Learning to Live Outside of the Lines

Wild brambles along the Little Patuxent. Photo by M. Cochran.

In November I was hiking through the woods, focusing on the camera in my hands, when a wicked sticker bush snagged me and left an angry bloody scratch across my leg. I’d like to tell you that I suffered the assault with grace and fortitude…and sweet words…  but not so much. What the heck? What did I do to deserve that wound? I started to react in anger to trample the blasted weed and remove it from my trail, but just as I moved forward, the setting sun illuminated it, making it glow deep red and I could see each individual thorn and the spaces where the ones that were still stuck in my leg had been ripped from the stem and I wondered- anthropomorphism runs deep within me- if perhaps the sticker bush felt undeservedly wounded as well?

And isn’t that life, after all? You follow your path- sometimes paying attention, sometimes distracted- when something comes along interrupting your progress, your thoughts your dreams and you can rage against the thing or you can pause and look for the wonder in the midst of the thorns. You’re still sidetracked and perhaps even wounded, but your fresh start- your healing-  happens in a place of acceptance and in that acceptance- a state of grace.

I have a saying attributed to a few including Joseph Campbell, hanging in my office.  It says; “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to live the life that is waiting for us”. It is a great reminder for me especially during the times when life- in all of its rich and glorious colors- refuses to stay within the neat, straight lines I’ve drawn.

My New Year’s wish for all Well & Wise readers is that each of your days in the upcoming year is filled with grace and wonder. And, as the Irish say…   “May you live each day of your life!”

Happy New Year!

Mary Catherine Cochran works as a Senior Communications Project Manager at Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicine where, among other things, she manages and writes for the Well & Wise blog.


  1. Brian England

    Makings of a great poem here…..