Now I Become Myself


Now I become myself.  It’s taken

time, many years and places;

I have been dissolved and shaken,

Worn other people’s faces,

Run madly, as if Time were there,

Terribly old, crying a warning,

“Hurry, you will be dead before -”

(What?  Before you reach the morning?

Or the end of the poem is clear?

Or love safe in the walled city?)

Now to stand still, to be here,

Feel my own weight and density!

The black shadow on the paper

Is my hand; the shadow of a word

As thought shapes the shaper

Falls heavy on the page, is heard.

All fuses now, falls into place

From wish to action, word to silence,

My work, my love, my time, my face

Gathered into one intense

Gesture of growing like a plant….

– May Sarton in Collected Poems 1930-1993


There was never any question about going to school and then work.  Growing up in my family, you went to school.  After that, you were on your own.  To literally survive, you went to work.  I was fortunate to find my true vocation by my early twenties.  As author and Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner wrote, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”  My vocation shifted over time, but remained in the same field: minister, hospital chaplain, clinical pastoral education supervisor, director of spiritual care in hospitals, spiritual care researcher and writer.  “I become myself,” as May Sarton artfully puts it, and finally, I’ve stopped running madly, while simultaneously juggling eight plates in the air.  I’m retired from that director position.  A little voice in my head shouts, “Free at last!” (I loved it, but I was overcooked, so to speak.)  Having unstructured time begets creativity.  Words are flowing like the Japanese fountain in our pink ginger garden just outside my writing desk room with its floor-to-ceiling windows.