Saving One’s Own Life

Yesterday, I listened to On Being‘s extraordinary 2015 interview with the dearly departed muse, Mary Oliver.

Among the many arresting observations she makes, one line that caught me up short was: “I saved my own life.”

We all have to do that at some point, don’t we? Even with all the help and advice and instruction in the world, no one else can take the saving step for us — into the woods, along the beach, onto the page.

It’s probably a healthy thing that our culture is learning to speak more openly of the struggles and traumas that have always been there. But we can’t descend totally into blaming others or shaming ourselves — “walk[ing] on [o]ur knees / for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.”

Sooner or later, we must address ourselves. And then, with all the support and grace and attention we can muster, save our own lives.

That’s how we claim the gifts we have to share.


We’ll miss you, Mary.