While they have endured a real crisis, I have been on the road doing Open Enrollment meetings, offered for our 1300 benefits eligible staff. By the 4th or 5th day of explaining coverages and premiums (especially the outrageous premium hikes), the brain was beginning to slow down and suddenly it seemed to stop. People would ask questions for which I am sure I know the answers, but I just can't seem to recall them. The meetings are a fun change to the usual tasks, and I get to meet so many neat people, but I am glad Open Enrollment is over! Now we begin all the paperwork. Summer is a busy time in this HR department, especially when I need to keep up so that I can take a little vacation time with the kids.
Apparently, I am even more brain dead than I had thought; I can barely form coherent thoughts. This does not bode well for tomorrow's Poetry Workshop, for which I still have to produce some decent writing. Who knows, though? Sometimes exhaustion allows me to connect with the poems, without censoring, without editing them prematurely. Last week I presented three poems of Mary Oliver's. "Wild Geese" ("You do not have to be good./ You do not have to cross the desert on your knees for a hundred years...") and "The Journey" are two of my favorite poems. "The Journey" ends with these lines:
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.
(c) Mary Oliver
The poem terrified me when I read it last year. In it I recognized the journey I had already begun, mapping out a life different from any I had seen modelled or that I would have chosen for myself. Rescuing oneself never appears heroic in the way that rescuing someone else does; it is never something we aspire to do. It must be the part where you have to admit, if only to yourself, that you've let things get to a point where the rescue is needed. Then there's the hard truth that no one can do it for you. But it happens, little by little, as this poem says, and "the stars begin to burn through the sheets of clouds." Finally, I can begin to look forward to whatever may come next!
Other thoughts, along the same lines:
then the voice in my head said
WHETHER YOU LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE
OR LIVE IN CEASELESS
DIVIDED REVOLT AGAINST IT
WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE
---Frank Bidart, Stardust
Strange where our passions lead us,
flaggingly pursue us, forcing upon us
unwanted dreams, unwelcome destinies.
-- Truman Capote, Music for Chameleons