“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver
This quote came my way this week in a wonderful post by Chris Guillebeau on his blog at The Art of Non-Conformity. In his post, he talks about two books he has recently read about how people approach life after finding out that they are going to die in the near future. It was a delight to find the source of this quote because the idea of my “one wild and precious life” has been on my mind a lot lately as I ponder some major changes I hope to make in the near future, and I could not remember where I had heard that phrase.
I’ve spent so much of my life just surviving, spending my time waiting for someone to come along and rescue me. I’ve spent years doing things that don’t make me happy in an effort to make other people happy or to find “safety” in some way. But none of that has involved really living as if I truly believed that this was my “one wild and precious life.” I don’t act like it’s the only chance I’ve got, nor do I act like I find anything precious about this life of mine. I definitely don’t act like it’s wild when I value safety over risk. In fact, too much of my life would look more like a waiting for death than an active pursuit of anything.
After losing my friend Vicki so unexpectedly a couple of years ago, I’ve found myself slowly becoming less interested in safety and in doing what is “expected” of me and becoming more willing to think about the things I need to do to make sure I can face death someday having lived the life I was meant to live while I had the chance. This hasn’t been an overnight transformation—in fact, I still spend entirely too much time trying to please others or ensure my safety—but her death has started a gradual shift in the way I see life, my options for living it, and my responsibility to the gifts I have been given. That shift is gaining momentum all the time and is becoming harder and harder to ignore.
I am terrified of this change I am considering. It goes against all common wisdom about how to act, it will displease a lot of people I deeply care about, and it is an enormous risk. And yet every time I start to pull back from doing something so crazy, this phrase echoes in the back of my head driving me forward, pushing me off the cliff. This is my “one wild and precious life.” There is no second chance at it. This is too valuable a thing to be wasting as I have.
And so I move ever closer to the leap. Each day moves me one step nearer to doing something so completely and entirely out of character for me that even I cannot conceive of the fact that I am about to do this. I have no plan. I have no safety net. I have no wings. And still I will leap and hope that I learn to fly midair.
The other phrase that keeps echoing in my head is the first line of the following poem, which describes how I plan to life my “one wild and precious life” better than I could ever say it.
I Will Not Die an Unlived Life
I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear of falling
Or of catching fire
I choose to inhabit my days
To allow my living to open me
Making me less afraid
To loosen my heart
So that it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise
I choose to risk my significance.
To live so that that which comes to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
And that which comes to me as blossom
Goes on as fruit.
by Dawna Markova in I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion