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).

  

19 thoughts on “Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver

  1. Oh, Jan, I can’t tell you how this was just what I needed today. So much wisdom from Mary Oliver and your words, too. Sometimes I feel almost reluctant to let myself feel any joy in the midst of so much hurt going on in the world. “Give in to joy – is that not a radical thought in dark times, something to take to heart?” What a gift in this season to be given permission to feel it even fleetingly and know it may well be a way of pushing back against all the darkness. Just yesterday I was with a group of women many of whom expressed grief over the state of the world. Would it be alright with you if I shared this? Thank you, wise woman.

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  2. oh please, yes, do share this poem Wendy. It does feel like a beacon in the darkness of these times and we so must give in to joy, not darkness (though as we both well know, darkness has its place). love to you

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  3. so beautiful, Jan. And I love your wise comments – “We must not horde joy for fear there will only be crumbs.” Margaret 613-725-6941 h 613-795-9879 c

    Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

    – Oscar Wilde.

    >

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  4. Thank you Jan,
    This poem reminds me to breathe in those magical moments of joy and savour each and every one. And then yes – to share the joy – pay it forward which feels so natural to do in those moments – and which feels like a gift in and of itself. Love❤️

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  5. Jan, Thanks for the poem…how lovely for the holidays. Merry Christmas to you and all the family, especially Chloe. Best…. Claudette

    From: Heart Poems Reply-To: Heart Poems Date: Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 9:21 AM To: Claudette Mclennan Subject: [New post] Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver

    WordPress.com janfalls posted: “”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.”

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  6. Thank you Jan for sharing this precious advice from Mary Oliver. It reminds me of advice I heard at at seminar many years ago – Never Postpone Joy. Those three words have surfaced many times since then. What great advice and what a great practice!

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  7. Another wonderful poem Janice. I too have never heard this poem before.

    Thank you for faithfully cheering us all along. May you and your readers have many joyful moments.

    Love, Trudy

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  8. Dear Jan – Thank you for this beautiful, wise post. I love your reminder to pause and fully take in the sweetness, fleeting as it may be. And these words ring melodies in my heart: “And not, I would add, even necessarily a new love, just those moments when love raises its head and begins again, and again.”
    Sweet joy to you and your beloveds over the holiday season. Love – Mary Lou

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  9. Dear Jan,
    What a voice of consolation you have added to the beloved voice of Mary Oliver! I have been so saddened by the ongoing mess that is American politics. Daily I think how can it get worse and then it does. Hung up a slogan for myself: “Choose to be amused.” so I don’t lose my sense of humor while attempting to fight the good fight. And Australia…so much heroism…not crumbs, definitely not crumbs. just read today about the firefighters amazing and successful effort to save the “dinosaur trees”. So I am taking in the joy, and I can’t thank you enough for the reminder. xoxo kim

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