For anyone not familiar with the Desiderata, it is a poem written in the 1920s by American writer Max Ehrmann. As someone who has never had much interest in poetry I hold this particular piece of writing close to my heart. I first came across it at the age of about 6 while mooching around my Aunt’s house one weekend. She had a copy of it, with a colourful floral border (which is probably what really initially caught my eye) and it was sealed inside a hardback plastic cover with a hole at the top for hanging. Even at such a young age I knew there was something special, almost magical about the words, or at least the sentences I could understand! I was a very happy girl when my Aunt let me take it home with me that day.
Over the years it has been stashed at the bottom of drawers, packed away with a car boot load of university-bound belongings and stuck inside the wardrobe door of my London bedsit. And today? It hangs proudly in my downstairs loo (hey, some people keep their Oscar’s in the downstairs loo!). If you’re thinking that’s not a very salubrious spot for something I hold dearly, let me explain. Where else can you go everyday, anytime you like, even if the kids are home for a couple of minutes to yourself? See?
Onto the poem in question, below you will see the beautifully written words by Ehrmann in bold italics, with my slightly less romantic interpretation below on how I apply it to my own life. If this is the first time you have read it I hope you enjoy and get a lovely warm fuzzy feeling inside (oh, and sorry if my bits spoil the magic, you may want to ignore those for the first read through!!)
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Don’t be a drama queen. Don’t take any nonsense from people.
Don’t be a dic treat others how you’d like to be treated.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Be honest. Be friendly.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
If someone winds you up, or drags you down you don’t need them in your life right now. You’re never going to have Kylie’s bum, get over it and remember there are a lot of people who would give anything to be in your state of health today.
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.
Have something to look forward to but take time to appreciate the special moments in the day. We can’t all be chocolate tasters for a living, but whatever you do, give it your best.
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.
Don’t be no fool. Recognise and appreciate small acts of kindness (and do the odd favour when you can).
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.
As the man says, “Be Yourself”. Don’t be fake, you’re not fooling anyone. Love and know that will always be loved.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Ah, this one is particularly testing! Accept that ‘laughter lines’ are not the end of the world. Maybe leave the Jagerbombs to the 20 year olds, (apart from the odd particularly messy night out obviously, after which having been woken up by a small child playing the tambourine at 7am, you’ll wish you HAD done!). What’s wrong with a nice glass of red on the sofa anyway, eh?
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.
Believe in yourself, you’re stronger than you think. Don’t over-think things or you’ll drive yourself mad.
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.
STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF! We’re all pretty awesome in our own way.
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.
Take a walk, look around, watch your little munchkins when they don’t know you’re looking, appreciate the wonder of life. If that’s not always possible, (or you’re not feeling that Zen today), remember: grapes = wine = kind of amazing).
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Life isn’t always easy, chin up and enjoy the good times.
On a few occasions I have printed a copy and framed as a gift and it has always been genuinely appreciated by the recipient. If you would like to do the same or have a copy for yourself you can find lots online, I like this one in particular, if you click on the link it will direct you to a free printable download.
I hope you enjoyed reading this – what do you think of the Desiderata then? I’d love to hear your thoughts!