid doing things that will bring on criticism and rejection from the tribe. "Who does she think she is?" and "I knew this was going to happen". Yes, they will say those things from inside whatever jail they live in. Meanwhile, you will be free. To summon the courage you need to break out of whatever beliefs that imprison you, remember that you alone can look back on your life and say, yes, this is what I wanted. And that is 100% within your control. What they say will never be within your control, so let go of it now. The journey you are on is yours, so put on your coat and your favorite scarf, and open the door.

The Journey, by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice --

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

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 that you could save.

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