Home » poetry » My life, in a single line of poetry

My life, in a single line of poetry

I’m reading through Leo Babauta’s book, “The Power of Less,” again. This time I’ve committed myself to going through every chapter and completing all the recommended tasks.

For my first “small change” to focus on, I chose the goal of limiting myself to one activity at a time and tidying up from it right away, instead of giving into the pressure of needing to get onto something else immediately (ie. washing the dishes after each meal before starting into school studies or work projects).

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But I’ve been struggling, struggling against a vortex inside that distracts me, buffets me with gusts of I-have-to-get-all-this-done-YESTERDAY, there’s-so-much-left-to-do, and I-can’t-take-time-off-to-relax-until-I’m-all-finished, making it difficult to think clearly, to hear above the noise, as though I’m in a headlong, all out race against time. There’s a pressure like a vice grip which makes me hold my breath and leaves me feeling exhausted. It’s like being in quicksand, the faster I try to push myself, the deeper stuck I get.

I used to think this vortex existed because of other people’s unpredictable, sometimes chaotic behaviour, that it belonged to them, that I was just getting caught in it, and if they changed, I’d be fine. Then I read a passage, I wish I could remember which book it was in, where someone wrote something like, “The best way to have less stress is to stop generating it.” The truth of the statement started working on me. I began to realize that it was something coming from somewhere inside of me, but I didn’t know how to shut it off. Every once in a while, for a short time, it would be quiet, but it always started up again.

I wanted to get out if it. Needed to get out. Permanently.

Then this past Wednesday, I read a poem on Rebecca Rose’s blog composerofwords.


People are often unreasonable and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you.

Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.”

― Mother Teresa

And there, right in front of me, was my life, my deepest desires, my greatest fears, laid out in a single line of poetry.

“Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.”

Never be enough?

I read that line and I was stopped in my tracks, struck by a profound sense of loss and a feeling of utter defeat. Then came a bone weariness as from running too far, too fast, for too long. And an unusual silence.

As I sat, bewildered by this intense reaction to a simple, truthful sentence from Mother Teresa’s poem, I heard my heart asking, “Could it be okay if it was never enough?”

Confused, my mind countered, “But how can that be right? How could it ever be okay? That would mean I’d failed.”

And then I heard, “It’s too painful to even think about it.”

Hmmm? What was that? Failed? Why? And why is it too painful to even think about? Where is that coming from?

I searched for the source. And at last I saw it.

An opened box.

I moved closer to look inside. On a small piece of paper, stained with tears, was written:

“If I know enough, love enough, help enough, and do enough, then I might be able to make everything okay, solve all the problems, keep bad things from happening, be protected from the unbearable pain of loss, and never be frightened again. Be safe.”

My vortex. The heart’s cry of a child.

I cradled the little box in my hand. “It’s going to be okay,” I said. “Somehow, it’s going to be okay.”

I sat for a few more minutes, resting in the quietness.

Then I gently closed the lid.

8 thoughts on “My life, in a single line of poetry

  1. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.

    Glad to see you’re getting closer to losing your life as you now know it, and stepping closer to Life as intended by God. I’m with you on this journey. xo


  2. Your message seems to beg a the reciprocal implication of expectation; “No one person can ever be enough, love enough, help enough, and do enough, make everything okay, solve all the problems, keep bad things from happening, protect me from the unbearable pain of loss, and being frightened.” Do we expect too much from our spouse, child, parents and friends?

    Thank you for your thoughtful expression of a truth. You opened an interest into this book.


    • I think that’s an excellent point. Sometimes (often?) when we see our own inability to “make things happen,” we turn to others in hopes that they can — but they’re simply human as well. No one person can ever fulfill all of the needs/wants of another — especially true when it applies to those things that aren’t within our ability to control. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and bringing the discussion to a deeper level.


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