What does it mean to not hold back?

In her poem “Little Things,” Sharon Olds writes, I am doing something I learned early to do, I am / paying attention to small beauties, / whatever I have–as it were our duty / to find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world. Like Olds, Mary Oliver’s poems teach me to pay attention to the little things in life. Her words bind me to this world by reminding me to be more present in and more attentive to the world.

In the poem “Hum, Hum,” Mary Oliver uses several versions of the phrase “Nothing could hold them back.” Of what can’t be held back, she writes about bees, words of poets, and sadness. I’ll add winter and truth to the list of things that can’t be held back.

Another beauty I love from this poem is the phrase hum, hum. It reminds me of a humanities course I took in college in which the professor connected music to our heartbeats.

Thump, thump. Hum, hum.

Section 5 of the poem reveals the need for music: I think there ought to be / a little music here: / hum, hum. When I think of someone humming, it brings a magical quality. I imagine a mother humming a lullaby to her baby or someone humming a song in order to have music to dance to.

Last week, I chose a Mary Oliver quote to include in a frame on my desk. The quote comes from the poem “The Summer Day.” It says: Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life. This quote reminded me of one of a video I watched recently by Veronica Krestow in which she says that sometimes we get in the way of sharing ourselves with the world. We tell ourselves that what we have to share doesn’t hold value or that we are not good enough.

When you doubt yourself, you keep yourself from making the impact that you are here to make.

For me, the message that stands out this week is that we should not get in the way of sharing our talents and passions with the world. When we doubt ourselves, we keep ourselves from making the impact that we are here to make. 

Oliver writes, The words of poets / a hundred or hundreds of years dead– / their words that would not be held back. Not holding back can mean so many things. I’m grieving with the fans of Mary Oliver. As I grieve, I am grateful that she did not hold back her words. I am grateful that she wrote them and that the magic and music–the hum, hum–of her words made their way out into the world and into our hearts.

4 thoughts on “What does it mean to not hold back?

  1. Love this post. This morning a friend and I were talking about not waiting to do the things that are in our hearts and how people with the most regrets at the end of their lives are the ones who didn’t do whatever their heart was calling them to do. I think this is the same thing that Mary Oliver was saying in not holding back. When we are young, we may be thinking that “someday I will do…” Well, someday might be today.

    Liked by 1 person

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