You do not have to be good. You do not have to suffer. You don’t have to race to soccer with the kids getting carsick in the back seat. You don’t have to clean the room. Again. You don’t have to exercise or walk the dog or wipe down the counters. You can simply stop. Right where you are. You can sit down and listen to Maurice Ravel. You can light a candle or some incense. You can go sit on the sidewalk and pull tiny weeds with the singular focus of a zenmaster. You can consider working out, but you can meditate instead. You can try for 20 minutes, but find yourself nodding off after 10. You can nap. Just give yourself permission to lie down, curled up, even on this hot day, and fall away to sleep. It’s simple. Just give yourself to it.
You don’t have to race. You don’t have to floor it through the yellow light. You don’t have to be the first in line. You don’t have to find the shortest line at the checkout counter. Even when you’re late, you don’t have to rush. You will get there when you get there. You don’t have to be good.
You don’t have to have the powerful job, the big house. You don’t need the yard, the pool, the tall, old trees. You simply need access, somewhere, to a good long walk in the woods. Go there. Go there often. Walk meanderingly. Take the dog. Always take the dog.
You don’t have to chat with the other parents. You don’t have to go to the parties, the socials, the book groups. You can sit with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and soak your feet in a warm tub of water. You can breathe. You can stare out the window until a chickadee alights on the branch and you can find that to be miracle.
You don’t have to censor yourself when you write. You don’t have to make it sound pretty. You don’t have to make your jumbled mind into something less jumbled. It’s simple. You’re jumbled. But by allowing yourself the slowing down, the appreciation of simple things, the way your daughter’s parakeet tweets and warbles whenever he hears her play guitar and sing, the way the sun rounds the corner of your house every morning at around ten, you can unjumble things a bit. Go small.
This morning it rained. You stood at the kitchen window washing strawberries for the girls’ lunches and you looked up to your favorite view, your kitchen sink view, across the small valley your that cradles your daughters’ school. And you saw rain.
Those raindrops, those tender sheets of water coming from the sky honestly felt like a soldier coming home on furlough. You gasped, dropped the strawberries in the sink and ran outside. Your daughters beat you to the door and you all stood on the front steps, letting the sweet cool drops land on your shoulders and neck. The joy of an autumn morning rainfall after months of drought was so simple, so good.
* This is my favorite line from my favorite Mary Oliver poem.
7 thoughts on “You Do Not Have to be Good.*”
I love Mary Oliver and I love your voice too. Can’t wait to read your book.
Just yesterday I was “pulling tiny weeds” out front. I was obsessed with those weeds. I had to get them all. The irony is I hate weeding. But just at that moment it was really important and I wanted to do that. and it was really good.
Thanks for your lovely words Julie!
This is a good one to reread – just about every day. 😍
I am deeply moved by this and wish someone had told me this when I was madly trying to prove my worth as a mom and woman. Now that I am a woman of a certain age, it seems so natural, but it could have helped us all be a little less crazy 15 years ago. Your daughters are so lucky that you figured this out early. I am in awe of your wisdom and beautiful way with words. THANX xo
I love this sooo much, even more than Mary Oliver’s version. Yours feels more real and accessible to me. Can I just say I love you too and the way your writing touches me. Muah!