You Do Not Have to Be Good

You Do Not Have to Be Good

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.

~Mary Oliver, Wild Geese


Carols have been playing in department stores for weeks and holiday images permeate our media – homes lit with strung lights, greenery draped from banisters, candles glowing on mantles, families coming together in conversation, worship, and laughter. It’s all so perfect and lovely, isn’t it?

Well, there are lovely moments, sometimes strung together like prayer beads into a full day or more. But sometimes not so much.

When the kids were young, no matter how many times I told myself I wouldn’t do it, I succumbed to those heightened, commercialized, expectations. Craig reminded me the other day that one year we had six Christmas trees of various sizes and themes scattered throughout our home. They were beautiful but, in retrospect, a grasp at that shiny perfection we see on every magazine cover this time of year. If I weighed, now, the effort and expense in putting those trees up with the pleasure they provided, the effort would grossly outweigh the pleasure. And the sparkly dressing never really changed the reality of day-to-day life. Despite the splendor, we had family conflict (even more so because we were all exhausted), we experienced sadness and loss. I remember one year when a loved one overdosed and tried to avoid the paramedics by hiding behind the decorated tree in the dining room. The tree came crashing down onto the table, destroying glass ornaments and the centerpiece. In the end, none of that mattered. The only thing that any of us cared about was that a precious life was saved. We had more time together to learn and grow.

We’ve decorated our tree, hung the lights and set out the candles. Snow is falling and I put another log on the fire. It’s beautiful, and I still love it, but it’s not perfect. None of us are, and that’s okay. In the end, the only gift that really matters is the gift of time. The miracle of this moment.

If you or a loved one needs help, please don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.


4 thoughts on “You Do Not Have to Be Good

  1. So true. The one thing you can’t buy more of is time. Giving your time and creating memories is what will be remembered long after we’re gone.

    The holidays are hard on a lot of people for many different reasons. Be extra patient and kind to those we encounter. You never know what pain a person may be hiding.

  2. Hi Carmel,
    One of the things I love about you is that you are heart-centered and people/soul focused. You’re right about the perfect trappings…but it is always nice to have a little light and glitter during the winter season. I keep a few lights up all year round…and wonder if it’s worth it to put up my tree this year (didn’t last year) since no one but me sees it. And sometimes it looks lonely with no gifts under it! I appreciate the years you have sent me something…so I have something under the tree! But that is ultimately not what’s important. What’s important, as you pointed out…is LOVE. The gathering of all of you at the front door when a loved one leaves where all gather round and say, “Love love love love love…” That is the root and the blessing of your family.
    I know you all have been hit by a lot of grief in the past two years and some major challenges. I am sad and sorry for your losses. But at the core, you all are about love – and that makes all the difference.
    Much love, prayers, and many hugs,
    Linda 🙂

    1. Linda, Thank you for your message. I’m all for a little glitter. You shine with love and light all year long! Let’s get together and catch up soon! xo

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