Desiderata: A Memory

It’s funny how some things are stored in one’s memory bank without your even knowing. Many years ago, I was at an all girls’ school in the town of Potchefstroom, in the North-West Province of South Africa. In the beginning I hated it, but once I’d made friends, I grew to love it. Some of my fondest memories were made in those grounds and some of the friendships forged, still live on today. Had I been able to make a decision on my high school career, I would have opted to stay in boarding school until my final year.

During my time there, I had many friends, but three in particular really touched my heart, Remy, Kendra and Astrid. The four of us were almost inseparable – the proverbial awesome foursome, if you will.  A quarter of a century down the line and we’re all still in touch, thanks to the wonder of social media. Add siblings to this mix, and you have a whatsapp group called Twisted Sisters.

Remy’s mom in particular, Aunty Ang, was always open to having her children’s friends over for sleepovers on weekends or for sarmies after school. I remember Aunty Ang with great fondness. She had the gentlest blue eyes and a soft voice that could calm even the testiest teenager. My last visit with her, in the late ‘90’s she whupped my ass at Scrabble numerous times.  Sadly, she contracted cancer and lost her battle with the awful disease.

During our visits to Remy’s house, Aunty Ang would always sit in her chair in the living room and behind it hung Desiderata, printed on a black velvet-like material, with rose-gold-coloured lettering.  I never took the time to actually read it, but when it came up in my FB newsfeed today, I thought I should share the memory and the poem, (which I discovered was written by Max Ehrmann, in 1952) itself with you, because it contains some great life advice.

Desiderata

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.

As I write this post and read these wise words, I am grateful for the privilege of having known Aunty Ang, if only for a short time, and for the memories I have of her and the friendships I have with Remy, and by default, her siblings, Carin and Shelley.

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