It was Mary Oliver’s poetry that often provided me a brief sabbath when I was “breathing just a little and calling it a life.” For me, poetry is one of the things that helps deepen my breath, slow down enough for the muscles around my lungs to relax enough to expand. Poetry, for me, opens windows in ways that no other kind of writing does. It’s not just the exactness of the language of poetry that gets me, it’s the specificity of the view. It’s the opportunity to zoom in on just one thing. Poetry provides a tuning of sort for my own lens. After adjusting my lens to accommodate the singular picture the poet is showing me, I am able to see my own life better.
I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to get overwhelmed. I try to take in the whole picture – whether it is the government shut down, or the death toll in Syria, or the full on building project happening at my church, or the enormity of the grieving process 18 months after losing my husband. And while the bigger picture is important, it isn’t helpful in day to day walking. We live our life in steps, not in bigger pictures. We live our life in the specifics.
When my lens is adjusted on the specifics of now, the overwhelming stresses and realities of the world seem to break down into doing the next right thing. And I almost always can figure out how to do the next right thing. Pay the bill. Make the one phone call. Respond to an email. Say good morning to my neighbor. Water the plants. Do the laundry. Go to the gym. Eat some vegetables.
And with those next right things, I find my breath has expanded and I am living once again.
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