We’re all going to die, we all know it. As Mary Oliver puts it in her poem, The Summer Day, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?”
Hell yes, Mary, yes.
The poem then asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”
That is just the kind of question I’ve
always loved to ask. And answer. When it comes to intentions and plans, I’m your woman. Show me a goal-setting technique, a manifestation method, a treasure map and it won’t be long before I’ll be off – like a frisky dog after a rabbit – with a to-do list.
Six months ago, before my diagnosis, I had my usual make-it-happen playsheet in its place in the bottom drawer of my desk. I take it out to look at it now. Written on yellow paper during a holiday in New York, it includes items like: “Start new novel”; “Expand Font (my business) and hire an assistant”; “Begin A Blog”; “Sell house and divide life between Dublin and San Francisco” — each broken down into smaller steps, and decorated with doodles, photos and illustrations, as I like to do.
But, of course, life doesn’t always give us what we think we want. Getting sick has led me to let go of some of those intentions, while getting on with others and putting others on hold until after my treatment is done.
The real change, though, lies in the quality of answers I’d now give to Oliver’s question. Now I’d say things like: “Love my husband”; “Watch over my kids”; “See friends and family”; “Enjoy my writing”; “Nurture my health”; “Foster my awareness”; “Savour every moment”. Less doing, more being.
Does that sound tame? It doesn’t feel that way, it feels like Oliver says: wild and precious. The things that matter in my life now matter more than ever — and nothing else matters much at all.
I still love plans and to-dos but cancer has heightened my awareness of what I’ve always known. That everything dies and that, meantime, this is it.
This is my wild and precious, my dear and beautiful, life.