Wednesday, January 06, 2010


A poem by the ridiculously talented Maya Stein. I was reading a few of her poems this morning and had a terribly tough time choosing which one to bring over here. Go see for yourself; that woman can write!

Maybe the camera crew is at someone else’s house,
a spotlight haloing over another’s fleshy story.
Maybe the mailman is delivering the good news
to your neighbor, or a different city entirely,
and you come home to a rash of catalogues,
the second notice for a doctor’s bill, a plea
from the do-gooders for whatever you can spare.
Maybe you haven’t cleaned your kitchen floor in weeks,
forgotten to nourish the front garden, spilled too much
coffee in your car, weaving through traffic.
Maybe you are 10 pounds heavier than last year.
Maybe your skin is betraying your age.
Maybe winter is ravaging your heart.
Maybe you are afraid, or lonely, or furious, or wanting out
of every commitment you entered with such vigor and trust.
Maybe you’ve bitten your nails down to the quick,
chosen your meals badly, ignored the advice of those
who know you best. Maybe you are stubborn as a toddler.
Maybe you are clumsy or foolish or hasty or reckless.
Maybe you haven’t read all the books you’re supposed to.
Maybe your handwriting is still illegible after all these years.
Maybe you spent too much on a pair of shoes you didn’t need.
Maybe you left the window open and the rain ruined the cake.
Maybe you’ve destroyed everything you've ever wanted to save.


If anything, believe in your own strange loveliness.
How your body, even as it stumbles, angles for light.
The way you hold a dandelion with such yearning and tenderness,
the whole world stops spinning.

It is so easy to begin a new year with resolutions.
"This year, I will clear some of those 'maybes' off my list.
I will read more and watch television less.
I will exercise more and eat less.
I will love more and plot the demise of my mother/children/pastor/spouse less."

Or perhaps the easiest thing is to enter the year determined
not to make any resolutions because we haven't kept them in the past.

The toughest thing is to believe what Karen Maezen Miller always says:
"We are perfect just as we are right now."

I admit: when she writes that and repeats it, I chafe.
I wince.
I disagree.
Then I let my shoulders drop.
I take a deep breath.
And I remember: all is exactly as it should be right now.
Right here, right now, all is as it is meant to be.

I know, I know. I have asked the same questions -
How can cancer be perfect? My father died of cancer. Not perfect.
How can a hospitalized child be perfect? Been there, done that. Not perfect.
How can losing a job and having no prospects be perfect? See above.
I once had a pastor, a man I still miss dearly, who used to answer the tough questions this way: "I have four words for you - 'I do not know.'"
I liked his honesty. I agree with his answer.
But still...

I have learned to stop thinking of "perfect" as without problem or difficulty or challenge.
Perfect is not the way women look in magazines - because those women don't even look like that.
Perfect is not having earned a billion dollars, married a beautiful wife and fathered two gorgeous kids. Don't we all know that!
Perfect is not having all the answers to every question of faith and doctrine and Scripture and claiming to be without any doubt.
To me, "perfect" means life is exactly what it is supposed to be right now.

I remember standing by my father's bedside in those final moments, those final seconds, and then watching his face as his spirit left his aching, broken, pinned together frame. He was there, then he was gone. I saw it. Every second of it. Perfect.

I remember when my husband was looking for a job several years ago. I went to bed confident that all would work out well some nights. Invariably, I woke up crying and panicky the following morning. Friends supported us and prayed for us and encouraged us not to give up hope. We prayed and pleaded and tried to bargain with God for a job offer. For a while none came. Still, in the midst of it, there were pockets of peace. Perfect peace.

But I digress.

No matter what the situation, no matter how many "maybes"
are on your mind, your heart, or your hips at the moment,
you are still beautiful and strong.
you are still loving and lovely.
you are still dreaming and dreamy.
you are still worthy of grace and mercy and peace and joy and love.
all shall be well.
all manner of things shall be well.



Lisa said...

Beautifully poignant.

Thank you.

I needed this today.

Lindsey said...

Thank you. I struggle and chafe with this as well, and am so grateful for your reassuring, elegant words of reminder.

Karen Maezen Miller said...

Exquisitely perfect as it is.

Launa said...

You are perfect, Gail. I can see that, from way over here. It's just a little too hard to see it, up close and in a mirror.

Semi-A said...

(I tried to post a comment the other day but It would let me!) All of the above is so correct. The idea of "New Year's resolutions" has become so commercialized and superficial, and who really follows through with them by the end of that year? While reading this I was thinking of one of India Arie's lyrics, "The only thing constant in the world is change. That's why today I take life as it comes." That's what I've begun to do, and make changes as necessary, and so far it's worked better than all those lists I used to make, lol!

heather l murphy said...

Thank you for sharing this sweet friend of mine...perfection it is. It is so comforting to hear the words: "if anything, believe in your own strange loveliness."

Mary Anna said...

Once again your words come when they are needed the most..."all shall be well" I needed to hear that...keep writing Gail, we need it!

Mary Anna said...

Once again your words come when they are needed the most..."all shall be well" I needed to hear that...keep writing Gail, we need it!