You Do Not Have To Good:
A Conversation between Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese and Me
You do not have to be good.
Uh. What do you mean, I don’t have to be good. Doesn’t everyone have to be good? Aren’t there rules about this somewhere? Who said that I don’t have to be good?
And why does my heart crack when I hear those words? Why are there tears streaming down?
Don’t I have to be good? Don’t I?
Heaves of tears roll.
I do not have to be good.
Eyes heavy so heavy. Slumber like an old being put to rest.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
A sucker punch to the gut with stinging knees and a hundred years of exhaustion. Un-forgiveness firmly rooted as evidenced by my calloused bleeding knees by my ever persistence to believe that old being. Why, you say? Why do you do this to yourself? Why do you make Her beg and repent for the things She wants? Because maybe I believed that old being inside that says that I’m not good and that there couldn’t be enough love inside to make good all the mistakes, judgements, unkind, vile, and harmful things I’ve done. And yet, She doesn’t have an itemized list of the the good and the bad and the atrocious things I’ve done. Only that She’s with me. Loving myself in all those moments uproots un-forgiveness and sets Her free. I don’t have to be good. I can forgive myself.
My borrowed prayer:
“If I have harmed anyone in any way either knowingly or unknowingly through my own confusions, I ask their forgiveness. If anyone has harmed me in any way either knowingly or unknowingly through their own confusions, I forgive them. And if there is a situation I am not yet ready to forgive, I forgive myself for that. For all the ways that I harm myself, negate, doubt, belittle myself, judge or be unkind to myself through my own confusions, I forgive myself.”
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Gulp. This part. This thing I’ve known and tasted before. Where hunger and appetite meet and can’t seem to consume enough. This part She says to set free. It’s true, I love what I love. and it’s soft. and it’s animal.
You do not not have to walk on your knees repenting about the things you love. Like sheep molting layers of that old being. You do not have to be good.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and 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 clear blue air, are heading home again.
It’s here. The Land where the wild geese head home. Head home to The Land.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination.
My own imagination was full of traps and tricks to protect this thing called me. I’m finding my imagination needs others, that connection and reflection and the adding to the creative collective, to include the world and it’s possibilities.
It calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
It’s your place to have all your desires. It’s my place to have all my desires. There’s always plenty for everyone in a world of possibilities.
The wild geese and me.