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, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voices behind, through the sheets of clouds, there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do – determined to save the only life you could save.
By Mary Oliver
Here we are again, at the beginning of another year. Even though there are many calendars – the sun’s time, the moon’s time, ancient calendars, those of other traditions and cultures – it’s certainly a time for those on the Western calendar to pause and take stock. It’s a time for transition and change. It’s a time, perhaps, to steel our resolve toward positive growth.
While most discussions of New Year’s Resolutions have a joking nod to those not kept, offers practical tips on how to break old habits, or tries to sell you something, almost all ignore the transition itself. It’s not often that you hear about that dark passage, the seeming hell you might go through.
There may be mentions of a magical 21-day period required in order to change old habits into new habits. However, there’s little said about day 17, when the 21st day is in sight and almost to be tasted. There’s little said about day 5 or day 6, those early days when well-meaning friends inquire carefully, naturally hopeful that you’ll change, yet secretly hopeful that you won’t change. After all, maybe the new you won’t like the old them.
So, on we go, with laudable goals having neatly defined end points, yet with little attention given to the thorns on the road between Point A and Point B.
The worst part about change is that we’re the ones responsible.
As Pogo so aptly observed: “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”
Mary Oliver’s words above, although at first dark-sounding, are deeply and graciously hopeful. Through the dark journey, while all else falls away, the one voice we’re left with is that of our ultimate best friend. We end up at the source. Despite the appeal of quick-fix nostrums and others who might patch and mend us, we finally come to know the simple and awesome truth about who will save us.