resilience

A friend asked in a private group last week:

This summer season, with its many challenges, has me thinking about resilience. What is it that allows us to get up each day and face anew all the threats and uncertainties of life? Where do we find strength and hope on the spiritual journey?

For me it has been a profound letting go. This was very uncomfortable at first. One thing religion gives is a clear purpose (though what that purpose is is up for debate). I found I struggled when that purpose was entirely up to me. As an activist since my 20s it wasn’t so hard to continue on the purpose/path I was on, just without the sense that I was called to it by a god.

At the same time, I have long been aware of my tendency to be a “doer”. It is often good and fills a moment with purpose, but makes the moments where there is nothing to be done, or when I am exhausted much harder to bear. It is in these times of struggling to simply “be” that I find the works of poets to be very helpful and they have become the scriptures I treasure most.

I feel broken pretty often these days, as I work through cancer diagnosis and treatment. I often struggle to find a reason to do anything. In these times, I find the words of “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver to be very comforting. They remind me that my task is actually simple: be alive in the world. Simple doesn’t mean easy, but at least I can leave agonizing over the myriad ways the world could be better to others for a while.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver