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…
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.
-from “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver’s powerful poem invites us to question our purpose in life, or what she calls our “place in the family of things”. Simply put, our purpose is loving what we love. But, what does it mean to love what we love?
To love what we love means to live authentically. It means that our lives are a reflection of our inner truth.
But, many of us may not know what we love. Others may know, but may not be living it. How can we know what we love and how can we live it?
Oliver begins her poem by telling us what NOT to do. We don’t figure out what we love by seeking the answers from others. We don’t have to be good, to be a martyr, to please others. If we let go of shame, martyrdom, codependence, guilt and fear, we can begin to listen to the voice within. We can quietly observe, sense, hear the answers in our midst, for, as Oliver reminds us, the world “calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting, over and over”. The answers are in every conversation, in the sunsets and sunrises, in the change of seasons, in the happiness and the loss.
It’s up to us to listen, and then it’s up to us to take this deep inner knowing and do something, to change thought into action, and to live our truth.