one wild and precious life (or death, where is your sting?)

Okay, I’m just going to confess something here, because I imagine I’m not really alone in this one.  Well that‘s not really why I’m going to confess it, I suppose, its more that I’m trying to be authentic  here regardless of whether or not someone accepts me. Paradoxically I suppose being authentic will actually help with that, not hinder it.   I have experienced such a plethora of circumstances where persons believe they are the only one with (fill in the blank) because we are so afraid to just be human with each other. Instead we try to be/look perfect. Why do we hide and diminish ourselves like that? We’ve been doing it for a long time, if the ancient story of Adam and Eve is any indicator. Shame is such a perverter of self image.

Of course, the sacred seems to really love to put on the clothes of humanity, but that doesn’t ever seem to change our minds about either our humanity or where to look for the sacred.  

So this is the thing. Sometimes when I am sick like this, my hypochondria kicks in (and the computer, of course, makes it so much easier to feed that monster). Suddenly I’m convinced I either have ovarian cancer or early signs of heart failure (my dad died when he was 58 of heart failure, so I come by this particular manifestation of the fear quite honestly) or fill-in-the-blank.  The weird thing (I guess it’s weird, but this is the confession part) is that I’ve realized that my motivation for looking isn’t always because I’m afraid of being really sick. I look because some part of me really wants that dreadful disease.

Now I know I could be treading on thin ice here. This isn’t really a death-wish though, not in that despairing kind of way. I know what that one feels like too. I’ve been there, just wanting some dreadful disease to come and take me out of my pain. And it isn’t a malingering either, there’s no feigning involved and I can’t recall the last time I went to the doctor’s…. probably poison ivy. It’s not that I want pampering or attention or sympathy.  

What I think it is, is this.  I want permission to live my life fully.

And I know I’m not alone in this because there are all those clichés that go something like this – ‘If you found out you only had one year to live, what would you do?’  Everything from Bucket Lists, to discernment tools where you imagine yourself on your deathbed looking back on your life and ask yourself what you regret not having done, to my own long-time measuring stick that helps me decide what’s important in this particular moment by imagining myself at 80 looking back on this moment, speaks of the blessing of coming face to face with the finite nature of our human existence to more fully realize the sacred nature of our human existence.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

No matter how deeply I fall into the arms of knowing that I am eternal, that I am a part of and an expression of an infinite Love that I will return to and be embraced by when I am done  (i sometimes picture this like a vast fountain, of which I am an arching spray jutting forth into time and slowly falling back again into eternity, carrying something vital with me back to the source ) there is something about the urgency of time that amplifies the sacredness of the journey, and the necessity to be true to it. Ironically, it was this experience of utter assurance that I would be fully reabsorbed by Love  when I die that kept me alive in the midst of my very darkest days, when one might think such a message from the universe would make it easy to step out of life and back into that experience of pure Bliss. Instead it did the opposite for me. That experience of the Beauty of the other side made me realize somehow that my life is blessed, vital to the whole, and that there must be some meaning to my existence here.

That is how the notion of Eternity helped me to realize the sacredness of my life, and now it seems that the notion of Time is working its blessed wiles on me.

It strikes me that it is the finiteness of our journeys that helps us to distill what is essential, of the Essence. Death is not to fear in the way in which we often do (the unknown aspect of it). I learned this clearly when I came so close to it. Rather Death is a gift, a boundary of sorts to keep us attentive to the sacredness of life, so that we are called regularly to assess how we are spending it and whether that aligns with our truest purpose. It’s rather like my understanding of the nature of a cup, when it came to me as a way of understanding boundaries and disciplines. If I do not invite and allow some container into which I can pour myself, a container that fully says ‘yes’ to this one thing, then I spill all over the place and never go deeper than the surface of my life. And I can never offer a drink.

And so, when I sometimes long for some fatal illness, the thing that I am longing for, I suspect, is a reminder of the sacredness of my life, so that I will give myself permission to live it fully, in alignment with what is Holy in me. I want to move that sacred boundary closer, paradoxically, so that I can feel more alive!, so that, like I do with the cup, I can choose more clearly and freely that ‘one thing necessary’ that belongs in my life, and say ‘no’ more easily to those things that are not life-giving, that are mere fillers of time or even drainers of my life energy, or that keep me trapped on the surface inattentive to the richnes of what lies beneath, waiting for me.

In truth though, even deeper than this, I know this to be a Holy Longing. The longing is really to be closer to the Sacred, the Sacred One whose veil is thin at moments of birth and death.  The longing is to be granted permission to live my life in daily communion with the Sacred, keenly aware each moment of the sacredness of life. Naked, in the Presence, immersed in heart-breaking-open Beauty.

I wonder, if I knew I were dying (and we all are, after all) how would I live? Without the illusion of safety and invincibility, would I cherish each moment a little more, attend to what is real? In the face of my undeniable fragility, would I be less defended? Would my fears and my ego step aside and let me come out to play? Would that box that I put myself in, which defines what a woman like me can do with her life, fall apart? And would I worry less about ‘who I am’ and simply be who I am?

Would I move to that house in the woods? Have long conversations with friends? Snap photographs – in my mind- of Beauty- to carry forth with me in whatever way that happens (to pour back into that fountain’s basin as a blessing)?  Would I continue to write?


Because of all the things that I ‘do’ in this meager and exceptional human form, this very peculiar human capacity for language is the way in which the essence of who I am is somehow, no matter how imperfectly, encapsulated and expressed into form- a form in which I can share this experience of life with others. Perhaps it is a Divine impulse then…. as we imagine the divine longs to become incarnate, the word longs to become flesh, spirit to become body, energy to matter,  the invisible to visible, and the ineffable to vibrate…. to be  known, or as some would say, in order to know Itself.

Ah….or perhaps it is purely a human impulse, ego-driven, and an attempt to cheat death and sidestep time, become immortal and eternal by leaving something tangible of myself behind.

 I only know this. I want my granddaughters to someday know who I am.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. andie33
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 04:39:17

    What a beautiful post! Oh, I’m so glad that you want to continue to write because you have wonderful insights and such a gift with your words. It’s funny, as I watch my aging parents it is so difficult sometimes. And then I remember, their soul is eternal. It is only trapped in a body that is breaking down. One day it will be free once again to soar and to dance. Thank you for being so honest and for sharing this post.



  2. Diana
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 09:37:22

    thank you for inviting us to go deeper with that wonderful Mary Oliver quote.
    becoming more open to, and aware of my authentic self, wild and precious parts of my soul (that I’ve kept hidden) are let out into the light. living a full life entails being open to who this wild and precious woman is. and what she wants. receiving my own self, I suppose. truly hearing what my soul desires and seeking, for my own sake to have those needs met. but not only for “my own sake.” because I will be good for the world, for the communities in which I live, if I am more truly myself. Yes?
    it is so good to hear your prayers & thoughts, as they open us (me!) to my own….



  3. Traildancer
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 11:57:10

    You are not alone in what you express… many of us live in the tension of the paradoxes you write about and it is reassuring to know others walk the same path. However, you are so blessedly unique in the beautiful way words flow from your spirit to articulate the journey: You are a translater of the soul for others. Keep writing Vicki…



  4. Trackback: Beloved « Emmaatlast’s Weblog

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