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What Does Your Journey Require?

30 August 2022

Allison woke up thinking about one of her favorite poems by Mary Oliver and pondered what she could learn from The Journey today.  

Tags: allison read, balance, mary oliver, poetry

For the last few weeks, I've been reciting Mary Oliver's poem, The Journey, to myself and sharing it with a few clients. It's one of my favorites for when I'm struggling to figure out how to restore some balance in my life or if I need to have a difficult conversation I've been avoiding.

I woke up this morning wondering what I wanted to blog about today. I sorted through a few topics I've been toying with and landed on this poem. I thought of the title of my blog post and wrote in my morning pages about a few lessons I could share with others.

When I finally sat down to write the post 13 hours later, I remembered that I already wrote about this poem in 2014. I laughed with myself. I wondered what on earth I should write about instead. Then, I realized I could restore a bit of balance in my own life and go to sleep earlier. I'd be rested and be able to find the courage needed for a complicated conversation tomorrow if I just asked you to read what I wrote eight years ago rather than trying to find another topic tonight.

I bet you won't mind. I bet you won't think I didn't try hard enough today. I bet you won’t wonder if I could have prioritized better or worked more efficiently or made better choices. I bet you'll be glad to know that the poem below and my own post from 2014 were useful to me then and are useful to me today.

Sometimes we have to learn a thing again, and again, and again, and that's okay. In fact, being willing to keep learning and relearning might help you and me to do a little better on the next leg of our journeys.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

— Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems, 1992


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