One afternoon a year or two ago, while wandering my local thrift store, I came across a large, 11x14 frame with white matting. It was nothing terribly special but it was in great condition, and only a few bucks, and I thought it could be put to good use in my bedroom. I knew just the wall.
I didn't, however, have anything to put in it. And so, I proceeded to spend countless hours (yep, hours) scouring through photos and looking at art prints on Etsy, searching for just the right piece. I wanted something inspiring to wake up to every morning.
The frame sat in my closet, gathering dust, for several months. I could have just thrown something in there, bought something suitably pretty, but nothing felt quite right and I wanted to hold out. Picky? Yes. But sometimes it pays off.
I was back in the same thrift store one day, casually perusing the aisles, when I spotted another frame, this one gold-hued and tacky. This one had a poem inside, and as soon as I read it, I knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. I bought the frame, brought it home, removed the poem and discovered, as I had hoped, that it fit perfectly in the empty black one. (I donated the tacky one back to the thrift store...someone will love it!)
The poem is called Desiderata, Latin for "desired things", and was written by American writer Max Ehrmann in 1927. (According to Wikipedia, it is often falsely believed to have been written in 1692, as it was included in a compilation of devotional materials at St. Paul's Church in Baltimore in 1956, and marked with the church's foundation date. Indeed, at the bottom of my copy, it says "Found in Old St. Paul's Church, Baltimore. Dated 1692." I have discreetly hidden that part under the matboard.) While the poem was new to me, it seems that it has actually become quite well-known in recent years. For good reason. Here are Max Ehrmann's beautiful and inspiring words:
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.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
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.
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 in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
What more needs to be said.
This scavenged poem now holds a place of honour on my bedroom wall. Admittedly, there are days when it is just part of the landscape, when "the noise and the haste" get in the way of me taking the time to enjoy it, just as it gets in the way of seeing other joy and beauty around me. But I find that when I do stop to take the time to read it again, the effect is powerful, and different parts speak to me at different times. This week, for example, the line "enjoy your achievements as well as your plans" is particularly meaningful; as my to-do list keeps getting longer and my eyes are drawn to the handful of unchecked boxes, I am trying to give myself credit for the tasks I do complete, both big and small.
Whether new to you as well or an old favourite, I hope you too can take something from Desiderata this week. In fact, if you feel like sharing in the comments below, I'd love to hear what line speaks most to you at this moment. And I hope you will remember that "you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars." Lovely.