My favourite Derek Walcott poem, “Love After Love”, beautifully directs us at the end to, “Sit. Feast on your life.” The word feast really strikes the core of what I believe: life is not meant to be gingerly tasted; it is not meant to be nibbled on, or meted out with restraint. Life is meant to be lived with vigour, with an appetite. With great gusto and gratitude. Life is meant to be expressed freely, generously and with purpose.
Lately I’ve been thinking about freedom and the fact that most of us have more of it than we realize. We may not all be free to work half time or to change our jobs in this particular moment, but we are free to make choices that will bring us greater freedom in the moment and in the future. We are free to choose our marriage every day that we are in that marriage. We are free to choose to wake up tomorrow and commit to doing the best we can. Much unhappiness comes from the illusions many of us are trapped in – the illusion that we can’t make choices to change or improve what may not be working. The illusion that our life is merely a meagre ration and not a long, groaning, abundant table of possibility that is just waiting for us to sit down to it.
If you are not yet feasting on your life, you might want to ask yourself why. Are you playing an old track inside your head that is unwittingly limiting you? What is holding you back from your seat at the table of life? I recently discovered what has been limiting me, and I’ve been working diligently to override those negative thoughts with a new track of freedom and self-love and compassion. I have cards all over the house to remind me that I am courageous and strong, loving, creative and free. Sounds kind of wacky, but when I think about brain science and how neuropathways are laid down it makes some sense. And it works for me.
We are free to make choices that will enrich our lives; we are free to not be careful, or restrained, or moderate in our approach to our lives. Sit down. Feast on your life!
At Christmas time it is easy – far too easy! – to feast on food, and take for granted the richness of being together, or the delightful sweetness of a quiet night with a good friend, or an afternoon reading with your kids by your side. It is these things I am actually hungry for at Christmas time. The feast for me is not about how much I can fill my plate with, but how much I can enjoy and taste what’s on my plate. It’s no good heaping more food on the plate if I don’t know how to enjoy fully one bite of what is already there.
Feast connotes celebration. We feast when we are celebrating the happiness and abundance in life. It is so easy to want more – more success, more contentment, more clarity, more freedom. I’ve held a lifelong belief that we are meant to strive for more, but that ‘more’ is not material. To me it means more of what we can give of ourselves: more impact, higher standards, more creativity, more kindness, more efficiency. And it is not the striving for this more that is the problem; it is the fact that so many of us are so busy striving that we miss the abundance that we are living right now. We are missing our lives.
Today I sat by my fire for several hours. I read, I wrote, I enjoyed my three cats and two dogs curled up beside me. Today I took time to feast on my life. I hope you will find a moment today to do the same.
Here is the full poem to feast on:
Love After Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.