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Vocation and Your One Wild and Precious Life



The Summer Day

By Mary Oliver


Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean--

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down --

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?


There is something in the air. An increase in people asking for coaching around discerning when it’s time to leave job situations. When it’s to call it quits in relationships. It’s that exhausting time of year for religious professionals and school teachers especially.


Some of us are lucky to have a vocationthat makes a living wage. Some of us find work to sustain our lives and find a volunteer vocation to make a Living. Leaving a job that sustains your family and life’s other commitments is difficult enough. How does decide to leave a vocation?


Here are some questions to consider…


Ego.Where is your ego in relationship to your call? If anxiety is ruling, you’re feeling burned out, focusing on results, and a strong instinct to preserve your sense of self, chances are ego is ruling. Ego is necessary and helps us function in the world. Calling unveils our authentic self and connects us to the holy.


Learning and Growing.What do you want to learn and how do you want to grow? Make a list of the things you still want to learn in your vocation. What are ways you want to grow as a person? What margin to you want to move toward? After you have this list ask yourself honestly if the context and community of your vocational setting allows those things to come into fruition, or are they stuck or stifled.


Stuck Places.If things are stuck, what needs to change? Are any of the needed adjustments or transformations within your control? Those that are within your control, why haven’t you made the modifications? Are you overwhelmed and need some help? If so, who could you ask for help? Or are you avoiding something? What’s that about?


Broken Places. Humans can deeply disappoint each other. Sometimes we can recover and restore relationship in a way the makes us stronger, more courageous, and more resilient. And sometimes the people involved either don’t have the capacity or the desire to give what it takes to restore broken trust or transform the relationship into something new. It’s tragic, but true. Are your gifts able to be received in a way that is life giving and affirming?


Bottom line.Boundariesare a sign of health. Boundaries define our identity – who we are and who we are not. They preserve self-worth. And you are worthy! Determine what needs to change and by when for you to preserve healthy boundaries. Articulate those boundaries and then stick to them.


Inner Amma. Imagine yourself 25 years from now. What advice would you give to yourself now?


Adversity can be an awesome teacher. Learning to sit in discomfort can break us open. And sometimes it’s time to move on.


Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

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