Anytime someone quotes my favorite Mary Oliver poem “Wild Geese,” I react just like one of Pavlov’s dogs. My pulse quickens, I salivate, and I have to fight back the urge to jump up and down and squeal, “MARY OLIVER! I LOVE HER TOO! SHE SAVED MY LIFE! I STARTED A POETRY BLOG BECAUSE OF HER!”
So when I saw Off-Dry’s recent post, “Day 778: You Do Not Have to be Good,” of course I was hooked. It’s a short but wisdom packed reminder to those that are newly sober and trying to change the world over night:
I’ve been thinking about this as I read the blogs of very newly sober people. Some of you are so ambitious! You’re getting sober and quitting smoking, or getting sober and quitting sugar, or getting sober and running for office and becoming professional decathletes. And–you’re very impressive, by the way–and it worries me. I get worried because I know the getting-sober part takes enough energy on its own, without piling another task on top of it.
As I kept reading, I remembered why I fell in love with Off-Dry’s writing; she’s witty and charming and funny too! And I relate to so much of what she shares:
Maybe you think you need to become good fast now to make up for lost time. So, I have two thoughts about that:
- You cannot make up for lost time. I know, I know. But you can’t.
- You do not have to be good. Not right now.
I tried to be good, too. The last few years I drank, it was all I tried to do. To be the best wife, the best employee, the best yogi with the cleanest diet (uh, the food part, anyway). The prettiest and the nicest and the smartest and the most helpful and the one who made it all look the easiest. All that striving for goodness kept me using wine as my escape valve long after I’d realized that without the wine I wouldn’t need an escape valve. And God, who could blame me? Who wouldn’t need a nightly glass of wine or four under the weight of all that oppressive goodness? I kind of want to hit myself with a hammer just reading about it now.
If you are newly sober, or hell, if you’re oldly sober, or somewhere in between, or if you know someone who is, read the rest her post “Day 778: You Do Not Have to be Good.”
And then be sure to read her post “Day 730: Two Years Today,” and congratulate her on over two years of sobriety. She writes, “If Today Me could have given Sober Newbie Me a glimpse into the future, here are some of the things I would have told myself . . .” I laughed out loud when I read:
You’ll also be shocked, shocked to realize that lots and lots of other people don’t drink, or only drink a little. They were there all along, but you never noticed them because you were off being all ring-a-ding-ding with the party people like a total fucking Holly Golightly jackass.
Yep. Can totally relate to that one.
Which one can you relate to? What advice would you go back to give your past self (doesn’t have to be sobriety related)?
Me? I have three pieces of advice that I would’ve shared:
- Eat the jelly beans. Eat the cookies. Eat the gallons of ice cream. EAT ALL THE SUGAR! (Oh wait, never mind, I did all that.) How about EAT IT ALL WITH NO GUILT! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE GOOD!
- Treat the past like a rear-view mirror. Look, but don’t stare. If you’re living in the past, you’re not living in the present.
- Lighten the fuck up. Seriously. You take things way too seriously. I’m serious about this.
Have a great week everyone. Don’t forget to go read Off-Dry’s posts. Feel free to comment here or there.
Mary Oliver reads her poem, “Wild Geese:”
For more of Ms. Oliver’s poetry, I recommend:
- New and Selected Poems, Volume One
- New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2
- Dog Songs
- or read select Mary Oliver poems on Words for the Year, my poetry side project blog: Mary Oliver poems
To listen to a podcast with the reclusive Mary Oliver, visit OnBeing with Krista Tippett and click “play episode” on the right side of the screen.