Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt; ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.
-William Stafford (emphasis mine)
“Ask me whether what I have done is my life”. This is an utterance that moves my very being. I can’t exactly explain why. It terrifies me, makes me feel remorse, gives me hope and endows me with a sense of purpose all at the same time.
In that one implied question a million more are raised. What is my life? How is it different than yours? Is it possible to live someone else’s life?
How do I know what my life is and how do I know when I’m living it?
I want to believe, like every other human who’s lived, that I am unique, that there is a path individual to me. Is this vanity? Does it lead to disillusionment and disappointment? Or does it lead to that place that only I can fill?
Sometimes it’s hard to know when the river is raging and demanding and loud. So, when the quiet of Winter comes again, when the river is ice, ask me mistakes I have made.
Please, ask me whether what I am doing is my life.