This poem by Mary Oliver comes up for me again and again. . .
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the praries and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
I've loved this poem for years. I came to it a thousand times before Nathaniel to find a sense of freedom. I do not have to be good. I only have to allow the soft animal part of my body love what it loves.
Now I come from it troubled.
What if the soft animal part of me is bloodied and battered? What if the soft animal part of me has been taken behind a back street and beaten? What if the soft animal part of me is not alive, but not entirely dead?
The soft animal part of me loves my baby. That's the truest thing.