Mary Oliver Saves me, Again

Wow, what a day. I am so glad it’s over.

For some reason, today was a tidal wave of self-loathing and grief. I ended up excusing myself from class for fifteen minutes to sob uncontrollably in the single-occupancy restroom. I couldn’t even tell you why—I felt so inconsolably alone, so wretched, so hideous, so ego-maniacal…I hated everything from my intestines to my reflection in the mirror. I hated my heart and brain and emotions. I wanted everything to go away. I wished, for a moment, that I was dead.

But then, I went for a run with Pippin The Dog. We slogged through fallen leaves, reveling in the sunshine and even the tiny hill we surmounted. He jumped up on my chest at one point as if to say, “Isn’t this great?!” and even though I told him to get down and mind, I couldn’t help but agree. Dogs are so much better than people. God, but that’s the truth.

I gave him a treat before I left him in the capable hands of his mother. I thought about our run on the ride home as I listened to a song by Villagers, which breaks my heart every time. Something about my growth process requires tears. I vehemently wish it were different, but that’s just the way it is. Catharsis is the only road forward for me.

Sobbing in the bathroom today, I felt like I was letting go of something—some romantic idea I have about myself which resurfaces in my mind from time to time. Some image of myself which is flawless, humble, kind, intelligent, gentle, nurturing, capable of empathetic love…I mourned this gorgeous version of myself while looking back into my own eyes in the mirror, full of imperfection, loss, and fear.

I want to embody beauty, brains, radical empathy. I want to be a portrait of perfection, for whatever reason. It seems I will settle for nothing less. I can only love myself if I am still and placid and gentle; I only feel calm as a lamb that does not anticipate the slaughter. I crave a spiritual guide to wipe away the black, to shed some joy into this sadness I bear. Vulnerable as a babe, I wept today, bitterly, emptily, alone. 

But after my run with Pip, I came home to my boyfriend. We talked about humanity, we talked about ways of loving, we talked about empathy. We took a shower, and I washed away the day. Now we are curled in bed, the golden retriever snuggled between us. I am warm and safe again.

I wish I knew how to carry warmth with me longer, to carry faith that everything will work out, that everything is truly for the best, that humanity really is good. As much as I believe it academically on some level, spiritually my soul aches from time to time. I doubt I am alone in this regard.

Hurt comes when you do not expect it, if you are naïve like me. You will expect others to compromise with, rather than feast on, the tenderness of your soft, animal body.

I kept thinking of that quote from Mary Oliver’s poem “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.

Published by Hannah

Just yer average girl next door.

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