Sunday, May 13, 2012

You do not have to be good.

Sometimes the body loves a good book, a good couch
and a good pup to warm the toes.

Wild Geese
            by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I have found myself thinking lately of gratitude, and of guilt. Of the ways I might replace the latter with the former. Of the number of times I say, "I'm sorry," each day when, if I stop to think about it, I'm in no way feeling apologetic. More often these days, I find myself trusting that the world has room for me, that I need not apologize for the space I require to live as who I am. 

A couple of weeks ago, I went dancing with a few close female friends. As we danced and my friends occasionally danced close to me, it felt important to share that I'm not very good at dancing close with other people, from good friends to my husband. On the drive home with one of the women, she delighted in the way I shared my need to have space when dancing, which felt refreshingly upfront to her. I was surprised at her comment; I had not considered it a forward moment on my part– it was much more about gratitude. I did not feel bad or guilty for explaining my preferred way of dancing; I was grateful to be surrounded by such women, women with whom I could share my needs and trust that they would be accepted and honored.  

Since then, I've been wondering what it might look like if I respond with gratitude, with trust, to those instances that bring up an automatic guilty/apologetic response. Trust that the world has room for my imagination, my animal body. Trust that whether I growl, or whether I purr, the world will not collapse in upon me, but will simply continue to be. 

None of that is terribly clear, I'm afraid. To be more concrete, I ponder meeting my loved ones with gratitude rather than apology. "Mom, I can't make it to the play, but I love that you thought of going with me," rather than "I'm so sorry I can't go," plus a string of guilty explanations.  "Honey, thank you for understanding my need to huddle speechless on the couch this afternoon," rather than "I'm sorry I'm not feeling well enough to help with x,y,z." None of the guilt, all of the truth, all of the love.

This essay by Serena Dyer got me thinking of the above poem by Mary Oliver, a poem and poet I have long loved. She has an ability to bring me back to myself, to settle me in amongst the trees, the wildflowers and the geese, an ability to remind me that I need not apologize for the space I require.

This morning, I woke up, jumped across the explosion of sleeping boys spread before the stairs, and slipped outside for a run. I wanted a hands-free run, so I did not take the dog. I then went to the grocery, picking up supplies to make a breakfast for the five pre-teen&teen boys & to grab coffee for my love. As the one making the breakfast, I bought gluten-free waffle mix, so I could eat some, too. After everyone was fed, I set out to make my breakfast: waffle topped with sauteed dandelion greens, one egg over easy, mascarpone/thyme/garlic sauce and bacon bits. As I sat down to eat, my husband mentioned he needed to pop up to the corner store. I asked him if he could please wait until I'd finished eating. The day continued full of boys and video games and new friends stopping by, knitting and new puppy visiting, making a rhubarb cobbler for the woman across the street because I knew she was saddened by her daughter's move across the country. More knitting (an afghan w/skull intarsia pattern for the boy) on the sun-laden back porch as the boy & man traveled to my in-laws' house for a Mother's Day dinner. I don't recall apologizing once. I recall being grateful for a house full of kids, for my body's ability to run, for my husband's willingness to walk the dog, for my mother-in-law's understanding that I preferred a Sunday at home. I did ask my husband at one point if he was bothered in any way by my lack of desire to celebrate Mother's Day. I didn't apologize for it, but I was willing to explore ways to meet all our needs if he was feeling the need for a change. I'm grateful that he wasn't. 

I did not walk on my knees today. I accepted the world's offer. And when I was too long without food, I was not good– and the world did not collapse. I simply stated my need for food, and the world flowed around me, and the cardinal sang its song, and I joined in the dance. 

Happy Dancing!

1 comment:

janelle said...

I liked this very much.