Ask Me Whether What I Have Done Is My Life

“Ask me whether what I have done is my life” is a line from the poem “Ask Me” by William Stafford.

I read it for the first time when reading the first chapter of Parker J. Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak.

In it, he talks about his realization that:

“…it is indeed possible to live a life other than one’s own.”

While some might dismiss this as an abstract concept, a poetic or philosophical musing, for others it is a heartbreaking reality.

When I ask myself this question, whether this life I have lived and am living is my own, I…I don’t know.

My answer is simply, and perhaps sadly, I do not know.

Some of it is. Much of it isn’t. That’s my first attempt at an answer.

But how do I know? I can hardly tell what  my life is, or could be. The idea of “my” life has been buried so far under layers and layers of other lives it seems distorted, colored, mangled, and voiceless.

Palmer says that letting one’s life speak means endeavoring to live the life that wants to live in you.

That, I’m guessing, takes quiet, patience, compassion, and lots of honest listening.

According to Palmer, it’s about seeking wholeness.

I would love to feel whole. I would love to show my daughter an example of someone who moves through the world in wholeness, compassion, and grace.

Who knows. Perhaps that’s what my daughter has come to show me.

Whatever your journey is, good luck and may your life be your own.


I Promise

I will be
your anchor
in the raging ocean waves.

I will be
your roots
in howling winds.

I will be
your warmth on the
darkest, coldest nights;

your shelter from
the hottest, fiery blaze.

My Demon Sweetheart

… a poem about depression.

Oh, my familiar friend,
I would tear your tongue out
for how you speak to me
but for the elegant truths your lies
come dressed in.

I would walk away, never looking back,
but you wrap me in such utter,
blinding darkness
my skin feels warm against
the ice in my bones.

When you sweep me off my feet
and take me to the bitter edge
I beg you just let me fall,
but that sweet release
isn’t why you came.

You, my demon sweetheart, are the best
at the worst kind of seduction.

Your crippling love won’t leave
me in peace.

The Morning Squirrel

His bright, brown puff of a tail flicked the window, beckoning me to feeding time. He always came in the afternoon, a little bit twitchy, a little bit daring, always hungry for almonds. Or pumpkin seeds. Or whatever I had on hand. His comrade came in the mornings, silent and slow and never as eager to beg but always willing to sit and share in my company. The afternoon squirrel came only for food.

Once full, he’d bury any excess nuts in my various potted plants, tearing up my precious soil. In his defense, I always let him. Rarely would he linger. He’d never stand and stare, resting on his hind legs with his front paws crossed over his belly like a gentleman. His little whiskers never curled into an imaginary smile, nose turned up as in laughter.

No, not the afternoon squirrel. He flits about, anxious, never still, always hungry. Certainly always fed. He was the heavier of the two.

The morning squirrel comes and sits as if invited for breakfast. He waits politely for the food to be placed before him, served to him, rather than over-eagerly sniffing fingertips. Sometimes he’ll sniff the plants in greeting. Often he’ll stare into the house imagining the unending pile of nuts that must reside inside, but never is he bold enough to knock.

No, not the morning squirrel. He simply visits for a time like a neighbor passing leisurely by, making his way home before the sun gets too high.

I loved the morning squirrel. When I left that happy home I missed him most of all. I think of him often, his paws crossed over his belly, his imaginary smile. I left my potted plants behind in the hope that both might enjoy the nuts inside.


Somewhere beneath
your guilt and regret
you changed.

Somewhere beyond
my bitterness and blame
I changed.

Somehow in a moment
of unburdened love
we changed

And made peace
on the battlefield
to which
for too long
we’ve been chained.

And I can breathe again.