Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tell Me Who You Are

Tonight I ran across this, "The Invitation" by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, which remains one of my favorite pieces of writing. It's so simple and yet so poignant.

There's only one stanza I don't agree with - I do care significantly about the truth. Otherwise, every word of it speaks to me on so many levels.

She expresses so beautifully my philosophy of life, which I bumble through when trying to explain to people. She is able to speak it so clearly - with a poet's command of the language.

The things that matter to me are not the things "the world" deems as important. I just cringe when someone asks what I do for a living - as if that's the most valuable piece of information someone could garner about me. Yet, I find myself wanting to ask the same thing sometimes because it's "inappropriate" to ask the things I really want to know.

What I really want is for you to tell me about when you've grieved, lusted, overcome, cried, laughed, given into your whims, marveled at nature, worried about tomorrow or longed for yesterday. I want to know what you think about at night when you can't sleep. I want to know what you fear. What wakes you from a sound sleep with the sweat pouring and your heart pounding? I want to know what you want. What do you desperately, terribly, painfully want - what is the desire that is always on your mind? Tell me about the lost love you still long for all these years later. Tell me about the great aunt you adored. Tell me about the desperation you felt when trying to find your way in the world. Tell me how you manage to get up and go through the day knowing what you know about life.

I long to connect with people in a meaningful way, which I cannot imagine will ever be based on what either of us does for a living. I want to find a way to say, "please, tell me who you are, not what you are."

As the poem says:

I don't care what you do for a living...
I don't care how old you are...
I don't care who you know...
I don't care where you live or how much money you have...


I do care so much about...
what you ache for...
if you have touched the center of your sorrow and survived...
if you can dance with wildness...
if you can sit with pain...
if you can be alone with yourself.

The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Check www.patsyterrell.com for the blog, art, and more. Friend me on Facebook.com, Follow me at Twitter.com.


Anonymous said...

wow! that really says it all, doesn't it? it really gets down to the heart of all matters. i hope you don't mind if i copy you and post a blog about it.

Patsy Terrell said...

All I ever ask is for credit if people copy what I've written. Of course, I did not write "The Invitation," so that's not mine. Oriah Mountain Dreamer has a website too.

I have loved that poem since I first read it years ago. Really sums up life in a nutshell!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to look this person up - I never really got into poetry, but that's just beautiful! So down-to-earth and real; I just love it. Thank you for sharing.

Patsy Terrell said...

I've loved that poem for years. Just ran across it by accident again. I still love it! :)