Wednesday morning we woke up to the kind of news you never want to hear. A friend of our family’s had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, in her early 50s after a routine surgery. Her partner had just lost a parent the week before. Her daughter is still in college.
Whenever this kind of news makes its way into our lives, the tenderness, the fragility, of life we do so much to hide in all the things that consume our time and energy is broken open, exposed. When you know the person, that reminder settles in uncomfortably next to you; when that person is close in age to you, it will not let you go.
The absolute tragedy of a loss like this, a life that seemed to have so many years ahead of it as well, is still rolling through my head. It hasn’t settled yet.
But I know where it will land, because it has been here before. That this is a precious life, and we do not know our days no matter who we are. That we must take the time to do those things we’re meant to do, show up how we’re made to be, give this world the gift of who it is each and every one of us really is, and love, love deeply.
I am thinking this afternoon of the old man who walks with poles up to the Pond d’Amor not far from our house. His little fat Jack Russell’s name is Louie, and we get cheerful weather reports from him when we cross paths. I think of the other old man in the fisherman’s sweater I saw sitting on a rock reading when P and I headed out for a walk a few weekends ago, looking out over the pastures. I am starting to understand— just starting— to know why it is that they walk, and they sit, and they think, and they remember, and they remember back, I know, to these lives that they’ve known that are gone, perhaps to death, perhaps to estrangement, and they think of those moments that are beautiful, and they remember those times of pain, and they work to make sense, to find their way through. At least this is what I think they are doing, because I have begun to do more of it myself.
If you are making your way connected with how it is that you are meant to be in this world, you will not have regrets when that day comes, perhaps your thoughts, looking back, will be more joyful even as they reflect the rich texture of life. But many of us have work to do around this, and it is work that is, in Mary Oliver’s words, “as urgent as a knife.”
Give yourself the time today, this week, this month, each day, to think about those things that matter and to take the steps you need to take to walk the place and walk the place you’ve been made for. It’s one of the reasons I developed Paths 2 Purpose, the journey to help shepherd each of us along the way.
Last week’s episode of Facing the Wind is Katie Cook, an amazing lady I’m grateful to know after interviewing her several years ago for The Grit Factor. Katie shared her stories from the Marine corps and as the first woman to fly with the vaunted Blue Angels— and in this interview she takes us even further, into what has happened since that first interview and how it shapes her understanding and her leadership. Do not miss this conversation!
This week is a conversation I’ve been working to set up for a year— with the amazing Sunita Williams, an incredible athlete, Naval officer and astronaut who brings candor and encouragement to others who might be afraid to dream.
Be sure you’re subscribed— we still have more exceptional conversations to end our Season 2 including an ambassador and expert in managing change.
With love and to your grit,
The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac, Mary Oliver
I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.
So why not get started immediately.
I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.
And to write music or poems about.
Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.