Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
-- David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press
You can listen to two different recitations of this poem here:
(It’s even more powerful hearing it, I think)
Everything is Waiting For You
As we enter a new year, I love the message of this poem by David Whyte. Everything is waiting for you. For you! Everything is waiting in anticipation of what you will do and be this year, this day! Could this be true? The Universe, the Earth, unseen forces, God, even tiny practical items – all there to support you on your journey?
“Surely, even you, at times, have felt the grand array, the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding out your solo voice,” he says.
And yet it isn’t that easy to believe that we are so supported, is it? Especially for those of us who lean in the direction of depression and anxiety.
It takes courage to hope.
I see the challenge of this choice so clearly as I work with prospective and new clients (and in my own journey.) They, and I, find it easy to repeat old stories about how and why we are stuck. About how hard things are.
It’s much more difficult for us to talk about what it would look like, feel like, taste like, and smell like to be free, to be joyful, to feel and see that we are doing our important work in the world.
David Whyte gives us a place to start that is very tangible.
He tells us to stop denying the good that is all around us. He tells us to choose to notice all the ways that the world shows us that we are a loved, cared for and not alone. He encourages an intentional alertness to the goodness of familiar things – a window latch that allows you to choose safety, warmth and silence as you close and lock it, or access cool breezes and perhaps the sound of birds singing or children playing in the snow when you release it.
You might use a gratitude journal to help yourself to shift attention from all that is difficult and unsupportive and challenging to all that is good, supportive and inviting you to engage with the life you’ve been given.
Or you could try what author Christine Valters Painter suggests (she comes from a Christian perspective, but the idea is applicable much more broadly): use the camera on your phone to help you to notice what is shining out a message of hope and love to you in the midst of your everyday life, by just going for a walk and taking a photo of what catches your attention, then reflecting on it after you return.
Various forms of meditation or prayer, or just pausing for a few moments of silence, can help you to notice the many ways that life is already showing up to support you.
Or, if you are really brave, you might experiment with spending a day – or even just an hour – in which you commit to avoiding all negative comments or complaints and instead telling the people you encounter about what you’ve noticed that went well, what is good, or what you’re thankful for. Not to deny your difficulties, but as a practice of attention.
These steps are simple, but not easy. Especially for those of us who are amazing problem solvers – good at finding what’s not working so we can fix it.
These practices are simple, but not easy especially for those of us who have spent a life time ignoring our own needs in order to meet the needs of others and now feel depleted and burnt out.
We can find plenty of evidence that the world is cruel, unjust and unfair, or just too difficult for us to manage. And I’m not encouraging you to stop noticing, or caring about the hard stuff - for others or for yourself. But if you’re reading this, my guess is that you are pretty clear on those issues and are already working to bring change – or you want to bring change, but you’re stuck.
My guess is that, at least for some of you, what you need most before you take another step in your work to change the world for the better is to know—with the kind of knowing that you can FEEL in your body and in your heart— that you are loved, supported and not alone.
So that you can care deeply about the world's pain without feeling that life is so heavy and hopeless.
I encourage you to start gathering evidence to show yourself that you matter and that you are loved and supported in your big work. Because the evidence will nourish you. It will help you to get moving, if that’s what you need. It will provide you with permission to rest, if that is your next step.
Paying attention to all of the amazingness that is already here for you, waiting for you to notice, will enable you to do your big work in the world – and to FEEL more joy too.
The evidence is all around you. You get to choose what you focus your attention on. “Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation, the kettle is singing for you even as it pours you a drink…Everything is waiting for YOU.”
Here’s to thriving – and equity.