Saturday, July 7, 2018

Learning About Love from Mary Oliver

For almost all of my dating life, I have struggled to make failing relationships work.  The queer community in my city is small, so I've tried to convince myself over and over that I can make do with someone who is too loud/too messy/not interesting enough in order to have a partner.  The worst of this was with my second-last ex, whose many good features made me want to overlook the bad, resulting in four years of settling for not quite enough.

Towards the end of that relationship, I started seeking solace in literature.  I would Google phrases like "poems about hating your girlfriend" and "poems to help me stay in a relationship when I'm unhappy" and then spend hours scrolling through the results.  Somewhere in the midst of this, I stumbled upon Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese", which in my opinion is one of the best things ever written. 

The whole poem is fabulous, but what stood out for me was the line "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."  The line stuck with me for days, forcing me to realize that the soft animal of my body did not love my partner, no matter how hard I tried to will it to.  I'm sure I would have broken up with my ex eventually even without it, but that single line was the thing that finally allowed me to walk away.

As I get back into dating after the end of my long relationship, I carry these words with me.  They remind me that love isn't something that can be forced or willed.  I can't change myself to be loved by someone else, nor can I ignore parts of another person in order to love them.  The soft animal of my body is a highly discerning tyrant, and she is in charge. 

10 comments:

  1. "the world offers itself to your imagination" is what strikes me the most about this lovely poem. There is so much hope and beauty in it.

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  2. You might like this: https://onbeing.org/blog/mary-oliver-reads-wild-geese/

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  3. We keep learning about love until we die.

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    1. One can hope! I would like a little more first-hand experience with love.

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  4. Funny. I focused on the lines related to loneliness, but then that's what's on my mind at the moment. :-)

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    1. Different things speak to different people. The whole poem is beautiful! Hope the loneliness passes...

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