I love the following poem by William Stafford:
THE WAY IT IS
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
It’s a poem I know by heart and try to recite every day as a reminder of how important it is to have certain things in our lives that we are completely devoted to. I love the fact that he wrote this poem 26 days before he died at the age of 79 in 1993. That he was still living so fully, and meaningfully right up until the very end of his life!
Devoted is a word we often associate with a spiritual path, but it needn’t be. You can be devoted to your family, or to a creative pursuit, or a football team. I’m devoted to my dog Max, and to my therapy practice, also to learning poems I love, off by heart (preferably on a walk or a hike). But I don’t have any expectation that you could or should become devoted to dogs or poetry or hiking, unless these are aligned with your core values!
We do need to work out what we want to be devoted to, as well as how we’re going to show (through our actions) our devotion. It seems that choosing something important in our lives “to set apart by a vow” (the origins of the word “devoted”) is almost essential when it comes to living life the fullest.
You get to choose however what you want this to be and how you can turn that into something meaningful that you can then dedicate time and energy towards.
Stafford didn’t stop writing poems as death approached. Here’s one he wrote on the very day he died.
You can’t tell when strange things with meaning
will happen. I’m [still] here writing it down
just the way it was. “You don’t have to
prove anything,” my mother said. “Just be ready
for what God sends.” I listened and put my hand
out in the sun again. It was all easy.
Well, it was yesterday. And the sun came,