Being Gentle With Ourselves

Just found this note I wrote to myself two weeks after Natalie started high school.

September 12, 2011:  I often remind Natalie to be kind to herself, especially as she is figuring out something new, or getting used to a new place or situation (like a new school).  I am trying to follow my own advice these days while I get used to not being “Ms. Mommy” at Applewood School.  I am both in a new place and a new situation.  Although I know I will soon settle into a happy, new routine, I am allowing myself to notice and appreciate, rather than dread, this sense of being at loose ends.

Today, as I waited for the plumber to arrive, I did what I always do when I am readjusting or figuring something out:  I did some housecleaning.  I cleared and wiped down the butcher block in the kitchen.  Without the extraneous items that had collected there (three baby squash from our garden, a handful of unappealing old garlic cloves in a bowl, a throat lozenge, and a second receptacle for pot stirring utensils), I feel like I installed a new countertop.  I vacuumed and dust mopped all of the floors.  I always feel industrious when I see all of the dust and hair on the bottom of the dust mop.  I wiped down the bathroom and laundered the area rugs so that they look good as new.  I’m getting my “new space” ready.

I made a simple lunch of apple, raspberries, cheese, almonds and cashews.   The cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese from Holland, is called ewephoria.  I had packed a piece in Natalie’s lunch bag and smiled as I thought about her saying something like, “It really is euphoric.”  Standing in the kitchen, preparing a pot of green tea, my eyes landed on one of the quote magnets we have above the stove.  “Be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.”  It is attributed to Max Ehrmann, who I knew nothing about. 

Now I know.  Just like we would do at Applewood School, I satisfied my curiosity and looked him up.  He was a writer, poet and attorney from Indiana (d. 1945).  The magnet takes a few lines from a poem he wrote titled “Desiderata,” which contains much more than one kernel of wisdom, including this line:  “Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be…”

Whatever you conceive Him (or Her) to be…  It makes me feel ever so lucky to live in a country where the freedom of faith or non-faith has been honored and protected.  Thank you, Max Ehrmann, for reminding me of this gift I enjoy each day.  Here is the poem:


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.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952


  • Grandmama

    It Just after 1 p.m. It is the first Thursday of April and I’ve just finished reading ‘Desiderata,’ the poem you have shared here with your readers; I go forward into the rest of my day with peace in my soul in this beautiful world. Thank you for sharing.

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