Don’t end up simply having visited this world.

wild-and-precious

Today, we say goodbye to beloved poet, Mary Oliver, but her poems remain to inspire and awaken us, to uplift us and call us to task. She had a gift for seeing the holy in the mundane and for helping each of us open our eyes a bit wider, to see. Who among us doesn’t pause to consider deeply her question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

We are all on a one-way conveyor belt from birth to grave, but along the way we have opportunities to seize. Today, cherish these words from Mary and make sure to live:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

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 of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

How to carry a heavy load

load

We are weighed down. The tasks ahead seem dauntless; the burdens great. There is so much to be done, and seemingly so little time. Yet, we know that others before us have been able to carry heavy burdens with grace and inner strength. How do they do it? Some ideas:

Evaluate your load. Is it really yours to carry? Holding on to other people’s problems is debilitating because we have no control over their actions. Similarly, feeling like you’re bearing the weight of a global problem on just our own shoulders is both unrealistic and unnecessary. We can help and support someone struggling, and work with others toward a common goal on larger problems, and those are properly our burdens, but we can’t force someone to behave as we would have them, and we, alone, cannot solve a problem like world hunger and peace that is so much greater than any one person. We must discern how best to offer our support and efforts, but realize that, sometimes, the ultimate solutions are beyond our control.

Focus on the gift of that present moment. It is easy to get overwhelmed in a crisis. We see or experience them daily, but when we focus on the present moment as an opportunity to help others, our perception shifts away from the weight of the burden to the lightness that comes from helping others. Yes, there is a refugee crisis, but perhaps we can help. Yes, we’ve lost our job, but perhaps that is an opportunity to do something we’ve dreamed about. Part of the burden that comes from bad things happening is trying to hold on to the world as it existed before the crisis. We mourn the loss and rail against the unfairness. But when we lay that down, and focus on the new reality and challenges present now, in the life we have now, we feel lighter.

Recognize a larger perspective. We will not always be here in this dark place. A new day will come bringing new possibilities and circumstances. We must hold on and look for the bigger picture, remembering that there are ebbs and flows to life, and that this too shall pass.

Ask for help. Sometimes we best carry our burdens by letting someone else share them. We are made to support each other. Perhaps helping you with your burden is the answer to someone else who feels that they lack purpose. Win-win. Life will surprise you that way.

Yes, we are burdened. Life can be hard. As M. Scott Peck says in The Road Less Traveled,

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Amaze yourself. We are stronger than we realize and braver and smarter and more capable, and sometimes we just have to close our eyes and push forward. For inspiration, consider this video of an actual burden and use it as a metaphor for the burdens you face today:

 

 

You’ve got this.

 

 

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Treasure the moments

rosekennedy

In the movie Citizen Kane, Charles Foster Kane’s last word ‘rosebud’ is an enigma. What did this fictional tycoon think about with his dying breath? In a life filled with vast wealth and power, countless deals, many enemies and some friends, he remembers the name of his childhood sled that he was riding before a loss of innocence. A moment. Not the first million dollars, or his first business deal, but a childhood moment of bliss.

Occasionally, we get a glimpse of something bigger, truer than the day to day. Often we get these moments, unexpectedly. Notice them for the little treasures they are.