Years ago, a wonderful therapist gave me a copy of this poem. It resonated with me, and I have kept that copy all of this time, although I didn’t quite understand it until now.
It is okay to be me. I am perfectly imperfect. I am an intricate part of a magnificent universe and I am as insignificant as I am significant. There is a place for me. Life moves forward, and I can move with it just as I am.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
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 your 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.
Tears of relief run down my face. The key I’ve been searching for most of my life is in my hand, and I am about to unshackle the chains that have held me down for decades. How I found it, I am not sure. The best way to explain it is that I have been seeking and asking to be guided, and suddenly I find myself in this new and strange place.
This is the place: where it is okay to be exactly who I am. I don’t have to be perfect, I don’t have to bend over backwards to make everyone else’s life happy and perfect. I can let go of my ideals and be happy with “good enough”.
As a result, Mia will be going to school. Anna will be going to preschool.
This marks the end of nine wonderful, challenging, and fulfilling years of devoting myself completely to my children’s lives. From now on, I will be reaching out for help in raising my children. I will trust that my children will be cared for and nurtured in the way that they need. They will have other adults and children to enrich their lives. There will be a community for them, there will be opportunities that I cannot provide, there will be new relationships, and mostly, there will be space for me.
I will always be here for them; I am their home base. But I will no longer be their “everything”. And that brings a mixed bag of pain, relief, joy, and sorrow. All good things come to an end. Children grow up. Grown-ups grow up. The joys of my past will carry me; they will keep my heart warm and open for experiences and joys yet to come.