Inspired: The Invitation

A teacher of mine once handed this poem out to all the students on the last day of class. At the time I was confused and thought it was written by a long-dead Native American man. But now I realize the author is a very much alive woman from Canada! The poem is called “The Invitation,” and the poet (who is also a social worker) is named Oriah Mountain Dreamer. (Read the interesting story of how she got her name on her website.)

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

– Oriah

When I read this poem, I am aware of ways I have grown since becoming an adult, but it also skewers me in places. The parts about fully feeling pain and joy without trying to fix or temper them—those in particular are relevant lessons for me. I too often try to fix, plan, prepare . . . all pursuing the illusion that I can completely control my life or know what’s best for myself or others—when I can’t and don’t!

Today, thanks to this short blog post, I have some free time, so I’m going to paint again. The other day it was the greens; today it’s the reds. We have another rainy day here in Austin, but today I’m feeling better, thankfully. I don’t know why depression happens, but I sure hate it when it comes round. I suppose it (in mild forms) can serve a purpose; after yesterday’s low I feel refreshed and ready to once again try to create.

I wish the same creative energy for you today!

Heart Amy

3 Responses to “Inspired: The Invitation”

  1. Katharine

    That poem felt very meaningful to me today! Was it a grad school prof that gave you the poem? It was familiar…

    Reply

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