2016 Grateful 37

Sometimes, we journeystay in relationships for the good of others and to the detriment of ourselves We put up with situations for a quiet life, not caring about the damage we are doing to our souls. We sacrifice, we struggle, we stay, thinking we are doing the right thing. And slowly, we die. Alone in our misery. Unhappy.

Selflessness can be over-rated. People can give so much of themselves that they have nothing left to give to themselves. We can accomplish so much more if we are strong, sorted, sensible. And yet all too often we fail to prioritise our own health and wellbeing. We put others before ourselves. Understandable, yes. Especially for those with children and dependants. But what happens to our dependants when we break down, when we have neither the physical nor the emotional energy to care? What then?

Last week, I was grateful that I had shared an inaccurate post that led to the discovery of a wonderful poem, one that has stayed with me all week. This week, I’m grateful that a comment on that post led to the discovery of yet another one I think worth sharing.

The Journey, by Mary Oliver

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.


6 replies
  1. Tom Tierney
    Tom Tierney says:

    “David Whyte makes the reading of poetry a matter of life and death.
    His writings have moved me and changed me.”

    – Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides and Beach Music

    house of belonging



    I awoke
    this morning
    in the gold light
    turning this way
    and that

    thinking for
    a moment
    it was one
    like any other.

    the veil had gone
    from my
    darkened heart
    I thought

    it must have been the quiet
    that filled my room,

    it must have been
    the first
    easy rhythm
    with which I breathed
    myself to sleep,

    it must have been
    the prayer I said
    speaking to the otherness
    of the night.

    I thought
    this is the good day
    you could
    meet your love,

    this is the black day
    someone close
    to you could die.

    This is the day
    you realize
    how easily the thread
    is broken
    between this world
    and the next

    and I found myself
    sitting up
    in the quiet pathway
    of light,

    the tawny
    close grained cedar
    burning round
    me like fire
    and all the angels of this housely
    heaven ascending
    through the first
    roof of light
    the sun has made.

    This is the bright home
    in which I live,
    this is where
    I ask
    my friends
    to come,
    this is where I want
    to love all the things
    it has taken me so long
    to learn to love.

    This is the temple
    of my adult aloneness
    and I belong
    to that aloneness
    as I belong to my life.

    There is no house
    like the house of belonging.

  2. evozeta
    evozeta says:

    I love it, I love it, I love it!! And sometimes I need words like these to tell me that I’m not selfish but taking care of myself. Thank you for sharing, Mary!

    • Tom
      Tom says:

      Mary & Evozeta,
      I’m no expert ( and everyone has opinion & free speech ) but I’d add my 2 pence worth, if you allow.
      To start with if there is selflessness or meaness, self centeredness in a relationship … !
      Well then isn’t it just a bad relationship that you’d be better off not in ???
      On the other hand, what’s a good relationship then ?
      Which is why I’m responding …
      To me, a good relationship is putting your ” other first” & they would also need to apply in equal measure the same principle. Always make sure ( but never mention) the balance is equal.
      If each puts this principle in practice then your soul is replenished & there is no struggle, no sacrifice.
      It really is that simple.
      “Live for love”

      • Mary
        Mary says:

        My bullet theory: For the ‘ever and ever’ to work, you’d take a bullet for them and they would take one for you. Antony de Mello has some good stuff to say on this – his book, Awareness – worth a read.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Talk to me...