Go Placidly Amid the Noise and Haste

This week the Debs are writing about self-care and balancing our worlds and our writing lives. 

I was recently telling my best friend that lately I’ve been feeling a low-level anxiety that seems to pervade everything I’m doing. My day job is sometimes weird. I feel anxious about how much publicity my novel may or may not be getting/will be getting (compounded every time I see a list with a title like Books We Can’t Wait for in 2017 and FEAST OF SORROW is not on it) and if I’m doing enough to help boost early interest, because I know that my publisher isn’t going to be able to focus on the book until six weeks before launch. I have a TBR pile of books that I’m desperate to read but don’t have enough time to read them. I’m completely freaked out about the choices our country has recently made and the path we are currently on. I lost my grandfather recently and others in my life have been ill. There are a lot of things that I have no or only partial control over that seem to be weighing on me unusually.

I have a lot of mechanisms for coping, ranging from talking to friends and family, using the Pomodoro method to manage time, checklists to keep myself on track, elaborate spreadsheets for tracking books. But sometimes I need more, something to calm and soothe the soul.

If I was to memorize a poem, I’ve always thought, it would be this one. I would repeat to myself like a mantra, reminding myself to let go, to be kind to myself, to be patient with the world. I suck at memorization though. I have tried to know this poem by heart, but it has always eluded me. So I re-read it often. It’s a poem that I think every person on this earth should read and take to heart. It’s a poem that especially needs to be read in times like these.

Desiderata
by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

 

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Crystal King is a writer, culinary enthusiast and social media expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and an obsession with the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught writing, creativity and social media at Grub Street and several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University. Crystal received her masters in critical and creative thinking from University of Massachusetts Boston. She lives with her husband and their two cats in the Boston area.