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.

It was good to read Mary Oliver‘s lines this evening (thanks, Mom). Even though they are wedged in a picture frame on my freezer door, sometimes I miss the words. They blend in to the white of the refrigerator and instead of reading them, I just glance at the bit of paper as I’m grabbing my lunch in the morning, walking away before I can remember “you do not have to be good.”

If I don’t even have to be good, that means I certainly don’t have to be perfect. It means that when I don’t have to treat every mistake I make (and I do make some) like it is a cardinal sin. A lost package, no matter how urgent, probably does not require the cat-o-nine-tails (I may have slightly overreacted to some work problems last week).

I don’t have to be good. I don’t have to be good in the strict, Puritanical, follow-the-rules way that comes so naturally to me, and I don’t have to be good at things, which also mostly comes naturally (and is devastating when it doesn’t). I don’t have to run a marathon or play on the A team. I don’t have to finish my reps. I don’t have to cut out carbs or eat cauliflower. I don’t have to go vegan. I don’t have to be good at sales or pretend that I want to get better at it because it is “good” for me. I don’t have to pretend to like every aspect of my job.

I just have to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves.

What I love right now:

  • my cat
  • getting up early to work out with November Project
  • the Dragon Noodles I made for dinner tonight (skipped the potatoes)
  • the thought of going to bed in a few minutes

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