The Summer Day
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? —Mary Oliver
These two lines, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” contain the question I feel compelled to ask myself each year.
And indeed, I think this is the question (or one of the questions) we are all called to answer this new year if we want to more fully show up for our lives.
In 2017, life, for many of us, may have felt more turbulent, more fleeting, more challenging than any other in recent memory.
The fragility and preciousness of life can often feel more marked in such contrast. It did for me at least.
And such fragility reminds me to ask this question of myself and to all who come through my doors for counseling and for help, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
In asking this question, we can acknowledge that life is fleeting and that we will die. And that, while death is unavoidable, it can be a source of great inspiration and motivation to help us more clearly see how it is we want to live while we do.
This question prompts us to audit our lives, to examine what’s working and what’s no longer serving us, which courses we may need to re-plot, and which paths still feel like our own personal true north.
I want to gently invite you to ask yourself this question this year. And I also want to provide you with some additional prompts and tips to help you better reflect on what, indeed, you do want to do with your one wild and precious life this year.
Clarifying what you need and want from your one wild and precious life.
Sometimes, simply in asking this question, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”, we will know our answers. We’ll hear our soul. We will feel clear.
But, for many of us, this will not be the case.
The answer to this question may feel murky and may feel hard to distinguish from “shoulds” (which, of course, are not true soul longings but rather what we imagine is expected of us from external sources). We may feel so disconnected from our truth that this question makes us anxious or sad that we can’t answer it.
And that’s okay! I think that’s a really common response. It’s not as if society by in large encourages us to pay attention to the whispers of our soul on a daily basis, does it?
So I want to share five tips and tricks I have for clarifying your answers to this question if it feels murky for you:
- Pay attention to your body. Yes, your body. Close your eyes, deepen your breath, relax into your body and notice any sensations in your body. Tightness, warmth, tingles, tension. Notice it all and be curious what those somatic (body-based) signals are saying. What clues does your body have for you about what you want?
- Pay attention to where your mind goes when it wanders. Reflect on what you daydream about, what your waking reveries contain. Do you dream of travel, of more time outside, of a deeply creative work life? The content that your wandering mind is drawn to again and again may signal a longing of your soul.
- Ask yourself, what do you want so badly but are afraid to even admit it to yourself? Is there something you feel embarrassed or even a little ashamed to want or long for? Good! This may be information about what you truly want. Seriously.
- Look back at your prior journals and diaries. What did you write about and hunger for when you were younger? A certain career path or lifestyle choice? A way of living in the world that you feel far away from at present? Your old self’s reflections may still resonate with you today, so pay attention to what you wrote about.
- Get still. Whether this is in nature, at home on your couch, even on the subway commuting into work, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, try to clear your mind and be still. And then pay attention to what surfaces.
And please remember, this is not about goal formulation, per say. When Mary Oliver asks us that question, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”, in my opinion, she’s asking us to listen to our soul for the deepest kind of life longings we have, soul hungers, true desires and dreams.
You can, of course, then craft and fulfill goals that feed your soul longings, and if you would like some support in doing that, I’ve written a little e-book called Soul + Strategy: The Ultimate Right Brain/Left Brain Planning Workbook 2018 which is available for sale on my website or on Amazon Kindle here.
But whether you use my planning workbook or you use another’s, or you simply ask this question and the other prompts on your own, I invite you to make 2018 the year you feed your soul more.
When we nourish our souls by consciously choosing more and more of the life we dream of for ourselves, we can, in my opinion, show up in the world more nourished, equipped, and sustained to face the external realities of life and to support others along our path.
I’ll be asking myself this question over and over again this year and invite you to do the same.
Now I would love to hear from you: when you ask yourself this question, what comes up for you? If you’re open to it, please leave a message in the comments on the blog so our community of readers and learners can benefit from your insight and wisdom.
If you would like additional support with this and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together. You can also book a complimentary consult call to explore therapy with one of my fantastic clinicians at my trauma-informed therapy center, Evergreen Counseling.
Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.
And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.