I remember when I first read these marvelous lines by Mary Oliver:
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
I was 24 years old, in a cafe overlooking a nearly-frozen canal in Amsterdam, where I was living and struggling and performing as a dancer.
I read those lines and thought,
You can DO that?!?
You can just let your body loves what it loves?!?
You can say NO to the #1 commandment, especially for girls and women: BE GOOD?!?
Be a good girl. Be a good daughter, wife, student, coworker. Be nice. Be pleasing. Be perfect. Police your body, your wants, your feelings, desires, wishes, wants, needs, your everything.
You could say F*CK ALL THAT and just let your body loose?
You could be soft?
Yes, 24-year-old self, yes.
And in 24 more years, 24-year-old self, you will write a book all about this, Feminine Genius, because you will come to know that the body is innocent. That you can love what you love. That it is good to feel good.
That no one needs to be policed into their magnificence because we all reach toward our destiny the way a plant leans toward the sunshine.
And you too, dear one, you can know — as you may have at some point in your younger years — that you can love what you love.
It is good to feel good.
And then your life and your pleasure can be your own again.
And then you can quit trying to be someone else. You can feel a part of life, as if you belong by default.
Your lifelong undercurrent of anxiety can be washed clean by the flood of gratitude that comes when you know that you have chosen your life, and you have chosen well.
If we ask you, you will likely tell us that your life is far from perfect, and often quite painful, but that you no longer feel lost.
You will likely tell us that it feels satisfying to be in daily conversation with something at once greater than yourself yet something so simply yourself.
You will likely tell us that these interior treasures can be taken by no one. That whatever you had to invest, go through, let go of, lose, or humbly laugh into being, whatever you had to learn or unlearn, was all worth it.
A thousand, thousand times over, dear goddess, worth it.
And you would wish the same for all of us.
Because, dear one, it is good to feel good.
Love what you love,