Monday, April 5, 2010

Coping with stress, infertility, and miscarriage - Finding peace in a poem

Someone on twitter earlier today happened to quote from my all-time favorite poem, and it inspired me to post about said poem.

It's "Desiderata", by Max Ehrmann. Desiderata is latin for "things desired". Ultimately, this poem is about finding peace for your own spirit. In the up and down world of infertility, I think much of what it says is right on point. You can read the entire poem by clicking here, and I highly suggest that you do. Hopefully, it will help you find some peace, too.

For my purposes here, I'm going to discuss what some lines from Desiderata mean to me.

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste,...
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons."

So often we allow ourselves to be wound up so tight as the day wears on, or the week, or the month, that we become louder, more aggressive, harder on ourselves and others, impatient, rude, and give oursleves headaches, backaches, ulcers and high blood pressure. If we can just stop and breath deeply, slow down a little, and give ourselves a little room to breathe, we will be happier and kinder people, making our own lives and the world around us a more peaceful place, and even inspiring others.

"Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story."

My experience in law, politics, speech and debate, has taught me that the louder you speak, eventually the less people listen. But the quieter you are, the more likely you are to gain a captive audience. Moreover, we all have stories. We all have lives with good times and bad times. If you judge someone without learning their story, you are not only doing them a disservice, but you're missing out on gaining insight into the human experience. No matter how boring or stupid someone might seem, their story likely has something you can learn from it, and they deserve your compassion as much as you deserve theirs.

"...If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."

This really is a key to happiness that I have struggled with over the years. But those rare moments when I get it are so incredibly freeing. You have to define your own success, not base it on others, if you ever want to be truly happy.

"Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans."

This is really about appreciating our past and living in the present, not always the future. Especially with infertility, it is so easy to get wrapped up in our plans, our protocols, our hopes and dreams, and especially our worries for what the future might not bring. But in doing this we can miss out on the joys we already have in our lives or could experience along the way. It's the same as what happens to a workaholic who wakes up one Saturday morning and starts getting ready to go to the office, then suddenly realizes that 20 years have passed, children are suddenly grown, the man who was once the love of her life has left, her parents have died, and the only friends she has are those at the office, and she thinks of all that she has missed out on. All because she had tunnel vision with only one future goal in sight. The presbyopic pursuit of a single goal can cause us to miss out on what joy our lives already have to offer. Don't let this happen to you.

It's also about allowing ourselves to fully experience the highs as well as the lows. My miscarriage, the loss of my baby, was an incredible low. But for a short while, I was pregnant! There was a life, a light, inside of me, and oh, what a joy that was! If I hadn't allowed myself to fully experience that joy, I couldn't have made it through the grief. And so that is how I intend to live every moment possible, including future pregnancies. I will allow myself to experience the joy of being a mom, without fear or apprehension. It's the only thing that makes grief bearable. If you are destined to grieve, you can do it when the time comes. Don't rob yourself of the joy you can experience now.

"...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..."

I like to think of this as: Expect the best and you'll receive the best. Expect the best from people and they will, more often than not, deliver. The VAST majority of people want to be good, want to do good, want to be happy, and want others to be happy. It's why we all cringe when we're watching someone forget their lines in a speech or a play. It's a built-in compassion. This is the foundation for heroism. Give people a chance to be heroes. And then give them a second chance - because none of us is perfect.

"...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."

Sometimes all we need to make things better and brighter is sleep, water, a shower, or the company of friends. When we find ourselves in a place that we can't seem to pick ourselves up from, we should be easy on ourselves and simply get back to these basics. They really can work wonders.

I'll end with these last lines, which, I think, speak for themselves:
"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."


  1. Thank you for sharing that with us.

  2. What a beautiful post. And how thoughtful you are. The soul work you have done in this area will be a blessing to you always.

  3. Thanks for reading and commenting, Lisa and Jen. =)