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.
When I was in pre-school I informed my parents that I wanted to learn how to read. So they marched me across the field and our very patient next-door neighbor (Hi Frances!) pulled out some See Jane Run and got busy fulfilling my wish. In elementary and middle school there were special classes, and camps, and trainings. And then in high school, when I felt I had out grown my public school, I decided I was going to an elite boarding school. In college, I studied Art History in the Louvre––in. the. Louvre. After that, in grad school, I was voted "Outstanding Marriage and Family Therapist Student." Since then, I've applied to and participated in yoga trainings, counseling seminars, local boards, and extra classes.
I do not tell you this to brag or tout my accomplishments, because at the end of the day I haven't cured cancer or solved world peace, I haven't done anything all that great except have an insatiable need for knowledge, for learning, for growth. A need so painful, so intense it has driven me across continents and countries. It has made me annoying, and humble, and depressed.
Because when you base your life solely around accomplishing things, you're bound to get let down. Not every moment is great, there's not always something to learn, and sometimes there's nothing more to do than keep your head down and slog through.
And slog through is exactly what I have been doing lately. Getting up, going to work, coming home, and watching TV like most Americans. Except, I am not most Americans. I am the Valedictorian of Everything. The Valedictorian of Everything does not just slog through.
The Valedictorian does things. Accomplishes things. Has projects. Is great.
But I've accomplished all the major things on my list. I have an advanced degree, a job in my field. A wonderful husband. Amazing friends.
I've ticked the boxes I've been told to (that I've wanted to). So, what's next?
It's a question I've had a long time to ponder as I've been laying around being the Valedictorian of Doing Nothing, of recovering from my surgery. My it's not cancer, you may have endometriosis, but you'll be fine surgery.
And all I can come up with is that my next project is realizing that the mundane, ordinary life I've created (that I've been granted since my it's not cancer, you may have endometriosis, but you'll be fine surgery) is actually quite extraordinary. That it's what I worked hard to create. That it's what I walked across that field for when I was three.
And that it's enough. I'm enough.
Which may be the hardest lesson of all. Becoming a human being instead of a human doing. Funny how we do that. How we learn that we have to do things, accomplish things, run marathons, tear down walls, cure cancer to be good enough.
When really all we have to do is let the soft animal of our body love what it loves.
And my body loves my husband, and seeing clients, and cooking food, and snuggling on the couch. And that's good enough. I'm good enough.
So are you.