By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
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
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
recognised 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.
This poem means a lot to a lot of people. Anyone who has felt like they were trapped, living a life they didn’t want to, a life they didn’t fit any more, this poem will resonate with them.
It’s about recognising that at some point, the only thing you can do is be true to yourself.
It’s tough walking away. It’s tough to walk through the wind and the wild night and the voices calling you back.
But once you do walk out of that place into the world, you can never go back.
Just as once it felt wrong to be ‘outside’, now it feels wrong to be back ‘in’.
I have observed myself struggle to be comfortable in what was previously my home. It was as if I didn’t belong there anymore. Going back was painful and sad and did not feel right.
But I don’t pretend that was anything like what other people might feel. People who have had to turn their whole lives around. Coming out as a lesbian or gay, or transgender.
Not only having to face their previous life but try and incorporate it into their new one. Relationships that were old now have to be renewed. Some of them won’t survive. Some of them can’t survive because they don’t fit the new identity.
It’s a privilege to watch someone be reborn in this situation. To crack open the egg and come out into the light a new person. To walk away from an entire life, an entire identity and begin again.
It’s a hard struggle. You need to be kind to them.
It’s never a ‘just’. You never ‘just’ walk away from your marriage. You never ‘just’ walk away from your family. You never ‘just’ change everything, tear down everything.
The people around you won’t understand at first. They will be hurt and confused. They will take it personally.
But ultimately it’s not about them. It’s about that person, wanting to be free to be themselves.
All you can do is be there for them while they work it all through. Love them. They are the same but then again, totally changed. They will love you the same, but the expression might be different.
Don’t take it personally. They’ve just woken up from a long sleep.
Wishing you all the happiness the Universe can bring