Looking after Number One

The Journey

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,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and 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.

Mary Oliver

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This last year I’ve had to do nothing else but look after me, focus on me, and not on anyone else. My version of this, I know, still involves helping others and being there as a friend, but not a patch on how much I used to. But I used to, too much. It’s been my time and it’s had to be, and it continues to be. And in a way, it now always will be I just am learning the healthy way to let people in, the healthy way to be there for people, the healthy way to do all this and ensure you’re looking after number 1 too. Not letting your needs disappear and get buried beneath the needs of others. Something I have known all my life how to do and never known how not to…until now. Now it feels a foreign thing that shows its face from time to time, but always ends up wavering to a healthy balance of listening and acknowledging all the needs involved, and ensuring mine get met first and then I look at other peoples.

This poem just summed up this year, and the days ahead. And I dream of being like Mary Oliver.

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