There was a crumpled, yellow, sticky note by my foot when I arose from bed.
I used to write those little notes to myself and leave them around. But that felt like a lifetime ago, and the yellow stickies had all but disappeared.
And if I hadn’t been in a river of my own grief and tears, I would have tossed it away. My mother died a few months before, and I’d been praying for a sign. Its presence at my feet may have been a coincidence, but I needed something—anything. And so, I chose to believe in that little, beat-up piece of paper.
I flattened it out, and in my own writing, I read the Mary Oliver quote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I swore I heard my mother’s thick Brooklyn accent and saw her signature bright, red-painted lips moving as I read. She was telling me to put myself back together and add some spice into my life. I was always way too vanilla for her liking.
Learn who it is I’d come here to be; that’s what she was saying.
I’d lived mostly within the neat spaces drawn for me before. In the past, I was discreet with my displeasure, careful not to call too much attention or ask for that much.
And my mother lived big, hard, and thunderously. I looked up toward the sky and I told her I would listen—I’d get busy living.
I asked the world to stop loving me for who I was told to be, who they wanted me to be, and who I thought I was.
I bared my naked soul in search of meaning. I told all my dirty, painful secrets too. I put a little bit more of her in me, or it may have been that we were always in each other.
But some around me weren’t pleased. This meant, I wasn’t “going along” anymore; I’d fallen out of step with what they wanted from me. And they quietly took off.
I twisted the ends of my hair into knots trying to understand the silence. Deep down, though, I understood. I’d broken the rules; I changed.
And so, when I started to tell my stories openly on Elephant Journal, it wasn’t a surprise that even more friends and relatives swiftly dispersed from my life. When I shared my pieces with them, they’d react with radio silence.
I worried I may have said something that hurt someone. But I write from my heart and try to be mindful of this purpose—always.
Maybe, I’d embarrassed them by exposing my wounds and disclosing my imperfections. But being perfect wasn’t what I came here to be. I’m here to be free and loving—like everyone, even those who’ve forgotten.
I think what I’ve done to upset people is not what I’ve said in my pieces or what I plan to write in the future. It is that I have spoken—that I feel I have a say now, and I dared to tell my story.
I ask myself why the demands of people who didn’t want to know me, see me, or hear me meant so much. I have to wonder why I drowned my voice in the sea of what is wanted.
Those answers lie within the vacancy that exists within my heart—where the love from those who have gone used to reside. I miss being adored, I admit. Although, I know it was conditional.
And the momentary pleasure and the pats on the shoulder aren’t enough to sacrifice my well-being or my integrity any longer. Nor is it worth losing myself in a cycle of people pleasing either.
If stringing words together like pearls on a string unearths my voice, then be it. I will write and share if I wish.
I mean, we all were given a voice—a gift of grace, a precise sound, a personal heartbeat. It screams of life, joy, and cries of our heartbreaks. Our voices sing with purpose and knowing. They are the essence that burns within us from the inside out.
No, we don’t have to be the loudest or fiercest, but we mustn’t squash our own desire to be who we came here to be.
The ones who have vanished from my life may disapprove, roll their eyes, and question why now and why tell so much. I guess I’d say to them that the time is always right to speak up, tell your tale, dance your dance, beat your drum—and not simply fall into place.
And so, I ask you, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I’d love to know.