Words When No Words Suffice

I often turn to Mary Oliver’s work during difficult times and the past two days I’ve been thinking a lot about her poem “Wild Geese.” It starts, “You do not have to be good.” I love that line. Every time I read it, I feel like Mary Oliver is giving us permission. Not permission to be bad, but permission to be human.

I think we need such permission more often than we admit. I know I do. I know I think I’m supposed to be able to handle anything that’s thrown my way. That, if I’m strong, I’ll be able to do it, and if I’m not, I should be stronger.

Of course, this isn’t true. And now seems like an important time for a reminder.

You don’t have to be strong. We don’t have to be strong. Strength will not bring back those we have lost. Strength will not mend broken bones. And strength will most certainly not rid our minds of the horrific memories of this tragedy.

Love, comfort, care — this is what we need right now. Permission to feel, to cry, to rage if need be.

Now is not the time to be strong. Now is the time to be what we need to be to get through today and tomorrow and all the days after until we feel we can move forward again.

And then we should focus on being strong — not as individuals, but as a community.

Life is hard. Even the best-lived life includes significant heartbreak. If we’re lucky, there is also significant beauty and joy. The beauty, the joy — that comes from loving, comforting, and caring for one another.

I don’t know the meaning of life, but I believe that we’re here to support one another. We’re not put alone on an island. We’re not meant to survive in isolation. Still, we live that way all too often. In our efforts to survive and succeed in the misguided ways we’ve defined success, we’ve lost sight that, as cliche as it sounds, we really are in this together. We’d be much better off if we acted like it.

Let’s not insist that we be strong right now. Instead, let’s insist on being loving, comforting, and caring for one another.

This post is an effort to spread love, comfort, and care. I can’t cook you a meal (at least, I can’t cook you a good one). I am not a trained counselor (I called mine to make an appointment today). I don’t know that it’s a superpower, but my power lies in words. If you need a hug, I can provide that too. Meanwhile, I hope this acts as a virtual hug of sorts.

Sending love, comfort, and care to all.


Listen to Mary Oliver read “Wild Geese.”

1 thought on “Words When No Words Suffice

  1. Whoa!! you dive deep with this one Amy! damn, i am so glad to know you! and what a powerful, gifted writer you are…you’re right! but more, you delight!! and i remember the resilience with which you return to each day, that was a joy to share in. ‘Shower the people you love with love’

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