The Journey

The Journey

Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and
began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to
do…

view the whole poem here

This is  one of the earliest poems that guided me and helped give me courage to be more of myself, “determined to save the only life [I] could save” as the final line tells us.

One day you finally knew / what you had to do, and / began,  What is it that you knew, what did you have to do and how did you begin? Mary Oliver doesn’t tell us those details yet she draws us in with those first lines.

though the voices around you / kept shouting / their bad advice — Have you ever heard others telling you what is right for you? Listened to their well-meaning, bad advice?

though the whole house / began to tremble / and you felt the old tug / at your ankles. You can feel the tremors that your new way of thinking and being are creating within you and you feel the persuasive and opposing pull of those outside opinions.

“Mend my life!” / each voice cried.  How often are others asking us to fix them, please them, make ourselves into someone else, to make them more comfortable, regardless of our own discomfort?

But you didn’t stop. And yet, once you began, hearing your own true voice kept you going.

You knew what you had to / do There comes a time, a knowing of what is most right for our own selves and that is when we begin the journey that is the rest of our lives. That is how we save the only life we can save.

Do you remember when it was that you finally knew and began? Or have you yet to begin?  Either way, this poem is a strong and wise guide for your journey.

You may also be interested to know that when Kim Rosen spoke this poem to the young girls at the Safe House in Kenya, where they are protected from female genital mutilation and early marriage while being given education, they were amazed – how did this Mary Oliver know about the arduous journey they had traveled? They learned the poem by heart, from their hearts, because these words spoke to them and for them. Learn more here.

 

6 thoughts on “The Journey

  1. A classic poem for any major life change…. Jan, thank you for your commentary. And I wonder how it is we ‘know’ the ‘knowing’ — my personal experience is that the self-doubt moves into the background, and I’m willing to step into unknown territory, buoyed by a trust I can’t define.

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  2. Love how in this poem, Mary Oliver gives such beautiful words to the courage required to listen to the truth of your own heart, and how when you do, “little by little, as you left their voice behind, the stars began to burn” – thanks Jan

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  3. Jan, Thank you for sharing this poem. I’ve read and then reread out loud (thanks to your encouragement) and each time it resonates deeply and more deeply.

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