On Not Being Good...
Last week, I read three or four magazine pages, blog posts, and other seemingly unrelated pieces that suggested that I read some poetry. Mary Oliver has been spoken of highly in some of the circles in which I travel, so I decided to look her up online. I clicked on the first interesting-looking link that showed up in my search results. I read the first poem, and here is what the first lines read.
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.
What? Me? I don't have to be good?
What else do I not have to be or do?
I do not have to clean up every mess every time.
I do not have to smile.
I do not have to be calm and patient.
I do not have to believe what you say.
I do not have to always have the answer.
I do not have to agree with you or him or her or them.
I do not have to pretend that all is well when it is not.
I do not have to deny what I feel.
I do not have to fake something I no longer feel.
I do not have to go anyplace just because someone told me I should.
I do not have to stay home just because someone told me I should.
I do not have to put up with being disrespected and taken for granted.
I do not have to ask for permission to feel this way, whatever way this feels.
I do not have to be right.
I do not have to be good.
And I get to love whatever and whomever I want to love?
The coffee and toasted, buttered bagels.
The tea and shortbread cookies.
The Ghirardelli chocolate squares with carmelized almonds.
The Vosges deep milk chocolate Barcelona bar with almonds and sea salt.
The toasted bagels with butter.
The salad with bell peppers and flax seed, dressed only with sushi vinegar.
The cedar plank salmon and key lime pie at the restaurant I sneak off to.
I get to love the wild-eyed people who howl at the moon
and yearn to break all the rules.
The calm ones who break the rules without much fanfare.
The ones that travel and the ones that stay at home.
The ones who read and the ones who paint.
The ones who write poems and the ones who explain them to me.
The ones who tell the truth and the ones who live it.
The ones that dare to challenge the old ways and question the old assumptions. Especially the ones who look at me perplexed and ask,
"What assumptions? Whose assumptions?
And why do you care what they think?"
I get to love them too???
Addendum: for more thoughts and commentary on this poem, check this out.