Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”
I was taken with this short prose poem by Mary Oliver, one I had not met before until my friend Laura shared it. Now I want to share it with you.
It is true, in my experience, that joy is often sudden and unexpected, fleeting even. And that too often we let it slip away or hesitate to accept its sweetness, so I love this simple advice:  don’t hesitate. Give in to it. Give in to joy – is that not a radical thought in dark times, something to take to heart?
As she says, we often lack wisdom and kindness and much in this world has been and will be destroyed for which we cannot atone. Still, life has some possibility left.  Such wise advice that joy may be life’s way of fighting back against all the sorrow – that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. Because sometimes, things do happen that cannot be bought or won or even earned.
She reminds us that whatever it is, most likely you will notice it in the instant when love begins. And not, I would add, even necessarily a new love, just those moments when love raises its head and begins again, and again.

Her final lines tell it like it is: Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.  This is profound wisdom – there is an abundance of joy in the world, joy enough to feed us all if we allow and share it. We must not horde joy for fear there will only be crumbs. Don’t hesitate to embrace each moment of possibility. Give in to it every chance you get!

And one more quote from a poem I think you will appreciate: The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard, / dies young. From Morning Poem by Anne Sexton (thanks Lisa for the reminder).