by: Mary Oliver
Your friend is coming I say
to Percy, and name a name
and he runs to the door, his
wide mouth in its laugh-shape,
and waves, since he has one, his tail.
Emerson, I am trying to live,
as you said we must, the examined life.
But there are days I wish
there was less in my head to examine,
not to speak of the busy heart. How
would it be to be Percy, I wonder, not
thinking, not weighing anything, just running forward.
I have spent a LOT of time this past week examining my life. There hasn't been much else to do besides that and binging movies. I couldn't read because of headaches. Couldn't go for walks because the cold air made me cough so hard I felt like Mimi at the end of La boheme. Couldn't sleep at night, and had no energy during the day.
So, I spent a lot of time just . . . thinking.
I finally tested negative this morning. Then I tested again, just to make sure. Negative again. So I worked at the library today. Taught in-person at the university. Tried to get caught up on the work I'd missed. In short, I overdid it. Now, I'm paying the price. I'm pretty exhausted.
I'm happy to be rejoining the world, just running forward, as Oliver says at the end of today's poem. Don't misunderstand me, though. There's nothing wrong with reflection and self-examination. If a person doesn't reflect on and examine life every once in a while, he or she runs the risk of turning into a self-absorbed narcissist who becomes President of the United States and encourages insurrection. (Wow. Did I just go there? It must be COVID brain.)
However, there are times when it's alright just to charge ahead. To indulge without guilt. To be so full of excitement that the examined life is left like a dirty pair of underwear on the bathroom floor. Everyone deserves that kind of no-strings-attached happiness every once in a while.
This afternoon, when I got home, there was my dog, lying on her back on the couch, belly exposed, looking up at me expectantly. It was as if she had been waiting all day for the moment of my return. I was Santa Claus delivering presents. The Easter Bunny handing out chocolate. The Second Coming of Jesus.
And I reached down and blessed her with the miracle of a scratch behind her ears and rub of her belly. And it was good.
That is Saint Marty's examined life tonight.
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