Last week, reading Alysha P. Ried’s piece on finding serenity and courage, I started thinking a lot more about how we discern between what we control and what we can’t. For me, the words of Max Ehrmann’s poem “Desiderata” were etched into my mind because of a mother who believed that memorization even at five years old would bring internalization.

Though I love Ehrmann’s poem dearly I found that the guidelines of how I viewed my decisions were most in tune with another poet, a sister- the indelible Nikki Giovanni.

I first found it in college and ‘Choices’ has become a personal mantra for me after struggling for years with anxiety. Her words turned into a kind of peace for me and when I repeat them, I find something rises out my soul and lifts my spirit. I hope it will do the same for this morning as you search to find the things in this life that you can control.


If i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

It’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can

If i can’t have 
what i want . . . then
my job is to want
what i’ve got 
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want

Since i can’t go
where i need
to go . . . then i must . . . go
where the signs point
through always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

When i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal

I know
but that’s why mankind 
among the animals
learns to cry

-Nikki Giovanni

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  • T

    Thank you!