An Antidote for Self-Pity

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - 5:30 am

An Antidote for Self-Pity

Ever wake up on the self-pity side of the bed? Me too! Here’s a poetic antidote from Mary Oliver, who’s often able to find in nature a cure for what ails us human types.
If you don’t have a good waterfall in your neighborhood — one with a cave behind it where you can follow Mary’s advice — a walk in the woods or a park might do.
Or maybe hearing a bird sing its heart out, or listening to great music, or viewing great art, or watching a child at play and, better yet, joining in!
As Rumi says, “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

The Poet with His Face in His Hands
by Mary Oliver

You want to cry aloud for your
mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn’t need any more of that sound.

So if you’re going to do it and can’t
stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can’t
hold it in, at least go by yourself across

the forty fields and the forty dark inclines
of rocks and water to the place where
the falls are flinging out their white sheets

like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that
jubilation and water fun and you can
stand there, under it, and roar all you

want and nothing will be disturbed; you can
drip with despair all afternoon and still,
on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

by the passing foil of water, the thrush,
puffing out its spotted breast, will sing
of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. His book On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old will be published in June.

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