(Further to yesterday’s post). If living authentically is such a risky undertaking, why do it? Let’s say you work at a hospice where people come to die — why go back day after day, knowing that a little of yourself will die with departure? Or that you’ve been hurt in a disastrous relationship — why recover from that, only to expose yourself once more to almost certain heartache?
What makes us return to the edge of the cliff? Why not play it safe, stay at home and hide under the bed? Isn’t there an easier, less dangerous course to travel from youth to old age?
Such questions arise again and again as I grow older (and, who knows, a little wiser). They worm themselves into my psyche, quietly, almost unnoticed — until they break open as unhealed wounds. Each disappointment, each loss, each hope gone south, all are markers of being a fully functioning human being. How else would I know that I’m alive?
When it’s over
I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full or argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.
© Mary Oliver
source: “When death comes” in Oliver, M. (1992). New and selected poems. Boston: Beacon Press, p. 10. image: “How to mend a broken heart” at www.photoshoppix.com