On being good 1



You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

– Mary Oliver, Wild Geese


You do not have to be good

The rest of this poem talks about letting the soft animal of your body love what it loves. About knowing that despair comes to us all, but in the end, we all have a place in the world. 

I have trouble not being good. 

I wonder if it’s my birth order? 

I’m a firstborn. Apparently most firstborns are people pleasers, high achievers, ridiculously organised and reliable to a fault.
I am good. 

At least, that’s the story I’ve been telling with my life—to myself, and to everyone watching—that I’m a good girl, I’m reliable and consistent and I achieve things.

What happens though, when being ‘good’ becomes a prison?

What happens when you’re so exhausted from behaving and performing, that you just want to grab the red crayon and colour outside the lines all along the prison walls?

You see, my season has forced me to give up the doing, achieving and performing. 

I finished university, and with the full expectation of landing myself at least a part time job I relinquished a few other things too, that had been demanding my attention and providing a space for my need to do and be good. 

Only, the job didn’t come. 

So I would busy myself with things that were good, not stopping to breathe, not allowing a season to be over, not embracing a slower pace or less hustle. 

I published a book, I rearranged our home, meal planned and Marie Kondo-ed—I sorted, organised and scrubbed myself into a frenzy.  

God forbid I should take an afternoon to myself and have coffee with a friend or watch an episode of Gilmore Girls with my lunch.

But the greatest lesson I’ve learned in the last six months, is that no one is expecting me to be good except me. My husband has always placed zero expectation on the way I spend my days, he doesn’t notice mess and he wouldn’t complain about eating the same meal for dinner three nights in a row. It’s me

It’s always been my own expectation of being good and performing well, and measuring up, but it was slowly erecting prison walls around me that blocked out the real truth—that what I do actually has no bearing on who I am

I’m already loved and valued even without having to walk on my knees “for a hundred miles through the desert repenting”. 

So now, even when I’m busy, I’ll not apologise for stopping to indulge in my current novel, or for putting off the to-do list to meet with a friend instead.
Because I do not have to be good. I can just be real and loved.

Em xx


About Em Hazeldean

Em is wife to one, mama to three, and friend of many. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts in English and Journalism, and blogs at www.emhazeldean.com. With a natural ability to lace words together, her writing resonates the beautiful, delicate, raw and real elements of everyday life. She speaks light and hope, and writes from a reservoir of deeply anchored faith, trust and bottomless cups of tea. She believes hugs should be tight, coffee warm and mornings long.

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