“Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ~ Mary Oliver
Oh Ms. Oliver, how did you find me with this quote in my birthday month?!
But it’s not her fault, it’s that birthday fairy, and she’s come to visit early. I suspect you too know her…how she stands there tapping her foot and waving THE LIST…goals in one column, results in the other.
“So what do you have to say for yourself this year missy?” she asks in a mocking tone, and with a raised eyebrow.
Crap. (pardon me, but that’s my honest reaction)
I’m on trial again it seems, and I recall specifically saying I wasn’t going to play this year.
She’s here, two weeks before my big day, taking it upon herself to oh-so-kindly go through the items on THE LIST out loud, in the form of a question, and follow each one with a pause, then a mocking “oh”.
I let her finish, for what chance do I have? No I didn’t finish writing the book. No I didn’t succeed at…well…so many things. And yes, for some of them I could have maybe, should have…oh for god’s sakes, just shut up!
She checks her perfect nails. Mine are a mess, and I have blisters on both hands from raking in the garden and pulling weeds.
I consider asking her if putting together furniture or knowing how to add steering fluid to the car would count for something. It’s a bit creepy really, but it’s what I’ve got. How about navigating tax software for the first time? Repairing screen doors? Various donations, acts of kindness, blog posts, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry?
She gives me a look of “And you want a medal for bravery on all this?”
Damn right I want a medal for bravery. And courage. And endurance. And everything else.
Oh wait…not really.
It’s getting very awkward. Like everyone else I want some proof that I’ve done well, that I am relevant, that what I have contributed has made a difference. Sometimes I find all that, and it’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes I find more than expected. Sometimes less…a lot less. And I want to brag a little about what I have learned. But none of the things I’m thinking of seem to be on her list.
Finally, I just yell: “You’re such a biatch you know that?”
She smiles, and as she turns to leave, she tells me: “You bring me here every year you silly girl. Why, after all this time, do you still need me?”
Oh…I guess I left out that small detail.
And yes, I think I get it. The point is to learn how to be comfortable with lack of proof or validation, and still feel rewarded. But it’s hard when we do our best and don’t see the concrete results we work towards…results the world we live in always expects of us as well.
Still, my so-called wisdom remains the same. Sometimes we can not breathe, but when we do, it shouldn’t ever be just a little. And I suspect all of us, as long as we know that we did not settle, we also know we’ve done well, regardless of what’s on THE LIST, or what mess we might be in at the moment.
So here’s my pick for a birthday gift…to be able to say that beyond all the mistakes and shortcomings, regardless of current worldly possessions, achievements, failures and other measurings, we’ve been real and true to ourselves. Because what good is anything if we breathe just a little?