I’m trying to get to bed earlier. It’s a continual challenge. But it was going well this week — until last night, when I stayed up doing family history research until 3 (!!!!) a.m.
Then I went to bed and dreamed that I was driving along a ridge, across the grass and dirt and rocks, at high speed. I wanted to be on the highway that ran parallel on my right. But I was having a very hard time getting there.
Gee, I wonder what that was about?
I have written frequently about my ongoing efforts to get on track, stay on track, get back on track. I think about it even more frequently — like, pretty much every day.
Getting back on track is a common theme, and not just for me, of course. It underlies this Mary Oliver Challenge that I have set for myself. The challenge is not just the name of this blog; it’s my life project these past three years. In the words of Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” it’s a challenge “to let the soft animal of [my] body love what it loves.”
At times, letting myself love what I loved has meant allowing myself to get off track, because the soft animal simply didn’t want to follow the rules and direction that my critical mind laid out for me.
At other times, the challenge has meant acknowledging that I am so far off the path that I have no idea where I am — truly and utterly lost.
And sometimes I found myself in a trackless landscape. I could see the direction I needed to go, and a landmark or two. But I had no map; I couldn’t see the path; I didn’t even know whether there was a path, or whether I needed to create it myself.
Along the way, I have learned that finding my way is the same as loving what I love. Yoga, music, prayer. Walking in the woods. Spending time with dear friends and family. Digging into my family history. Writing. These are the practices that make me feel like myself, that remind me who I am and where I’m going — or at least, why I’m going. They are my way-finding tools: my compass, map, and machete.
And so this morning, I pulled out my journal and wrote in it for the first time in 10 months. I decided to skip yoga class, one of the things I love, in order to work on another: writing this blog post, my first in about the same time span. Earlier this week I had a different post in mind, one with more depth, that would take longer to compose. But I decided on this one.
The path is full of turn-offs and choices. Some are dead ends and some go in the wrong direction. Some are unexpected routes that take me exactly where I need to be. Today’s yoga class is gone forever, but there’s another class next week. I still plan to write that other post. For now, this is the one that got me back on track.
What is the Mary Oliver Challenge? Glad you asked! You can read about it here.