The second week of National Poetry Month is dedicated to David Whyte, the poet, essayist, and speaker, who reignited my love of poetry almost two decades ago. I “studied” a fair amount of poetry for both my graduate and undergraduate degrees, which I mostly neither cared for, nor truly understood. As a result, my early love for poetry faded away. But one day, I heard David Whyte speak at a conference and he rekindled the fire. In the midst of reading his poetry, he also preached a message about importance of bringing passion and commitment to your life and work. He lit a spark in me, which has become a flame that burns in me to this day. Here is that poem he shared.
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
It’s time to go into the night
where the dark has eyes
to recognize its own.
can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will make a home for you tonight.
will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
When I heard Whyte speak, I was in the midst of parenting three small children. While I would not have called my life “dark,” it had certainly gotten smaller, more noisy and chaotic. I had allowed so many voices into my head – culture, church, parent, spouse, children – I had little idea what my own voice was saying. When Whyte repeated this line – over and over again:
Anything or anyone/ that does not bring you alive/ is too small for you.
something deep within me stirred and I recognized a truth I had not dared to speak, or even recognize. My life was too small and I was ready for this time of “confinement” to be over. Something new needed to be born – the fullness of me as a woman in her own right, not simply as a wife and mother. I shared these lines of Whyte’s poetry with Tim Kirkpatrick and he met me there, convinced as I was that “the world was made to be free in.” It has been a sweet, sometimes lonely, and dark journey, but it has been worth it every step of the way.
What is too small for you right now?
Who is limiting your potential?
Where do you find yourself trapped instead of free?
Don’t be afraid to name whoever, or whatever arises as you ask these questions. It does not mean they are bad, or that you have to leave them, but it does mean you can start pushing against the boundaries, creating more freedom for everyone in the process.