Teri Vance: Finding the spark of joy in life
January 21, 2019
This week I'm reminded of the impermanence, and the sanctity, of life. None of us are promised another day, another chance.
Beloved and multiple-award-winning poet Mary Oliver, whose words have served as a beacon in my life to find connection to the natural and spiritual and to myself, died this week.
But her sentiments live on, urging us to really live. She asks in "The Summer Day," "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
That's a big question. (And it makes me feel really guilty for all the time I spend watching reality television).
There are a litany of excuses that keep us — more specifically, me — from really living.
I've heard a lot of them.
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Time. Money. Kids. Natural ability.
I'm just not good enough. Or thin enough. Or pretty enough. Or smart enough.
Carson City artist Deana Hoover said she's bumped up against these feelings.
"My parents really did not care for me, so they made a point of consistently shaming me," they said. "I deeply internalized that for a very long time."
It took an intentional effort to learn to love herself.
"It seems to me that a person must choose to overcome the things that hold them back, then they must figure out how to make a good life happen. I don't know if anyone can accidentally fall into a happy life."
I agree. Happiness is purposeful. It's created despite hardships and obstacles, not out of absence of them.
A friend I admire said she always hesitated to fully participate in life because of her weight. I've heard this before — moms who don't sit for family photos, classmates who don't attend reunions, people sitting out of opportunities for body shame.
Years ago, I read a book that I don't remember the title. I think it may have been written by a local author who said she subscribed to this way of thinking. She was always putting off certain experiences or adventures until she lost weight.
Then she realized there was no ideal weight to go to the beach. Or pretty enough to go on a date.
The best time to do these things is when you had the opportunity to do them — and enjoy the heck out of them.
I watched in amazement the viral video of UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi's routine.
It was widely described as "pure joy."
But to read her back story, you learn she nearly quit the sport after suffering injuries to body and spirit.
From coaches to internet spectators, she heard over and over her body wasn't good enough, not small enough.
But, like Deana said, she methodically worked through it.
In a poem she wrote:
"I've been consumed with the thought that bigger is synonymous to less than, That only those people with the right, perfect bodies have the right to stand. But here, today, I stand with the love that penetrates deeper than any wedding band."
She found her joy.
And we all can. Oliver sets the bar for the life I wish to live in "When Death Comes."
"When it's over, I want to say all my life/ I was a bride married to amazement."
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.