I’ve been sick lately. Physically ill. And while it’s likely nothing serious (never know, it could be a demon possession in its early stages), it’s got me thinking: I’ve got just one body. I’ve got just one life. I know this is nothing novel. Poets, saints, and random college students smoking weed have been saying the same thing for centuries. But while it’s not a novel idea, it doesn’t make it any less true. It just means it’s something it might be nice for me to remember more often.
What if I acted like I only had one life? What would be different? Mary Oliver asked us in her often-quoted poem “The Summer Day”:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I like to think of my life as a wild thing. Some thing outside of me that needs taming. I do that in various ways: with routine, with work, with healthy eating, exercise and positive daily structure. Well, I do these things sometimes. I’m working on it. But if I remembered more often that my life is wild, and unique, and feral; an endangered species; something there is only one of? What would I do differently?
I want to read more. More widely, more diversely. (I recently started reading There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker, by the way, and it’s amazing–you should pick it up). I want to write. Every day. I feel more myself when I’m writing. I want to spend more time living my values: creativity, community, love, intelligence, openness. I want to spend more time with the people who matter to me, and less time in bed thinking of all the things that have gone wrong, or could go wrong.
Last week my therapist asked me, what are you willing to do to improve your “now” experience? I thought about it a little bit and wrote down these things:
Do a little good each day.
Say yes more (without whining first).
Be vulnerable. Be willing to learn and make mistakes.
Do one thing at a time. Live the now.
Think positive. Think forward. Plan for the future.
It’s telling, to me, that included in my list was “plan for the future.” I would tell Mary Oliver that, with my one wild and precious life, I’m going to live it. And that’s a huge leap from where I was a few months ago.