Let me keep my mind on what matters

mary oliver is teaching me a great many things

Mary Oliver wrote:

“[…] Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work

Which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished”.

Mary goes on to tell us that her work is “loving the world” in the same poem “the messenger”; which, to me, seems to embody the absolute commitment to the poet’s calling: to give testimony again and again, against whatever darkness or terror to the beauty and light of living deliberately. Which, in my experience also means allowing transformation to take place without having to understand every aspect of what we’re about to become. What it does require is faith in who we are becoming.

I don’t know exactly what happens internally when we embrace that transformation and whatever truth resides in each of us. I wish I knew. All I know is that it’s miraculous and that parts of it can only be witnessed. But just as often we have to facilitate that change ourselves by making effective behavioral changes that will impact us cognitively and emotionally months (or years) down the line.

That is to say, some things can’t be understood before they are lived. Sometimes through recovery from grief, trauma, abuse, or atrocity, we discover something in ourselves we never knew we had. Perhaps then life only endows us with the tremendous excitement and joy of living once we realize we’ve always had the strength to bear it. I just needed to learn how.

I’m still learning.