That One Wild and Precious Life

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Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.
― Mary Oliver

I have had a hard year. Twenty-eighteen was tough. Yes, so many blessings. So much gratitude. The people in my life now – so rich. The church that I was called to build – my favorite place. The family bending and growing – takes my breath away. The partner building new bonds with me – an honor to share this life.

But all of this goodness doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Change is a terrible process. I can now understand why few paddle far from the familiar shores. Change demands a breaking of the familiar and expected. Change requires our sweat and the end of our presuppositions of how it was supposed to be.

But yet I’m here. I have stared down my complicity in the patriarchal systems of my churched upbringing. I have gazed long at the ways I’ve tried to keep my children small. I have confessed over and over and over the longing for simple and carefree, for which I was never made. I have grieved the loss of the small dreams, to make way for the better dreams.

And the hardest part of this year, I have found me. And isn’t that a terrifying endeavor? Because not everyone who knew old me likes new me. I make the introductions but few connect upon greeting – a limp handshake and a shifty gaze are the extent. To their credit, I don’t try hard either. I let it be what it is. I’m not the same. It isn’t their fault.

I wonder why it’s so hard to find ourselves. The gain is obviously preferred over the loss, but the loss is real. The loss must be owned and examined before it can be surrendered.

And so I honor that which hurts. As I let go I find myself in new ways. But love is never over, and bonds from love are impervious to easy breakage. Instead a respectful turning happens, a generous wishing well followed by a separation of ways.

Easier said than done, but done nevertheless.

The year of giving me myself has given me life. The vulnerability, the mistakes, the success and failure, the unmet expectations and the terrible sleeplessness have deposited a package on my doorstep of perfection. I know things now. I trust the low rumble and I know she’s telling me something. I believe the tears when they flow and I honor the raucous laughter.

As a good lover tends to their beloved, I am attentive to me. I find myself fascinating. My emotions are the best teachers, and their lessons trickle and pool across the floors of my home, down the walk, and into the streets.

The world needs us to be ourselves. We aim for small because someone along the line said. But they lied. We live this one life, and we get to live it well.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
― Mary Oliver

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