Your one wild and precious life

It is easy to take good things for granted.  Our health, our families, our friendships: even life itself. It’s often only when these things are threatened that we realise how blessed we truly are. An illness suddenly makes us appreciate being well; a natural disaster in another part of the world makes us glad to have warm homes, clean water and food to eat.

My friend Harriet’s death has made me reflect on how precious life is; how short it is and how quickly it can be snatched away. It’s made me think about making the most of life, living it to the full.

The other day I was looking at some of Harriet’s boards on Pinterest. She had one called ‘Words to Inspire’, with lots of encouraging and inspirational quotes. I read all of them. They were so her – it made me glad to read the words that had inspired her, and to find that in turn they inspire me too. The last one she posted was ‘Your work is to discover your world, and then with all your heart give yourself to it.’ I like that. It’s definitely how Harriet lived her life. The other one I love, and am particularly challenged by, is a quote by poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

So much potential lies in each of us, buried treasure and talents waiting to be unearthed and put to use. There are reasons, though, why we don’t tap into these depths, and don’t reach the fullness of what we can be.

Perhaps we lack confidence in our abilities. This steals our potential and makes us believe we’re not good enough. In a culture that often mistakes confidence for arrogance, it’s acceptable to downplay your achievements, but not blow your own trumpet.

Perhaps we compare ourselves to others. There will always be someone better and more capable than you in your field. Comparison says, Why even bother, if you can’t be the best? Comparison is a killer.

Perhaps we are too busy. How easy it is to become wrapped up in the mundane, the day-to-day, letting life pass us by and missing the big picture.

Perhaps it’s even that we don’t realise the gifts we have. Maybe we have gone through life believing we aren’t good at anything.

But we have been given this one, wild and precious life to live. Living life to the full, I believe, is about knowing who we are: embracing our strengths and talents and putting them to good use. It’s about loving others well and giving of ourselves fully. It’s about taking risks. It’s believing that we have something of value and worth to offer to the world.

These things take courage. But how wonderful to, at the end of your life, be able to say that you lived courageously, took risks and lived wildly. I believe Harriet would have been able to say this, as someone who lived bravely and made the most of every opportunity. I am inspired and challenged to do the same.

mary oliver


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