Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Only Life You Could Save

A thing I learned over winter break is that one can be a good parent for almost a decade, give care along the way to a spouse and children with health challenges, teach at a major university for seven years, be trusted by that university to lead groups of students on educational trips abroad, earn the most advanced degree in one's family, win awards while doing so, publish many stories and a book, and do a bunch of other things that might arguably indicate competence and reliability, yet still be deemed insufficiently reliable to handle commonplace responsibilities within one's extended family. I won't go into details here, because griping isn't my point. It's this:

Sometimes, in some people's eyes, you may never win, never succeed, never stand on your own; so it's crucial not to view yourself through those eyes.

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This poem is on my mind:

"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 you could save.

2 comments:

  1. I don't know why the poem is highlighted like that, and I can't figure out how to undo it. So be it.

    I hope this post helps one person. It helped me to write it.

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    Replies
    1. Your point is an important one, and that's a great poem to have on your mind, and to put into the minds of others.

      (Belatedly replying to your earlier question, no, I'm not on FB, although I feel on the cusp of bowing to the inevitable, and if I do, I will indeed look you up.)

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