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.
© Mary Oliver
I cried the very first time I read that poem. And the second time I read it I cried again. Mary Oliver described me perfectly with this poem, as I am sure she has described many; we share the deep, sharp emotions that are evoked with this piece when we experience life from a deep, sharp, sensory-rich place.
And whenever we are lonely, whenever we feel an isolated sadness *even while in the company of others*, never forget… Never Forget… the world offers itself to our imagination. We can be as content, as loved, as supported, as connected and as deeply held as we desire.
I received an email from a young man last week… I’ll call him “J”. He says he is a single male in his mid thirties, and he feels that nothing is going his way. He has a job, but is making less money than he is accustomed to, and he has no house of his own, not married, no girlfriend, and even though he tries really hard to be happy, he is always sad. His question to me was, “How can I be happy and improve my life?”
And, while I normally don’t respond to emails of this nature, because really, how could I possibly help him? Spout off a lot of “silver lining” advice or encourage him to trust in a higher power? Sure, I could do that, but I don’t want to.
However, I do want him to know that he has been heard, I acknowledge his sadness, and I want him to know he is not alone. I have also been in a place where I tried really hard to be happy, but I knew something was missing. I also tried to find it outside of myself… in another person… even though I knew that was impossible (and made for unhealthy relationships).
I feel lots of compassion for J and others like him. And I can share something that I have learned from my own experience, because really, all we can share with authenticity is what we know.
Love + Compassion
If you are lonely, if you feel that no one cares, if you feel that you are missing deep connection, then do something for someone else. Go spend time with animals in a shelter. Go visit people in the nursing home. Get out of your house and do something for a neighbor. Get involved with a program that feeds the homeless. Basically, when you are lonely and lacking connection, the act of helping another being dramatically reduces that lonely feeling.
When you give compassion and love, you are “living” that connection that you want someone to offer you.
I am going to tell you something that I will believe with every little piece of my DNA for the rest of my life:
If you want someone to entertain you, love you, show you attention, complete you, BE with you, blah blah blah, you will never ever ever be satisfied. Because No one can ever fill your empty places. I don’t care how cute, how smart, how giving how *fill in the blank* that person is. You take care of your own business. You fill those empty places yourself. Take responsibility for your own happiness. Because no one else will Ever be able to completely satisfy you. I promise this. And I love you enough to say it.
Take this information and make a decision today to fall madly, deeply and irrevocably in love with yourself.
You’ll have people jockeying for position to be near you in no time.
But first, you have to do your inner work.
Now, go live it. I believe in you.